One incoming freshman at USC is detailing how he tested positive for COVID-19 during his first day on campus.
Eduard Huang of San Mateo has been fully vaccinated. The 18-year-old began experiencing a tell-tale symptom of COVID-19 - a loss of smell - right after moving into his dorm at USC.
"As I was setting up my cleaning supplies, I realized that I couldn't smell anything," Huang recalled. "I held up my shampoo in my nose and couldn't smell that, but my dad could. I realized something was up."
Alarmed, Huang convinced his parents to take him from his newly furnished dorm room out of fear that he could be infectious. His family purchased a rapid test from a local CVS, which immediately showed that the college freshman tested positive for COVID-19.
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After spending hours on the line with the USC Student Health Hotline, Huang was booked into a neighboring hotel by the university. He will isolate there for the next 10 days until he is no longer infectious to others. He is on the COVID floor, which is strictly reserved for positive university students.
Huang received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine back in March but is now one of many vaccinated individuals experiencing a breakthrough case of COVID-19 due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
Despite being infected, Huang was able to move into his dorm on campus. He said USC recommended a test before move-in day but did not mandate it for students to enter school grounds.
The university required a PCR test result three days after arriving in Los Angeles, by Aug. 22, which Huang had scheduled days after his self-diagnosed positive test result.
"It would have been really easy for me to just stay in my dorm and just stay on campus but I think I did the right thing... I don't regret it, but I'm bummed out."
Huang's 10-day quarantine means missing out on all freshman orientation activities, as well as the first week of classes.
As USC and colleges across the United States prepare for a week of orientation festivities, concerts, and in-person classes, the college freshman expressed fears over a potential surge in cases.
"I suspect that there are a lot of students just like me who could be symptomatic on campus and not know it. Not report it."
Huang decided to share this story as an extension of his journey toward becoming a journalist.
Throughout the pandemic, he documented the lockdown and distance learning that students experienced at San Mateo High School, appearing on KGO-TV in San Francisco several times to share his work.
Now a journalism major at USC, Huang offers this advice to the public, especially teens and college students.
"Wear masks. This thing is not over at all," Huang says, "Even if you are vaccinated, and you think you're fine - you have the high chance that you will be fine - but please just wear masks to be safe. Because you might end up like me, who got infected with COVID right as I was moving into college."