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UC San Diego ends up with 5,000 fewer dorm students than projected, primarily because of coronavirus

UC San Diego has 9,655 students living in campus housing this fall, a figure that’s nearly 5,000 less than the campus has been projecting since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

a group of people walking down the street: Students move their belongings into dormitories at UCSD on Saturday, Sept. 19. (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)

© (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Students move their belongings into dormitories at UCSD on Saturday, Sept. 19. (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The university also disclosed last week that it expects to lose about $200 million for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The school had been saying the losses would range from $350 million to $450 million.


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The huge cut in student housing represents a largely unpublicized effort to staunch the spread of the virus. Campus housing executives weren’t available for comment, said Leslie Sepuka, a spokeswoman.

UC San Diego began fall 2019 with 15,500 students living on campus, a figure that was expected to rise to 17,600 this year as new housing came online.

When the pandemic began to hit hard this spring, the university adjusted its estimates to 14,500 students who would be were living in campus housing in the fall.

UC San Diego told the Union-Tribune in mid-August that it was standing by that estimate. But the campus was actually moving to reduce the number of dorm students due to health safety guidance from the state, according to an email Sepuka sent last week to the U-T.

By early September, UC San Diego shifted, saying it would have about 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students in housing this fall. The number reflected further efforts to “de-densify” dorms in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The dorm population was 9,655 on Oct. 1, the university says.

UC San Diego also has said its COVID-19 financial losses could total as much as $450 million, with nearly half of the costs affecting the UC San Diego Health system.

, Sepuka said last week that the campus expects to have $140 million in unexpected costs in 2020 and 2021, and that the health system would take a $60-million hit in 2020. The total: $200 million.

“The earlier high-level estimates are no longer accurate because they were exactly that: estimates based on the best assumptions at the time,” Sepuka said in email Thursday.

UC San Diego Health originally expected to lose $200 million alone. The estimate fell to $100 million, then to $60 million after the university received some government support.

“We have very good financial people. But this was a difficult situation, which made it hard to make estimates,” said Dr. David Brenner, vice chancellor for health sciences. “This is the first time we’ve ever had an estimate that was this far off.”

The university has fared much better in forecasting COVID-19 infections. The school said in August that it expected 20 to 40 students in campus housing this fall would get infected the virus. So far, the number of positive tests has been in that range.

The university is trying to prevent an outbreak by regularly testing students for COVID-19, and

San Diego schools remove Trump letter from food boxes due to mask statements

Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The San Diego Unified School District is removing letters from President Donald Trump that his administration placed inside food boxes as part of a federal coronavirus relief program for families in need.

Superintendent Cindy Marten, who oversees one of the nation’s largest school districts, told POLITICO on Tuesday that she has directed her food and nutrition services department to remove all letters from food boxes that have not already been distributed “in order to protect local families from being misled on how to protect themselves from becoming infected.”


The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program redirects meat, dairy and produce to low-income families instead of the restaurants and other food-service businesses that normally receive them. The Trump administration has been criticized for mandating that a letter from Trump taking credit for the program be included in the food boxes weeks before Election Day.

Critics have accused Trump of politicizing poverty and using the food relief program as a campaign tool.

The letter, on White House stationary, is signed by Trump and says, “As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

Marten specifically took issue with the virus prevention advice in Trump’s letter, which advises people to “consider” wearing masks in public rather than telling them to do so. The letter landed right as Trump and various associates were diagnosed in the past few days with the disease.

“Science is clear: wearing masks works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Marten said in a statement Tuesday. “Wearing masks is required in California and on every San Diego Unified school campus. It is not optional, as the president wrote in his letter.”

Marten also cites the letter’s focus on people over 80 years old, pointing out that more than 60,000 school-age children in California have been diagnosed with the virus.

About 58 percent of San Diego Unified’s more than 122,000 students in the state’s second-largest district qualify for free and reduced price meals. Statewide, nearly 60 percent of California’s 6 million-plus K-12 students qualify.

San Diego Unified Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said the letter is especially egregious because it goes to low-income people of color, who have comprised an outsized share of Covid-19 cases in California.

“The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Not only are we facing higher rates of infection and mortality from the coronavirus, we have also been the hardest hit in terms of unemployment and hunger. To take advantage of that suffering by distributing misleading medical information is appalling,” Whitehurst-Payne said.

Some schools have received the boxes via local food banks. Several California school districts said they are not participating in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including Los Angeles Unified, Fresno Unified and San Francisco Unified. The food box program is separate from the National School Lunch Program that districts rely