COVID lockdown: UC Berkeley tightens restrictions amid outbreak

Bay Area

BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — UC Berkeley is taking the next steps in implementing new restrictions to help contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus, according to the university’s student publication The Daily Californian.

More than 400 people, mostly undergraduate students, have tested positive for the virus since an outbreak that started in mid-January, according to the university’s website.

Campus officials say the large number of positive tests is not limited to a specific area, and the surge is impacting students both on and off campus. They believe the surge was linked to off-campus gatherings.

Even though cases are declining in Berkeley, university officials are extending the self-sequester mandate for all students living on campus.

The mandate, which was supposed to end Monday, applies to all students living in residence halls and has been extended to at least Feb. 15.

This will affect about 2,000 campus residential hall residents.

Campus leaders in consultation with local public health officials decided on the self-sequester in order to help reduce virus transmission within the community.

According to an email from UC Berkeley student affairs, there could be stricter security measures in place like an increase in Community Security Officers and security staff in residence halls.

The email also says noncompliance with campus rules will result in serious residential conduct sanctions, like being disqualified from housing or suspension from UC Berkeley.

After gaining nationwide attention, several people, including students, are not happy with the new restrictions.

Infectious diseases and HIV doctor at UCSF Dr. Monica Gandhi expressed her concerns with the increased security.

But despite those who oppose the new restrictions, UC Berkeley officials say the numbers in residential halls are going down, which suggests that the self-sequester efforts are working, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

University officials have also put a ban on solitary outdoor exercise, which was not in place during the initial lockdown period.

Students must stay in their room except in case of an emergency, medical care, to use the restroom, or to grab food from the dining halls. They must also comply with testing requirements or receive food from the Cal Dining kiosks.

After lots of backlash regarding the ban on outdoor exercise, campus health experts are consulting with public health officials on whether outdoor exercise may be allowed.

They say it will likely be allowed after self-sequestration directives are lifted.

But in the meantime, students are asked to follow abide by the ban.

Lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are able to pick up dinner and breakfast between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Students who violate these measures may face the threat of suspension or removal from dorms, the university says.

UC Berkeley says it is also continuing surveillance testing. Students in residential halls, apartments and suites will get surveillance testing twice per week.

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