Place residence

COVID-19 cases rise, dorm residents must self-isolate

Cal Poly officials have started telling students with COVID-19 who live in on-campus dorms to self-isolate, even if they live with roommates in the same room and live in residence halls with more of 20 people on the same floor, President Jeffrey Armstrong told Mustang News.

Until now, the isolation-in-place policy has been limited to student residents living in on-campus apartments, who live in single rooms and have lower resident occupancies than dormitories. Armstrong said he was expanding the policy to include those living in dormitories before they ran out of isolation beds on campus.

Due to a new spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, Armstrong said the university is nearing the maximum capacity for isolation beds on campus. On Friday, the COVID-19 dashboard reported that 48 students living on campus and 28 students living off campus tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.

Of the 48 total isolation beds at Cal Poly, 41 are occupied and 42 students are currently in isolation.

Expanding the isolate-in-place policy was also done instead of placing students in local hotels — as officials did in January, spending $107,462.08 to place COVID-positive students in three local hotels. Armstrong was unsure of availability at local hotels at the time.

“It’s pretty clear to everyone that hotel, tourism and occupancy rates are back to normal relative to the pandemic,” Armstrong said.

In on-campus residence halls, student residents who are COVID-positive must wear a mask when in the presence of other residents who do not have COVID-19. This includes COVID-positive resident students who live with another person in the same room.

Armstrong said COVID-positive student residents are recommended to use the restroom when “restroom traffic is light” because they share the restroom with all residents who live on the same floor.

Armstrong added that COVID-positive student residents are likely already exposing their roommates to the virus within 24 to 48 hours of testing positive for the virus, “so there has already been exposure.”

The policy change is because the current dominant variants of COVID-19 are less severe, Armstrong said. He added that we have reached the point where COVID-19 is rampant.

Some schools mandate masks indoors, not Cal Poly

Both UCLA and UC Santa Barbara announced Thursday that an indoor mask mandate will be reinstated regardless of vaccination status starting Friday. From the week of May 22, UC Santa Barbara The COVID-19 positivity rate was 7.96%. For UCLAthe COVID-19 positivity rate from PCR surveillance tests was 2.8% for the week of May 21.

The current positivity rate at Cal Poly through on-campus testing is 11.83% as of May 26. Earlier in the spring quarter, the last spike in positive COVID-19 cases was seen on April 11 at 0.86% for the seven-day period. The current positivity rate is 11 times higher than that.

Armstrong said the university will need masks if officials see the need for a mask mandate. At present, officials do not see the need for it.

The current positivity rate is increasing, but not as high as rates at the start of the winter quarter, where COVID-19 positivity rates peaked at an all-time high, Mustang News previously reported.

Armstrong noted that a large majority of Cal Poly students are vaccinated or boosted. He did not answer questions about a decline in the effectiveness of the vaccine after three months of vaccination.

He maintained that the university makes public health decisions with experts, who are approved by the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health.

In March, county public health officer Penny Borenstein told Mustang News that the county’s relationship with Cal Poly was little more than confirming whether university policies were legal or reasonable.

In San Luis Obispo County, there were 586 new cases of COVID-19 last week, with 13 residents in intensive care, according to what San Luis Obispo County Public Health wrote in a Press release Wednesday.

“The more contagious BA.2.12.1 variant is likely driving this increase, which includes some reinfections of people who had an earlier strain of Omicron during the recent winter surge,” County Public Health wrote in the press release.

This story comes from The hill, a team of data analysts and journalists specializing in investigative and data-driven reporting at Mustang News. Click here to read more stories from The Hill.