San Diego State University officials voted Tuesday to cancel spring break during the 2021 semester in order to prevent a surge in cases from inevitable travel and mingling.
The University Senate voted 44-28 to give students four "rest and recovery" days interspersed throughout the Spring 2021 semester instead of the typical nine-day-long Spring Break. Seven voting members abstained.
The schedule change was backed by Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten and dozens of faculty and students from the School of Public Health and other health programs.
In a letter to SDSU Senate Chair Wil Weston, Wooten wrote that allowing a nine-day gap in classes would put not only SDSU students but also their neighboring communities at risk of another surge.
"Avoiding the 9-day class gap is a proactive approach to protect our communities from preventable outbreaks," Wooten said. "The extended, traditional break encourages travel for students, increasing their risk of exposure when flying or driving across states, putting their families and the SDSU community upon arrival, at higher risk of contracting the virus."
She acknowledged in her letter that their is concern over the negative impact of eliminating the break, but noted that it could take a worse toll on the mental health of the community if there is a new outbreak at SDSU, resulting in quarantines and prolonged restrictions on activities.
She encouraged providing multiple short breaks instead "that will support their recovery and avoid burnout."
Rest and recovery days would act as days off; no instruction, assignments, exams or meetings would be held on those days. A proposed schedule has rest and recovery days slated on Feb. 12, March 8, March 30 and April 15, 2021.
Members of the school of public health also penned a letter to the SDSU senate where they called a typical spring break "irresponsible."
"Leaving a 9-day void in the middle of a semester would make us complicit in the impacts of COVID-19 transmission resulting from behaviors encouraged by such an extended break mid-term," the group wrote.
COVID-19 cases among SDSU students skyrocketed in late August, days after the start of the fall 2020 semester. In the three months since, 1,603 cases have been connected to the school, the majority among students living off-campus, according to the latest data reported by SDSU Student Health Services on Nov. 23.
That number could be higher, though. In reporting that data, SDSU said "a possibility exists that not all cases are being reported to Student Health Services."
SDSU and the county have tried to curtail the case trend among students by canceling in-person classes, issuing stay-at-home orders for students and issuing cease-and-desist letters for suspected party houses.