Long Beach State’s medical director Kimberly Fodran is urging students and staff to avoid travel and close contact with others through the holidays as coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County continue to increase.
Fodran explained that traveling “outside the region” for nonessential activity, such as visiting family, adds to the possibility of a surge in cases.
“You really increase your potential for exposure both while you’re traveling and when you’re gathering with whoever you’re visiting, which is outside of your normal household,” Fodran said. “So, with that you significantly increase the risk of possible exposure to COVID, contracting COVID and then coming back and spreading COVID.”
As of Nov. 25, there have been a total of 374,134 cases of COVID-19 reported by LA County Public Health. At CSULB, there have been over 100 total cases among students, many of whom have contracted the virus off campus. On-campus numbers remain low in comparison to other universities, like San Diego State University whose cases have topped 1,000.
In attempts to mitigate any further spread among the campus community, Beth Lesen, vice president of the Department of Student Affairs, sent out a campus-wide email asking those traveling out of state for the Thanksgiving holiday to participate in a 14-day quarantine period upon returning home.
“Unfortunately, both our country and our state are in the midst of a severe uptick in the number of new cases of COVID-19. Due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the CDC advises that we avoid traveling for the holidays as much as possible. We urge you to please take every precaution,” the email from Lesen said.
Fodran said the Beach’s quarantine period request is in line with public safety guidelines.
The number of positive cases has remained fairly low at CSULB, which Fodran said is due to the university’s dedication to maintaining health and safety standards. Moving forward, however, she holds reservations in regards to campus repopulation.
“Once the COVID vaccine is available, the more widely we can encourage vaccination across our campus, I think the better protected we’ll be as a community and the better off we’ll all be,” Fodran said. “I think moving forward, there probably will still be some additional precautions that we may need to take, but it’s hard to say what those are.”
Fodran said she hopes that all students, not just those at CSULB, will start to take the pandemic more seriously.
“If you’ve attended a gathering, you were around people outside your household and you were not wearing a mask and they were not wearing a mask…you might have been exposed, even if no one’s told you they tested positive or developed symptoms,” Fodran said. “A lot of our students are asymptomatic, so I would strongly encourage testing. Don’t be afraid to test, don’t be afraid to test several times during the course with a pandemic just to keep yourself and the people around you safe.”
Testing, both rapid and PCR, are free at the health center and through the city of Long Beach for students or those without health insurance. Appointments for testing can be made over the phone for the health center and on the city’s website for public testing clinics.
Routine services like STI treatment and testing, birth control consultations and prescriptions and basic health care appointments are still being carried out by Student Health Services during this time. Separate tents have been erected behind the building to accommodate those with COVID-19 symptoms.
With just a few more weeks remaining in the fall semester, winter break poses a threat to potentially more cases.
Other members of the campus community have suggested that students refrain from traveling during the break in an effort to contain the spread. Dan Monson, men’s basketball head coach, said that the Beach’s athletic department has expressed uncertainty regarding players visiting family for the holidays.
“I know they don’t want [athletes] to go home for Christmas,” Monson said. “[If] you go and hug your mom…you’ve pretty much broken the bubble that they’re trying to create.”
Fodran maintained that exercising caution is the only way to prevent spreading the virus.
“I would just advise caution around the holidays and traveling and gathering. I know that’s a really difficult task,” Fodran said. “I know we really miss our families and want things to go back to normal as soon as possible, but the best way to do that is to adhere to the public health recommendations and just be mindful about your choices.”