Cases of Covid-19 surged among college-age individuals in August and September, just as schools were opening across the United States.
Two new studies released on Tuesday take an in-depth look what may be driving the numbers up.
Study 1: In the first study, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases reported to the agency between August 2 and September 5.
The study found that during that period, weekly Covid-19 cases among people aged 18-22 increased 55% nationally. Researchers found the greatest increases in the Northeast at 144% and the Midwest at 123%.
"The observed increases in Covid-19 cases among persons aged 18-22 years could be driven by many factors, including changes in behavior or risk profiles resulting from multiple social, economic, and public policy changes during this period. Because approximately 45% of persons aged 18-22 years attend colleges and universities and 55% of those attending identified as White persons, it is likely that some of this increase is linked to resumption of in-person attendance at some colleges and universities," the researchers wrote in the CDC's weekly report on death and disease, the MMWR.
"Previous reports identified young adults as being less likely than other age groups to adhere to some Covid-19 prevention measures, which places them and their close contacts at higher risk for Covid-19," they added.
Study 2: The second study, led by a team at the North Carolina Department of Health and the University of North Carolina, showed what happened in real time as students began to return to campus on August 3. The university tried to make moving in safe, spreading it out over a week, reducing crowding in dining halls and taking other measures. But the students gathered and partied, anyway.
The university quickly determined the virus was spreading too fast and moved all classes online. It also asked students to move back home or off-campus.
By August 25, 670 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed, almost all of them in people under the age of 22.
The largest cluster was at an off-campus apartment complex affiliated with the university.
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