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Colleges and coronavirus: February 12, 2021

Breaking down San Diego university situations of the COVID-19 global pandemic. USD goes into lockdown over case spike, UCSD vaccinating fewer than expected.
Credit: Photo by Anne Wernikoff
Medical assistant Maria Duran instructs students on how to self-swab during a COVID-19 test at University Health Services at UC Berkeley on Sept. 4, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Collectively, more than 500 on and off-campus students living in San Diego County have tested positive for coronavirus in the last six weeks.

Contributing to the total on-campus student population of more than ten-thousand, this number is significant when looking at the local coronavirus situation countywide.

The distribution of this pandemic among college students widely varies. Campuses like CSU San Marcos are reporting no more than a dozen cases while University of San Diego has reported 291 total cases since January 24. 

Despite these numbers, the County of San Diego says no outbreaks have been reported in any college communities in the county. They do, however, recognize that cases are on the rise.

“We are still working closely with [local universities] and are aware of the uptick in cases,” according to an email sent by San Diego County Communication Officer Michael Workman.

Still, cases are growing in numbers at each university. Some universities are locking down to control cases, while others are testing new ways to detect COVID-19.

There were a lot of headlines this week so let’s get into it.

University of San Diego orders students to stay on-campus amid massive case spike 

291 campus community members have tested positive for coronavirus since January 24, one day before the spring semester began.

123 of which are students living on-campus. Out of 1,080 total on-campus students, 11% of all students living in residential housing have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday morning, University President James T Harris III said in a video statement that the majority of these cases come from off-campus parties and students disobeying health order.

Harris ordered all students living on-campus to not leave the property unless they’re doing so for essential activities. These include doctor appointments, groceries and religious services.

The stay-on-campus order lasts until the end of the month.

Lissette Martinez, senior director of media relations at USD, confirmed over the phone that at least fifty percent of the two residential buildings used to quarantine students are currently filled.

Martinez couldn’t provide further details into the parties that Harris mentioned but said the launch of the new campaign called 'Stop the Surge' will hopefully curb in influx in cases.

USD currently has the highest reporting rate of COVID-19 out of any other university in San Diego County.

Despite the statistics, San Diego County confirmed via email on Friday afternoon that the spike in cases has not yet appeared on the County outbreak list.

Read the full report into the ongoing spike in cases at USD: 

USD issues stay-on-campus order, blames parties for massive coronavirus surge.

SDSU pushes forward with vaccination schedule as university continues COVID violation surveillance 

Nearly all of the original 300 Moderna vaccine doses shipped to San Diego State last week have been used, according to an email from the university.

280 have been administered to campus community members who meet the current state criteria for vaccinations. The university expects the remaining 20 to be used in the next two business days.

SDSU confirmed via email that it’s waiting for more of the vaccine from the state.

“As communicated before, SDSU has requested additional doses from the state, beyond this initial 300, and is still awaiting confirmation regarding the next allocation of the vaccine,” the email stated.

University officials said 1,600 eligible members of the campus community were contacted about the available vaccine doses.

Since the start of the spring semester, SDSU has reported 56 cases of coronavirus among students living in university housing. 17 total cases were confirmed out of more than 1,300 tests in the last seven days, according to school data.

Parties were seen by News 8 crews at the start of the semester, and SDSU confirmed that 80 individuals were contacted about COVID-19 health violations since New Year’s Day. 

No final decisions about any of the health violations enforced by the university this year have led to repercussions so far.

Vaccination shortage hits UC San Diego’s ambitious vaccination goals

The goal was to vaccinate 5,000 UC San Diego and UCSD Health community members per day when the university announced its own vaccination super site last month.

It’s now been five days of service for the fifth vaccination super station in the county, and the numbers are far from original expectations.

2,847 vaccine doses have been administered at the location site since opening on Monday, according to an email from Senior Communications and Media Relations Manager Yadira Galindo.

While 5,000 doses per day was the goal, university officials knew that with such a limited vaccine supply chain from the federal government, this would be a high bar to reach.

Galindo told News 8 via email on February 4 that they expected 1,000 doses to be administered per day at the start of the on-campus vaccination process at the campus’s recreation center known as RIMAC.

This isn’t to say vaccinations are faltering countywide. The region’s first vaccination super site at Petco Park has administered more than 100,000 vaccines since opening on January 11.

But with a constrained supply chain of vaccinations and an increasing arsenal of vaccination facilities, the immediate future for vaccine rollout is still rocky.

On Friday, a delay of vaccine shipment reported by the county means a vaccination station closure starting this weekend.

Petco Park will not be administering doses from Sunday until Tuesday. Those with appointments up until then will still be honored.

It’s not known how the delay of vaccine doses will impact the UCSD vaccination super site.

Meantime, coronavirus cases among campus community members are negligible. Over the last five days, 18 cases of coronavirus among students were reported. Six of which involved students living on-campus.

Five new cases were reported among faculty and staff over the last week. This is out of more than 2100 tests reported in that time.

CSU San Marcos prepares for mandatory COVID-19 testing, expands credit/no credit options for students

Mandatory testing for students visiting campus will begin at CSU San Marcos on Monday, February 15. 

The announcement was made on Tuesday, February 9 that students visiting both the San Marcos and Temecula campuses for classes, labs, work and living situations must test weekly for COVID-19.

The CSU has an app for students to register for a coronavirus test appointment, and the university says it’s working on a way for faculty, who wish to be tested, to schedule tests through the app as well.

CSU San Marcos is one of many San Diego County locations hosting a vaccination super site. This one is a walk-up and community members living in North County can register here.

The university is currently reporting few cases of the virus among community members. 10 students and faculty tested positive for the virus since the start of the semester, but no new cases of the virus have been added to the dashboard since last week.

CSUSM also passed resolutions to its grading policies for the 2020-2021 academic year.

In a campus-wide email sent on February 12, all grades of F will automatically change to No Credit. 

Starting March 12, students can petition to change their F grades from the Fall 2020, Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 terms.

You can check the full statement here for more information and who to contact if you are a student at CSU San Marcos.

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