UC Berkeley seen from Memorial Glade. Photo: Charlie Nguyen

UC Berkeley has seen 47 new COVID-19 cases over the course of a single week, which resulted primarily from “a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system,” the university reported Wednesday.

Cal described the “notable increase” as “concerning,” particularly because UC Berkeley had previously tallied only 23 coronavirus infections since the outbreak began. The university now has 70 known cases. That’s a 204% increase.

“The majority of these new cases stem from a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system, which included students both within the CalGreek community and others, and led to some secondary spread within households and within other smaller gatherings,” according to the statement from UC Berkeley University Health Services Medical Director Anna Harte and Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette. “Generally, these infections are directly related to social events where students have not followed basic safety measures such as physical distancing, wearing face coverings, limiting event size, and gathering outside.”

Berkeley Public Health and University Health Services have now launched contact tracing investigations in line with normal procedures, according to Wednesday’s statement, “reaching those individuals who had close contact with the students who tested positive, advising regarding quarantine requirements, and encouraging and arranging testing.”

The sudden spike could impact campus plans for the fall, the university said.

“At the rate we are seeing increases in cases, it’s becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning,” officials wrote. “The increase in cases across the country and locally are a powerful reminder of how contagious this disease is and how quickly the disease can spread.”

Cal advised members of the campus community to avoid large gatherings and refrain from socializing inside with anyone outside one’s own household.

Small gatherings of 12 people or fewer who are part of the same social bubble can be held outside, the university said, but people should still wear face coverings and stay 6 feet apart.

In the past 16 days, lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout the city of Berkeley jumped by at least 90 after averaging about one new case daily since the outbreak began. Berkeleyside has repeatedly asked the city of Berkeley for an explanation but none has been provided. It’s quite likely that the UC spike has contributed to that rise, as well as increased testing, but Berkeleyside will seek confirmation from the city.

Update, July 9: The university said the positive test results came in between midweek last week and Wednesday this week. No information has been provided about when the students originally went in for testing.

The city of Berkeley said the broader increase in cases has resulted from multiple factors: more people moving around in general under the expanded shelter-in-place rules; social gatherings; household spread and also workplace spread; and students moving back from other parts of the country. The city also said that “the activities around campus had a huge impact on our cases.”

Update, July 11: Cases in Berkeley have now doubled in the past three weeks, going from 124 at that time to 254 now. Officials say increased testing explains some of the growth, but not all of it. The city’s positivity rate remains low, however, and hospital capacity is still in good shape, city officials say.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...