Cal State University San Marcos. Photo by Chris Stone

Amid surging COVID-19 cases and the likelihood of students and staff traveling over the holidays, campus presidents in the California State University system were being urged Thursday to reassess post-holiday scheduling, including possibly delaying the start of already limited in-person instruction.

In a letter sent to the system’s 23 campus presidents this week, CSU Chancellor Timothy White and Chancellor-select Joseph Castro called the coronavirus surge in California “deeply concerning.”

“The pandemic’s progression, coupled with the reality that many of our students and employees will be traveling and/or socializing with others over the next several weeks — contrary to public health warnings against such behavior — throughout California, to other states and internationally, creates an immediate urgency to review, and likely adjust, campus plans,” the letter states.

The CSU is already holding primarily virtual courses during the current term, and will continue to do so for the term beginning in January. But there are limited exceptions for types of instruction that cannot be delivered virtually.

In their letter, White and Castro note that students and staff who ignore health orders and travel over the holidays could present a heightened risk of being infected and spreading the virus, necessitating that they quarantine when they return to California and to the campus environment. Those who do engage in “higher-risk behavior” will “add challenge for us,” the letter states.

“Thus, as you consider ways to repopulate residence halls … we ask that you exercise and urge caution,” White and Castro told presidents in their letter. “The prevailing advice from public health experts is to test, sequester individuals for approximately seven days, and then re-test. Of course, your ability to follow this protocol will depend on local conditions and resource availability.

“We ask that you consider delaying the face-to-face instruction — even for classes that have a limited in-person component — to as late as possible in January or even into February, with appropriate testing, sequestering and tracing protocols in place to help mitigate the virus’ spread in your region.”

They noted that spring breaks normally scheduled in March and April could present another challenge, “depending on the status of disease progression at that time.”

“And finally, while we all wish for a respite from the pandemic over the holiday season, that, regrettably, is unlikely,” they wrote. “The revisions of campus plans that we are necessarily addressing now may need further adjustment as the dynamic nature of this pandemic evolves, and as guidance from federal, state and county authorities changes. Therefore, any communications you have with faculty, staff and students should advise them about the dynamic nature of the moment, and ask them to be aware that further modifications may occur while they are `out on break.”‘

–City News Service

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