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Large university with high COVID-19 incidence is not associated with excess cases in non-student population.

Abstract

Large US colleges and universities that re-opened campuses in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021 experienced high per capita rates of COVID-19. Returns to campus were controversial because they posed a potential risk to surrounding communities. A large university in Pennsylvania that returned to in-person instruction for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters reported high incidence of COVID-19 among students. However, the co-located non-student resident population in the county experienced fewer COVID-19 cases per capita than reported in neighboring counties. Activity patterns from mobile devices indicate that the non-student resident population near the university restricted their movements during the pandemic more than residents of neighboring counties. Respiratory virus prevention and management in student and non-student populations requires different, specifically targeted strategies.

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