COVID-19 cases at colleges are fueling the nation's hottest outbreaks

On paper, the college appears to be doing well. According to recent numbers, the University of Mississippi has recorded about 430 confirmed cases since Aug. 24, the first day of classes in Oxford, and still has plenty of housing for those who have been infected or exposed to the virus.

Data in Lafayette County, home to the Mississippi flagship, paint a starker picture. An analysis by USA TODAY shows the county has one of the highest per-capita rates of coronavirus infections in the country, at 1,053 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.

The rising positive cases were expected with the return of students, but the increase remains concerning, said Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill. Oxford is both a college town and a place where people come to retire. In the past month, Tannehill said, 26 residents at a local veterans’ home have died in connection to the coronavirus.

Across the country, college students’ mounting coronavirus outbreaks have become an urgent public health issue. Of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the U.S., communities heavy with college students represent 19 of them.