Big Game postponed, more classes canceled because of smoky air

Cal Memorial Stadium

Friday’s air quality updates from UC Berkeley: Cal Athletics announced that the Big Game has been postponed, and Chancellor Carol Christ said Saturday classes are canceled, with decisions about classes next week pending. Stories follow:

Cal Athletics announced today that due to poor air quality in the Bay Area, the 121st Big Game between Cal and Stanford has been rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, at California Memorial Stadium. The game will kick off at 12 noon and be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

Cal and Stanford were scheduled to play Saturday, Nov. 17 at 4:30 p.m. in Berkeley. However, after extensive consultation with campus medical and environmental experts, the Pac-12 Conference and Stanford, UC Berkeley’s Chancellor, Carol Christ, and Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton concluded that the game should be postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of student-athletes, staff, the band and student groups, and fans.

While the campus’s initial intention was to wait until Saturday to make a final decision, current air quality conditions provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and forecasts for the weekend are indicating that Air Quality Index (AQI) levels are unlikely to sufficiently improve by Saturday afternoon. The decision is consistent with guidelines established by the NCAA Sports Science Institute and the Pac-12’s Health and Well-Being Board.

Cal has been in close contact with officials at Stanford and the Pac-12 and appreciates their support and understanding, Cal Athletics said.

All tickets to the Nov. 17 game will be honored on Dec. 1, and fans should bring the tickets they currently have to gain entrance on the rescheduled date. Fans with questions should call (800) GO BEARS (462-3277) and press option 3.

The full release can be read here.

Questions? Here’s an FAQ on the Big Game postponement.

Also this afternoon, Chancellor Carol Christ sent this message to the UC Berkeley community:

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

I am writing to provide today’s update on air quality conditions, as well as news about decisions regarding campus operations, classes and plans for tomorrow’s Big Game.

Even as we confront our own, local challenges, the news coming out of those areas most affected by the still-burning fires is increasingly sad and sobering. With every passing day, the extent of loss and suffering grows. Hundreds of our fellow Californians remain unaccounted for. Tens of thousands of lives have been upended. I know that we are joined together in sorrow, and on behalf of our community I offer condolences and support for our friends and neighbors who are dealing with an unfolding tragedy of enormous proportions.

Today’s air quality index (AQI) in Berkeley is once again in excess of 200, the point at which conditions are described as “very unhealthy.” As a result, all of tomorrow’s classes have been cancelled, and the campus will remain essentially closed except for those operations that must continue. If you are a member of staff and are uncertain if you need to report to work, please contact your supervisor directly. I would also like to express my and the campus’s appreciation for the staff who have come to work to provide services essential to the campus.

The Tang Center will continue distributing and fitting N-95 respirators on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to those students with medical conditions that may make them particularly susceptible to the impact of degraded air quality.  The Tang Center will also be open for normal Urgent Care hours on Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., for students with urgent medical needs. At the same time, experts say that the best choice in these conditions is to remain indoors to the extent possible. We also know that the combination of foul air and tragic developments across our state is affecting many of us emotionally and psychologically. We urge those who require support to seek the services they need. A good starting place is here, on the “Recalibrate” website.

In this context, and after further consultation with our medical and environmental experts, Athletic Director Jim Knowlton and I have decided that we must postpone the Big Game due to concerns for the health and well-being of student-athletes, staff, the band and student groups and fans. While our initial intention was to wait until Saturday to make a final decision, forecasts for the weekend are indicating that AQI levels are unlikely to sufficiently improve by Saturday afternoon. Cal has been in close contact with officials at Stanford and the Pac-12 and we appreciate their support and understanding. Fortunately, we are able to reschedule the Big Game for Saturday, Dec. 1 at California Memorial Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for noon, all tickets for tomorrow will be honored, and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

On a related note, the student members of the Rally Committee have decided to cancel tonight’s Big Game Rally. Knowing how hard these students have worked to make this event possible, I have nothing but respect and appreciation for what was an appropriate, if hard, decision. Cal Performances has also announced that tonight’s scheduled dance performance is cancelled. We recommend that everyone check appropriate websites for updated information about scheduled cultural and academic events.

Looking ahead, the forecasts for next week remain uncertain. While there are some indications that a change in the prevailing winds could lead to air quality improvement, that is far from certain. So, we will wait until Sunday afternoon to decide about the status of classes scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. That decision will once again be based on reliable data, the best possible forecasts, and the guidance we receive from campus medical and environmental experts. We will also continue to adhere to guidelines that require us to consider class cancellations when the AQI exceeds, or is expected to exceed, 200. Since a decision to cancel some or all of the remaining classes before the holiday will have serious consequences for completion of the semester’s work, I have asked members of my administration to think about how we would accommodate that possibility. We will update the campus on Sunday afternoon regarding decisions about Monday’s class schedule and plans for campus operations.

Please do what you can and must to care for yourself, your friends and your loved ones during what are very trying times. I am honored and humbled to be a part of a community that is strong, resilient and so deeply compassionate.

Sincerely,

Carol T. Christ, Chancellor

Yesterday afternoon, Chancellor Christ sent out this update on air quality:

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to update you on the latest air quality readings, decisions regarding tomorrow’s class schedule and the status of Saturday’s Big Game.

