Classes for the upcoming winter quarter will now be conducted remotely for the first two weeks  of the quarter as announced recently by the University of California. UC Riverside is just one of seven UC campuses on the quarter system which will see a delay in returning to campus due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. This comes in contrast with Provost Elizabeth Watkins and Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox’s earlier statements promising that 95% of classes would be held in-person next quarter.  

This quarter’s on-campus classes will begin on Jan. 3 with remote instruction, with an expected return on Jan. 17. The only exceptions are for off-campus field courses and internships that may continue to meet in-person. 

Several other preventative measures will be implemented to reduce COVID-19 transmission on campus. As explained in Provost Watkins’ faculty update, these steps are being taken to provide instructors and students with as much clarity and predictability amidst the uncertainty caused by the onset of the Omicron variant. 

“Waiting to take this action immediately before or after the start of the quarter would be more disruptive for all,” explained Watkins.

A spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the country occurred following the New Year’s holiday as predicted, and as such, returning to campus immediately is deemed to be not viable considering the spread that may occur among students.

In Chancellor Wilcox’s update on the beginning of winter quarter, he confirmed that no large in-person indoor events will take place on campus during the first two weeks of winter quarter. The campus itself will be open and other operations on campus will continue as planned, but venues such as the library, Student Recreation Center and the Highlander Union Building will operate with a limited occupancy during the weeks of Jan. 3 and Jan. 10. 

In addition, both Wilcox and Watkins discussed how they will be implementing a more aggressive approach to COVID-19 testing for students and employees. Regardless of vaccination status, all students must take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus, or immediately upon their arrival. Following this, they will be asked to test once more five days after arriving on campus. Those who test positive will be instructed to remain at home in isolation until their symptoms improve. Students who are not symptomatic are welcome to return to on-campus housing as planned for winter quarter. 

Employees who return to work on campus are also instructed to test before Jan. 3 at any off-campus location or at an employee testing site at the Pentland Hills Bear Cave Meeting Room starting on Jan. 3.

Both the chancellor and provost urge students to obtain the vaccine booster shot if they are eligible to do so over the winter break. All UC health care workers and UCR medical students are required to receive a booster shot no later than Jan. 31. 

However, the chancellor and provost assure students that these changes have been implemented with consideration of individual and community health. “Delaying the start of in-person instruction will allow time for the implementation of a robust testing protocol for students returning to campus and for students who test positive to isolate and to continue to participate remotely without need for individual instructional accommodation,” explained Provost Watkins in her update. UCR’s approach to returning to campus fall quarter proved to be mostly successful as a result of a combination of health and safety measures and students’ cooperation.

The UC plans to return to in-person instruction after two weeks, but they have stated that adjustments will be made to further accommodate the health and safety needs of the campus community.