Modeling community COVID-19 transmission risk associated with U.S. universities

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is among the worst in recent history, resulting in excess of 520,000,000 cases and 6,200,000 deaths worldwide. The United States (U.S.) has recently surpassed 1,000,000 deaths. Individuals who are elderly and/or immunocompromised are the most susceptible to serious sequelae. Rising sentiment often implicates younger, less-vulnerable populations as primary introducers of COVID-19 to communities, particularly around colleges and universities. Adjusting for more than 32 key socio-demographic, economic, and epidemiologic variables, we (1) implemented regressions to determine the overall community-level, age-adjusted COVID-19 case and mortality rate within each American county, and (2) performed a subgroup analysis among a sample of U.S. colleges and universities to identify any significant preliminary mitigation measures implemented during the fall 2020 semester. From January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, a total of 22,385,335 cases and 374,130 deaths were reported to the CDC. Overall, counties with increasing numbers of university enrollment showed significantly lower case rates and marginal decreases in mortality rates. County-level population demographics, and not university level mitigation measures, were the most significant predictor of adjusted COVID-19 case rates. Contrary to common sentiment, our findings demonstrate that counties with high university enrollments may be more adherent to public safety measures and vaccinations, likely contributing to safer communities.






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Uelmen, JA, H Kopsco, J Mori, WM Brown and RL Smith (2023). Modeling community COVID-19 transmission risk associated with U.S. universities. Scientific Reports, 13(1). 10.1038/s41598-023-28212-z Retrieved from

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Johnny Uelmen

Program Dir

I am fascinated with infectious diseases. The resiliency of pathogens never ceases to amaze me. To begin to understand how pathogens survive (and thrive) in a given disease system, techniques and methods across multiple scientific disciplines must come together. I am an Epidemiologist at the core, but my background includes Ecology, Entomology, Geography (and GIS), Environmental Studies, and Biology. I work best collaborating with members not just in Public Health, Epidemiology, GIS, and Entomology, but also in Chemistry, Physics, both Veterinary and Human Medicine, and Informatics, to name a few! Please do not hesitate to send an email to say hi!

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