UCLA students reassess finals week, spring break plans in light of COVID-19
Students have been prompted to cancel and reschedule spring break plans because of COVID-19 and UCLA’s suspension of in-person classes until April 10. (Daily Bruin file photo)
This post was updated March 11 at 9:50 p.m.
Anne Deffebach hoped to spend this spring break – her last at UCLA – with six of her best friends in Thailand.
But after the U.S. Department of State increased the travel advisory to China to level four, the highest level, the group made the decision to cancel the trip because of its connecting flight to Shanghai.
Deffebach, a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, is one of many UCLA students who have had to alter their spring break plans because of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
“Our health and the health of others coming home and not missing school is more important,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll get there one day.”
The disease has spread to 114 countries and infected over 118,000 people since it was first detected in December, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO announced Wednesday that it now considers COVID-19 a pandemic, the first time a coronavirus has received that distinction.
Deffebach and her friends aren’t the only ones who have canceled their spring break trips because of the outbreak.
Nisha Rajasekar, a third-year business economics student, said she canceled her upcoming trip to Mexico and will instead return home to Austin. She added her primary concern is leaving safely through the Los Angeles International Airport because several cases have occurred within the city.
“There are more outbreaks in LA than there are in most other places that everyone’s spring breaking in,” Rajasekar said.
There are 27 known cases in LA County as of Wednesday, according to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health press release. The LACDPH also announced the first coronavirus-related death in LA County on Wednesday, a nonresident older adult who recently spent time in South Korea.
Additionally, as of Friday, two LAX screeners, who check passengers for COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The two screeners worked in the same quarantine station, meaning they likely were exposed to the same source, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Some airlines, such as American Airlines, have suspended flights to highly affected sites, such as mainland China and Italy.
Locally, UCLA announced in-person classes would be suspended until April 10, two weeks into spring quarter. The move has led some students to leave campus much earlier than expected.
Jordan Barger, a second-year film and television student, said she decided to leave nearly a full week before the official start of final exams after she found out all her lectures were canceled.
Barger will now spend nearly a month at home in Houston.
Barger added that she looks forward to spending extra time with her family, but is worried for her father, who she said is 73 and is more susceptible to COVID-19; older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions are most at risk from COVID-19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rhea Singh, Rajasekar’s roommate and a third-year statistics student, said she originally planned to go on the Mexico trip, but recently canceled her plans. The trip is nonrefundable, she added, and she and her friends will likely not get money back after canceling the trip.
Singh also expressed concerns about the disease’s presence in Los Angeles. However, she said she feels less concerned about COVID-19 at UCLA because it offers a more controlled environment.
Rajasekar added that she thinks people on visas may be cautious to leave the U.S. because it could be harder for them to get back into the country if borders are closed.
The UCLA Dashew Center for International Students will maintain valid immigration status for full-time students and plans to continue operating as normal, said Sam Nahidi, director of the Dashew Center, in an emailed statement to international students Wednesday.
Deffebach, who also canceled a trip to Italy in June, said she was disappointed she had to cancel her trip, but thinks she made the right decision.
She said she still hopes to spend time with friends over spring break – she and her friends plan to spend four nights camping in Big Sur, California.
“This is the last break that all my friends and I will have at the same time,” she said. “But at the same time, we’re really young; we’ll probably get there one time in life.”
The Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center plans to stay open during spring break, although sick students are advised to stay home. Students with flulike symptoms can call the Ashe Center Infection Control Line at 310-206-6217.