USA

UC Berkeley blames spike in COVID cases on frat and sorority parties

California sees record amount of new coronavirus cases

Berkeley, California — The University of California, Berkeley reported Wednesday a spike in students testing positive for the COVID-19 and is attributing the increase in cases to a series of fraternity and sorority parties.

UC Berkeley University Health Services Medical Director Anna Harte and Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette revealed the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in a statement published on the UC Berkeley website.

The number of positive cases on campus increased from a running total of 23 since the start of the pandemic to 47 new cases in just one week, according to the statement.

"The majority of these new cases stem from a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system, which included students both within the CalGreek community and others, and led to some secondary spread within households and within other smaller gatherings," said the statement. "Generally, these infections are directly related to social events where students have not followed basic safety measures such as physical distancing, wearing face coverings, limiting event size, and gathering outside."

Berkeley Public Health and University Health Services are in the process of contact tracing those who had close contact with the students who tested positive, advising on quarantine requirements, and arranging for testing.

The statement said the new infections would affect fall semester plans even as campus recovery teams were working hard to implement protocols to return more students, staff and faculty to campus.

"However, at the rate we are seeing increases in cases, it's becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning," the statement said.

Students and staffers were urged to continue following all public health guidelines, avoid large gatherings or parties, and only socialize indoors with people within their own households or established social bubble. 

"We are developing a testing strategy for those living, working or studying on campus," the statement said. "This testing will be combined with contact tracing to try to identify outbreaks early."

The university was looking to develop social cohort structures or "bubbles" of 10-12 students living on campus to increase social interaction while reducing overall exposure. Other environmental controls were being implemented, such as designating stairwells as up or down only, restricting class sizes and eliminating or changing high-touch areas to the extent possible.

"The campus is committed to doing all we can to minimize infections and outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus while continuing to further our mission. The success of this depends on all of us doing our part to keep ourselves and our campus community safe and healthy."

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