December 21, 2021
Update on winter instruction
Over the last several days, Americans experienced the impact of COVID-19’s Omicron variant in our everyday lives. “Saturday Night Live” aired without an audience; NFL games were postponed; Californians were required to mask up indoors; and more of our neighbors and colleagues tested positive for COVID-19, despite high vaccination rates.
While we recognize that change is a constant in this pandemic environment, we are committed to doing all we can to maintain in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. At the present time, however, we know it is not prudent to return to in-person instruction immediately after winter break. Many members of our community will be traveling and gathering in the weeks before classes are scheduled to begin on January 3, increasing the risks of exposure to the virus, and the transmission of the Omicron variant is predicted to be especially intense toward the end of December and early January.
Given these facts, we believe it is vital to extensively test and assess our environment before finalizing a decision on when it makes sense to return to in-person instruction. To accommodate this process, I have decided that the first two weeks of winter classes, January 3 through 14, will be remote. This will allow for at least one cycle of testing, sequestration, and re-testing for appropriate members of our community, especially our returning residential students, and continues the testing requirements and opportunities we practiced throughout the fall quarter. The result of these testing protocols will give us the information necessary to decide how quickly we can return to in-person instruction. We are currently working through the related logistics, so stay tuned for specific details in the days ahead.
While instruction will be remote during this period, the campus will remain fully operational, with the same staffing policies we have followed for the past few months. There likely will be adjustments in rules about in-person dining and the organization of larger events for the first few weeks of the quarter. Deans and unit heads are currently reviewing activities scheduled for January and will communicate any changes.
There are things you can do to help us return to in-person instruction as quickly as possible. During winter break, take reasonable precautions: wear a mask indoors, practice physical distancing, limit your exposure to larger gatherings, avoid contact with unvaccinated persons, ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster if eligible. Boosters appear to be extremely protective against disease severity. Don’t forget to upload the booster verification to the UCI Student Health Center patient portal (students) or Occupational Health upload portal (employees). As emphasized in Thursday’s Town Hall, being vaccinated with a booster dose is the strongest line of defense against the virus and its variants.
We also encourage students to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before returning to campus. Do not come to campus if the result is positive, if you have any symptoms, or if you were exposed to someone who was ill. You may be contagious, even if you feel fine. Students on campus are expected to be especially cautious during their sequestration period. And, given the importance of testing for our understanding of our community’s situation, expect strict enforcement of all required testing and symptom-check protocols.
We acknowledge that these new developments are disappointing, inconvenient, and stressful. Please take time during winter break to concentrate on your well-being and the things that bring you joy. We are doing everything possible to prepare the campus for your safe return.
My warmest wishes for a healthy and enjoyable holiday.
Chancellor Howard Gillman