While the COVID-19 Omicron variant surges across the country, UC Berkeley is in position to combat the continued pandemic this semester on campus through increased access for students, staff and faculty to testing, booster vaccines and therapeutic care. Campus leaders and health experts are hopeful COVID rates will begin to drop from their recent plateau by the end of the month, and they are committed to the return of in-person classes on Jan. 31.
That’s what Chancellor Carol Christ and University Health Services Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette told students and members of the campus community on Tuesday night during an Instagram Live discussion moderated by Chaka Tellem, Berkeley’s ASUC president.
Tellem fielded a range of questions from Berkeley’s Instagram chat room, including whether the campus might switch back to distance learning again this semester, if students will be able to access campus facilities like the library or gym, and how faculty will accommodate students if they become sick.
“We are urging faculty not to create incentives for students to attend class when sick,” said Christ. “Attendance won’t be required, so we’re asking faculty to be really careful about making accommodations for students that may miss class because they are ill, and to make sure they have access to all the course materials [if they need to isolate].”
While Berkeley’s student population has a vaccination rate of 98%, Nicolette said the rate of people receiving booster shots, which as of Jan. 18 are now required for everyone — who is booster eligible — throughout the UC system, must increase. As of last week, Berkeley’s COVID positivity rate was 5.7 %, and more than 176,000 COVID tests have been given on campus to nearly 50,000 individuals in the past five months.
Students, staff and faculty must continue to do their part to quell campus COVID rates, said Christ, by continuing to follow testing protocols, wear effective face coverings and staying quarantined when sick.
Resources, such as PPE, test kits, and isolation facilities, will ramp up this semester to help the campus community follow these requirements, said Nicolette.
Watch the full conversation below.