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December 14 - Updates on COVID-19

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CSI: Irvine (Coronavirus Spread Investigators)

UCI’s virus detective squad has been working overtime in recent days, chasing down the sources of COVID-19 on campus. One of the newest outbreaks traced back to a student going home for Thanksgiving dinner and catching the virus from a contagious relative. Upon returning, the student unwittingly spread the virus to roommates off-campus and friends in dorms. Other recent examples in the CSI case files include small birthday parties, study sessions and boyfriends and girlfriends from separate pods transmitting the virus to each other. Although most students don’t get seriously ill, scientists say long-term side effects are possible, plus you risk infecting others who are more vulnerable. So be careful out there, people. And stay tuned for more contact tracing detective stories in future episodes of CSI: Irvine.


Pfizer vaccine arrives at UCI Medical Center today

The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, approved as safe by the FDA and a group of medical experts convened by Western states, are expected to arrive at UCI Medical Center early this week. Inoculations of frontline workers should begin soon after. “We’ve got a detailed plan for when it arrives, involving our public safety staff and our police force. It will be stored in a badge-access-only space with cameras and will be monitored 24/7,” UCI Health’s COO told USA Today. Meanwhile, UC Health has prepared a Q&A on coronavirus vaccines.

15 new cases

Eight students and seven campus employees tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday and Friday. New cases from the weekend will be reported this evening and included in tomorrow’s newsletter. For the latest statistics, visit the UCI COVID-19 dashboard.


U.S. healthcare centers prepare for vaccine

“We did our final run-through exercise today,” said Dr. Nasim Afsar, chief operating officer for UCI Health in Orange, California. The team role-played the entire process, from vaccine arriving at the loading dock to an injection being given.


This section curates noteworthy coronavirus news, trends and opinions. No endorsement by UCI is implied. Note: Some news sites require subscriptions to read articles. The UCI Libraries offer free subscriptions to The New York TimesWall Street Journal and OC Register for students, faculty and staff.

Abstinence-only vs. reducing COVID risk

Harvard epidemiologist and a UCSF infectious disease specialist are part of a growing chorus of experts who say current messaging strategies are backfiring. They suggest adapting the “safe sex” approach that helped combat the spread of AIDS. “Instead of yelling even louder about Christmas than about Thanksgiving,” one says, offer “practical ways to reduce risk that go beyond ‘Just say no.’”

If you get the vaccine, do you still have to wear a mask?

The short answer is yes, because it’s not known whether the virus could still set up shop in your nose and cause you to pass droplets onto others.

Smartphone virus exposure alert signs up 4 million Californians

California’s smartphone-based COVID exposure alert system racked up 4 million signups, according to the state Department of Public Health, but needs more residents to opt in to be effective. The system, dubbed CA Notify, builds off traditional contact tracing methods by sending alerts to people who’ve spent prolonged time with someone who later tests positive for the coronavirus.

Did we really need to shut down outdoor dining?

Scientists on both sides of the issue weigh in.

How long till the vaccine reaches the general public?

The federal government has given emergency authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine but many details are still being worked out. Experts say it will probably be spring, but possibly summer or fall, before the vaccine is available to healthy people who are not essential workers or in high-risk groups. The first batch of doses will go to front-line healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, followed by other at-risk groups.

Lack of transparency undermines pandemic policies

When health authorities present rules without clear, science-based substantiation, their advice ends up seeming arbitrary and capricious. That erodes public trust and makes it harder to implement rules that do make sense.


Amid the heartbreaking loss of life and economic hardship wrought by the coronavirus, we recognize the need for stories of kindness, hope, courage and humor.

Florida man covers utility bills of 114 families facing shutoffs

A business owner donated $7,615 to pay the past-due bills of 114 households.

104-year-old WWII vet beats COVID in time for birthday

An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with the coronavirus in time to mark his 104th birthday.


Maryam Hassani, a Ph.D. student in computer science, writes:

I have never been interested in painting since I used to be very bad at it. But during the pandemic, I got a small watercolor palette as a gift to join a paint night and fell in love with it. So, I got the full equipment and started a series of paint nights (8 a.m. for me) with my 10-year-old cousin in Iran and have been using tutorials to draw occasion-based paintings every week. We recently added my brother from the Netherlands and we are planning to grow throughout the globe.

Above is the Christmas collection we have done. Seems I am not as bad at painting as I used to be.

This fun event has kept me connected to my family back home and decorated my workplace in the lab.

What have you been up to during the pandemic? Send photos and/or words about your activities, workstation, volunteering or academic adventures to marketing@uci.edu or post on social media with the #UCIconnected hashtag.