UCLA announces guidelines for campus gatherings amid concern for omicron variant
UCLA announced new COVID-19 safety guidelines for on-campus events after the omicron variant of the virus was detected in California on Wednesday. (Justin Jung/Daily Bruin senior staff)
UCLA released new guidelines with restrictions for on-campus events and departmental social gatherings, according to a campuswide email Wednesday.
The announcement came after scientists in South Africa detected the highly transmissible omicron COVID-19 virus variant, which the World Health Organization designated a variant of concern on Nov. 26. On Wednesday, UC San Francisco researchers identified a case of COVID-19 in California caused by the omicron variant, the first confirmed case in the U.S.
Preliminary research shows that the variant may only produce mild illness, according to a UCLA announcement Tuesday.
The updated protocols highly encourage virtual events, as new cases of COVID-19 remain high and the new strains of the virus continue to emerge, including the omicron variant, said Michael J. Beck and Megan McEvoy, co-chairs of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, in the emailed announcement.
UCLA revised its protocols for departments to encourage attendees to gather outdoors when possible. Unvaccinated people must remain at least six feet away from other attendees when eating or drinking, according to the email. Additionally, all attendees must receive clearance from the UCLA COVID-19 Symptom Monitoring System.
All campus events and departmental social gatherings must provide hand-hygiene resources and disinfecting wipes near food areas, the announcement said. Organizers must maintain attendee lists that can be used for contact tracing purposes, the university added.
Indoor gatherings cannot be mandatory, and virtual attendance options should be offered when possible, but outdoor events can be moved indoors due to weather conditions.
Organizers must limit indoor events to 50% to 75% occupancy and alternate seating between participants, depending on which is more restrictive, according to the announcement.
If a gathering is held indoors, all attendees – regardless of vaccination status – must wear masks when not actively eating or drinking. Additionally, when food is offered, event organizers must provide pre-packaged, store-bought meals and drinks, with grab-and-go food being preferable.
Some protocols remain unchanged.
The university said indoor departmental meetings and seminars in departmental spaces are still not allowed to provide food. However, food remains permitted at campus restaurants and residential dining halls, as well as at catering venues managed by UCLA Housing and Hospitality, the Luskin Conference Center and Associated Students UCLA if these venues are at 50% to 75% occupancy.
The announcement also said outdoor dining is preferred in all cases, and every campus event and departmental gathering must verify attendees’ vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
The protocols are in place to ensure the safety of the UCLA community, the email read.
“Our health and safety, as well as that of our colleagues, friends, family, neighbors and community members, should remain top of mind as we end the year and look ahead to 2022,” the announcement said.