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Three UC Davis students quarantined as officials grapple with coronavirus danger

A patient infected with "community acquired" coronavirus is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

This section of Nothern California has become the center of the U.S. effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, sparking concerns from some while others say they think it is important to go on with their lives.

Authorities are searching for people who might have come in contact with a woman believed to be the country’s first coronavirus patient who did not recently travel to China or have contact with someone who did. The patient is from Solano County and was treated at two hospitals: UC Davis Medical Center and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville,

Three UC Davis students are under 14-day isolation as one awaits test results after showing mild coronavirus symptoms, officials said Thursday.

The students are roommates at Kearney Hall, UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said.

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Just outside the dormitory, freshman Dominic Alvarez sat on a concrete bench casually texting friends on Friday. He was unfazed about reports of the students who were possibly exposed to the coronavirus.

Alvarez said some students are panicking unnecessarily, not realizing that the risk of getting the virus is very low.

“Me and friends, we’re not gullible. We know the situation is just people spreading rumors. It’s pretty dumb,” said Alvarez, a mechanical engineering student from Los Angeles. “We’re keeping up with the medical news. For young healthy adults with healthy immune systems, it’s just like the flu. Older people have to worry, and younger kids, though.”

Alvarez said he’s always been good about washing his hands often and covering his mouth and nose when he coughs or sneezes.

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However, another student parking his bike outside the dorm was much more concerned. The student, who asked only to be identified by his nickname, “Vac,” was wearing a protective mask over his mouth and nose and black medical gloves on his hands.

“I’m super worried. We’re in classes every day with other students who may have been exposed,” said Vac, 21, an environmental engineering student.

Students live all over the region, including in Solano County and Sacramento where there are people who have been diagnosed with or exposed to the virus.

“Students that go to restaurants in Sacramento and go to grocery stores in Solano County, it’s very likely that they could come back with the virus,” Vac said.

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Vac is from northern China and has been in constant contact with his family. He says they are fine but that he, along with many other foreign students from all over Asia, are worried about their loved ones.

“They’re hearing from families and friends who say it’s scary out there, because that’s exactly how it’s been in China and Japan for the past month,” he said.

Vac said he has seen plenty of vitriolic racism against Asians on the internet since the outbreak of the virus, but he hasn’t experienced any sort of discrimination at UC Davis.

“We have a pretty strong Asian community on campus,” he said.

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Kearney Hall sits in the middle of the sprawling UC Davis campus, just across the street from a stable of cows at a dairy research center. The four-story dorm is part of a cluster of student housing and surrounded by rack after rack of bicycles, a preferred mode of transportation among students and around Davis.

One of The quarantined student who was experiencing symptoms has been off campus since Tuesday and has been tested for COVID-19. The student is in isolation at home, UC Davis spokeswoman Melissa Lutz Blouin said Friday.

The other two have not shown any symptoms and have therefore not been tested, but they have been isolated since Wednesday night as a precaution. They were moved to a vacant on-campus apartment and are in self-isolation for 14 days, the time symptoms would appear if they had the virus. Blouin said the university is providing those students with food and the apartment is equipped with a kitchen and bathroom.

Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman said officials know the source of the possible exposure for the student who might have the virus, but could not disclose that information because of privacy rules.

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When the university first learned about the exposure, officials alerted all students, faculty and staff. Housing and dining services personnel also have increased cleaning rounds at those campus facilities, disinfecting doorknobs, tables and other areas with lots of student contact.


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