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UC San Diego will attempt to partly resume in-person classes this fall, with coronavirus testing

UC San Diego
Enrollment at UC San Diego is expected to grow by at least 300 this fall, which would raise the number of students to roughly 39,200.
(File)

UC San Diego says it will attempt to partly resume in-person classes this fall and will offer free and regular COVID-19 coronavirus testing to its 65,000 students, faculty and staff, a program that could cost up to $2 million a month.

The university also indicated June 25 that it will enforce Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend that incoming international students spend 14 days in quarantine. (See the full plan at tinyurl.com/y72c7yfk.)

“Students with a housing contract can complete the quarantine period in specially designated on-campus housing with no additional housing fees,” UC San Diego said.

The decision could have a profound effect on the La Jolla campus. Nearly 9,000 of the university’s roughly 39,000 students are from other countries. About 5,600 of those students are from mainland China. International students pay twice as much tuition as California residents — money that helps underwrite the cost of operating the campus.

The university’s news came with a sober warning:

“Ultimately, we must be prepared at very short notice to reduce or limit on-campus activities and move to fully remote teaching should pandemic conditions worsen at any point before the end of the year,” the campus said. “We must also point out that while we will do our utmost to mitigate risks associated with living and learning on campus, we cannot eliminate them altogether.”

UCSD delayed the release of the announcement for several days because rising coronavirus infection rates in San Diego County, other states and spots around the world raised doubts about whether the school could resume in-person classes.

Under the fall plan, UCSD says it will:

  • Offer 4,750 undergraduate and graduate lecture, lab and discussion course sections. About 30 percent of the courses will be conducted in person only. The rest will be conducted online or through a combination of online and in person.
  • Limit in-person classes to fewer than 50 students, or 50 percent of classroom capacity, whichever is smaller. Many in-person classes will have fewer than 25 students.
  • Enforce mask-wearing practices recommended by the CDC and other public health agencies.

The university also plans to begin welcoming students back to campus during the summer, staggering their arrival to promote social distancing. Students usually arrive in September. The fall quarter is scheduled to start Sept. 28.

“As has been the case since the beginning of this unprecedented challenge, the university’s plans may change as the pandemic evolves,” Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement. “UC San Diego will notify faculty and staff of any changes to their work situation as appropriate. In all decisions, the health and safety of students, employees and local communities will be paramount.”

Many universities — including the entire California State University system — have decided to offer mostly online classes this fall. But UCSD has pressed hard to bring students back under a program called “Return to Learn.”

In May, UCSD performed coronavirus testing on 1,300 students, none of whom tested positive. It made the campus the first large American research university to conduct mass testing among its students.

“That makes me think that there’s not a lot of virus going on right now — which could change,” Dr. Angela Scioscia, UCSD interim executive director of student health and well-being, said at the time.

But the current rise in coronavirus infections is causing a lot of concern.

“We are not seeing things moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, a UC San Diego professor of medicine, told the San Diego Union-Tribune on June 24. “We are not going to open unless we can do it safely. And it is a concern watching what’s going on along the epidemiology front, from North Carolina to California.” ◆