The University of California system will push classes back online for at least the first two weeks of January due to the spread of omicron, a decision that elicited sadness at UC San Diego, which has maintained one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates of any university in the country.
The chancellors of the system’s 10 campuses made the decision on Monday, according to Dr. Robert Schooley, head of UCSD’s Return to Learn program. He told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday that the group was heavily influenced by omicron surge models produced at the La Jolla campus over the past week.
“This was the right thing to do,” said Schooley, an infectious disease expert. “It will give us the flexibility to continue teaching as omicron passes through.”
Harvard, Stanford and dozens of other colleges and universities nationwide also have decided to hold most classes online during January.
UCSD was scheduled to begin the winter quarter with mostly in-person classes on Jan. 3. Nearly all instruction will occur online at least through Jan. 17. Many scientists believe the omicron variant will surge across the U.S. shortly after New Years.
The La Jolla campus will close for the Christmas holiday break on Wednesday. But there are still about 4,000 students living in campus housing. Many of them are foreign students who are unable to go home over the break. Schooley says that the students will be allowed to remain in campus housing. And students will be permitted to return to dorms after the break. But the university is encouraging them to remain home through mid-January, perhaps longer.
“This decision was based on science and safety — students here understand that,” said Manu Agni, president of Associated Students at UCSD.
“We’ve done everything to cooperate — wearing masks, getting tests and getting vaccinated. But going back online will be really tough. Students really enjoyed the in-person classes and classes and all the fun events that go with being on campus.”
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