UC Berkeley students living in dorms face extra week of quarantine amid surge in COVID-19 cases

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A surge of COVID-19 cases at UC Berkeley has prompted school officials to extend a lockdown on about 2,000 students living in residence halls.

Katarina Pantovic is on the Cal volleyball team and was headed to her morning workout Thursday. She is one of the many students impacted by the current self-sequester mandate.

"About a week ago, they brought out an announcement that we have to all sequester because of the surge of COVID-19 cases in dorms," explains Pantovic.

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Over the past few weeks, the university has experienced a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases. As a result, an email was sent to students living in dorms telling them to quarantine.

Students are required to stay in their rooms at all times with the exception of seeking medical care, using the bathroom or picking up food from dining kiosks, according the email sent to students.

Among the strict new rules are a ban on outdoor exercise that goes beyond the state's own guidelines that encouraged getting outside to exercise.

Students may also leave their rooms for required COVID-19 tests twice weekly.

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Pantovic says the volleyball team was moved to a hotel to avoid the COVID-19 restriction at dorms, which would impact their ability to travel for games. She says the restrictions are tough, but necessary.

"I think they do make sense in a circumstance like this where there is a large surge in cases. I think it's the only thing that can be done to slow (it) down," says Pantovic.

The week-long self-sequester mandate was supposed to end on Feb. 9, but was extended to at least Monday, Feb. 15.

According to students, the email outlining the details of the self-sequester mandate states there will be stepped up enforcement. And around campus, there are signs posted of where to report violations.

Imogen Ratcliffe is a senior. She lives off campus, so is not subject to the dormitory policy. She says it's hard to be stuck in a small dorm room, but believes these steps have to be taken to stop the spread.

"I think it's a lot better than having it spread or having more variants," says Ratcliffe.

In an email to ABC7 News, Janet Gilmore, Senior Director of Strategic Communications, writes: "We realize that the last two weeks have been a challenging time for everyone involved. Right now, it is imperative that students follow these self-sequestration rules to 'flatten the curve' on the current case surge we are experiencing."

Students have been told that if they violate the self-sequester rules, they could be removed from the dorms or be suspended.

More than 400 people, mostly undergraduate students, have tested positive for the virus since an outbreak that started in mid-January, according to the university's website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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