None of the 1,220 COVID-19 deaths in the state have occurred among people under the age of 20, but some young people are clinically vulnerable to infection and young adults can spread the disease to others at high risk, Westergaard said. “Individual risk and community risk are really intertwined,” he said.
Dr James Conway, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UW Health, said the university cannot control some student-community mixing.
“Many of the places where students interact with the public are not in such controlled environments, be it in grocery stores, bars and restaurants or gyms,” he said.
With the flu and COVID-19 carrying similar symptoms, it could be a major challenge to test and care for patients this fall, Conway said. “The more diseases circulate in the community, the more complicated it is to provide health care and the greater the risk of providing routine services,” he said.
Dormant quarantines on campus should help, but the effect could be limited, Safdar said.
“It is a great challenge to get quarantine to be followed with high fidelity in anyone, especially large groups of adults of this age,” he said. Jones noted that Dane County had 487 new cases of COVID-19 on September 9, its daily high by far and a sign that the campus outbreak has already spread to the community.