San Diego colleges start vaccine effort while cases climb

UCSD, SDSU and USD open vaccinations up to teachers, faculty and student employees. CSU San Marcos reports zero cases out of nearly 1,000 tests

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Hundreds of students, teachers and faculty working at local universities are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine after San Diego County announced that those in Phase 1B-Tier 1 are eligible starting Saturday, February 27. 

This comes after a big slowdown in vaccine deployment nationwide. But with cancellations and site closures of vaccination centers still looming, the certainty of a smooth transition is up in the air.

UC San Diego is closing the Petco Park super station this weekend for the third time this month due to low supplies, while schools like San Diego State and University of San Diego recently secured several hundred doses to vaccinate more eligible campus community members.

CSU San Marcos, however, is still waiting on a shipment of vaccine doses.

For every step throughout the pandemic, local universities have played an integral part in the process. From large student gatherings contributing to increased coronavirus case rates to universities researching the intricacies of the global pandemic to find answers. 

As San Diego County approaches the one-year mark since its first reported case of the coronavirus, we are fighting the important battle of making sure vaccines are distributed to enough people as fast as possible. 

Local universities have added pressure as they are responsible for thousands of students living on-campus. And with the planned return of full, in-person instruction for some later this year, the clock is ticking. 

There’s a lot of coronavirus headlines involving local universities this week. Let’s get into it.

UC San Diego juggles vaccinating the county and its own community

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The Petco Park super station, which is run by UCSD Health, is closing for the third time this weekend. The closure is due to a national shortage of the Moderna vaccine and will be closed from Saturday, Feb 27 to Tuesday, March 2. 

Bittersweet news as more than 500,000 residents in San Diego County now qualifies for the vaccine as of this weekend. 

Petco is the only site so far that is closed. Other super stations along with UCSD’s very own vaccination site at the RIMAC recreation center are open for appointments. 

In fact, RIMAC was designed to serve only UCSD and UCSD Health community members, but as of this week, is open for everyone in the county who is eligible for the vaccine, according to an email sent to News 8 from Senior Communications and Media Relations Manager Yadira Galindo. 

RIMAC got off to a slow start when looking at its target of 5,000 vaccinations per day. In the first two weeks of operating, more than 3,700 first doses and 2,127 second doses were administered. This is according to a release from UCSD Health from February 17.

The station at RIMAC is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments for the on-campus station can now be scheduled through the County of San Diego’s website.

An email sent to campus employees by UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla on Friday afternoon announced that UC San Diego Health has earmarked 10,000 appointment spaces at RIMAC for campus employees. This includes faculty, staff and postdoctoral researchers. 

“We are prepared to administer vaccines as quickly as possible, contingent upon the allocation provided to UC San Diego Health,” the email stated, in part.

Chancellor Khosla also wrote that UCSD hopes to complete these campus community inoculations over the next ten days.

UCSD has reported 46 cases among students, both living on and off-campus, for the entire month of February. This is approximately .001% of 40,068 tests reported from the university.

San Diego State secures more vaccines while preparing for in-person classes. 

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After waiting nearly three weeks, San Diego State finally got a second batch of 300 vaccine doses and started administering them to eligible campus community members Friday, February 26 at Student Health Service’s Calpulli center.

These doses will go to campus community members 65 and older, in addition to the newly-eligible faculty, staff and student employees, according to an email sent from the university.

“SHS will prioritize vaccine appointments for those SDSU and SDSU Imperial County employees, including student employees, who have been working on campus since March 2020 as well as those who have currently scheduled appointments for second doses,” the email stated, in part.

Since January 20, SDSU has reported 169 total cases of coronavirus among all campus community members, 85 of which have been from students living on-campus.

San Diego State continues to issue code compliance citations to students and organizations that refuse to follow COVID-19 health orders. So far, 176 contacts to people or organizations have been made since January 1. 

SDSU did not immediately answer questions as to how many were either people or organizations and did not specify if any of the violations sent this year have led to suspensions. 

The Daily Aztec, SDSU’s student-run newspaper, wrote about how suspensions resulting from last semester’s violations are causing parents to revolt against the university. Some are even considering legal action.

On Monday, March 1, more than 1,000 students at SDSU will return for in-person learning. Only a fraction of classes normally offered will be in-person. 123 courses are being offered in-person with 231 total sections offering proper social distancing, according to the university.

The university originally wanted a two-week quarantine of all students on-campus before opening up the school for in-person classes around the first week of February. The severity of the pandemic following the holiday spike forced the university to postpone.

CSU San Marcos reports zero cases out of nearly 1,000 tests, still waiting on vaccines 

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CSU San Marcos announced an expanded surveillance testing program for any campus community members visiting the university on February 15.

Communications Specialist Brian Hiro emailed News 8 on February 24 that of 956 tests among students, zero of them came back positive since surveillance testing started on February 15.

On Friday, Hiro could not immediately give a specific number, but wrote that there were still zero confirmed cases.

Hiro confirmed that CSUSM was approved to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine, but as of Wednesday afternoon, did not receive any shipments.

The only current active cases on the coronavirus dashboard at CSUSM list two employee cases.

Hiro wrote to News 8 these cases are connected because they are spouses of each other. Both employees work in the same building but in different departments.

“To date, no additional employees have tested positive from any potential exposure that may have occurred while these employees were working on campus, but before they knew they had COVID,” Hiro wrote.

University of San Diego lists stay-on-campus order early, receives new batch of vaccine

More than 1,000 students have been sequestered to their dorms, restricted from leaving campus while University of San Diego was dealing with a massive spike in coronavirus cases.

The lockdown came from a video statement by President James T Harris, who put some of the blame on off-campus student parties. He said the lockdown would last until the end of the month.

In an email to News 8, Elena Gomez, communications officer with USD, said the order was lifted as of Thursday, February 25.

Outdoor dining for students on-campus will resume on Monday, March 1. Students are also expected to continue participating in Rady Children’s Hospital weekly COVID-19 testing on campus.

More information on the stay-on-campus order being lifted can be found here.

As of February 16, 416 campus community members have tested positive for COVID-19 at USD since January 17. 151 are from students living on-campus.

The last two weeks have seen decreased cases among on-campus cases. 82 total cases were reported and 22 were from students living on-campus.

“We’re very appreciative of our student’s cooperation to the “Stop the Surge” campaign and with the success in decreasing cases,” Gomez wrote in the email.

USD also received a second shipment of vaccines. Though USD could not be reached to specify how many doses the university obtained, USD did confirm approximately 500 eligible USD faculty, staff and students also received their COVID-19 vaccine through the campus health center earlier this month.

A similar number of doses this time around is expected for the private college.