UCSB the Only UC To Allow In-Person Instruction
COVID-19 cases across Santa Barbara County have spiked since December 2021 as the omicron variant spreads. In response to the rising cases, UC Santa Barbara chose to begin Winter Quarter 2022 entirely remotely for the first two weeks of instruction, but by the end of Week 1, allowed instructors to choose whether or not to hold class in person or remotely until Jan. 28.
The decision made UCSB the only UC school to not fully extend remote learning through Jan. 28 and went against the desires of many in the student body and community.
According to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) Spokesperson Jackeline Ruiz, public health officials were not consulted in UCSB’s decision to give instructors discretion over how to proceed with their classes.
When asked if the university consulted public health prior to deciding not to fully extend remote learning, UCSB Spokesperson Shelly Leachman said that the university is in regular contact with SBCPHD and observing its protocols, but did not say whether SBCPHD was consulted on that specific decision.
“Instruction falls under the purview of Academic Senate and academic affairs. As the Chancellor’s message highlights, the decision was made following extensive consultation with ‘the Academic Senate and members of the faculty, deans and administrative colleagues, students, staff, and campus medical experts,’” Leachman said in a statement to the Nexus.
UCSB External Vice President of Statewide Affairs and UC Student Association President Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, along with other leaders in Associated Students, advised against the decision to allow faculty to decide whether instruction will be remote or in person.
“Chancellor Yang’s decision to redirect blame onto faculty rather than take decisive leadership is extremely disappointing. We’ve offered Chancellor Yang and the COVID-19 Task Force polling, policy recommendations, and student testimonies in hopes of guiding the institution’s response,” Quintero-Cubillan said in a statement to the Nexus. “However, they’ve made it clear they do not value the input of student leadership or student voice.”
Students have tested positive by the hundreds since Week 1. The university received 130 positive tests on Jan. 4, peaked at 303 positive tests on Jan. 5 and had 132 positive tests on Jan. 8.
As of Jan. 12, UCSB is reporting 262 active cases, and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s (SBCPHD) COVID-19 Data Dashboard is reporting 635 active cases in Isla Vista.
COVID-19 Spikes Across UC System
UCSB is not the only UC with a high number of positive COVID-19 cases, but all other UCs are staying online through Jan. 31 to mitigate the virus’s spread.
UC Davis’ cases peaked on Jan. 5 with 246 positive tests and on Jan. 8 with 138 positive cases. UC San Diego’s cases also peaked on Jan. 5 with 577 positive tests among students. UC Santa Cruz’s cases peaked on Jan. 5 with 115 positive cases, and UC Riverside reported 190 new cases on Jan. 3. During the week of Jan. 8, UC Irvine reported 1,622 active cases.
UC Berkeley’s cases peaked on Jan. 7 with 202 positive cases; however, Berkeley’s semester has not yet begun. At UC Los Angeles, 1,200 community members tested positive between Jan. 1-7, the Daily Bruin reported.
Nearby, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo reported case numbers in the hundreds with the university reporting its highest number of positive cases of 239 on Jan. 4. The university is so overwhelmed with positive cases that they have begun isolating students in off-campus hotels and offering $400 gift cards to students who isolate at home, the Mustang News reported.
Majority of Schools Across California Are Online in January
The UC schools are not alone in their decision to hold classes remotely; many colleges throughout California and the U.S. have decided to begin their quarter or semester with remote instruction.
The Nexus gathered information about colleges with a population larger than 5,000 throughout California. However, because of the lack of information on all California colleges, this chart does not include every university with a population of higher than 5,000.
Out of the 44 colleges shown on this map, 23 have chosen to begin their quarter or semester remotely.
The SBCPHD’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard shows that the 2021-22 winter surge in cases has eclipsed the 2020-21 surge in cases. The highest number of cases last year was on Jan. 10, 2021, with 779 cases. The peak of cases as of Jan. 10 this year is 1,300 cases on Jan. 8.
Active cases have gone up 80% from the previous two-week average of 3,628 cases to the current two-week average of 6,513 cases. As of Jan. 6, the current case rate per 100,00 people is 187.78 and the testing rate is 26.6%.
This time last year, the variant of concern in the county was the epsilon variant. Now, the variants of concern are the omicron variant and the delta variant.
Vaccination rates peaked toward the end of March 2021 and declined until July, at which point the numbers remained low. Vaccination numbers picked up again toward the end of October 2021. The most recent vaccination peak since March 2021 was on Dec. 3, 2021, when 3,862 doses were administered.
As of Jan. 12, 69.3% of the county’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.