As noted in previous messages, we have been closely tracking current air quality data, as well as forecasts for Berkeley. As of 3 p.m. today, the reading for the closest monitor, located in Aquatic Park, indicates that the Air Quality Index (AQI) surpassed 200, the level at which our guidelines require consideration of class cancellations. In addition, the forecast for tomorrow from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District now indicates that conditions are expected to deteriorate. In that context, and based on the guidance of experts on campus, we must assume that the 200 AQI threshold will be exceeded tomorrow. As a result, we have decided to cancel all classes for the remainder of the day today, and on Friday.

EPA map of air quality in the Bay Area as of 4 p.m. ThursdayWhile the campus is now essentially closed, there are a limited number of campus operations that must continue. They include University Health Services, dining halls and residential facilities, the optometry clinic, UCPD, OLAC and the Office of Environment, Health & Safety. This is not a comprehensive list. Staff members who are uncertain about whether their duties can be filled from home or have other questions should consult with their supervisors.

If you have organized an event, please consider whether it should be re-scheduled. We recommend that everyone check appropriate websites for updated information about scheduled cultural and academic events.

The Tang Center has a limited supply of appropriate “N-95” respirators available for those students with medical conditions that may make them particularly susceptible to the impact of degraded air quality, and medical staff at the center are reaching out to students with asthma diagnoses. However, it should be noted that even these relatively advanced masks provide limited protection and are not a substitute for staying indoors, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.  Please see the updated page at University Health Services.

For additional information about how to protect yourself, indoors and out, from wildfire smoke, see this guide provided by the Centers for Disease Control

Insofar as Saturday afternoon’s Big Game is concerned, we are relying on the same standards, practices, data and expert guidance that have supported our decisions to date. At this point, the forecast indicates there could be an improvement in air quality on Saturday due to changes in wind patterns. So, while we realize there is potential for inconvenience we will defer any decisions about the status of the game until closer to the game, a time when the decision can be made based on actual conditions in our area.

So long as the Northern California fires continue to burn we will continue to monitor developments, make decisions based on the best possible data and expert advice, and keep the campus community informed with daily updates.

Sincerely,

Carol T. Christ, Chancellor

Earlier in the day, the chancellor sent out this fire update:

Dear Campus Community,

In recent days the pall of heavy smoke over the Bay Area has served as a constant reminder of the tragic, destructive fires enveloping communities across our state. The number of lives, homes, and businesses lost is staggering and unprecedented. The efforts of thousands of firefighters who are putting themselves in harm’s way are nothing short of heroic. On behalf of our campus, I offer our sincere condolences to the loved ones of those who have perished, our support for the injured and displaced, and our appreciation to the first responders.

If you are interested in helping out, the state of California is providing information about volunteer opportunities and vetted organizations that are collecting financial contributions. That information is available on the state’s website.

Here on our campus, the Office of the Dean of Students is providing support and services for students who have been affected. If you need assistance, or know someone who does, please do not hesitate to contact that office at: deanofstudents@berkeley.edu

For staff and faculty, the Office of the President is providing information about how to access Emergency support from UC benefit plans. In addition, our faculty and staff assistance programs offer free, confidential resources for emotional health needs to campus employees.

The fires are also having an obvious impact on campus life, and I want to provide an update on the Big Game and related activities, as well as Friday’s class schedule.

While some forecasts predict improving conditions by the weekend, we will not hesitate to re-evaluate plans for Saturday’s Big Game. Cal Athletics will, as always, comply with NCAA/Pac12 guidelines in this regard to ensure that we safeguard the health and well-being of our student-athletes, fans, and community members. Updated information from Cal Athletics is available here.

With the fires still not completely contained, and with losses continuing to mount, we have also decided that we must, out of respect and solidarity, modify one of our traditional and most beloved events, the Big Game Rally, organized by the student Rally Committee. As California’s flagship public university, this is not the right time for us to use bonfires, flames, or fireworks as a means of celebration or as a way to lift our school spirit, when so many are suffering, grieving, and sacrificing.

I realize that this decision was difficult and disappointing for the dedicated, hard-working members of the Rally Committee, and for all of our community members who were looking forward to participating in what is a wonderful campus event. We will, instead, observe a moment of silence and reflection to honor our fellow Californians who have perished in the fires. I deeply appreciate the Rally Committee’s understanding, as well as their concerted and ongoing efforts to arrange for an alternative to the traditional bonfire.

There are, of course, many other Big Game activities scheduled, and you can read about them all here Spirit Week events.

We know that the air quality in recent days is having an impact on the health and well-being of many in our community. We ask that you take the necessary precautions and seek help, if needed, from our healthcare professionals at the Tang Center. The decision to maintain today’s class schedule was not taken lightly, and was based on the best possible data we could gather, as well as guidance we received from the campus physician and experts in our Office of Environment, Health & Safety. The data and forecasts we are relying on are provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

We will be evaluating updated data as it is made available, and will not hesitate to go beyond current restrictions on outdoor activities if the air quality levels deteriorate and/or advice from our medical and environmental professionals indicates that classes and other, indoor campus activities should be cancelled. Once we have updated data and forecasts later today, we will decide whether classes will be held tomorrow and inform the campus no later than 6pm this evening.

Sincerely,

Carol T. Christ, Chancellor