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Health experts expect COVID-19 spike as college students return to campus

Back to School
Posted at 7:06 AM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 08:03:40-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Students have returned to college campuses across Tampa Bay after a year of hybrid learning, and some doctors say they have worries about the spread of COVID-19 cases.

“It’s a pretty big communal setting and the kids are spending a lot of time with one another in large groups and among different groups and there’s a whole classroom setting too,” said Dr. Laura Arline, Chief Quality Officer for BayCare Health System.

With the delta variant, experts worry cases could spread quickly.

“Without proper precautions, you know masking, social distancing, good hand washing and most important of all vaccinations, that has a potential to even be a super spreader kind of area. So there are concerns with that even with that age group because of their setting,” said Arline.

Health experts say they’re expecting to see a rise in COVID-19 cases in the next few weeks, watching closely for a spike that could affect the community.

“I think that’s the expectation is just because of the nature of how these colleges are set up. The kids are so close to one another and spend so much time with one another that that may be the case,” said Arline.

Local colleges and universities are taking extra precautions though. Both the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa have several COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place to help limit spread. School leaders are also encouraging students to get vaccinated.

“It is critical that this group get vaccinated. I think there’s this youthful sense of invincibility in this group and that, 'oh if I get COVID I’ll be fine,' and in a good number of cases, not all, because we are seeing younger individuals in our hospital, that may be true. Thinking about the greater good of society and even their own families, just because they may do okay if they get ill with COVID does not mean that they couldn’t spread it to someone else who may not do as well,” said Arline.