As college campuses around the country struggle with coronavirus outbreaks, videos and photos posted Saturday showed what appeared to be students attending large parties — with no social distancing and few masks — coinciding with the return of football at Florida State University and the University of Kansas.
One video shared on Twitter Saturday seemed to be a screen recording of a Snapchat post that showed dozens of students crammed together in FSU branded attire, drinking and socializing without masks in Tallahassee, Florida. The five-second video has not been verified by NBC News.
It’s been viewed more than 1 million times as of Sunday and shared by notable figures such as actor Kumail Nanjiani and Florida Rep. Anna V. Eskamani.
“Students — you are not immune to #COVID19,” the state congresswoman tweeted.
Similar photos and videos were shared out of Lawrence, Kansas, where University of Kansas students apparently gathered in sizable house parties on Mississippi Street, just minutes away from the school’s stadium.
Young people were seen crammed together, dancing and cheering on the front porch of a house. Most attendees did not appear to be wearing masks, based on the photos and videos shared to social media Saturday.
It’s unclear whether either of the parties were held at student housing or associated with student organizations.
NBC News viewed videos of the same parties in Tallahassee and Lawrence on Snapchat’s Snap Map, where the platform hosts posts that are geotagged to specific locations for 24 hours before the photos or videos expire. NBC News considers those videos to be verified by the platform.
Both universities were among the schools who chose to resume their football programs this fall and both had their first home games Saturday. The University of Kansas played Coastal Carolina University and Florida State faced off against Georgia Tech.
Florida State University, the Tallahassee Police Department, the University of Kansas, and Lawrence Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News on Sunday morning.
The U.S. has seen more than 6.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 194,000 people have died of the disease this year, according to data collected by NBC News.
The fall semester has only just begun, but colleges and universities have struggled to control coronavirus outbreaks on campus and to keep students from disregarding social distancing guidelines to prevent community spread.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who has been the public face of the pandemic response this year, has warned universities not to send students home amid outbreaks. He told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday that it was “the worst thing you can do.”
“When you send them home, particularly when you’re dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection,” Fauci said.
Some have criticized colleges for the decision to resume in-person learning, knowing that the young adults may choose to engage in risky behavior by disregarding social distancing guidelines.
Schools who set unrealistic expectations on their students’ behavior upon arriving on campus were bound to fail, Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School told NBC News last week.
“If universities really want students to stop having indoor parties, they need to provide opportunities for students to stay socially connected that are lower-risk,” Marcus said.
Mohammed Syed contributed.