As some college towns across the country emerge as hotspots, Providence College and Boston College are among schools struggling to contain the coronavirus.

A new report out this week from researchers at Davidson College, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University and the University of Washington finds opening campuses for face-to-face teaching is increasing national COVID counts by about 3,000 cases a day. At most schools, administrators are blaming surges on parties held off campus.

More schools are issuing shelter-in-place orders. Doing that, or sending students home, raises ethical questions.

“A lot of the housing close to Providence College is comprised of working-class neighborhoods — people of color,” said Rhode Island State Rep.-elect David Morales, who lives near the campus, which has reported more than 150 positive cases since last week. “I immediately think to the consequences this public health crisis is going to have on them.”

On the other hand, sending students home — even for traditional college breaks — presents risks, too, noted Chris Marsicano, an education professor who directs the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College in North Carolina.

“One of the worst things a college could do right now is send students back home to get grandma sick,” Marsicano said. “Nobody wants grandma to get sick.”

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