The University of Notre Dame on Wednesday reported at least 222 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on its campus — just two weeks into the fall semester. The university on Tuesday and moved all instruction online for at least two weeks as it reevaluates its safety protocols.
The number of positive coronavirus cases at the South Bend, Indiana, campus surged by 75 since Tuesday when the school announced it would temporarily move all learning online. Approximately 1,287 people have been tested for the virus since the semester began on August 3, a small fraction of the school's 12,681 undergraduate and graduate students and 1,396 faculty members.
The updated testing data indicate a 17.2% positivity rate, which is more than three times the rate the World Health Organization recommends for states to reopen.
Notre Dame is not yet sending students home, and instead advised students to stay on campus except under emergency circumstances. It also restricted all student gatherings to 10 people or fewer.
However, the university's president, Reverend John Jenkins, warned that students would be sent home if the situation does not improve. "If these steps are not successful, we will have to send students home as we did last spring," Jenkins said in a conference call.
The university said it is arranging on-campus housing for students who test positive at "quarantine of isolation facilities." If a student is placed in one, they will have meals, toiletries and other necessities delivered to them by the school's contact tracing team.
University officials have pinned the surge in infections to off-campus parties, where students didn't wear masks and social distancing wasn't practiced. Officials on Tuesday said the vast majority of positive tests were among seniors living off-campus.
Some students believe the number of positive cases at the university could be much higher. Students told CBS South Bend affiliate WSBT-TV that the school's testing program is not as robust as they were told it would be, and many say the school should be fully remote.
Notre Dame isn't the only university backtracking on its on-campus reopening. Hundreds of institutions have canceled in-person learning plans and are sending students home, including the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the entire California State University system. Many others, including Brown University and the University of Maryland, have delayed start dates.
Kate Smith contributed to this report.