National Beat Reporter
As plans to distribute the COVID-19 vaccination gradually develop, the University of California (UC) recently announced its plan to bring students back to its 10 campuses in the fall of 2021.
While the well-being of students is being prioritized, UC President Michael V. Drake finalized the decision on Jan. 11, showing optimism when consulting with the 10 UC chancellors.
“Current forecasts give us hope that in the fall, our students can enjoy a more normal on-campus experience,” he said.
In June of last year, UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Office of the Chancellor stated it would permit students back on campus in the fall of 2020 if the Santa Barbara county and California state guidelines authorized in-person instruction. According to UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, the university was prepared to host on-campus classes limited to research if conditions permitted. However, due to the slowly growing infection rates in Santa Barbara county, the majority of classes and research opportunities remained virtual in fall and winter quarters.
Although Drake has expressed his “hope that in the fall students can enjoy a more normal on-campus experience,” the UC system has also noted it will adapt to the situation as it evolves, primarily by establishing a COVID-19 working group and a pandemic response team.
The state of fall quarter instruction will also depend on vaccine distribution, which is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD). According to a press release from the SBCPHD, public health officials are currently giving priority to frontline workers and people aged 75 and older due to the current vaccine limitations in Santa Barbara county.
“About 81 percent of vaccines are allocated to our community providers, including clinics, hospitals … These entities are offering vaccine opportunities for the eligibles … The case rate has decreased by 20 percent, this is really encouraging news,” the department stated in a press conference.
UC Santa Barbara students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to consult with their health care providers regarding their eligibility to receive the vaccine and to obtain additional information from the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The issue of reopening and future vaccine eligibility has raised both support and concerns among the student body.
Yiting, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, expressed her opposition to the potential of in-person instruction in fall.
“The pandemic seems endless to me. Things may not be better in September and the remote instruction is more flexible and safer for every student, either domestic students or international students,” she said.
Natalie Chen, a second-year majoring in environmental studies, has been conducting her studies remotely in China since the pandemic and she desires in-person lectures and sections.
“I support the school reopening in fall if the pandemic becomes more under control and the effectiveness of vaccines has been examined on a larger scale,” she explained.
UCSB Student Health has not responded or commented on plans to distribute the vaccines or safety protocols if the university reopens during the fall.