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Despite high vaccination rates, colleges across the nation see increasing positivity rates. Credit: Navraj Singh

Many college campuses across the nation face increasing COVID-19 case counts as in-person instruction continues.

With only 14% of colleges starting the spring semester online, universities have seen rising case numbers on campus due to the highly transmissible omicron variant, WHYY reported.

Last week, 1,196 students tested positive at Dartmouth College, while there were 437 positive cases at Harvard University, according to WHYY. In early January, Penn State had 394 positive cases in one week — a 12-month high for the university.

These increasing case counts persist despite colleges' high vaccination rates. According to the COVID States Project, 74% of college students had received at least a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 2021.

Even so, COVID-19 case numbers on college campuses are likely underreported, Gerri Taylor, co-leader of the COVID-19 task force for the American College Health Association, told WHYY. Taylor said the high case counts are concerning due to limited isolation housing and the high number of staff needed to perform testing and keep track of cases.

During the week of Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, the Penn community saw 743 positive tests and a campus-wide positivity rate of 6.91% — down from 13.47% during the prior week. Despite Penn's isolation capacity dipping to 23.3% as of Jan. 18, the University has not announced any additional isolation measures.

Some colleges — such as the University of Virginia — have turned to hotels for isolation space, according to WHYY. On the other hand, Harvard University recently halted contact tracing and stopped providing isolation housing to students who test positive.

To mitigate increasing case numbers, many universities have mandated all students receive booster shots and continued to enforce indoor masking requirements for the spring semester, WHYY reported.

Penn also announced that it is now required to either use an N95 or KN95 mask or to layer a cloth mask over a surgical mask. In addition, all students, faculty, and staff are required to receive a booster shot by Jan. 31.