By Sandra G. Leon
Although COVID-19 cases have steadily dropped in San Diego County, the number of cases at San Diego State University have kept the region from falling off the higher restriction level that mandates some businesses to close and others to limit customers.
The overall county case level is 7.9 per 100,000 residents, including cases at SDSU among students and faculty. Cases connected with the school topped 80 per day for four days and forced the end of in-class instruction on September 3rd. Most of those cases were connected to off-campus housing where multiple students share apartments or condos near campus.
The cases include 380 students living on campus and 663 living off campus, in addition to eight faculty or staff members and 13 visitors that have tested positive.
SDSU reported 16 news cases as of Friday, September 25th, raising the total number of cases at the school since the start of the new semester on August 24th to 1,064.
County health officials asked the state to remove the SDSU cases from the overall case count in the same way prisons are not counted, but Governor Gavin Newsom denied the request.
“You can’t isolate as if it’s on an island, a campus community that is part of a larger community, so the answer is no,” Newsom said.
Excluding the SDSU cases would have dropped the country’s overall rate to around 6 per 100,000 and low enough to drop the county into a lower restriction level that would allow more businesses to reopen.
SDSU has worked to offer COVID-19 tests to students and will now require testing among students living on campus.
“We have made COVID-19 testing available for all enrolled students since Aug. 11, and we have been very pleased by the high percentage of students who have voluntarily sought regular testing,” the statement read. “As part of the next step in our health and safety efforts” and “we have developed a plan to COVID-19 test all students living on campus.”
Nearly all students living in campus housing will now have to participate in the new ‘Surveillance Testing Plan’.
“Surveillance testing [indicates] random testing within a population,” the statement read. Exceptions to participating include students with disabilities or those who request a religious exemption, as well as students who have already tested positive, have been too ill to be tested or wish to be tested elsewhere.
The tests will be free — and the school is also offering a proverbial carrot or two. Anyone who gets tested will get a $5 Starbucks gift card and be entered to win one of 10 $100 gift cards for the school bookstore.
This week the County reported a total of 46,331 pending cases, 237 hospitalizations, 78 patients in ICU, and 775 total deaths.