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Colleges Students Return To Campuses Amid New Concerns Over COVID-19

berkeley students.jpg
Berkeley Law
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Flickr / Creative Commons
U.C. Berkeley law students, before the pandemic.

The fall academic year has already started for more than 2.7 million students at California’s 737 colleges and universities. But concerns over another possible COVID-19 outbreak remain.

The California State University and University of California systems are both requiring students to be fully vaccinated when they return to campus in person and are mandating that masks be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Campuses will also routinely test students and staff who are exempt from the vaccine mandate for religious or medical reasons. Some CSU and most UC campuses will regularly test vaccinated students.

The hope is to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 on campuses and force the return of remote learning.

Sarah Latham, the vice chancellor of business administrative services at UC Santa Cruz, said, "We believe that the things we have in place will allow us to stick to our initial approach of in-person instruction and a highly residential experience."

Even with vaccine mandates, UC campus leaders acknowledge that positive cases will occur. But they also anticipate that those cases won't be as disruptive to campus life. Last year, any student in close contact with someone with a positive COVID-19 case needed to be quarantined. This year, that won't necessarily be the case, largely because of vaccinations, but rules vary.

One campus has already been forced to make an adjustment to when it would return to in-person learning.

Two weekends ago, Stanislaus State University announced it would delay the start of hybrid and in-person classes from August 23 to October 1 because of an increase in local COVID-19 cases. Those classes started virtually instead.