In the last two weeks, 199 students in the Cal Poly community tested positive for the coronavirus, signaling another spike in COVID-19 cases, according to Cal Poly’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
Since Monday, April 12, San Luis Obispo County recorded 284 new COVID-19 cases. Cal Poly students comprise 70% of those cases.
Of the 199 students who have tested positive, 93 live on campus and 106 live off campus. On average, 18 Cal Poly students in San Luis Obispo County tested positive for the coronavirus every day for the last two weeks.
On-campus students in isolation and in quarantine-in-place have also tripled over the last two weeks. Isolation is for students who test positive for the coronavirus and quarantine-in-place is for students who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The campus community’s latest spike runs opposite downward trends seen across California. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom boasted that California has the lowest positivity rate in the country.
Mustang News reported on Wednesday, April 7 that Cal Poly students comprised about 45% of San Luis Obispo County’s new cases. Two and a half weeks later, officials do not know exactly what’s causing Cal Poly students to now make up close to three quarters of the county’s cases.
University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News that university officials are aware of the recent spike in cases, but they haven’t yet pinpointed any specific factors contributing to it.
Lazier said President Jeffrey Armstrong sent an email to students on April 16 in response to the spike in cases. However, the email does not mention the spike, nor does it indicate that cases had been surging within the college community.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department Public Information Officer Michelle Shoresman wrote to Mustang News that the city of San Luis Obispo has seen a recent, slow increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
“We can’t be completely sure why this is occurring,” Shoresman wrote. “However, we do note that the San Luis Obispo testing site is also conducting almost four times as many tests each week than any other site in the county.”
Biological sciences professor Candace Winstead said that the spike in cases in the Cal Poly community could be attributed to a number of factors, including more travel taking place due to spring break paired with more mixing between households or in dorms.
Students may also be experiencing pandemic fatigue coupled with spring quarter and the need to socialize more, Winstead said.
Lastly, Winstead added that students may also be letting their guard down due to wider vaccine eligibility and availability.
People misinterpreting the vaccine and subsequently taking safety guidelines less seriously is “absolutely” a concern for the public health community, she said.
People are not considered “fully vaccinated” until two weeks after receiving the second dose, Winstead said, and people misunderstanding that could pose a risk to the community.
“If people are letting down their guard too soon, by not wearing a mask and mixing with more people not from your household [especially indoors], then they are more likely to get and to transmit the virus,” Winstead said.
Graphic communications junior Maya Holton tested positive for COVID-19 just four days after receiving her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
“It was discouraging, because I was so excited to have the vaccine,” Holton said.
She said that since the vaccine has become available, she’s noticed a shift in attitude from students.
“People are posting their vaccine cards on social media, but they’re not being aware of the two weeks you still have to wait and all the other things that go with it,” Holton said.
Food science junior Abbi Pohl lives off campus, and she said she also noticed more students ignoring safety guidelines since the vaccine rollout.
“People think that they can go out and party but that’s not the case. You could still get COVID-19 and pass it along,” Pohl said.
She said that students could also just be tired of quarantining, and that pandemic fatigue could be a reason for the spike of cases.
Art and design freshman Addie Moffatt, who lives on-campus in yakʔitʸutʸu, said that people have been ignoring safety guidelines since the beginning of the year, but she’s noticed how it has gotten worse recently.
Since the vaccine became more widely available, she’s seen less people wearing masks.
“I used to see people wearing masks on their chins, but it was in the range of pulling up,” Moffatt said. “Now I just see nothing.”