COVID-19 cases are rising, residence residents are being urged to self-isolate on site

Cal Poly officials have begun telling students with COVID-19 living in on-campus dormitories to self-isolate on-site, even if they live with roommates in the same room and in dormitories with over 20 people on the same Floor living, President Jeffrey Armstrong told Mustang News.

So far, the isolate-in-place policy has been limited to student residents living in on-campus apartments, which live in single rooms and have lower resident occupancy compared to dormitories. Armstrong said he’s extending the policy to those living in dormitories before campus isolation beds run out.

Due to a fresh spike in campus COVID-19 cases, Armstrong said the university is near the maximum capacity for campus isolation beds. On Friday, the COVID-19 Dashboard reported that 48 students living on campus and 28 students living off campus tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.

Of the 48 total isolation beds at Cal Poly, 41 are occupied and 42 students are currently in isolation.

The expansion of the isolate-in-place policy was also implemented instead of moving students to local hotels — as officials did in January, spending $107,462.08 to move COVID-positive students to three local hotels. Armstrong was unsure of availability at local hotels at the time.

“It’s pretty clear to everyone that hotel and tourism and occupancy rates are now close to normal again compared to during the pandemic,” Armstrong said.

In the on-campus dormitories, COVID-positive student residents are required to wear a mask when around other residents who do not have COVID-19. This includes COVID-positive student residents living in the same room with another person.

Armstrong said COVID-positive students are advised to go to the bathroom when “toilet traffic is light” because they share the toilets with all residents who live on the same floor.

Armstrong added that COVID-positive student residents are likely to be exposing roommates to the virus as early as 24 to 48 hours after testing positive for the virus, “so there has already been exposure.”

The change in policy is because the currently dominant variants of COVID-19 are less severe, Armstrong said. He added that we have reached the point where COVID-19 is endemic.

Some schools mandate masks indoors, not Cal Poly

Both UCLA and UC Santa Barbara announced Thursday that the inner mask mandate will be reinstated beginning Friday, regardless of vaccination status. For the week of May 22, UC Santa Barbara’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 7.96%. For UCLA, the COVID-19 positivity rate of the PCR surveillance tests for the week of May 21 was 2.8%.

Cal Poly’s current positivity rate through on-campus testing is 11.83% as of May 26th. At the beginning of the spring quarter, the last peak of positive COVID-19 cases was observed on April 11 at 0.86% for the seven-day period. The current positivity rate is 11 times higher.

Armstrong said the university will require masks if officials see the need for a mask mandate. The authorities currently see no need for this.

The current positivity rate is rising, although not as high as rates at the beginning of the winter quarter, when COVID-19 positivity rates hit an all-time high, Mustang News previously reported.

Armstrong found that the vast majority of Cal Poly students are vaccinated or refreshed. He did not respond to questions about a drop in vaccine effectiveness after three months of vaccination.

He claimed that the university makes public health decisions with experts approved by the San Luis Obispo County Department of Health.

In March, county health officer Penny Borenstein told Mustang News that the county’s relationship with Cal Poly was nothing more than confirming whether the university’s policies were legal or appropriate.

San Luis Obispo County had 586 new COVID-19 cases in the past week with 13 residents in the ICU, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Service said in a news release Wednesday.

“The higher contagious BA.2.12.1 variant is likely driving this surge, which includes some re-infections from people who had a previous Omicron strain during the recent winter surge,” County Public Health wrote in the release.

This story comes from The hill, a team of data analysts and reporters focused on data-driven and investigative stories at Mustang News. Click here to Read more stories from The Hill.

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