Officials at the University California (UC), Berkeley are worried that their hopes to bring students back to campus in the fall won't go as planned after the school confirmed 47 new coronavirus cases in just one week.
Most of the new cases "stem from a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system, which included students both within the CalGreek community and others, and led to some secondary spread within households and within other smaller gatherings," UC Berkeley said in a statement.
Before the latest outbreak, the university had reported just 23 cases total since the start of the pandemic. But now, with the sudden spike in cases, school officials said "it's becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning."
"If we can keep our COVID-19 case numbers low, we can continue to move forward with our fall semester plans," the school added.
The cases at UC Berkeley highlight the growing concern for college administrators who are busily making plans for in-person fall semester classes, while acknowledging that off-campus contact poses an equal threat when it comes to containing the virus in the student community.
At the University of Washington, more than 100 students living in fraternity houses near campus tested positive for the coronavirus.
At Tulane University, students were warned that they would face suspension or expulsion from the school if they hosted parties or gatherings with more than 15 people.
Meanwhile, over a dozen universities have reported positive coronavirus cases within their athletic programs.
With the pandemic showing no signs of dying down in the US and outbreaks across a number of campuses, administrators are forging ahead with plans to welcome students back to campus one way or another.
Harvard University announced that it is planning to bring back up to 40% of undergraduates to campus, including all first-year students. Princeton University is allowing freshmen and juniors to come back for the fall semester, while sophomores and seniors will be welcomed back in the spring semester.
Other school systems, such as the University of North Carolina and University of Alabama systems have also announced plans for students to return to campus in the fall. On the other hand, the California State University system plans to cancel nearly all in-person classes through the fall semester.
If UC Berkeley proceeds to have students return in the fall, it said all students, faculty and staff will be required to wear a mask unless they are "completely alone" and that there will be distancing measures in "every conceivable area" across campus.
"The fall semester will look and be very different," it said.