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Cal Lutheran reports coronavirus outbreak after students hold off-campus party

A student walks past Spies-Bornemann Education and Technology Center on the Cal Lutheran campus.
At least 25 students have been infected in an outbreak at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, school officials say.
(Cal Lutheran University)

A coronavirus outbreak that has infected at least 25 students at Cal Lutheran University has been linked to an off-campus gathering, school officials said.

At least nine of the infections were linked to the party, a school official said. The university said in a statement that all students associated with the outbreak had been instructed to isolate. Twelve of the students may have been on campus while contagious, officials said.

Students living on campus who were in close contact with those who tested positive also were being quarantined, the university said. The school has tested more than 300 people since learning of the outbreak. There are roughly 4,000 students enrolled at the college.

“Most of these students were not identified as close contacts, but may have been in the same buildings as students who tested positive or interacted with people who were close contacts,” according to the university statement.

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Cal Lutheran University’s media relations manager, Karin Grennan, said she was not aware of any cases outside the university community linked to the student cases.

Some of the infected students and their close contacts have chosen to isolate or quarantine at their permanent homes over the Thanksgiving break, which begins Monday, though Grennan noted that the school had advised that none of them fly home. Others “who cannot travel or would be putting themselves or their families at risk” are staying on campus, she said. The university had already determined it would conduct final exams virtually the week after Thanksgiving so students would not need to return for the rest of the fall semester.

Because of the outbreak, the Thousand Oaks campus changed its COVID-19 protocols, eliminating indoor lectures, chapel services, meetings, dining and other activities. Some in-person lab and studio use is still allowed, although the university has encouraged instructors to seek alternatives, Grennan said.

University offices may have up to 50% of their staff on site throughout the workday. Staff must wear masks everywhere unless they are alone in an office and are required to complete daily health checks. As of Thursday, no staff had tested positive.

Prior to this outbreak, seven school community members had tested positive for the virus since the pandemic started, Grennan said.

Like much of the state, coronavirus cases are surging in Ventura County, which slid back into the state’s most-restrictive tier — the purple tier — Monday after Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled the “emergency brake,” dramatically rolling back reopenings in much of California. Most indoor activities in Ventura County are now prohibited, including dining and going to fitness studios, movie theaters, houses of worship, museums, zoos, aquariums and wedding or funeral ceremonies.

Newly reopened colleges weren’t prepared for the influx of college students residing off-campus that have contributed to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Colleges across the country have been battered by the fast-spreading coronavirus since the school year began, often as a result of parties. A particularly severe outbreak at San Diego State has led to 1,344 confirmed cases among students, faculty, staff and visitors since August, plus 89 other probable cases.

News of the COVID-19 outbreak at Cal Lutheran came days after the university announced the creation of a new public health minor.

“We began planning this new program before COVID-19, but the pandemic underscores the importance of preparing students to work in this critical field,” Jessica Lavariega Monforti, College of Arts and Sciences dean, said in a statement.


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