More than 7% of all positive UC Berkeley student-body cases in the last six months came in just this past weekend, and school officials are scolding kids for letting their guards down.
SFist’s daily COVID-19 tracker shows some stabilization in Alameda County, and NBC Bay Area reported last Tuesday that the county’s COVID-19 surge was receding. But then… this weekend happened. Perhaps because of the return of outdoor dining (which Alameda County restarted four days before San Francisco), perhaps because of frat parties, or perhaps because of general undergraduate recklessness, UC Berkeley saw a COVID-19 case surge according to KPIX.
Running the numbers, KPIX notes that "44 students tested positive for the virus over the weekend," and "Since August, officials said, there have been 588 confirmed cases among the student population." So this weekend's haul of new student cases represents 7.4% of the campus’ cases over the last six months.
“We understand that local shelter in place orders may have been lifted, but with the current levels of rising transmission, we need to each do all that we can to help keep ourselves and our community healthy,” the university said in a tsk-tsk email to all students obtained by KPIX. “Berkeley remains in the Purple Tier, due to widespread community transmission, and the current public health order prohibits gathering indoors with people outside your household.”
Like many universities, UC Berkeley has set up “quarantine housing” for students who have tested positive. SFist has not personally reviewed the conditions at Berkeley, but the New York Times has done some reporting on other universities', and found these to present a generally horrible lifestyle.
It's easy to engage in the conjecture that the outbreak was linked to frat parties. First off, unsanctioned frat parties were blamed for a surge in COVID cases on the Berkeley campus early last summer. And now Santa Clara University’s student newspaper The Santa Clara broke the news Saturday of “An enormous number of Santa Clara students packed into the backyard of a fraternity house on Jan. 23.” We don’t know if it’s the same party as the one depicted in the Insta post above, but the dates and descriptions certainly match up.
We understand that UC Berkeley and Santa Clara University are two different schools. But it seems improbable that Berkeley’s significant spike is some unfortunate coincidence that merely occurred without accompanying widespread careless behavior. Fraternities may not be the guilty party in the UC Berkeley surge, but as pandemic fatigue wears on, clearly some student bodies are getting too close to other students’ bodies.
Image: Dreamworks Pictures