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UC Berkeley and Covid-19: The Response and Future Plans

By Camila Ceja

As the world continues to struggle and adapt amidst a pandemic, UC Berkeley attempts many experimental methods of proceeding with classes. When the pandemic first hit during spring 2020, classes were immediately taken online, using Zoom as the primary method. Following into fall 2020, UC Berkeley piloted five hybrid courses, with part of classes taking place in person and remote. As Berkeley continues piloting courses and experimenting with classroom settings, students have been updated by weekly Response & Recovery emails, entatiling weekly positive cases, as well as citywide statistics. Additionally, “Pulse Surveys” were conducted, following students' mental health and sentiments toward remote instruction.

With California lifting its regional stay at home order, experimental campus activities resume for the spring 2021 semester. Following a post-winter break case surge, the spring semester began fully remote. Under the state framework, clinical, laboratory, studio and other courses requiring specialized space can proceed. According to UC Berkeley’s weekly Response & Recovery reports, cases throughout January fluctuated between 32 to 47 positive cases a week. However, this past week, 80 positive cases were reported. To put into perspective, Berkeley city recently reported 22 positive cases a week, in addition to the 814 reported every week for Alameda County. Outdoor instruction with less than 12 students is set to begin Feb. 1.

Though cases are constantly fluctuating, the capacity for testing has constantly increased. Testing was previously restricted to SHIP, UC Berkeley’s student health insurance plan, members, but is now available city-wide. Anyone coming to campus to work or study will be required to test weekly. Getting tested twice a week is already required for most campus housing residents.

With the breakthrough of vaccinations, UC Berkeley was able to obtain immediate access in its distribution. Following a phased approach, the university categorized its distribution into tiers. Though according to the official UC Berkeley Covid Tiers Chart it is unclear who exactly is included in the first tier of the first phase, 280 individuals have been vaccinated. The next phase is expected to include staff at high risk of exposure as well as UC Berkeley faculty, staff, students, and emeriti ages 65 and over.

On Jan. 20, the university announced that Fall of 2020 will be offered primarily in person. Though statistics and cases prove to be constantly fluctuating and the escalation of the virus continues to vary, the university is excited in its announcement. Chancellor Christ states, “This is exciting and represents light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for all of us.” Students have expressed both a positive and negative attitude towards UC Berkeley’s response and most recent announcement. Transfer student Bryan Hernandez expressed, “Ideally, in-person learning for fall 2021 would be something to look forward to, but seeing the way in which UC Berkeley has handled the COVID-19 surges for the already less-populated on-campus housing and student life, I doubt an increase in the number of students on campus for an in-person semester would be any more safer.”

For more information on Berkeley statistics, visit Students can follow along UC Berkeley’s Response & Recovery emails.

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