He attributed the increase to outbreaks on campuses around the state and called dormitories, many with shared bathrooms and sleeping quarters, a “high-risk environment.”
None of the state’s 1,220 COVID-19 deaths have been among people under the age of 20, but some young people are medically vulnerable to infection and young adults can spread the disease to others at high risk, Westergaard said.
“Individual risk and societal risk are really intertwined,” he said.
Dr. James Conway, a UW Health specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, said the university cannot control a mix between students and society. “Many of the places where students interact with the public are not in such controlled environments – whether it be grocery stores, bars and restaurants or gyms,” he said.
Since flu and COVID-19 carry similar symptoms, it can be a big challenge to test and care for patients in the fall, Conway said. “The more disease circulating in society, the more complicated it is to provide health care, and the greater the risk of offering routine services,” he said.
College quarantines on campus should help, but the effect may be limited, Safdar said. “It is a great challenge to have quarantine followed with high fidelity in someone, especially large groups of adults at this age,” she said.