As COVID-19 rates slide in LA County, semester’s first cases emerge at 7Cs

Community members queue up for COVID-19 testing through Student Health Services at Walker Hall. (Jasper Davidoff • The Student Life)

Los Angeles County continues to add more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases a day, but the area’s case rate has now declined for the second straight week, with a 22 percent decrease since August 19, the department of public health said Thursday. The 5Cs’ own weekly testing protocols have already uncovered a handful of COVID-19 cases a week after move-in.

Still, the upcoming Labor Day weekend is worrying some experts as gatherings become more likely, and officials are warning that both vaccinations and mitigation efforts need to continue in earnest.

“Many of us do have some choices we can make about how we live our lives right now,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times. “There is great power to protect ourselves and each other in those choices, and approaching them thoughtfully is our path through this together.”

Claremont’s cases have risen in the last month along with the county’s, with 102 cases in the last 14 days, according to an LA Times database. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Claremont is 2,624, comprising about 7 percent of residents.

The 5Cs required students to get vaccinated before coming to campus, allowing for exemptions, and set a policy to restrict large gatherings until after Sept. 20.

Pitzer College has one positive case as of Aug. 30, according to its testing dashboard. Two Harvey Mudd College students are currently in isolation, President Maria Klawe said in a Thursday email, and “contact tracers have already reached out to all those in our community who are believed to have been in close contact.”

Claremont McKenna College saw five positive tests last week, as of Sept. 5, and Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr told community members in a Monday message that three students and three staff members tested positive last week.

Scripps College had previously created a dashboard for test results, but its webpage now links to an error message.

The 7Cs are collectively tracking “a variety of COVID metrics” to review internally, The Claremont Colleges Services said in a statement to TSL.

With Scripps’ new requirement that all students, faculty and staff be tested once a week “in the initial weeks of the semester,” put in place Aug. 30, all of the 5Cs are now testing students at least weekly.

Claremont’s vaccination count is slowly inching up, nearing 68 percent with at least one dose on Thursday, according to LA County. But it still lags behind a 75 percent partial vaccination rate among LA County residents at large, with 65 percent fully vaccinated. According to figures presented by Ferrer, unvaccinated people across all age groups in LA County are three to four times more likely to become infected than vaccinated residents.

With concerts and sports events returning, California recently announced a new set of guidelines for large indoor events, to go into effect on Sept. 20. Organizers of indoor events with at least 1,000 people must verify that all attendees are either vaccinated or have proof of a negative test in the last 72 hours.

These regulations previously applied to indoor crowds of at least 5,000. In addition, for events on or after Sept. 20, self-attestation is no longer an acceptable method for verifying vaccination.

“The Delta variant has proven to be highly transmissible, making it easier to spread in large crowds where people are near each other for long periods of time,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and the state’s public health officer, said in a statement in mid-August. “By requiring individuals to be vaccinated, or test negative for COVID-19 at large events, we are decreasing the risk of infection, hospitalization and death.”

Proof of vaccination as a means to gain entry to events or establishments has been in the works for a while, particularly in Los Angeles. On Aug. 11, the LA City Council voted unanimously to draft an ordinance requiring people to show proof of at least partial vaccination against COVID-19 to enter most public indoor spaces in the city.

The county reported 43 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, amounting to 25,364 total fatalities in the county from the virus over the course of the pandemic. Since the start of August, the county’s average number of daily deaths has increased from fewer than 10 deaths on average each day to twice that.

Hospitalizations have also risen, with 1,673 confirmed patients, LACDPH said.

This article was updated Sept. 6 at 6:15 p.m. to reflect new 5C coronavirus case data.

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