Colleges, universities, prisons, and meatpacking plants: Places where people gather


Colleges, universities, prisons, and meatpacking plants have enclosed spaces, allow people to stay for a long time, and can be crowded. They represent environments that may have high potential for SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the absence of appropriate control measures. These facilities are points of interest on this COVID-19 dashboard because they have been linked to some COVID-19 clusters in NC. 

The map below shows the location of colleges, universities, prisons, meatpacking plants, and COVID-19 cases and deaths of all ages by county and zip code. Click on a county to view zip code level data on COVID-19

All data are preliminary and subject to change. Corrections and updates are made as cases are being investigated and reported. The most current data are available on the NC DHHS COVID-19 dashboard.

To see how to use, FAQs and definitions, click here.

Stay tuned. Updates for Omicron are coming soon.
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What does this visualization show me?

This map shows the locations of colleges, universities, prisons and meatpacking plants in North Carolina and selected COVID-19 measures by county and zip code. 

Each county is shaded to represent the value of the selected COVID-19 measure in that county. Click on the county to see COVID-19 measures by zip code. Each colored circle represents one facility. You can see additional details for a county, ZIP code, or facility by hovering over it on the map. 

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the map date back to June 2, 2020. 

How does this visualization help us understand COVID-19?

Colleges, universities, prisons, and meatpacking plants are locations with potential for high rates of SARS-COV-2 transmission. 

Factors that elevate risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in college and university settings include shared living arrangements and social gatherings. Students may spend prolonged time in shared living spaces including kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and exercise areas. Students and university personnel may also interact within classroom settings. 

In prisons, people are often confined to living spaces where it is difficult to physically distance. In some cases, prisons may also have limited access to soap, disinfectant, and masks. People who are incarcerated also have high rates of health conditions that put them at risk for severe disease if they become infected. Finally, in prison settings there can be barriers to receiving healthcare. 

Meatpacking plants are environments where employees work in close physical proximity for long periods of time. Employees may also interact in shared vehicles, breakrooms, and changing facilities. Financial concerns and employer leave policies may prevent people from staying home from work when they feel ill. 

In all of these environments, power dynamics or social pressures may make safe pandemic protocols difficult to enact or enforce. The map helps us identify which facilities are located in geographic areas with higher or lower values of the selected COVID-19 measures. This information allows policy makers and public health experts to provide support directly to these areas and learn more about their needs.

NOTE: This map cannot tell us if variation in testing and/or the number and capacity of these facilities is responsible for higher or lower apparent burden of COVID-19 in a county or zip code. The relationship between the number of facilities and the true burden of COVID-19 cannot be determined using this map.

For current data on outbreaks in long-term care and other congregate living facilities (including correctional facilities) consult the NCDHHS outbreak dashboard and map (DHHS outbreak data: LINK). Several clusters have been linked to colleges and universities when students travel or are welcomed to campus in close residence (Chronicle Higher Ed reopening database: LINK).

Where do the data come from?

COVID-19 county-level data are from The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies (LINK). The New York Times states that “all cases and deaths are counted on the date they are first announced.” Zip code level data are from WRAL (LINK). WRAL compiles data from the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services (DHHS) DHHS data (LINK) daily. 

Zip code level population counts were from ESRI Demographics provided by WRAL and NCDHHS.

County level population counts were from July 2020; provided by NC Office of State Budget and Management (LINK).

Information on college and university locations and undergraduate enrollment is from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Details on meatpacking plants were obtained from two sources: lists of state-regulated plants from the NC Department of Agriculture (LINK) and lists of federally-regulated plants from the USDA (LINK). Additional information on other types of manufacturing sites is not included due to the lack of a comprehensive list of facilities. Jails are not included in this map as they are locally operated in nearly every county, typically housing inmates for shorter periods of time. Prisons are state and federal facilities that house longer-term inmates with data sourced from the North Carolina Department of Safety on July 2020.

How were the measures calculated?

The 7-day average represents the average of the daily number of new COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people in that county (or zip code) over the past 7 days (i.e., 7-day average of cases per day per 10k population). 

Cumulative cases is a running count of the total number of newly detected COVID-19 cases per 10k since June 2, 2020. Using a denominator of 10,000 residents allows us to make comparisons between counties with differing population sizes. 

How often are the data updated?

All four COVID-19 measures shown in this map are updated every Wednesday. 

  • Select a COVID-19 health measure from the drop-down box above the map 
  • Choose a specific 7-day average date by moving the slider or clicking the arrows to select a date. The date in the box is the date that the 7-day average ended on 
  • Hover over a county with your mouse to see the 7-day average in that county. 
  • Click on a county to see the 7-day average by zip code 
  • Each colored circle represents a different facility. Hover over a colored circle to see which facility it represents
  • If you want to only see a particular type of facility, select it from the Points of Interest drop-down. Clicking on the type of facility in the Points of Interest legend and choosing ‘keep only’ will also show only that type of facility. To undo this action choose “All” from the top drop-down. 
  • To zoom in or out on the map roll the mouse wheel in or out or use the + or - on the left side of the map. Clicking the home icon will return the map to the original view. 
  • To download the data click the download icon in the lower right hand corner of the map and select the appropriate file format.
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The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health. The North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT) is an advanced, statewide public health surveillance system. NC DETECT is supported by the North Carolina Division of Public Health through a federal Public Health Emergency Preparedness Grant and is managed through a collaboration between NC DPH and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Emergency Medicine's Carolina Center for Health Informatics.