COVID on Campus: Containing hot spots a difficult challenge

When universities across the U.S. reopened and welcomed tens of thousands of students back to campus this fall, students partied in apartments, at pools and on the lawns of Greek houses — celebrating as if COVID-19 did not exist.

Local public health departments and universities alike received thousands of reports about students at over-packed parties and bars where they could be seen maskless, violating social distancing and gathering size limits. Some schools created ways for complaints to be filed.

COVID on Campus: Unprecedented challenges, mixed results

But an analysis of the efforts at four major Midwestern universities shows that no matter what schools tried — whether it was Illinois’ much-touted testing program or Missouri’s lack of comprehensive or random testing — the results were much worse than predicted. At those campuses and the flagship universities in Indiana and Wisconsin, at least 15,000 tested positive for COVID-19 this fall.

COVID-19 deaths go uninvestigated as OSHA takes a hands-off approach to meatpacking plants

Normally, a workplace death in the United States is met with a swift and thorough response. 

By law, employers must report a death within eight hours to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. An inspector from OSHA typically arrives within a day to interview workers, review the site of the incident, and determine whether the death resulted from unsafe conditions. For workers in the meatpacking industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the system of swift reporting and next-day inspections that should protect them has broken down. 

At least 239 meatpacking workers have died and 45,000 have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to tracking by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. But companies reported less than half that number of deaths to OSHA, a joint investigation by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center found. Experts say that's in large part because the agency weakened reporting requirements during the pandemic. 

Even fewer deaths triggered the kind of robust investigation OSHA typically conducted before the pandemic.