3 more students report positive coronavirus tests

March 18, 2020, 11:24 p.m.

After Stanford announced on Friday the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in an undergraduate, three more undergraduates say they have also tested positive.

One of these three students told The Daily he was tested at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital on Friday. Although he was only experiencing mild symptoms, he said he sought a test after learning he had been in contact with the undergraduate whose positive test result was announced that day. 

After being tested but before receiving the results, the student returned to his on-campus residence, where he was alone in his room because both his roommates had already gone home, he said. On Saturday, he left campus with five other students after receiving test results showing that he had tested negative for seasonal coronavirus. 

But on Sunday, he learned that he tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the strain of coronavirus sparking a worldwide pandemic, according to an interview with the student and screenshots of his test results that he shared with The Daily. 

The student said he is currently self-isolating at home, after spending two nights at a hospital near his home. None of the students he drove with on Saturday are showing symptoms, but all have been tested and are currently awaiting their test results, he told The Daily.

“I still have a little bit of a cough, but I feel great, honestly,” he said. “It’s almost completely subsided.”

Another student said he received a positive test result on Tuesday from a facility near his home after returning from Madrid, where he studied abroad during winter quarter. While he said the symptoms he developed were mild, he sought testing because he had interacted with a non-Stanford student while abroad who tested positive for the virus. He said he informed an administrator at the Madrid program of the positive result. 

He has been self-quarantining and self-isolating at home since returning to the U.S., and has not been to campus, he said. His parents were also tested but have not received their results yet, he added. 

“Statistically, I’m likely to be fine, because I’m not immunocompromised and I’m a fairly healthy young person,” he said. “But thinking about how I might have inadvertently given it to someone else or my parents is the scariest part.”

A third student tweeted on Wednesday night that she had also tested positive for COVID-19. She told The Daily that she was frustrated because her test results for seasonal coronavirus (reviewed by The Daily in a screenshot) were labeled only as “coronavirus.” After seeing that she tested negative for this, she thought she had tested negative for COVID-19. But she was called two days later and informed she had tested positive for COVID-19, she said.

The three new cases reported to The Daily have not been announced by the University. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced the first known case of coronavirus in an undergraduate on Friday evening, writing that the student was self-isolating and that contact tracing was underway. (Individuals in that student’s residence, which underwent a deep clean, were left to decide whether to self-quarantine.) The University has also previously announced three other coronavirus cases, including two at Stanford Medicine and one “on the main campus.” 

The University declined to answer whether it is aware of coronavirus cases in undergraduates beyond the one it announced on Friday. 

“We do not have updates on individual cases at this time,” wrote University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. “We are taking the appropriate steps when possible cases come to us to protect the health of the individual and the community.”

Stanford uses contact tracing — seeking out individuals who have been in recent contact with the infected person — to identify people at the highest risk of exposure and to “determine a course of action on a case by case basis,” Miranda wrote. 

“This approach helps to protect the privacy of the individual who tested positive, and does not add unnecessary anxiety to people who had minimal exposure to the positive case in question,” he added.

The student who tested positive at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital told The Daily that he has since been in touch with the University to facilitate contact tracing of people he has interacted with in the past 14 days. 

“The University’s been nice,” he said. “They’ve been tracking me down, and I’ve talked to a couple people from there. It seems like they’re doing a very diligent job of contacting everybody, and I’ve done my best to track everyone down as well myself.”

In a March 8 statement to the Stanford community, Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health & Safety Russell Furr wrote, “To the extent we are aware of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among members of our community, we will be in close communication with county public health officials on the appropriate response steps, and we will be working to keep our community informed.”

But in an email three days later, Furr wrote that Stanford was “not in a position to provide information broadly about individual cases.” The University is complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and county protocols for notifying individuals in close contact with known cases, he wrote.

Because of the “quickly changing nature of the situation and the distributed nature of our community” Furr added, the University could not provide a “continuously updated” count of cases, though it would send emails when “significant new developments” arise. 

The reported new cases come around the time many undergraduates are leaving campus to return home. Except for those who receive permission to remain at Stanford through spring quarter, undergraduates were required to leave by 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

The dispersal of students — from Santa Clara County, a coronavirus hotspot — led to some concerns that individuals heading home could spread the virus beyond campus. 

Beyond Stanford, many other universities across the country have asked students to leave amid the pandemic. After Santa Clara County and five other Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place order on Tuesday — which instructed individuals to stay in their residences but allowed non-residents to travel home — Provost Persis Drell urged undergraduates returning home to do so as soon as possible.

Microbiology and immunology professor Robert Siegel ’76 M.A. ’77 M.D. ’90 told The Daily that undergraduates who test positive should be “quarantined in a proper care facility” rather than be allowed to travel, noting that dorms do not have adequate isolating facilities.

“If we know that undergraduates have tested positive, it would not be prudent to allow them to travel or to remain in the dorm,” Siegel wrote. “They should be quarantined in a proper care facility. Their close contacts should be quarantined as well.”

This article has been updated to include information on a third undergraduate who has reported testing positive for COVID-19.

Contact Charlie Curnin at ccurnin ‘at’ stanford.edu and Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Charlie Curnin '22 is the editor-in-chief of The Stanford Daily. Contact him at eic 'at' stanforddaily.com.Erin Woo '21 is The Daily's Vol. 259 Editor-in-Chief. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, she is studying communications and creative writing at Stanford. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at eic 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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