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Students in on-campus housing express concerns amid COVID-19 outbreak on the Hill

Several students living in the De Neve Birch residence hall expressed concern about the COVID-19 outbreak in their building. However, some have faith in UCLA to prevent the outbreak from worsening. (Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor)

By Kari Lau

Oct. 28, 2020 4:24 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 28 at 4:58 p.m.

A COVID-19 outbreak in an on-campus residential building caused a variety of concerns for some of its residents, including an increased risk of COVID-19 and potential further restrictions on their movement.

UCLA Housing emailed residents of the De Neve Birch residence hall about a change in their living circumstances Saturday afternoon: There was a COVID-19 cluster in their dormitory.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health classified the cluster of three cases in De Neve Birch as an outbreak Saturday evening. UCLA also notified the UCLA community through Bruins Safe Online about the outbreak. UCLA Housing put warnings at the entrance of De Neve Birch that residents may be exposed to COVID-19, which is in accordance with LACDPH guidance, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.

Several De Neve Birch residents said they did not immediately know the LACDPH identified the cluster as an outbreak.

Ronia Green, a first-year pre-cognitive science student, said she did not receive an email notifying her the cluster was an outbreak.

LACDPH guidelines define an outbreak in a university residence as when there are three or more COVID-19 cases in a common area within two weeks. LACDPH defines a cluster as three or more COVID-19 cases within 14 days.

Angela Takagi, a first-year pre-psychology student, said she also saw people sanitizing the halls of De Neve Birch the same day she received the email notifying residents about the COVID-19 cluster. They cleaned the elevators and doorknobs of the building, Takagi said. To her knowledge, the halls have not been sanitized since, she added.

Kayla Davis, a first-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, said she was surprised when she read the email. She thought the COVID-19 measures UCLA implemented, like the daily surveys to check for COVID-19 symptoms, would prevent people from testing positive.

“It’s only been three weeks since we got here and already people have (COVID-19),” she said.

Students living on the Hill this fall moved into on-campus housing at the end of September. More than 300 people in the UCLA community tested positive for COVID-19 as of this story’s publication, according to UCLA’s COVID-19 tracker.

Other than the fact that there are three students who are a part of the cluster, Davis said she knows nothing else about the situation. Davis said she also doesn’t know who has COVID-19 or which floors in the building have COVID-19 cases.

“I might have accidentally … touched something that they (touched), like the doors,” she added. “I’m just concerned about somehow getting (COVID-19).”

Davis once contemplated if staying home would have been a better option than living on the Hill this fall.

“I was like, ‘Maybe I should have stayed home and just waited till everything was cleared up,’” she said. “But then again, I’m here now.”

[Related link: UCLA housing isolation proves to be lonely but students look forward to freedom]

Green said she trusts UCLA will prevent the situation in De Neve Birch from worsening because of the university’s reputable health department and current work to address COVID-19.

UCLA Housing mandated that students and staff on the Hill receive at least two COVID-19 tests a week; residents were previously expected to receive only one test a week.

Davis said she is for the twice weekly tests. Frequent testing quickens the rate of finding people who have COVID-19, she added.

Although Takagi said she understood the rationale for the increase in COVID-19 tests, she is concerned about further restrictions UCLA could implement on the Hill. Life in De Neve Birch already feels restricted, she said.

“In the future, if cases start going up, I’m concerned … that I’m not going to leave campus at all, or leave my room,” Takagi said. “That would definitely make me regret coming here.”

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Kari Lau | Assistant News editor
Lau is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the features and student life beat. She was previously a contributor for the campus politics beat. She is also a second-year student from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Lau is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the features and student life beat. She was previously a contributor for the campus politics beat. She is also a second-year student from Honolulu, Hawaii.
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