COVID-19 Community Update – April 7, 2021

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As mentioned at today’s President’s briefing, on April 5, 2021, Los Angeles County transitioned into the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, with a 3.1 adjusted case rate per 100,000 residents. As of March 30, 2021, the county has recorded a 1.4 percent positivity rate.

In Los Angeles County, the orange tier allows a number of sectors to further expand their reopening, including movie theaters, restaurants, churches, museums, zoos, and aquariums, which are allowed to operate from 25 percent to 50 percent of capacity, while gyms are increased from 10 percent to 25 percent of capacity. This week, Los Angeles County also allowed institutes of higher education (IHE) to provide indoor, in-person lectures at up to 50 percent capacity or to 200 students, whichever is fewer. Four million vaccines are expected to be administered statewide this week throughout regions with the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases, which will facilitate the transition to the yellow tier. Qualifying for the yellow tier will require being in the orange tier for three weeks, and demonstrating a case rate that is less than 2.0 and a positivity rate less than two percent for two consecutive weeks. Under this guidance, Los Angeles County may transition to the yellow tier by May 4, 2021, at the earliest.

On April 6, 2021, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that on June 15, 2021, the state will fully open its economy if the vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years of age and older who wish to be inoculated and if hospitalization rates remain stable and low. Under this guidance, everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can open with common-sense risk reduction measures, including encouraging all Californians to get vaccinated and mandating face coverings to prevent illness and promote health. State officials will continue contact tracing and testing, as well as monitoring hospitalization rates, vaccine access, and vaccine efficacy against variants.

Travel Advisory Update

According to travel advisory updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine. California updated its travel advisory to lift the recommendation to stay within 120 miles of home. Los Angeles County has also updated its travel advisory, noting that fully vaccinated asymptomatic travelers will not need to quarantine or get tested upon their return, and travelers who are not fully vaccinated must quarantine for seven full days and get a negative test within three to five days after arriving in the county. Individuals who do not get tested must quarantine for 10 full days.

Commencement Update

The University continues to lobby state and local government agencies to lift the out-of-state visitor restrictions and allow for in-person commencement ceremonies. Commencement updates for each school will continue to be shared by each school’s dean’s office. Seaver College will provide updates regarding the college’s commencement ceremonies in Dean Feltner’s April 12 community update.

Summer School and International Programs Updates

Summer courses are expected to be in session this year, with each of the five schools selecting to conduct in-person, online, or hybrid classes. Additional information about summer courses will continue to be shared by each school.

Seaver students will receive information regarding international programs in the college’s community update from Dean Feltner on Monday, April 12.

COVID-19 Vaccination Updates

As of April 1, 2021, California residents 50 years of age or older qualify to receive the vaccine. Beginning April 15, 2021, those age 16 or older will qualify to receive the vaccine. Pepperdine’s vaccination clinics at the Malibu campus, operated through the Student Health Center (SHC), have administered 700 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date. In addition to University employees, the SHC administered the vaccine to Malibu residents last week. Individuals who received their first dose at Pepperdine will receive emails asking them to schedule their second dose appointments.

COVID-19 Outbreak and Inspection Updates

The University has had an uptick in cases with 36 new positive cases since March 25, 2021, including several which are connected to one another. As with every positive case tested by or reported to the University, the Student Health Center implemented its comprehensive contact tracing and case management plans, ensuring each positive case is interviewed and directed to isolation, all close contacts are notified and directed to quarantine, and infection control measures are put into place.

Additionally, when clusters of at least three cases are linked (as was the case here), the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health characterizes these clusters as an outbreak and works with schools to ensure their protocols are satisfactory and recommend strategies to curb the spread of cases. On April 2, 2021, the L.A. County Public Health conducted a site visit at the Malibu campus and a follow-up call this week. The health department was pleasantly surprised this was the first outbreak of cases Pepperdine has had and complimented the University’s protocols, plans, and action taken—citing Pepperdine as a role model for exposure plans and response in higher education.

The Pepperdine community will notice some of the infection control measures put in place in response to the outbreak, including the following: further reductions to the number of people in Lovernich apartments (one per apartment), a temporary pause on indoor dining, and screening testing for on-campus residential students and student-athletes.