This week we share with you our three-part series, COVID on Campus. COVID on Campus was reported during the fall semester by student journalists examining the impact of the pandemic and the administrative response at four Midwestern flagship universities in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. Plus: Commentator Dave Dickey ponders silos and journalism. Stay safe and read on.

COVID on Campus: Unprecedented challenges, mixed results

By Danielle DuClos, for The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting 

In April in the early weeks of the pandemic, as University of Missouri President Mun Choi evaluated whether his school should come back in the fall, he predicted that 20 students on his campus would need to be sequestered with COVID-19 if they came back for in-person classes.

Upon reopening in August, Missouri had isolation and quarantine housing available for more than 200 students. By Thanksgiving, the school had more than 2,300 reported cases overall.

As students prepared to return to the University of Illinois, officials forecast 700 positive cases by Thanksgiving break.

That number hit almost 4,000 by the holiday.


COVID on Campus: Containing hot spots a difficult challenge

By Gavin Good, Julia Morrison, Hali Tauxe, Danielle DuClos, Chris Martucci and Dylan Tiger, for The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting 

On Sept. 1, multiple complaints came in to the University of Illinois citing a party hosted by members of a fraternity. It allegedly had more than 200 attendees, including multiple people who knew they were positive for COVID-19.

A week later, university police officers pulled over a vehicle of residents of another fraternity. Two of them had tested positive for COVID-19 and were supposed to be in quarantine.

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: Tracking and isolating students was hit-and-miss

By Hali Tauxe, Danielle Duclos, Chris Martucci, Gavin Good and Julia Morrison, for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting 

Morgan Weesner spent six strange days in quarantine at Indiana University after one of her friends tested positive for the coronavirus.

She was sent to a dorm that had been cleared out so that students could be isolated. The aging building had eerily empty halls, populated only by cleaning staff wearing what she said looked like “hazmat suits.”

“I felt like I was in a horror movie,” Weesner said. 

By Dave Dickey, Commentator, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

I've been thinking a lot about silos these days. Being that I write about agriculture I guess you'd figure I meant those steel and concrete buildings used to store corn, soybeans, and if Farmer John is unfortunate, mold and any number of mice. But that's not the silos I'm thinking about.

No, I'm thinking about the silos that have created a journalistic us vs. them mentality. The last four years of verbal combat in Washington D.C., and to be honest just about everywhere, has exacerbated a toxic atmosphere akin to the Hatfields and McCoys. It is partisanship on super-steroids. 


Did you miss these stories?

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


How we did it: ‘They think workers are like dogs.’ How pork plant execs sacrificed safety for profits


Midwest Center sensors find potentially hazardous pesticides near schools, parks and home

Cheap chicken, beef came at a cost. How American meat plants bred coronavirus hot spots

Covid-19 testing takes place on the University of Illinois Quad in Urbana, on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Photo by Darrell Hoemann, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
Copyright © 2021 Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, All rights reserved.

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