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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Rong-Gong Lin II

Coronavirus outbreak tied to fraternity parties imperils fall semester at UC Berkeley

SAN FRANCISCO _ An outbreak of coronavirus infections tied to parties connected to fraternities at the University of California, Berkeley is imperiling the prospect of in-person fall semester classes, university officials warned.

In just one week, there have been 47 COVID-19 cases confirmed by the campus's University Health Services system, the university said in a letter to the campus community.

Most of the 47 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 a letter written by Anna Harte, medical director of the campus' health clinic, and Guy Nicolette, an assistant vice chancellor.

"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," the letter said.

With the rate of increase in disease, the campus officials wrote, "it's becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning."

Before the 47 new cases were reported, there had been just 23 cumulative COVID-19 cases on campus confirmed since the start of the pandemic.

The officials said UC Berkeley can only move forward with a fall semester on campus if COVID-19 case numbers remain low.

The fall term would be dramatically different, with students living on campus possibly being restricted to small "bubbles" of 10 to 12 _ allowing them to have social interaction while limiting the ability of the coronavirus to rapidly infect many more students.

Everyone would need to wear a mask unless completely alone in their room or office, and social distancing would need to be in place "in every conceivable area across campus," the letter said.

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