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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Mario Koran

UC Berkeley reopening in doubt after 47 coronavirus cases tied to fraternity parties

The university campus in Berkeley, California. Coronavirus cases have reached record highs across California.
The university campus in Berkeley, California. Coronavirus cases have reached record highs across California. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP

Plans for the fall semester at the University of California, Berkeley, are in question after 47 new Covid-19 cases tied to fraternity parties emerged in the past week. University officials warn the outbreak could jeopardize the ability to move forward with in-person classes in the months ahead.

“We have seen the number of University Health Services positive cases increase from a running total of 23 since the start of the pandemic, to 47 new cases in just one week,” university officials wrote in a letter.

“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,” the letter adds.

Officials said the infections were related to social events where students failed to physically distance, wear face masks, limit event size and gather outside.

In recent weeks, as new coronavirus cases reached record highs across California, the governor, Gavin Newsom, has linked outbreaks to gatherings of friends and families, as well as to the “young and invincible” who haven’t taken safety precautions.

The state on Wednesday recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic as fatalities topped 150, surpassing the previous single-day record of 122 deaths, set on 19 May. Across the state, hospitalizations, admissions to ICUs and the rate of people testing positive have all seen a jump.

University officials said keeping Covid-19 cases low would allow them to move forward with plans for the fall semester, which include a combination of online lectures and small in-person classes.

Officials say they are exploring ways to isolate students living on campus in small “bubbles” of 10 to 12 students that could “increase social interaction while keeping overall exposure dramatically reduced”. It would also restrict class sizes and eliminate “high-touch” areas to the extent possible.

The university reminded the campus community to take basic safety measures such as wearing face masks, keeping 6ft apart and monitoring temperature daily.

“The fall semester will look and be very different. Everyone – students, faculty and staff – will be wearing a mask unless they are completely alone in their room or office. There will be distancing measures in every conceivable area across campus,” said the university.

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