BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – As the Cal football program postponed this weekend's game against USC following after 44 players tested positive for COVID-19, an infectious expert at UCSF questions testing those who were asymptomatic.
Dr. Monica Gandhi from UCSF said this is case where some of the guidelines haven't been updated. Gandhi adds the big fail here was that those in the football program who were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated were tested.
"I have zero panic whatsoever as a public health person, as an infectious disease doctor, of 44 healthy people who are fully vaccinated who may have a little virus in their nose on a highly sensitive test," Gandhi told KPIX 5 Wednesday. "It is not an outbreak, it does not mean they got sick, and it does not mean the vaccines don't work. It means that our public health strategy in this case was off and they were doing mass testing of people who didn't need it."
Raw Video: Interview With Dr. Monica Gandhi On Cal Football COVID-19 Cases
According to Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton, 99.5% of players are vaccinated but everyone had to submit to a COVID-19 test, whether they showed symptoms or not.
Knowlton explains, "We had one person that was symptomatic and then we contact traced and anybody who was asymptomatic then was tested."
That seemed to frustrate some of the players on the team, such as Luc Bequette who tweeted University Health Services told the players they could be arrested for refusing to test as vaccinated individuals with no symptoms.
"It did not need to get to this point. Asymptomatic testing of groups of vaccinated people regularly is not recommended," Gandhi said.
While the Cal football program is in the spotlight here, Gandhi said this case is an example of what can happen if vaccinated asymptomatic people decide to test following family gatherings this holiday season.
"Not only should we not test if we are asymptomatic and vaccinated, so again, that's not even a recommendation but you're likelihood of spreading it to anyone is very low," Gandhi said. "There were essentially 5 contact testing studies. One in Singapore, one in Calcutta, one in Harvard, one in Oxford and one in the summer camps that if you're fully vaccinated and you feel well, you're not spreading it to other people. If we don't have more confidence in the vaccines, we are going to be in a never-ending pandemic."
KPIX 5 reached out to the City of Berkeley and Cal for clarification on its testing policy but did not hear back. In a statement released Tuesday though, Berkeley says it followed Cal/OSHAs guidance.
"Consistent with state recommendations applied to all settings experiencing outbreaks, the City of Berkeley has recommended that Cal test all exposed individuals at the cadence indicated in Cal-OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards, which includes guidance for 'major outbreaks.'
"CDPH and Cal/OSHA guidance for testing in response to a major outbreak is a minimum of twice a week until there are fewer than three COVID-19 cases detected in the exposed group for a 14-day period. At that point, the state guidance is for weekly testing until there are 14 days with no cases."
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