In Riley County, where the school is, half of the diagnosed coronavirus cases (78 of 156 as of Wednesday) were among the college-age population, ages 18 to 24. Public health officials rely on a grading metric that tracks movement within the county, comparing it to pre-pandemic levels. Earlier during the outbreak, Riley County received an A for social distancing. Now it rates as an F.
“At that point, we were staying home more, only going out for essentials, so our movement was low,” Julie Gibbs, the Riley County Health Director, said of the change in an email. “With businesses opening up, we expected to see more movement, but I did not expect to see our grade drop quite that much. We need to get back to where we were before.”
The bump in infections among college-age adults, she added, is because too many are going to clubs and bars, and not wearing masks or keeping the prescribed six feet away from others. The outbreak at L.S.U. came in large part from players going to a popular bar when they arrived back in Baton Rouge, La., according to Sports Illustrated.
Some schools have tried to insulate themselves from liability by requiring athletes returning to campuses for workouts to sign waivers acknowledging the risk of being infected — or in the case of at least one school, Southern Methodist, releasing it from any liability. (Kansas State did not have a waiver, but provided its protocols to players and their parents and asked for feedback.)
The waivers have caught the attention of lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Cory Booker of New Jersey urged N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert to prohibit such waivers, calling them “legally dubious” and “morally repugnant.”
Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University, said if players were getting sick after returning to school — for the sole purpose of training for football, not going to class — it was almost immaterial whether they became infected while lifting weights or at a local watering hole.
“They got exposed because you — the athletic department — brought them back to campus,” Binney said. “They were only at the bar because you told them to come back. Getting sick is a perfectly foreseeable consequence of calling students back to campus.”