San Diego County Public Health officials reported Wednesday the first San Diego State University student hospitalized amid a surge of COVID-19 cases just weeks into the fall semester.
County Epidemiologist Dr. Eric McDonald said there were 44 new cases found among SDSU students on Wednesday for a total of 440 confirmed cases and 4 probable cases.
One student was and remains hospitalized due to COVID-19.
The low number of hospitalizations among what is a large number of infected individuals is an indicator of how the virus does with the young adult age group, McDonald said.
"The group of individuals who are getting COVID are in the group that actually [recovers] very well," McDonald said. "So they are tolerating this well. The issue is we don't want them spreading it to others."
The positive cases are among students living both on- and off-campus and has increased exponentially since the surge was reported one week ago. At the time, there were 64 cases.
McDonald said the large number among students is concerning and is likely to continue to increase as their case investigators attempt to trace any outbreaks.
"Our investigations thus far look like there are a number of groups of students within that that may be separate outbreaks but we're still investigating the connections between them but it will take some time," McDonald said.
The county epidemiologist said part of the reason cases have accumulated so quickly is because of their contact tracing investigations, which attempts to identify the close contacts of a person who has contracted COVID-19 in order to contain the virus before it spreads further.
"We've had a number of close contacts who we've urged to get tested who, in fact, have been positive and then later developed symptoms," McDonald said. "We know that we are catching these cases very, very early and so our isolation and quarantine of those students, which is very effectively being carried out both on-campus and off-campus... we feel is, in fact, reducing the transmission."
McDonald said students have been cooperative to work with his investigators, another factor that will contribute to halting the spread over time, though cases will increase first.
"I do feel that we are bending the curve at San Diego State, just anecdotally, case-by-case," he added.
As cases surged last week, SDSU suspended all on-campus courses other than those with very specific licensing deadlines and accreditation criteria.
The university also issued a stay-at-home order over the Labor Day weekend for all students living on campus. All students off-campus were advised to stay at home as well and teams of security officers have been monitoring the College Area for any activity that does not align with current public health orders. The orders have been extended until Sept. 14.
J. Luke Wood, SDSU's Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, said students have been cooperative and he has personally seen a decrease of activity in the College Area this week.
Students who continue to gather may be issued warnings and will be reported to SDSU. Representatives follow up with individual students.
SDSU has issued about 500 citations, Wood said.
Significantly, none of the cases are connected to in-person attendance at classes or labs, according to officials. Rather, they are believed to be a series of community outbreaks, with the vast majority -- 75 percent -- among students living off-campus. Most of those with the illness -- 73 percent -- are freshman and sophomores, school officials said in a campus communication sent out Tuesday.
SDSU urged students who believe they may have been in contact with a COVID-19-positive individual to get tested as soon as possible. Free, no-appointment COVID-19 testing is available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in SDSU's Parking Lot 17 B.