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Association of University Student Gatherings With Community COVID-19 Infections Before and After the NCAA March Madness Tournament

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Universities across the US are weighing various vaccination policies for the current fall semester.1 It is difficult to assess the risk of social gatherings on university campuses among unvaccinated students. However, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (March Madness) provides an opportunity to study this risk. In mid-March 2021, when variants were spreading rapidly2 and vaccination rates were low among the college-aged population,3 64 universities across the country competed in March Madness. By the event’s nature as a single-elimination tournament, it is difficult to predict which universities will proceed to the later rounds of the tournament. This cross-sectional study uses a difference-in-differences analysis to estimate the association of large celebrations at universities across the US with COVID-19 infections in a university’s county during a time of low vaccination rates among university students.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Accepted for Publication: August 21, 2021.

Published: October 25, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.30783

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 O’Donoghue AL. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Ashley L. O’Donoghue, PhD, Center for Healthcare Delivery Science, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (aodonogh@bidmc.harvard.edu).

Author Contributions: Dr O’Donoghue had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: O’Donoghue.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: O’Donoghue.

Drafting of the manuscript: O’Donoghue.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: O’Donoghue.

Statistical analysis: O’Donoghue.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr O’Donoghue reported receiving financial support from Google.org outside the submitted work.

References
1.
Haeder  SF .  Joining the herd? U.S. public opinion and vaccination requirements across educational settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.   Vaccine. 2021;39(17):2375-2385. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.03.055PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID data tracker: variant proportions. Accessed June 29, 2021. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions
3.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About COVID-19 vaccine delivered and administration data. Accessed May 14, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/distributing/about-vaccine-data.html
4.
New York Times. Coronavirus (Covid-19) data in the United States. Accessed June 25, 2021. https://github.com/nytimes/covid-19-data
5.
Lauer  SA , Grantz  KH , Bi  Q ,  et al.  The incubation period of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from publicly reported confirmed cases: estimation and application.   Ann Intern Med. 2020;172(9):577-582. doi:10.7326/M20-0504PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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