During its monthly meeting held earlier this week, the University of California Board of Regents heard from health experts and concerned workers about how coronavirus will continue to impact the UC.
The meeting was held virtually in order to mitigate transmissions of coronavirus, and the Regents called upon public commenters who had signed up to speak.
More than 300,000 people have contracted coronavirus and at least 13,000 have died, including more than 1,300 infections and 25 deaths in California as of 7 p.m. Saturday, according to information from Johns Hopkins University.
Those numbers will continue to rise rapidly, according to Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health, who spoke at the meeting. To combat the ongoing surge of cases, Byington said the university must “flatten the curve” of coronavirus transmissions through tactics such as social isolation.
“The modelers for this COVID-19 infection predict, on the low end, 30% of the world’s population becoming infected and 70% on the high end over the course of a year,” Byington said. “That is billions of people and will result in millions of infections in the United States.”
“The hospital facilities that we have in the state of California, that we have across the UC, that we have in the United States, will be overwhelmed if these models are not slowed down through social mitigation,” she added.
Universities across the country, including UC Santa Barbara, have transitioned to remote instruction to mitigate the spread of coronavirus through social distancing. All UCs are also canceling various in-person events on their campuses, according to Rachael Nava, the UC’s executive vice president.
Due to coronavirus’ rapid rate of infection, the UC will need to respond quickly to issues regarding the disease as they arise, according to Nava.
“This situation is very fluid, it’s changing practically from minute to minute,” she said.
The majority of individuals who contract coronavirus will recover, possibly without showing any symptoms, but about 20% of those with the virus will require hospitalization and up to 5% may require intensive care, according to Byington.
Monica Martinez, a 19-year clinical care partner at the UC Los Angeles Medical Center, voiced concern to the Regents about the decreasing number of available beds in the hospital.
“Our unit is always full and we always have a shortage of beds,” she said. “We must extend our capacity.”
The Regents also heard from Laurence Young, a UCSB librarian who said he is concerned about the “sluggish” reaction to coronavirus and the University Library’s in-person operations potentially enabling the spread of coronavirus. Later in the day, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang announced that the library would be closed beginning Thursday, with no cited date to reopen.
“UCSB is the largest employer in Santa Barbara and many of us, especially in the library, live paycheck to paycheck,” Young said. He requested that the university “ensure that anyone who cannot work during this crisis receives full administrative leave with pay.”
UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding paid administrative leave for library staff, but UC President Janet Napolitano issued an executive order on Monday granting 128 hours of paid administrative leave for all UC employees.
During the teleconference, Student Regent Hayley Weddle voiced student concerns and stressed that resource centers for students — regarding basic needs such as food, housing or legal help — should remain open for students to access.
“Students should be central and viewed as partners in decision making surrounding the university’s response to COVID-19,” she said.