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A quarter of a million coronavirus infections have been reported at colleges and universities across the United States, according to a New York Times survey, as schools across the nation struggle to keep outbreaks in check.
The bulk of the cases have occurred since students returned for the fall semester, with more than 38,000 new cases reported in the last two weeks alone.
And the numbers are almost certainly an undercount.
The Times’s survey — which includes more than 1,700 American colleges and universities, including every four-year public institution and every private college that competes in N.C.A.A. sports — is believed to be the most comprehensive tally available. But the lack of a centralized national tracking system or consistent statewide data means the full toll is hard to capture.
When The Times last tallied campus cases on Oct. 22, the figure was 214,000. Now it is more than 252,000.
More than a third of U.S. universities welcomed students back in some capacity this fall.
Some of them have appeared to keep the virus in check, primarily through extensive testing programs, even as they try to provide some semblance of a normal college experience for their students.
But others have done less well, failing to enforce social distancing and other preventive measures in an environment that normally revolves around communal living, group activities, large social gatherings and in-person learning.
Many school officials blame students when there are spikes in cases, chastising them for failing to abide by the new rules that have transformed campus life in 2020.
At Syracuse University, school had barely opened when officials issued an open letter castigating a group of students who had thrown a large party and “selfishly jeopardized the very thing that so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University — that is, a chance at a residential college experience.”
Syracuse has reported 257 coronavirus cases since March.
Some students say administrators should have seen it coming when they chose to reopen in person.
“It’s very difficult to say whether, you know, it’s really on students for throwing these honestly reckless parties, or whether they’re just simply acting how college students are going to act in these kind of situations,” Dylan Brooks, a senior at Arizona State University told his school newspaper. “Of course, if you’re bringing A.S.U. college students back to A.S.U., this is how they’re going to act.”
The school, which has 44,000 students, has reported 2,518 cases.
The coronavirus has been responsible for at least 80 deaths on college campuses this year. While most of those deaths were reported in the spring and involved school employees, several students have died in recent weeks as a result of the virus.
As case numbers skyrocket across the nation, that number is expected to rise.