‘Uptick in cases’: UC Berkeley sees small increase in COVID-19 cases, adopts recommendation

RSF Covid Testing Site
Gisselle Reyes/File
According to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate, hand-held temperature monitors for COVID-19 screenings lack adequate sensitivity. As such, they will no longer be used for campus building access screenings.

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UC Berkeley adopted a recommendation Tuesday to not use hand-held temperature monitors for building access screenings, in addition to seeing a small increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

The recommendation was made by the campus’s Rapid Response Public Health Team as more evidence has shown that temperature monitoring “is an ineffective COVID-19 prevention strategy,” as hand-held temperature readers lack adequate sensitivity, according to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate. UC Berkeley’s Safe Campus Initiative also found that body temperature is a poor predictor of COVID-19 positivity.

“Given the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission, the lack of fever may even give one a false sense of security regarding infection,” Cate said in an email.

Temperatures, however, will be screened with hand-held readers if required by public health orders or as a regulatory requirement, Cate added. UC Berkeley’s daily symptom screener will also continue to ask about temperatures, as it is one of the COVID-19 symptoms.

According to Cate, while the overall percentage of positive COVID-19 cases in the campus community is under 2%, there has been an “uptick in cases” in the past few weeks. On Wednesday, 11 positive cases were confirmed. This follows two instances of four positive cases from Nov. 23 and Nov. 27.

Cate added in the email that this uptick has also been seen in most of the United States, and the campus community has not seen significant clusters of positive COVID-19 cases for some time.

“While we continue to see cases that are apparently related to holiday travel or gatherings, we are also seeing more cases without clear origin,” Cate said in the email. “The good news is this means people seem to be limiting larger gatherings, continuing to wear masks and get regular testing; the bad news is that the virus appears to be more diffusely spread throughout our local community.”

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.