UC Berkeley Covid-19 updates: I-House closed and instruction to start "fully remote" for Fall semester

News on how the university is attempting to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

News broke on July 21st of further modifications that UC Berkeley will be making to stave off the spread of the coronavirus.

To frame the situation, the city of Berkeley posted an update to their status as of the 20th:

  • City of Berkeley: 332 infected and 3 dead

  • Alameda County: < 9,000 infected and 161 dead

However, there are two key caveats in this press release that are worth re-emphasizing here thanks to the unfortunate and irresponsible spread of misinformation and downplaying of the virus.

Firstly, they address the misconception that the virus is a non-threat because it has “only” (?) killed 140,000 Americans (more than World War I—that thing also known as the Great War). Even those patients who survive may experience “kidney failure, shortness of breath and brain impairment.”

Secondly, they frame that these figures should not be downplayed as “U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cases suggest that positive tests may be only one-tenth of the total number of people infected.”

Refocusing in on UC Berkeley, the first big change is that the International House will close for the Fall—and “potentially for full school year”. The board of directors unanimously made this decision because the layout and communal set-up means the location can quickly spiral out of control if just a few residents—or even one—carry the virus. I-House residents have until August 15 to use the facility and its services; thankfully, the university is not just leaving the students in the lurch.

I-House has been working with the campus housing office to offer alternative housing options to residents who were planning on living in I-House in the fall, according to the message. Although campus housing applications have closed, campus will accept applications from and house any resident who indicates they were registered with I-House for the fall.

In even bigger news, UC Berkeley announced that they made the “difficult decision” that the Fall semester will begin with instruction that is “fully remote”.

The increase in cases in the local community is of particular concern. Given this development, as well as it being unlikely that there will be a dramatic reversal in the public health situation before the fall semester instruction begins on Aug. 26, we have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction. However, we continue our preparations to implement hybrid and/or flexible modes of instruction as soon as public health conditions allow.

The statement emphasizes the need to be agile and adaptive to the challenges presented by the virus (by still preparing for the time when the situation improves and allows for in-person learning) while also accommodating for students who do not feel comfortable or will be unable to return to campus with the option for fully remote learning.

Per Jon Wilner, Cal Athletics released a follow-up statement that they “anticipate athletic activities to proceed in accordance with current protocols and in compliance with the Berkeley Public Health Order.”