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Colleges and coronavirus: February 19, 2021

Breaking down all the coronavirus headlines from San Diego County colleges. Nationwide vaccine delays slow college efforts as testing and enforcement ramps up.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Vaccine cancellations and site closures plagued much of San Diego County this week, putting into jeopardy local universities’ ambitious plans for playing a role in vaccine efforts.

UC San Diego not only closed the Petco Park super site twice in the last week, but its own vaccination center for campus community members has also fallen short of its target inoculations as well. 

Other universities have used their allotted amount and are asking for more from the state.

The issue of acquiring vaccine supply is not exclusive to local universities. A national weather disaster, freezing much of the south midwest, set the country back about six million doses across 50 states, according to a White House press briefing on Friday morning.

Pressure continues to mount, however, on universities as many institutions plan on integrating more students and social life back to campus later this year. This is a component many young adults have missed out on for more than a year.

There’s a lot of coronavirus headlines involving local universities this week. Let’s get into it.

USD curbs on-campus case spike, off-campus cases continue at steady rate 

Over the last 14 days, University of San Diego reported 192 cases of coronavirus among all its campus community members. 

The lion's share of these cases is from off-campus students. In the weeks prior, more students living on-campus were reporting cases of coronavirus.

This is partly due to an on-campus lockdown instituted by the private university’s president James Harris. 

In his virtual statement, President Harris put some of the blame on students attending large, off-campus parties.

Campus officials say it’s “hard to know” if the parties have decreased.

“Based on the dramatic decrease in positive cases this week, we know the majority of our students have been doing their part to stop the surge by following our directives to stay within their residential units except for essential activities,” said Senior Director of Media Relations Lissette Martinez. 

The directives to stay on-campus and limit outside activity last until the end of February, Martinez wrote that the restrictions will be evaluated at that time. 

Around the heigh of the coronavirus spike at USD, vaccination efforts well well underway on-campus for eligible community members.

Approximately 500 eligible USD faculty, staff and students also received their COVD-19 vaccine through the campus health center.

Martinez wrote in her email that, like most other vaccinators in San Diego, shipments have slowed in recent weeks. Martinex said the university hasn’t received any in the last 14 days.

As of February 19, 376 campus community members have tested positive for COVID-19 at USD since January 17. 134 are from students living on-campus.

With around 1,080 students living in residential housing, 12% of all of those students have reportedly tested positive for the virus.

UC San Diego keeps RIMAC station open despite vaccine delays, plans to ramp up campus testing

The vaccination delays have hit UC San Diego Health the hardest. The Petco Park super site, which is run in partnership with San Diego County, the City of San Diego and the Padres, closed twice in the last fourteen days.

Earlier this month, UC San Diego announced its own vaccine super site at the campus recreation center known as RIMAC. It announced this ambitious operation with the goal and capacity to administer 5,000 doses per day. 

In the last two weeks of operating, more than 3,700 first doses and 2,127 second doses have been administered. This is according to a release from UCSD Health from February 17.

The station at RIMAC is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and serves UCSD Health and UCSD community members.

The university is also planning on improving testing efforts among its on-campus community. 

In an email sent to News 8 by Assistant Director for University Communications Christine Clark, nine additional vending machines dispensing COVID-19 testing kits are set to open on-campus, bringing that total number to 19.

UCSD is currently reporting a COVID-19 positivity rate of 0.2%, and Clark credits the weekly testing done at the university as the main factor in maintaining a low case rate. Since the pandemic began, more than 175,000 tests have been conducted among UCSD students. More than 8,000 students are currently living on-campus.

After an initial spike in cases upon move-in, UCSD has reported 415 total campus community cases of COVID-19.

SDSU waiting on more vaccine while some parents downplay pandemic online 

San Diego State University has used up all 300 Moderna doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since receiving its allotment from the state on February 2.

As early as February 12, SDSU has requested more doses from the state and is still waiting on final confirmation, according to an email sent to News 8 by the university.

This fills a fraction of the 1,600 individuals contacted by the university informing them they were eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine from Calpulli Center.

Since the start of the semester, 134 total cases of coronavirus were reported among campus community members as of February 17. 70 of which are from students living on campus.

Enforcement is ongoing for students and organizations who violate public health orders. This includes mask violations, gatherings and the rejection of social distancing where applicable.

80 new violations were issued since February 12, making 160 for the calendar year. The university did not differentiate whether these were from individuals or student organizations like fraternities, according to the email.

The email also did not specify if any of these violations in 2021 have led to suspensions or any form of discipline. 

“Disciplinary and student conduct investigations into these alleged violations are regularly ongoing,” the statement read, in part.

A private, unofficial SDSU parent Facebook group was reported earlier this week with some self-proclaimed student parents posting misinformation about the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic.

Screenshots leaked to News 8 of the Facebook group showed a parent concerned about their child having a coronavirus scare, and worry over fraternities continuing to have parties in the College Area.

One comment mentioned that “their lives are being screwed,” and to “let them live.”

“I don’t believe staying at home will make this go away. It only prolongs the inevitable,” another comment stated. “If that’s the justification then we should all stay home and never go out because we might get something… according to the data, they’re least likely to be affected by this.”

SDSU responded to News 8 in an email to confirm that comments among parents were circulating discouraging some students to get tested for COVID-19. They urged students to continue getting tested through the university if they believe they were exposed to someone with coronavirus.

“Alerting SDSU and the county to positive COVID-19 tests allows the university and the county to monitor and address, in real-time, transmission trends and the prevalence rate of COVID-19 across our shared community.”

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