UC Berkeley takes additional actions to encourage social distancing

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos sent the following message to the campus community on Monday:

Following up on a campus wide message earlier today and in response to a rapidly changing environment around COVID-19 and the urgent need to practice social distancing, the campus is taking the following actions. These directives are consistent with and authorized by recently announced “shelter in place” guidance from several Bay Area counties, including Alameda County and the City of Berkeley.

Instruction

Effective immediately, all in-person instruction is cancelled for the remainder of the semester unless and until the campus announces that in-person instruction may resume. There will be no exceptions. Kudos and thanks to instructors and our Digital Learning Services staff for making the majority of our courses remotely accessible; we must continue to move aggressively in this direction. As reported earlier, remote instruction will be provided through the end of the semester. Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Paul Alivisatos and Academic Senate Chair Oliver O’Reilly will communicate more specific information to instructors.

Housing/Dining

As we advised earlier, students who live in campus housing and Blackwell Hall may choose to leave Berkeley and obtain prorated relief from the payment obligations of their housing contracts. The Berkeley health department has confirmed that the “shelter in place” order does not prevent students from moving out of our student housing facilities to reside somewhere else.  We will keep residence and dining facilities open under these emergency circumstances so long as there is a need to do so. More information is available at the COVID-19 Housing website.  The Basic Needs Center, including the Food Pantry, will move to 103 Sproul Hall.

Research

Our research community is directed to immediately transition to work remotely whenever possible. Principal Investigators should suspend on-campus research to the greatest extent possible, immediately, and implement plans to operate remotely at least through April 7. Essential access, limited to sustaining research capability, such as animal care, servicing of critical instrumentation, and maintenance of germ lines, will be authorized by the Vice Chancellor for Research Office in coordination with Deans and Chairs. Exceptional access will be considered by a campus review process, which is currently being developed, modeled on the one at the University of California, San Francisco. Please visit the Vice Chancellor for Research website for specific information and more detailed guidance. The VC Research will also send out a more specific email with guidance on identification of critical research continuity needs.

Staff

Staff who are not explicitly instructed to work at  the campus in person should not come to work. Managers and supervisors will assess what services need to continue on the campus to protect and serve students in residence and maintain other critical operations, such as delivery of remote learning, student housing/dining, University Health Services, etc. Employees will receive direction from their managers if they are required to come to the campus in order to work.  People who are working from home should continue to do so.  California Gov. Newsom has advised anyone over the age of 65 to remain at home; the campus intends to support this goal. More specific information is forthcoming to managers and supervisors.

Libraries, Student Spaces and Events

All libraries will be closed. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union, Eshleman Hall and Cesar Chavez Hall will be closed. The Recreational Sports Facility (RSF) will be closed.  Many other campus facilities have already closed or will be closed, check their websites for current information.  The campus will assess whether limited operation of these facilities is possible and will announce the conditions under which these facilities may reopen if operation of the facilities is determined to be both consistent with public health directives and feasible.

All public events planned to take place on the campus prior to April 7, 2020, should be cancelled or rescheduled.  No new event reservations should be accepted by any facility manager until further notice. We have not yet made a decision about commencement-related events in May.

General campus operations

When buildings close tonight, they will remain locked and will require card-key access for entry. If your building has metal key entry, consult with your manager to determine your need and ability to gain access.

Cleaning of public spaces has increased. Custodial staff is being informed about when special or deep cleaning is warranted and is responding accordingly. We greatly appreciate the extra efforts that our staff are making.

We realize this information and these directives might add to already heightened anxiety and fear. We are making these decisions based on our interest in protecting the members of our community and the vulnerable populations in the greater Bay Area. We look forward to the day when we can return to normal operations and the vibrant, bustling campus that we all know and love. For now, though, we strongly urge everyone to take measures to protect your own health and safety and that of the community at large and to practice social distancing. There is helpful guidance about social distancing in this New York Times article and interesting simulations about the impact of social distancing in this Washington Post article. In the interest of mental and physical health (and in keeping with various county and city directives), we urge you to try to get outside (maintaining a distance of six feet between you and others). The American Psychological Association posted this advice, which you may also find helpful.

Also, please note that while the shelter in place guidance appears to be very broad, it does have certain exceptions including for essential services and certain entities, including institutions of higher education like ours. We are being careful not to direct any of our employees to do anything that could violate this order. In addition, the county and city orders state that those sheltering in place may engage in “essential activities as necessary for the health and safety for individuals and their families.”

The University Health Services website and the campus COVID-19 website are both valuable sources of information and are being continually updated. We are deeply grateful to those working in University Health Services who continue to care for the members of our community.

This is an unprecedented and dramatic event, yet we are in many ways well prepared for emergencies such as this. We are committed to doing all we can to support our students and employees. Please take care of yourselves and each other. Together, we will get through this.