The USC announced on Friday that it is considering a remote start for the spring semester of 2022 and is likely to urge students to provide evidence of COVID-19 booster vaccinations and join other California colleges to take precautionary measures if coronavirus -Cases increase amid the threat of the Omicron variant.
After watching the surge in COVID-19 cases across campus, community and other colleges, the university said it is reviewing “a number of options” for the spring semester, including a remote start, and will announce a final decision by the end next week. The university is likely to need COVID-19 boosters and an official announcement is also expected shortly.
“This fall, our protocols were able to successfully prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 and spread to our classrooms and workplaces,” the university said in a health advisory service. “We are committed to keeping our campus safe in the spring as well.”
USC isn’t the only one preparing students when they leave campus for the winter break to await possible changes when they return in January.
Stanford University announced Thursday that students returning from winter break will be required to return to distance learning for two weeks and receive COVID-19 booster vaccinations to join other universities, mostly on the east coast.
If the semester starts January 3, Stanford students must also provide proof of booster vaccination by January 31, except for those with medical and religious institutions. The university will also continue previous restrictions on student gatherings for the first two weeks, restricting some to outdoor events, and restricting food and drink.
“We want to minimize interruptions in student coursework and provide both students and faculty with as much predictability as possible,” said Provost Persis Drell and Associate Vice Provost Russell Furr in a message to the campus community. “The current uncertainty surrounding Omicron presents a number of logistical challenges for starting face-to-face classes, especially when students either test positive during break and cannot return to campus in time or test positive on arrival and have to isolate themselves.”
Occidental College in Los Angeles also announced Thursday that eligible students, staff and faculty will have to provide evidence of a booster vaccination by Jan. 18, citing the rise of the Omicron variant and spread at Cornell University.
“We understand that sending such a message right before college closes for winter break is far from ideal, but we need to adjust to the circumstances of the pandemic as it unfolds. We want to let everyone know as early as possible in advance, “Western officials said in a statement.
On Wednesday, University of California President Michael V. Drake sent a letter to the UC community promoting booster shots.
“While we still don’t know much about the Omicron variant, public health officials have made it clear that the variant has the potential to spread quickly,” Drake said, citing heightened concerns over the Christmas season. “Vaccinations, including boosters, are still our best line of defense.”
At UCLA, students who live in university apartments on and off campus are required to take a COVID-19 test after returning from a trip, the university said. According to spokesman Tom Vasich, UC Irvine has not changed its plans for the spring, but he added that the campus plans to “closely monitor the effects of the Omicron variant and transmission levels and make adjustments if necessary.”
The two-week notice period for Stanford students allows them and their professors to prepare for distance learning. Students shouldn’t change their travel plans, but are asked to get tested before returning to campus, officials said. Thursday’s message did not specify whether university employees would also have to provide evidence of COVID-19 boosters.
The announcement comes as the country faces a surge in coronavirus cases and thousands of students travel home during the holiday season. Other universities, including Princeton and Cornell, have moved to allow students this semester to take exams remotely. Princeton and Harvard Universities have announced that when students return to campus in the spring they will need to get a booster vaccination with COVID-19.