Increase in COVID-19 cases could jeopardize UC Berkeley’s fall plans, administration says

UC Berkeley Greek Row
Anissa Nishioka/File
UC Berkeley has seen 47 new cases of COVID-19 in one week, most of which campus administration attributes to recent parties in the Greek system.

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UC Berkeley administration reported Thursday a “concerning” increase in campus students testing positive for COVID-19.

According to a campuswide email from University Health Services, or UHS, Medical Director Anna Harte and UHS Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette, the number of cases increased from 23 to 70 in one week.

“The majority of these new cases stem from a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system,” Harte and Nicolette said in the email. “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.”

For those who have tested positive, Berkeley Public Health and UHS staff have engaged in contact tracing and notified individuals who may have been exposed.

According to Harte and Nicolette, the increase in cases is affecting planning for fall.

“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,” Harte and Nicolette said in the email.

Harte and Nicolette advised the campus community to avoid large gatherings and parties, crowded spaces, socializing indoors and gatherings without physical distancing and face coverings.

They also said people should check their temperatures daily and get tested if they begin to show any symptoms.

“If we can keep our COVID-19 case numbers low, we can continue to move forward with our fall semester plans,” Harte and Nicolette said in the email.

They added that campus administration is discussing the potential development of small “bubble groups” of 10-12 students living on campus to increase social interaction and limit exposure in the fall.

They are also working on testing strategies and environmental controls, according to the email.

“The campus is committed to doing all we can to minimize infections and outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus,” Harte and Nicolette said in the email. “The success of this depends on all of us doing our part to keep ourselves and our campus community safe and healthy.”

Check back for updates.

Kate Finman is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.