Shae Ashamalla | Mustang News

Three days into the new year, more students have tested positive for the coronavirus through Cal Poly’s COVID-19 testing program than ever before, according to the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

On Sunday, Jan. 2, Cal Poly reported a record-high of 81 positive tests out of 1,939 total tests performed. Cal Poly students made up about 39% of all COVID-19 cases in San Luis Obispo County that day. About 4% of cases were symptomatic and about half of them were amongst on-campus students. The other half of cases were amongst off-campus students.

On Monday, Jan. 3, Cal Poly reported another record-high: 151 out of 2,015 processed tests came back positive, according to the coronavirus dashboard on Tuesday evening. Cal Poly students comprised about 31% of all cases in San Luis Obispo County that day. About 42% of them were symptomatic. About 56% of cases were amongst off-campus students and the rest were amongst on-campus students.

Students required to test on Sunday and Monday either live on campus or are unvaccinated, according to Cal Poly’s mandatory testing schedule.

Mustang News requested clarification on Cal Poly’s coronavirus dashboard Tuesday afternoon after data indicated 56% of Monday’s test results came back positive.

University Spokesperson Matt Lazier said only 128 tests performed on Monday were processed at the time of the dashboard’s automatic daily update. Lazier said a total of 2,791 tests were administered on Monday.

“Under normal circumstances, it can take up to 48 hours for all daily figures to post to the dashboard,” Lazier wrote to Mustang News. “And we are seeing additional delays right now because of the volume of tests being conducted and processed.”

Cal Poly tested 4,000 students and employees on Sunday and Monday, 4% of which were positive for COVID-19, according to a campus-wide email from the President’s Office on Tuesday afternoon.

“These levels are in line with our projections and remain less than the rates seen in the broader San Luis Obispo community at this time,” President Jeffrey Armstrong said in the email.

When students completed pre-arrival tests before fall quarter, the highest number of positive cases in one day was five, according to Cal Poly’s September testing data. However, Cal Poly did not require pre-arrival tests for winter quarter, instead requiring testing during the first week of in-person instruction.

“Formally bringing our students back to campus for in-person instruction has allowed us an opportunity to test each individual and identify those who are COVID-19 positive — something we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do,” Armstrong said. “This mandatory testing for all returning students enables us to dramatically slow the spread of the virus by isolating those infected and protecting those who are not.”

Cal Poly is also requiring a booster shot in order for students to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While the booster mandate was going to be effective starting Jan. 20, Armstrong announced on Tuesday via email the mandate will now take effect Jan. 24 instead.

The return of students to Cal Poly’s campus brought a wave of COVID-19 cases to the university and San Luis Obispo County.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials cited holiday travel and the highly-contagious Delta and Omicron strains as causes. Since Wednesday, Dec. 29, county health officials have identified 2,021 cases across the county, with 21 hospitalized from severe illness.

California Department of Public Health also released new data showing a 20.4% positive testing rate — another record-high.

“We have the tools to slow this surge: vaccines, boosters, masking, and testing,” Deputy County Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Rosen said in a press release. “Each of us can take steps to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19 and protect others here in San Luis Obispo County.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect new data published to Cal Poly’s COVID-19 dashboard on Tuesday evening. 

This story comes from The Hill, a team of data analysts and reporters focused on data-driven and investigative stories at Mustang News. Click here to read more stories from The Hill.

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