Cal football program has 44 COVID cases, Berkeley city says

After the Cal Golden Bears lost 24 players to the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Cal football coach Justin Wilcox and prominent members of Cal’s soccer team, publicly criticized the university’s and city’s then-hard-to-define COVID restrictions. Was this an unnecessary matter of contact tracing enforced by an overzealous public health department? A case of false positive testing? Something else?

None of the above, it seems. On Tuesday night, Berkeley’s Department of Public Health gave a scathing rebuttal to the football program’s complaints, showing that Cal may not have taken the field at all against Arizona.

In a statement to SFGATE, the Berkeley Department of Health set out previously unreported details about what is clearly a major COVID-19 outbreak in the Cal football program — including that at least 44 people in the program have been positive for COVID in the past. have tested week or so.

“Berkeley Public Health continues to work closely with University Health Services to contain and respond to a major COVID-19 outbreak involving the coaches, students and staff of the Cal Football program,” the statement begins. “All of these 44 lab-confirmed cases involve people infected with the highly contagious COVID-19, which spreads easily unless public health measures are taken.”

The statement to SFGATE strongly insinuates that Cal football players and staffers failed to consider typical precautions following exposure to COVID-19.

“The cases came to light in an environment of continued non-compliance with public health measures. People in the program did not: get tested when sick, stay home when sick, [or wear] masks indoors.

“These simple measures keep people safe,” the statement continued. “Failing to do this not only results in individual infections, illness and worse, but also threatens the safety of everyone around them — especially those with compromised immune systems.”

Cal’s football players are 99% vaccinated, the school has said, and the staff members also have a comparably high level of vaccination coverage. At a press conference on Tuesday night, Cal Athletic director Jim Knowlton was unable to confirm how many of those players were asymptomatic, or at the very least were unaware that they might be showing COVID symptoms. None of the players or staff members have been reported as seriously ill, which is consistent with the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Berkeley Department of Public Health has vehemently defended its testing policy, which has angered Cal football players. A spokesperson pointed out that Cal-OSHA’s workplace safety rules “define any work environment with 20 cases as a ‘major outbreak’.”

Cal’s football program has more than doubled that standard, so “The City of Berkeley has recommended Cal that all exposed individuals test at the cadence specified in Cal-OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Interim Standards, which include guidelines for “major outbreaks.” ‘.”

That cadence, Berkeley Department of Public Health wrote to SFGATE, includes testing a minimum of twice a week “until fewer than three COVID-19 cases have been detected in the exposed group over a 14-day period. At that point, the agency said. state guidance is for weekly testing until there are 14 days with no cases.”

Berkeley Department of Public Health also noted that the isolation period guidelines for someone who tests positive for COVID-19 are: “At least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, at least 24 hours have passed since the disappearance of fever without the use of fever-reducing drugs and other symptoms are improved.” These guidelines are consistent with the California Department of Public Health and the Pac-12 itself.

Here’s the distilled situation: Cal’s football program is highly vaccinated, but was the source of a major COVID-19 outbreak. After the outbreak was discovered, Berkeley’s Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the university, took safety precautions recommended by Cal-OSHA. They started testing more frequently, revealing even more positive tests, some of which may or may not have been discovered by other means.

It’s a testament to the efficacy of the vaccines that members of Cal’s football program have thus far avoided serious illness, and in some cases may not even have known they were sick until they were given a biweekly test. But this is nonetheless a major COVID-19 outbreak — one that, if not addressed, could easily harm unvaccinated or immunocompromised individuals.

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