COVID-19 observations and accompanying dataset of non-pharmaceutical interventions across U.S. universities, March 2020.PLoS One. 2020; 15(10):e0240786.Plos
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) guidance for specific institutional audiences to limit community spread. Audiences include: business, clinical, public health, education, community, and state/local government. The swift, severe, and global nature of COVID-19 offers an opportunity to systematically obtain a national view of how larger institutions of higher education adopted NPI guidance at the onset of the pandemic.
An original database of COVID-19-related university NPI policy changes was compiled. Survey team members manually combed university websites and official statements capturing implementation decisions and dates for five NPI variables from 575 U.S. universities, across 50 states and the District of Columbia, during March of 2020. The universities included in this study were selected from the Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which provides a set of university explanatory variables. Using IPEDS as the basis for the organizational data allows consistent mapping to event-time and institutional characteristic variables including public health announcements, geospatial, census, and political affiliation.
The dataset enables event-time analysis and offers a variety of variables to support institutional level study and identification of underlying biases like educational attainment. A descriptive analysis of the dataset reveals that there was substantial heterogeneity in the decisions that were made and the timing of these decisions as they temporally related to key state, national, and global emergency announcements. The WHO pandemic declaration coincided with the largest number of university decisions to implement NPIs.
This study provides descriptive observations and produced an original dataset that will be useful for future research focused on drivers and trends of COVID-19 NPIs for U.S. Universities. This preliminary analysis suggests COVID-19 university decisions appeared to be made largely at the university level, leading to major variations in the nature and timing of the responses both between and within states, which requires further study.