7 additional CPP students test positive for COVID-19 from off-campus sorority party

Seven additional COVID-19 cases have been traced back to an Aug. 28 sorority party where more than 30 people gathered. Out of the 26 Cal Poly Pomona students who were present at the party, 16 students tested positive for COVID-19, nearly doubling the number of cases announced in the university’s initial reporting.

“Initially, we thought there were nine individuals, but it wells to 16,” said President Soraya Coley during the Sept. 23 Academic Senate meeting. “Each student was contacted and given support and well-being resources.”

The 16 infected students were not on campus during the infectious period and did not risk exposure to the campus community, according to Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez, associate vice president for Student Health and Wellbeing.

Under guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the incident is considered an outbreak, having more than three positive cases linked to a single event. Due to the severity of the spread, a university-wide email was sent to the campus community on Sept. 10 before conducting a full investigation.

Some students, however, raised concerns over ambiguous phrasing in the email. The statement described the party as an off-campus event “hosted by members of a registered Greek student organization at housing that is not affiliated with the university.”

Raymond Kim, a fourth-year business administration student, said it was unclear whether the Greek organization was affiliated with the university, stating that the phrase was “written like the person had a stroke.”

In response, Gutierrez-Lopez acknowledged that the wording could have caused confusion and clarified that the intention was to emphasize that the party was hosted off-campus. “We didn’t want people to panic, thinking we had an outbreak on campus with our residencies,” she added.

After approval from the county health department, the investigation officially ended on Sept. 21.

The incident investigations, led by Gutierrez-Lopez and the Student Health Services, follows safety protocols established by the county department of public health, along with guidelines provided by the California State University system.

Students failing to comply with the university’s COVID-19 regulations will face disciplinary actions mandated by the Office of Student Conduct and Integrity.

According to its compliance guideline, students will receive a verbal warning from university administrators on the first violation. On the second offense, students will face a formal warning — which includes a virtual meeting and a written action plan. If a student is found to be responsible for a third violation, the individual may face suspension as well as a mandatory reflection paper or a safety-related presentation.

Nonetheless, members of Zeta Tau Alpha, who are believed to have hosted the party where the outbreak occurred, have not faced any sanctions imposed by the university, according to a student who is affiliated with the organization but wished to remain anonymous.

The party hosts, however, faced repercussions within the organization — including a prohibition in participating in this year’s recruitment — according to the same source.

Ronnisha Osuala, coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Megan Vo, president of Zeta Tau Alpha, did not respond to inquiries made by The Poly Post.

In related news, the Division of Student Affairs launched a virtual educational series in late August to post on its YouTube and Instagram accounts. The videos, which typically run for one minute, feature students highlighting tips to stay safe during the pandemic. The latest video posted on Sept. 30 invited members of Greek organizations to discuss the importance of following safety protocols.

“This is all part of the effort making sure that everyone is keeping each other safe,” Gutierrez-Lopez said. “We want to continue pushing out the message that we must wear face coverings, social distance and only hang out with people in your immediate household to limit the spread.”

(Feature image courtesy of Maksim Goncharenok)

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