The University of Texas at Austin is no stranger to topping lists, but it would have preferred to stay off this one. On July 29, the New York Times published a survey analyzing COVID-19 cases on college campuses across the country.
Of more than 6,300 institutions surveyed, UT was the No. 1 in the nation for cases of the novel coronavirus. Since COVID-19 first began its spread this spring, the University of Texas' flagship campus has reported 449 cases of the virus.
In late March, a large group of UT students chartered a private plane to Cabo San Lucas in defiance of local and state orders, sparking national outrage. Of those 70 students, 28 later tested positive for COVID-19, turning Austin's West Campus neighborhood into one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots for a stretch of time.
According to the NYT, however, the majority of UT's 449 positive cases occurred in late June and early July, which echoes both city and state trends. Austin is currently on a downward trajectory, likely due to the city's aggressive stay-home measures and Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide mask order, issued July 2.
In analyzing cases of COVID-19, the NYT says it looked at public, four-year universities in the United States, as well as private colleges that compete in Division I sports or are members of an elite group of research universities. It also only included schools that have reported data or responded to the requests from the NYT. Still, the newspaper cautions that this is not a definitive report on how COVID-19 is affecting college campuses.
"There is no standardized reporting method for coronavirus cases and deaths at colleges, and the information is not being publicly tracked at a national level," says the NYT. "Of nearly 1,000 institutions contacted by The Times, some had already posted case information online, some provided full or partial numbers and others refused to answer basic questions, citing privacy concerns. Hundreds of colleges did not respond at all."
Despite these hurdles, the newspaper says it is still the most comprehensive look to date.
UT is not alone when it comes to Texas colleges impacted by COVID-19. Among the top 15 universities, three are in the Lone Star State. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, located in Dallas, is No. 6, with 207 cases. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg is No. 13, with 95 cases.
Joining UT in the top five are University of Central Florida (No. 2 with 438), University of Georgia (No. 3 with 390 cases), University of Washington (No. 4 with 249 cases), and University of Florida (No. 5 with 217 cases).