A Dozen Cases of Coronavirus at Point Loma Nazarene University

by on October 15, 2020 · 1 comment

in Health, Ocean Beach

Times of Media / October 15, 2020

A dozen Point Loma Nazarene University students tested positive for COVID-19 this week and 50 others were identified as “close contacts,” people who were within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, school officials said Wednesday.

The surge raised the total number of active cases among students to 19 — five of whom are living off-campus. PLNU also says 66 students are in quarantine or isolation.

As of Wednesday, the university was awaiting test results on 98 students.

“We are in the process of testing identified contacts and will continue to test throughout the week in coordination with the county,” said Jill Monroe, a campus spokesperson.

Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of San Diego County’s epidemiology department, said during a weekly COVID briefing Wednesday that resources are headed to campus.

“We will be deploying a surge testing capability to the campus tomorrow to test the remaining number of students who need to be tested,” McDonald said.

Wednesday’s coronavirus report included 308 additional cases in San Diego County and four more COVID-related deaths.

Four community outbreaks were included in the report, two at local businesses and two at restaurants, one of which had a bar on its premises.

PLNU opened in mid-August with 2,600 students, only 267 of whom were permitted to live in campus housing. The school wanted to make sure that it could safely operate without large numbers of infections. PLNU added 526 students to its dorms in September. Two tested positive.

The small Christian university is trying to contain the surge to avoid taking more drastic action.

“The recent developments do not impact our current plans for continued residential living this fall,” Jake Gilbertson, PLNU’s dean of students, said in statement to the campus community.

The county public health department must send a report to the state today detailing its approach to reducing the positivity rates in areas scoring lowest in a “health equity” index.

Having already listed a range of outreach efforts aimed at targeting these areas more directly, officials mentioned a few additional initiatives Wednesday. One involves a countywide plan to more accurately determine the overall spread of the novel coronavirus.

An effort is in the planning stages to administer blood tests capable of checking for the presence of the viral antibodies that strongly indicate a person has been previously infected and has recovered, McDonald said.

Though antibody tests have been available to the public for months, there have been ongoing questions about their accuracy and also how to interpret their results.

“We are exploring how to actually do that based on the technology that’s available,” McDonald said. Knowing what percentage of the population has previously been exposed could help guide future vaccination strategies, he said.

The county is also investing in lab resources, officials said, that would allow its public health lab to sequence genetic information in coronavirus specimens collected from those who test positive.

Such genetic fingerprinting is commonly used during infectious disease outbreaks to identify subgroups, called strains, among a larger group of viruses of the same basic type.

This work, McDonald said, could be of significant assistance in better understanding the origins of outbreaks. Sequencing samples from everyone infected in a single location, say a college dorm or nursing home, could help identify whether the increase in cases came from one or several sources.

Already, McDonald said, such fingerprinting work has been undertaken at San Diego State University for those caught up in the outbreak there this summer. Results will be available soon, McDonald said.

San Diego State is the only local university to report a major outbreak during the fall semester. At least 1,163 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 24. The number of infections has slowed recently.

But there is concern about further outbreaks. The Daily Aztec, San Diego State’s student newspaper, reminded students about the perils of COVID this week after a video surfaced on social media showing a large crowd of students partying without masks near campus. Such parties pose a challenge with SDSU, which has little jurisdiction over off-campus students.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie October 15, 2020 at 11:10 am

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 19 active COVID-19 cases were confirmed at the university, with 14 of those cases being on campus, according to the school’s reporting and data site.

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