“It was freaky,” said Clary, 18, a genetics major from San Luis Obispo, who was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday and was shocked when a security guard was placed just outside her door. “I couldn’t believe this could be happening in Davis.”
The doctors ran blood tests. She received fluids intravenously. She said she hadn’t traveled out of the country recently, and there was no reason she knew that would have put her at risk of contracting the coronavirus. So she waited.
Clary’s strength returned and she was released Thursday — the same day the university announced that a student on her campus could have the coronavirus.
University officials confirmed Friday that one student is “under investigation” and is being tested for the coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms similar to those associated with the now-global virus. Two other students in the same dorm room were placed in campus apartments the university reserves for emergency housing. Neither student, school officials confirmed, is showing any symptoms.
The university’s chancellor sent a message to the campus via email, and parents received a separate message saying that “out of an abundance of caution, three members of the campus community” were in isolation but no one had yet tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“We do not believe there is any reason for anyone to overreact,” the message from UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and Vice Chancellor David Lubarsky said.
University spokeswoman Melissa Lutz Blouin said the lone student being tested is at home and the results will take a few days.
Yolo County health officer Ron Chapman said it is unclear how or when the three students could have been exposed to someone with the virus in the community. He declined to say whether the three had any ties to the Solano County woman who was hospitalized as the first U.S. community transmission of the virus.
Chapman said there is no local capacity to test for the virus in the Northern California community, so anyone who went to a hospital locally with coronavirus symptoms and did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s strict criteria for testing would not have been tested. Health officials are awaiting results from the student’s test.
“The reality is that students are not at risk of getting it from these folks,” he said.
Chapman said the university and its dorms are not “areas of high risk” and even if a student were to test positive, they would have been exposed to only a limited number of people.
Kearney Hall, the dorm where the suspected case of coronavirus was detected, is a few hundred feet from Clary’s dormitory.
“My mom is a little worried we are not taking adequate precautions,” she said, carrying a box of belongings as her mother’s arms were full of towels and clothes. “I think it’s inevitable the virus will be here on campus.”
Clary, who thinks she has a cold but is feeling better, is going home for the weekend, just like many of her dorm mates. With finals looming, students say they hope it’s a false alarm because they can’t afford to miss class or exams next week.
Uncertainty about the virus has created a bit of tension on campus: It is all students are talking about. They are posting on social media where to buy face masks and posting advice on TikTok. The intracampus social media app, Wildfire, was aflame with freakout posts and students saying they planned to avoid big lecture halls and crowds.
As one might expect, some college students have turned to trying to make light of the circumstances as a way of coping.
“People are saying alcohol kills it,” Clary smiled. “Drink a Corona to fight off Corona.”
But Clary is taking things seriously now that she has been sick. She had her flu shot and doesn’t know why she became ill. She has been avoiding the dining hall, where school officials are wearing gloves and masks and wiping down student ID cards with antibacterial wipes. University officials said they are taking steps to sanitize every public surface. The freshman has opted instead for food delivery.
“We’re not really sure what to expect or do,” said Harinder Kang, 18, a freshman biochemistry student who first heard about the campus case during a semipanicked call from her mother.
Kang has taken to washing her hands each time she enters or exits any campus building, counting her ABCs soundlessly for the full 20 seconds. She has stopped wearing mascara so she’s not tempted to touch her eyes if they itch or bother her.
Kang walks by Kearney Hall to get to her dorm, and the building was silent on Friday, as it appears many have left for home for the weekend. Elsewhere on campus, students are taking advantage of the “one mask per person” giveaway at the student health center and spending extra time dispensing hand sanitizer. Students wearing masks walked and biked near the building.
“I just feel like they are not making it as big a deal as it should be,” said Kang, who is also going home to the Bay Area this weekend and wondered why the campus text alert system wasn’t used to warn students about the possibility of a viral infection. “We got alerts about traffic accidents and wildfires, why not this?”
Katherine Tilsed, an international student from England, said both her parents are physicians in the United Kingdom and their hospital has admitted a patient with the virus. They offered cautious but simple advice.
“Treat it like the flu,” Tilsed, 19, recalled from a phone call the night before. “Be sensible. Don’t go to any frat parties.”