UC Berkeley student tests positive for COVID-19

UC Berkeley Campanile (file photo). Photo: Patrick

Update, 9 p.m. UC Berkeley says the infected student had no “high risk contacts,” meaning “no one is at significantly higher risk of contracting it from the infected individual than would be expected in the general population.”

Update, 5:39 p.m. UC Berkeley has confirmed, in a prepared statement, that one of its students “has contracted COVID-19.” According to the statement, “The individual is a graduate student who does not live on campus or in the city of Berkeley and has self-isolated in their city of residence. The individual is in good condition and has no serious symptoms.” Cal wrote that facilities staff would “provide deep cleaning to any appropriate areas. We are also coordinating to make sure that the student is getting the care needed.”

According to Berkeley Public Health, which has jurisdiction over the campus population as well as the broader city, the student was never symptomatic while on campus. The Centers for Disease Control has said coronavirus is most contagious when someone has symptoms, although it’s possible for it to spread when there are none.

Original story: Word spread quickly through the UC Berkeley community on Saturday that a graduate student who attended at least one campus event last week has tested positive for COVID-19.


According to an email from Neil Fligstein, a professor in Cal’s sociology department, a student there came back positive after a test Friday. A recipient shared the email with Berkeleyside, which has asked UC Berkeley for confirmation. Janet Gilmore, senior director of strategic communications for Cal, said by email that she “will be in touch as soon as I can.” She did not deny the report.

The student felt sick earlier in the week but was feeling better Saturday, Fligstein wrote, adding, “hopefully they got the version of it where it is like a flu.”

Fligstein wrote that the graduate student — whom he said he had agreed to keep anonymous due to privacy concerns — had a sore throat and felt feverish for a couple of days, then got tested. The positive test came in Saturday.

The student had gone to a graduate student meeting held Wednesday, he wrote. The meeting, which took place from 5-7 p.m., related to cost of living issues. The student and department staff are in touch with public health officials, according to the email, as well as university leaders.

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Fligstein’s email went out Saturday at about 2:15 p.m. to faculty, staff and students in the sociology department, according to a copy that was sent to Berkeleyside. Students then shared the email on Facebook and Berkeleyside received multiple inquiries about it.

On Monday, UC Berkeley suspended most of its in-person classes, then announced Friday that remote learning would last through the semester.

“We are doing this in response to guidance from public health authorities to implement social distancing in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Cal wrote. “Protecting the health and safety of members of the campus community remains our priority.”

In that notice, officials said students could remain in campus housing even with classes going online, noting that the university might “close one or more of the residence halls and relocate students into fewer locations, as well as adjust our operations to improve social distancing.”

Students who do decide to move out, however, will be able to request reimbursements for housing and dining costs. Those requests would be honored, according to the university.

As of earlier Saturday, the city of Berkeley said it had three confirmed COVID-19 cases: one in early March and two from the Grand Princess.

Note: Berkeleyside updated this story as more information became available.

Emilie Raguso is senior reporter at Berkeleyside. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Phone: 510-459-8325.