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Colleges and coronavirus: March 27, 2021

Breaking down coronavirus headlines from local universities in San Diego County. Parties and vaccinations ramp up at SDSU while USD plans in-person commencement

SAN DIEGO — Colleges around California are playing an integral role in making sure vaccine doses are distributed at a rate once thought impossible a few months ago.

As of this month, only five other countries in the world have administered more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than the state of California.

According to John Hopkins University, the state has administered more than 16-million doses of the vaccine, with more than five million residents fully vaccinated.

13 out of the 23 California State University Campuses are currently serving as vaccination stations, with San Diego State University becoming the latest one this week, according to the CSU’s website.

SDSU’s vaccination station, while not a superstation, came several days after the closure of the Petco Park superstation. The SDSU site is supplying around 700 vaccinations per day, according to announcements from the university.

Still, the race to vaccinate enough people to return to a lifestyle that mimics pre-pandemic life is far from over. With variants adapting and restrictions being lifted, public health officials are pleading with community members to mask up and distance, even after being vaccinated.

But with the school year in its final set of loops, schools are having to work extra hard to make sure their students follow health guidance and avoid typical spring break parties.

Parties are continuing at SDSU, CSU San Marcos is approved for more vaccines and USD is preparing for an in-person commencement while students return from spring break: let’s get into it.

SDSU’s party scene rages on as vaccination site opens at Viejas

Neighbors told News 8 this week that loud and out-of-control parties are nothing new in the College Area, especially during the pandemic.

Residents report parties happening at all times during the day and that parties are so prevalent, that San Diego Police can't get to them all.

"When five or six neighbors are all saying 'do you hear that? Do you hear that?' and there are hundreds of kids in a backyard, then that's too much," said Susan Hopps-Tatum last week. Hopps-Tatum is a College Area resident.

In the fall, the university hired Elite Security, a third-party security business to monitor the off-campus situation of student parties during the pandemic.

It was in response to the increased presence of parties during the pandemic that grew out of control in San Diego County and at SDSU.

The situation was so poor at SDSU that it once had the most coronavirus cases than any other college in the state of California.

This semester, cases are much calmer but the parties evidently continue.

The university told News 8 in an email on Friday, that it made 231 contacts with people who had alleged COVID-19 policy violations since January 1, 2021.

Since the start of the fall 2020 semester, 15 student organizations were deemed responsible by the school for COVID-19 related violations of the student code of conduct.

The university says that a final decision on each contact made to individuals who violate COVID policy will be issued, but none have been reportedly given to those who have alleged violations in 2021. In 2020, 55 of more than 1,000 violations ended with suspensions.

"Disciplinary and student conduct investigations into these individual and organizational alleged violations are regularly ongoing as part of the adjudication process," the university wrote in an email to News 8.

Meantime on the vaccination front, SDSU Student Health Services received an additional 100 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week.

That makes 1,000 doses total shipped exclusively to the student health services department at SDSU. The university has been an approved provider with the California Department of Public Health since January 25.

SDSU also partnered with the County of San Diego this week to open a new vaccination center at Viejas Arena. The school hopes to administer 700 doses a day and reportedly has the capacity to do 1,500 inoculations a day.

CSU San Marcos approved for second vaccine shipment while students are on spring break

The north county Cal State University San Marcos has been an approved vaccine provider with the state of California since February 4 but has only been approved for two shipments of 100 doses. Both of which came in the last two weeks.

One of the shipments was already used up by the university, with the second shipment expected sometime this week.

The slow vaccine distribution to CSUSM is due to an unspecified lag of its application several months ago when universities applied with the state to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

Because their application took longer, they lost out on potentially hundreds of vaccine doses due to a nationwide shortage of the vaccine.

Nonetheless, the university has been slowly receiving more shipments and announced an in-person commencement option for students at the end of the spring semester.

The school is actually offering two versions of commencement. One will be an in-person, traditional commencement that's also live-streamed online.

Another option will be "Graduates on Parade," a socially distanced commencement ceremony that will also become an annual tradition for CSUSM grads, according to a video statement from CSUSM President Dr. Ellen Neufeldt.

"Now what that's going to look like, more details will come," Dr. Neufeldt said in her video statement. "As our team works through the guidance to make sure we've got all the safety protocols in."

The announcement states that more details will come on April 1 and that the celebration would include graduates from 2020.

Students at CSUSM were on spring break this last week. Communications Officer Brian Hiro wrote to News 8 that the university recommended students do not travel during the pandemic, based on suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If you do travel, please get tested upon your return, and understand that there is currently a travel advisory in California that required anyone returning from out-of-state or international travel to quarantine at home for 10 days after returning," Hiro's statement to News 8 read.

USD misses out on vaccines three weeks in a row, plans in-person commencement 

University of San Diego wrote to News 8 on Friday that the school has not received any doses of vaccine since March 8.

During this time, SDSU received several hundred doses and CSUSM, who was left out of the vaccine distribution until recently, was approved for 200 doses over the last two weeks.

USD has been shipped around 700 doses of vaccine since being approved vaccine providers with the state since early January.

Meantime, case counts at the school have been relatively low compared to a massive spike in cases at the end of January. The spike forced the university's president to take action, forcing students to stay on campus for the remainder of February.

USD is working to prevent another similar spike of COVID-19 cases from happening after students return from spring break.

Spring break is from Friday, March 26 to Monday, April 5. USD wrote to News 8 on Friday to confirm they're asking students to be tested for COVID-19 upon their return.

Testing will continue on a weekly basis following their return, USD wrote.

The week following, from April 6 to April 9, classes will be fully remote if not already in that format, "to mitigate risk of spreading COVID-[19] throughout our campus community," the email read.

On the graduation front, USD also confirmed with News 8 that an in-person graduation ceremony will be available for both 2020 and 2021 graduates.

"We remain flexible and optimistic about our plan to host in-person commencement rain or shine on the field on Torero Stadium," the email said.

According to the school's commencement webpage, ceremonies last from Saturday, May 15-16 and May 22-23.

"Know that the health and safety of our students, our campus community and our entire Torero family has always been, and will continue to be, paramount in this process."

USD said that plans are still being worked out but that COVID-19 safety protocols are expected to be in place.

This includes space restrictions and attendance will be limited to two invitations per graduate.

The university adds on its webpage that the severity of the pandemic can influence current commencement plans.

In-person commencement, as it stands, will be live-streamed for family and friends who can't make the in-person, socially distanced commencement.

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