The University of California San Diego (UCSD) said Tuesday it will shift to remote-only learning at the start of the winter quarter due to rising cases of the omicron coronavirus variant.
In an email to NBC 7 on Tuesday, the university said it is “exercising caution” and is moving its instruction to online methods from Jan. 3 to Jan. 17. "During this time we will incrementally populate the campus using a more comprehensive testing regimen."
The decision was announced after University of California President Dr. Michael V. Drake, who oversees 10 California universities, asked each UC chancellor to come up with a return-to-campus plan that mitigates public health impacts while maintaining school operations amid the COVID-19 case surge.
“I do a lot of my learning through all my lectures and computer software, that is very easy to do remotely," said Estevan Fernandez, a UCSD grad student.
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"This may require campuses to begin the term using remote instruction in order to allow students to complete an appropriate testing protocol as they return to campus. Given the differences in local conditions and campus operations across the University, the length of this remote instruction period may vary from campus to campus," the chancellor wrote.
“I know they’re trying to be preventative right now with the kind of cases coming up, especially omicron over the holidays," said Hilliary Frank, a UCSD grad student. "So I do think for the two weeks, just to see how cases are going, would be a good idea before we allow people to come back in person completely, because we want to make sure that we’re keeping cases down.”
The president also stressed that eligible students across all UC schools, with some exceptions, are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which includes a booster shot.
UC San Diego's 2021 fall semester was nearly returning to normal, wastewater testing, some health protocols for students and new outdoor-style classrooms.
The winter 2022 quarter will look different -- or more like the 2020 school year -- at least to start. Students will still be allowed to live on-campus at the start of the yar, but will not be dining in food halls.
When students do return to campus for the winter quarter, students and campus employees will be required to be tested for COVID-19 the day they return, regardless of vaccination status.
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Unvaccinated students and those who have not received their booster will then be required to get a COVID-19 test twice a week.
As for in-person activities, athletics will continue but there will be no spectators at UC San Diego home games until January 18.
Other UC schools are also changing plans for the winter quarter.