The Columbia campus of the University of South Carolina recorded 1,026 positive corona virus tests and a positivity rate among students and faculty of 26.3 percent in the week after fire officials broke up a large pool party near the campus.
Fire officials reported that on August 29, 2020, hundreds of people crowded together at the Palmetto Compress Apartment Complex swimming pool without masks. The party was in defiance of the city’s mask and social distance ordinances. Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said the party was on the scale of a Mardi Gras celebration.
“It was a perfect storm if anyone had the virus to be passed to one another,” Jenkins said.
The pool party was broken up after fire officials received a complaint.
Community leaders have expressed concern that college students and youth are not behaving responsibly amidst the pandemic. In a statement sent to NBC News, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin urged residents to do their part in the interest of public safety and community health.
“Columbia City Council and Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson have reached out to apartment owners throughout the City, including apartments with high concentrations of college students and young people, where there are continued confirmed accounts of large gatherings at pools, and requested these complexes close their pools.”
USC President Bob Caslen also addressed the parties and the school’s growing Covid caseload in a September 1 message to the campus community.
“I’m sure you reviewed our updated Covid-19 dashboard on Friday afternoon and saw local media stories over the weekend about case numbers and offcampus parties. Our total number of active cases is larger than we expected at this point, and some student behavior off campus is both disappointing and unacceptable.”
He also outlined some of the steps the campus is now taking to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Nine campus residences were quarantined after residents of those houses tested positive.
Students and organizations who violated social distancing protocols by hosting parties were temporarily suspended.
Fortunately, of the students who recently tested positive, all the cases were either asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic, and none required hospitalization.
Since the schools early September peak in Coronavirus cases, the number of active cases has dropped dramatically and the school is reporting an alert level of “New Normal.”. At press time, current active cases have dropped to 170.