NATIONWIDE — A massive party off the campus of the University of North Georgia this past weekend is underscoring the challenges colleges are facing as they welcome students back for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of students attended the party, captured in a viral Twitter video, Saturday night in Dahlonega, Georgia. Few facemasks were spotted in the crowd.
“We are disappointed that many of our students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance by congregating in a large group without social distancing or face coverings,” the school said in a statement to multiple media outlets.
But while the party might be the most blatant example of flaunting social distancing and mask guidelines, UNG is certainly not alone.
Just one week into its fall session, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said Monday it will move to all-remote instruction for undergraduates after a fourth cluster of cases -- and 177 cases overall -- has been reported.
A cluster is defined as five or more cases. Three have been at residence halls, one at a fraternity.
“We understand the concern and frustrations these changes will raise with many students and parents,” UNC-Chapel Hill’s chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and provost, Robert A. Blouin, wrote in a statement. “As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation.”
In Stillwater, Oklahoma, the editor of the Oklahoma State University student newspaper shot videos of packed bars and nightclubs over the weekend.
The school was already dealing with a cluster of 23 positive COVID-19 tests at a sorority house, which has now been locked down.
Nearby at the University of Oklahoma, nine football players have tested positive for the virus. The Big 12 Conference, the league in which the Sooners play, is still planning to go ahead with its fall football season.
In Alabama, football players were trying to be the voices of reason.
Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz tweeted Saturday that he had “seen crowds of people and none of them are wearing masks.”
Chris Owens, a center for the University of Alabama, posted a photo of a crowd Sunday, writing: “How about we social distance and have more than a literal handful of people wear a mask? Is that too much to ask Tuscaloosa?”
Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, also posted a picture of a crowd in Tuscaloosa, adding: “Who wants college sports this fall?? Obviously not these people!! We’ve got to do better than this for each other and our campus community. Please wear your masks!”
Byrne’s tweet got the attention of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who responded: “Why? We are desperately trying to protect @tuscaloosacity. We are trying to have college football season. We have been running details for 3 straight nights. @TuscaloosaPD is stretched thin between COVID-19 and these details. We will be requesting daytime help from #UAPD.”
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University, told CNN that it’s unreasonable to expect young adults returning to college to keep their distance.
"It is just not paying attention to human psychology if you think you're going to be able to put those kids back together and not have them go and party," she said.
While young adults are less likely to die or be hospitalized by COVID-19, they are not immune and can spread the virus to others.