University of San Diego confines residential students to campus due to coronavirus outbreak

Sunlight reflects off windows of a building on the University of San Diego campus
The University of San Diego has had 368 students test positive for the coronavirus since Jan. 3.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The University of San Diego said Friday it has confined its 1,080 residential students to campus and is moving its limited number of in-person classes online due to a surge in coronavirus infections that is being largely tied to partying and failure to follow health and safety rules.

School data show that 368 students have tested positive since Jan. 3, about 37% of whom live on campus. Much of the outbreak occurred after the spring semester began Jan. 25. The private Catholic university reported 168 on- and off-campus infections during the week that started Jan. 31.

Residential students will be allowed to leave campus only “for emergency or essential purposes such as employment, medical care, religious services, or to purchase groceries or other essential items,” the university said in a statement. The lockdown will be in place through February.

Off-campus students were asked to stay in their rooms, apartments and households “to the greatest extent possible.”

The university also said that all instruction will be delivered remotely following spring break, which runs from March 29 to April 5.

“Our numbers in the past two weeks have grown to levels that, if they continue on this trajectory, will require us to make some tough decisions about the future of the spring semester,” university President James Harris said in a video statement.

“While no one source is responsible for the surge, it is clear from our tracing efforts that parties and other social gatherings are occurring. These events, coupled with the disregard by some for our health and safety measures, both on and off campus, are the primary reasons for the recent surge in cases.”


He added that the university didn’t want to reach a point at which it would be forced to close its dorms and require students to find lodging elsewhere. Like other schools, the University of San Diego had to do that last spring when the pandemic hit. It has slowly been reopening its dorms, which are now about 40% filled.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley announced that its recent decision to sequester residential students in their dorms was being extended a week because the move hadn’t gone far enough in bringing the problem under control. Dorm students also are prohibited from going outside to exercise.

Robbins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.