UMN sees 400% rise in COVID-19 cases since Halloween

CIDRAP Deputy Director Jill DeBoer said large social gatherings have been a major contributor to recent spread.


Emily Urfer

A COVID-19 testing site outside of the University’s Recreational and Wellness Center on Friday, Nov. 20. The U has experienced a 400% increase in COVID-19 cases on campus since Halloween.

by Hana Ikramuddin, Campus Administration Reporter

The University of Minnesota has seen an over 400% increase in positive COVID-19 tests on campus since Halloween.

According to a University public health expert, social gatherings have been responsible for spreading the virus, as opposed to classroom settings. The University has also expanded its testing program in the last few weeks.

The University’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 31 positive COVID-19 cases during the week of Oct. 29. The number jumped to 263 positive cases during the week of Nov. 12. The dashboard’s most recent update shows that the cases have since decreased to 156 positive tests, and does not account for positive tests among University community members tested outside of Boynton Health.

“Like every college campus in the nation, we expected to see increased cases following the Halloween weekend. Those cases, combined with the rapid growth of community spread amongst the general public, have combined to create the rise in cases we are experiencing in our campus community,” said Jill DeBoer, director of the Health Emergency Response Office in an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily.

There are 32 isolation rooms, and 20 quarantine rooms in use as of Nov. 19. Around 11% of the University’s rooms are currently in use, according to the University’s dashboard.

Students and faculty have received codes for mail-in saliva testing across all five system campuses. The University also had two days where community members could get tested in the Field House during the week of Nov. 16. The University tested around 4,000 students and faculty during the testing event, DeBoer said in an interview with the Daily.

“Testing is one part of the picture — there’s also the distancing and masking, those are the most important prevention behaviors,” DeBoer said.

 A floor sign points toward a COVID-19 testing site outside of the University’s Recreational and Wellness Center on Friday, Nov. 20. (Emily Urfer)

Some students have expressed concerns about the elevated numbers of cases this month, as others continue to go to bars and parties.

Third-year mathematics and economics student Joey DiSpirito has noticed regular parties throughout the semester near Dinkytown, where he lives with multiple roommates.

“A ton of people around us are basically partying every weekend,” DiSpirito said. “Everybody’s acting as if nothing’s going on.”

DiSpirito said he has been avoiding large gatherings to limit the spread of the virus, and plans on getting tested before going home to visit his family for Thanksgiving.

Other students also say they are frustrated at the lack of social distancing and the rising cases on campus.

Rogan Isbell, a first-year student in the College of Liberal Arts, regularly went to the University’s Recreation and Wellness Center to find a sense of structure during the pandemic. He said he was frustrated when the gym closed due to new coronavirus restrictions issued by Gov. Tim Walz.

“But now the gym is closed, I can’t do that anymore and now I’m sad,” Isbell said. “If it helps reduce cases then like I’m alright if it closes, but like, I just want to get back to normal.”