Bay Area teen tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 during college move-in at USC

Kristen Sze Image
Monday, August 23, 2021
Bay Area teen tests positive for COVID-19 during college move-in
Edward Huang began experiencing a tell-tale symptom of COVID-19, loss of smell, right after moving into his dorm at USC.

LOS ANGELES (KGO) -- Right now, millions of students are moving away from home into their dorms at colleges across the country. One Bay Area college freshman, Edward Huang, tested positive for COVID-19 during his first day on campus.

The San Mateo High School graduate spoke with ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze on "Getting Answers" about his experience with the unexpected diagnosis.

According to the fully vaccinated 18-year-old, Huang began experiencing a tell-tale symptom of COVID-19, a loss of smell, right after moving into his dorm at USC.

RELATED: Cal State East Bay students met with COVID-19 testing, vaccine mandate on dorm move-in day

"As I was setting up my cleaning supplies, I realized that I couldn't smell anything. I held up my shampoo in my nose and couldn't smell that, but my dad could. I realized something was up."

Alarmed, Huang convinced his parents to take him from his newly furnished dorm room out of fear that he could be infectious. His family purchased a rapid test from a local CVS, which immediately showed that the college freshman tested positive for COVID-19.

After spending hours on the line with the USC Student Health Hotline, Huang was booked into a neighboring hotel by the university. He will isolate there for the next ten days until he is no longer infectious to others. He is on the COVID floor, which is strictly reserved for positive university students.

As a healthy 18-year-old baseball player with no pre-existing conditions, Huang received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine back in March as he was a caregiver for a family member who has medical needs. But now, he is one of many vaccinated individuals experiencing a breakthrough case of COVID-19 due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

Despite being infected, Huang was still able to move into his dorm on campus. He said USC recommended a test before move-in day but did not mandate it for students to enter school grounds. The university required a PCR test result three days after arriving in Los Angeles, by Aug. 22, which Huang had scheduled days after his self-diagnosed positive test result.

RELATED: Back-to-school anxiety 'definitely different' as San Jose teachers return to full-in-person learning

"It would have been really easy for me to just stay in my dorm and just stay on campus but I think I did the right thing... I don't regret it, but I'm bummed out."

Huang's 10-day quarantine means missing out on all freshman orientation activities, as well as the first week of classes.

As USC and colleges across the U.S. prepare for a week of orientation festivities, concerts, and in-person classes, the college freshman expressed fears over a potential surge in cases. "I suspect that there are a lot of students just like me who could be symptomatic on campus and not know it. Not report it."

Huang decided to share this story as an extension of his journey toward becoming a journalist. Throughout the pandemic, he documented the lockdown and distance learning that students experienced at San Mateo High School, appearing on ABC7 News several times to share work. Now a journalism major at USC, Huang offers this advice to ABC7 viewers, especially teens and college students.

"Wear masks. This thing is not over at all," Huang says, "Even if you are vaccinated, and you think you're fine- you have the high chance that you will be fine- but please just wear masks to be safe. Because you might end up like me, who got infected with COVID right as I was moving into college."

VIDEO: Back to school: Stanford doctor ranks best mask types for kids in the classroom

As pediatric COVID cases reach alarming new levels across the country, Bay Area parents are preparing for the school year.

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