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What does the spike in COVID cases mean for UC Berkeley?

Health experts will take questions during Monday afternoon event

Like many graduates, Megan Wiener wore a Cal mask with her graduation garb. Hers is dark blue with the Cal logo on it.
Like many graduates, Megan Wiener wore a Cal mask with her graduation garb. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)
UC Berkeley health experts Anna Harte, Guy Nicolette, Art Reingold and John Swartzberg discussed the changing COVID-19 landscape and what it means for the UC Berkeley community in a Campus Conversation on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. (UC Berkeley video)

The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases locally and nationally, along with reports of breakthrough infections among those who are vaccinated, has resulted in localities reinstituting preventive measures such as mask requirements. And it has caused a fresh wave of anxiety for those ready and preparing for a return to normal. Is the delta variant a game-changer? How worried should vaccinated people be? What should we be aware of as we prepare to welcome students, staff and faculty back to campus later this month?

These were the questions a panel of UC Berkeley experts considered Monday during a live-streamed Campus Conversation event focused on both the developing news of the delta variant and how the campus is planning for the return of students to residence halls and classrooms.

The panel, which included School of Public Health professors Art Reingold and John Swartzberg, along with Anna Harte and Guy Nicolette of University Health Services, spoke and took audience questions for more than an hour.

Throughout the talk of masks, building ventilation, surveillance testing, rule enforcement and other topics, the top-line message was clear.

“Vaccines are the answer, for a great segment of the population,” said Nicolette, who is the assistant vice chancellor for University Health Services.

He noted that the University of California has mandated that all students, staff and faculty be vaccinated or receive an exemption before returning to the campus. So far 86% of undergraduates, 87% of graduate students and 83% of all faculty and staff have been fully vaccinated, according to the campus dashboard.

All the latest information about UC Berkeley’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the campus coronavirus page.