BBC News

Covid on campus: Students fed up with being blamed for virus spike


Covid cases have surged at US colleges and universities, with students often blamed for contributing to the spread. What do young people think of the pandemic response and those officials pointing the finger at their behaviour?

At the end of September, the death of Chad Dorrill, an otherwise healthy 19-year-old student in North Carolina, from Covid-complications was a shocking reminder that America's young people aren't invincible.

There have been at least 178,000 cases and 70 coronavirus-related deaths on US campuses since the beginning of the pandemic, a New York Times survey found. Between early August and September, cases among Americans aged 18-22 more than doubled, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

We asked our voter panel to weigh in.

Callahan Macy, from Springfield, Missouri, is a business major at Missouri State University, where he is also the College Republicans President.

I am not surprised by the news [of the 19-year-old's death], it was going to happen with in-person classes starting up again. We are yet to have a Covid death at our campus, but it would not surprise me if it happened.

The US has made several clear attempts to stop the spread of the virus. Even in education, attempts are being made to reduce infections, but they have been pitiful. Universities are filling rooms with 30 or more people at a time, while only allowing room for 3ft (1m) of social distance between students. These measures won't do much for 30 people sitting in a room for 50+ minutes.

The majority of the student population is following school policy. Universities should take responsibility for increased infections, instead of shifting blame onto the student body.

Trump is trying to give US citizens confidence. It may have been better to say nothing at all. However, I know choosing to project panic and worry would be the wrong choice.

Anna Moellenbeck, from Des Moines, Iowa, is an international studies and political science student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

I have many friends here at my university that have had Covid. To think that this could've happened to one of them rattles me. It seems like it's all around me. I know there's a lesser chance I'll be affected, but there's a big chance I can spread it.

College students' main complaints are the university's policies for making us come back and compromise our safety in order for the university to make money. At my university, students aren't getting a huge "discount" even though our classes are online and many amenities are shut down.

I would like to see more frequent testing from universities, but unfortunately college students have an invincible attitude towards coronavirus.

I already knew I was voting for Biden. He is the only one that can make things at least a little better.

I think that [Trump's response] is ignorant and selfish. He received the best medical care in the world but tries to compare his experience to be the same as everyone else's. One of my family members became really sick with Covid, and while he didn't die, he will have long lasting damage to his lungs. I saw him on death's door, and I can't imagine how upsetting the comment was for the friends and family of the 200,000+ Americans who have passed due to this disease.

Joshua Meyer is originally from Orange County, California, and is studying business at the University of Utah.

Many students like me still want to have as normal a college experience as possible, even under these terrible circumstances.

My friends here on campus have done a good job following the necessary rules and keeping everyone safe while trying to enjoy themselves. It may be true that colleges have been responsible for upticks - that's not for me to determine. However, as a low risk group, I do not think it is irresponsible for us to be back on campuses with some reasonable rules.

I have had friends contract the virus, and have consequently spent some time quarantined waiting for test results. The people I know only had minor symptoms, recovered, and are now totally healthy. My concern is more over exposing others than the possible risks to myself.

I've been impressed to see the policymakers I support step up to the plate and address the coronavirus. If anything, Covid-19 has confirmed that I have been supportive of the right people, with the long term vision to spearhead the economic recovery we so desperately need.

I like the president's message of "don't be afraid." His high profile case and recovery should give us confidence that this can be overcome, both on an individual level and a nationwide one.

Brendan Chen, from Haddon Township, New Jersey, studies marketing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It's depressing and anger-inducing at the same time. Hearing individuals my age die from Covid-19 makes the danger of the pandemic much more real. They should not have been exposed to the virus in the first place for numerous reasons, many of which were preventable.

The government has not done even close to enough to address the pandemic. One of my friends is attending a private university in Florida where all of her classes are in-person and where one of her roommates became infected with the virus. In the midst of a nationwide pandemic, students should have the option to not attend in-person classes.

The majority of students I have seen on campus wear masks and follow the set guidelines. The majority of individuals who pose the most danger to others are "partiers", yet these individuals tend to be in the minority. I can only hope the recent news can be the final reminder for the many college students who haven't fully grasped the danger of the virus.

My vote will go to former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. I place the blame of all these avoidable deaths on Donald Trump because of his deliberate neglect of the pandemic response and setting the absolute worst example as a leader.

Larissa Dorn, from Tucson, Arizona, studies Applied Mathematics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

My peers and I are taking stories like this as cautionary tales to reinforce why we should continue practicing social distancing and other measures to prevent contracting Covid-19.

Since the beginning of August, my university has announced that we were going to return to campus and have limited in-person classes. They they revoked the invitation for students to return before recently reversing that decision and allowing students to come back in early October. The university has also provided little to no rationale on why these decisions are being made.

I believe the silent majority of college students have contributed to the spread of Covid-19 no more than any other demographic. The vast majority of my peers have been social distancing or self-isolating since March and have maintained good health during that time. I am less concerned about contracting the virus myself than what it would mean for those around me.

I still believe that Biden is the best candidate for president because he has shown a dedication to working with public health experts.

Reporting by Silvia Martelli.

Are you an American voter? Join our US election voter panel.

Use this form to get in touch.

If you are reading this page and can't see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your response.