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COVID-19 Cases Drop At UC San Diego After Post-Holiday Surge

A man walks by a COVID-19 testing sign at UC San Diego campus, Sept. 28, 2020.

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: A man walks by a COVID-19 testing sign at UC San Diego campus, Sept. 28, 2020.

COVID-19 cases surged among UC San Diego students early this month as they returned from their winter break, but the number of new cases has dropped dramatically in recent weeks.

With about 10,000 students on campus last quarter, UCSD kept COVID-19 case numbers low through the end of 2020. According to university records, more than 200 cases were reported during the new quarter's first week.

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Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UCSD overseeing the university’s COVID-19 strategy, said officials anticipated the surge.

“When people go home and mix with multiple generations and see their high school friends and socialize, this virus takes advantage of that,” Schooley said.

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But now, case numbers are back down to single digits thanks to the testing and quarantine program the university had in place since last year.

“We had prepared for it by doing a number of things,” Schooley said. “We had surge testing during that first week to try to identify as quickly as we could people who might have brought the virus back with them.”

UCSD has reported 861 cases among students since the onset of the pandemic, and 331 since the beginning of the school year. Even at the surge’s peak, the university had more than enough quarantine rooms available for students testing positive, Schooley said.

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“We never got up to more than about 180 beds and we have 600, so we could’ve handled many more than that,” he said. “We always wanted to have a big buffer in terms of quarantine beds.”

Schooley said his team is now focused on avoiding another surge after spring break. He said the university is designing spring break internships so students can remain on campus, building their resumes instead of traveling.

“Our goal is to create a number of really interesting career development pathways that students don’t have time to do during the school year,” Schooley said. “We’ll try to see if they can stay on campus and not surge back with the virus.”

Unless there’s a significant delay in vaccinations, Schooley said he expects the university to be close to fully reopened in the fall.

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Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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