The University of Texas at Austin is no stranger to top lists, but they would have preferred to stay off that list. On July 29, the New York Times published a poll analyzing COVID-19 cases in colleges across the country.
Out of more than 6,300 institutions surveyed, UT was number 1 in the nation for cases of the novel coronavirus. Since COVID-19 first spread this spring, the University of Texas flagship campus has reported 449 cases of the virus.
In late March, despite local and state orders, a large group of UT students chartered a private plane to Cabo San Lucas, causing national outrage. Of those 70 students, 28 later tested positive for COVID-19, making the West Campus neighborhood in Austin one of the country’s coronavirus hotspots for some time.
However, according to the NYT, the majority of the 449 positive cases of UT occurred in late June and early July, reflecting both city and state trends. Austin is currently on a downward trend, likely due to the city’s aggressive stay-home measures and Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide mask ordinance on July 2nd.
In analyzing COVID-19 cases, the NYT 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 reported data or responded to NYT inquiries. Still, the newspaper warns that this is not a definitive report on how COVID-19 is affecting college campuses.
“There is no standardized method of reporting coronavirus cases and college deaths, and the information is not tracked publicly at the national level,” says the NYT. “Of nearly 1,000 institutions that The Times contacted, some had posted case information online, some gave 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 is still the most comprehensive look to date.
UT is not alone when it comes to COVID-19-affected colleges in Texas. Among the top 15 universities, three are in the Lone Star State. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is number 6 with 207 cases. The University of Texas in Edinburgh’s Rio Grande Valley is number 13 with 95 cases.
UT’s top 5 include the University of Central Florida (No. 2 with 438), the University of Georgia (No. 3 with 390 cases), the University of Washington (No. 4 with 249 cases), and the University of Florida (No. 4). 5 with 217 cases).