Cal Poly Pomona launched a COVID-19 Safer Return Task Force that aims to establish safety protocols in efforts to return to in-person instruction, according to an email by CPP President Soraya M. Coley sent on Aug. 4 to faculty and staff. The task force is also expected to ensure that the campus community is well-informed and trained on safety measures before attending on-campus activities.
According to the email, the Safer Return Task Force — currently operating as a one-year special assignment — will be led by Frances Teves, assistant vice president at the Office of Government and External Affairs. Under her leadership, it will establish and integrate a long-term plan to combat the pandemic with guidance from government and public health officials.
“My goal is to be able to think comprehensively around all of the protocols, keeping in mind that we have a diverse campus community, and ensure that we are taking all various means into account,” Teves said. “Because we’re working in a shifting landscape, we also want to make sure we’re able to adapt and modify our work so that it’s reflective of the given time. But we have to do this in partnership across the institution and ensure that it is always in service to our academic mission.”
Students, faculty and staff who plan to visit the campus during the fall semester will be required to take an online training on necessary safety measures. According to Teves, the task force is also preparing to install physical distancing signages, plexiglass barriers and hand-washing stations across the campus. The team is also working to ensure that all individuals on campus will have access to safety supplies — such as face coverings, personal protective equipment and sanitation tools.
Pandemic progress in the United States
Leading the global COVID-19 death toll, the United States reached 5.2 million cases and 167,369 deaths as of Aug.14, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
This number continues to rise as the country is logging more than 60,000 new cases a day. During an Aug. 3 live-streamed Q&A, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, explained that the U.S. will need to bring its daily case count down to 10,000 by September to gain control over the pandemic.
“We’ve got to get those numbers down. If we don’t get them down, then we’re going to have a really bad situation in the fall,” Fauci said.
During a coronavirus briefing with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Fauci also stressed the importance of implementing testing in all university reopening plans. Schools should ensure that its community is getting tested “before they get there, once they get there…and even keeping them quarantined for the amount of time of the quarantine, which…is about 14 days,” said Fauci.
Though this would bring down the risk of exposure on a campus setting, if done properly, colleges must be more attentive toward members coming from nonlocal areas.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a global “generational catastrophe” due to school closures as a result of the pandemic and urged that reopening schools “must be a top priority” once the virus transmission is manageable.
“Despite the delivery of lessons by television, radio and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach,” Guterres said during the “Save our Future” campaign video message on Aug. 4. As of mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries and affected more than one billion students, he added.
The world, however, is unlikely to completely recover from this pandemic Fauci told Reuters on Aug. 5 during an interview. “I don’t think we’re going to eradicate this from the planet because it’s such a highly transmissible virus that that seems unlikely,” he said. Nonetheless, countries can get “behind this” with the “combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures.”
However, new discoveries suggest that patients who recover from the virus can continue seeing symptoms, Fauci said during an interview on Instagram on Aug. 13. “It’s a chronic projection forward of symptoms, even though the virus is gone, and we think that’s probably an immunological effect,” Fauci said. “It’s very disturbing, because if this is true for a lot of people, then just recovering from this may not be OK.”
On a state level
Surpassing New York, California became the first state to hit half a million COVID-19 cases. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom seemed hopeful in the state’s progress.
During a coronavirus press briefing on Aug. 3, Newsom reported that the state was seeing a decline in case counts and hospitalizations. According to Newsom, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases declined by about 21% statewide. Positivity rates also dropped, while the number of tests administered in the state increased.
However, the steep decline in the state’s infection rate announced by Newsom was later identified to be inaccurate. The state’s data system used by local health departments to record coronavirus test results was experiencing technical issues, resulting in an undercount of daily cases.
During a press conference on Aug. 4, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services, explained that the state “discovered some discrepancies” and is unclear on how long it would take to resolve the underreporting. Although the state did not provide additional information on how long and to what extent case counts have been affected by the issue, Ghaly confirmed that the seven-day positivity rate was “absolutely affected by this.”
After nearly a week, Newsom announced on Aug. 10 that the errors in the data system have been resolved. The glitch in the system from the previous week, which led to a backlog of almost 300,000 COVID-19 test results, may take a few days to get updated.
On a local level
Los Angeles County now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country with 214, 425 cases as of Aug. 13, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Although many can appear to be asymptomatic, approximately one in eight Angelenos have likely been infected by the coronavirus — said Dr. Roger Lewis, director of the COVID-19 demand modeling team for the L.A. county.
According to local health officials, adults — ages 18 through 49 — are the most impacted group in the community, making up nearly 60% of new cases. Since the beginning of June to the end of July, the positivity rate for those in the age group of 30 to 49 nearly tripled, while young adults ages 18 to 29 nearly quadrupled, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said during a press conference on Aug. 5.
“This is also the age group that is most likely to be attending the large parties that we keep seeing,” Ferrer said. “Gatherings of people from different households are such a bad idea at this point in time.”
In efforts to prevent large group gatherings, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Aug. 5 that homes hosting parties during the pandemic will have their utilities shut off. The Department of Water and Power was instructed to cut utilities within 48 hours after the police department confirms a large gathering is occurring.
According to the mayor, the enforcement is focused on “people determined to break the rules, posing significant public dangers and a threat to all of us.”
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