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UCLA to operate remotely for initial weeks amid rising COVID-19 cases due to omicron variant

UCLA will be operating remotely from Jan. 3 to Jan. 18 amid a rise in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Anushka Chakrabarti

Dec. 21, 2021 9:10 p.m.

UCLA will return to remote instruction for the first two weeks of winter quarter amid a rise in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant in Los Angeles County, according to a campuswide announcement from UCLA administrators​​ Tuesday. 

UCLA is the sixth University of California campus to announce that they will return to remote instruction for the first two weeks of winter quarter as of Tuesday. 

Additionally, all students and staff in the UC system will be required to receive the COVID-19 booster shot, according to the message from President Michael V. Drake to all UC Chancellors. In the announcement Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael J. Beck and COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force co-chair Megan McEvoy said that proof of vaccine boosters will be required to be uploaded to the Ashe Student portal by Jan. 18 for students. For employees, proof of vaccine boosters are required to be provided through the UCLA Symptom Survey/Vaccine Verification System by Jan. 31.

In order to accommodate sufficient time for testing and isolation after the winter break, UCLA will be returning to remote instruction until Jan. 18, after which in-person classes will resume as long as COVID-19 protocol is followed. Instruction for winter quarter will still begin Jan. 3. 

All students are required to return to Westwood by Jan. 9 to ensure they have sufficient time to test and isolate prior to returning to in-person instruction. All students are also required to take a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to returning to Westwood. If they test positive, students must isolate for 10 days before returning to campus. 

Students living in on-campus housing must take a COVID-19 rapid test which they will receive upon check-in. Students who test positive will either be asked to return home – if possible – to isolate, or will be placed in university operated isolation housing. 

Students living in university owned apartments must also complete a COVID-19 rapid test, which they will receive at their front desk. 

Students who live in non-university owned housing must come to campus to take a free COVID-19 test from the campus vending machines and testing centers. 

Three to five days after the initial test, all students must take a second COVID-19 test from a campus testing center or vending machine, no later than Jan. 13. If a student tests positive, they will be required to isolate for ten days. 

Faculty and staff will be expected to follow similar procedures. 

All faculty and staff should take a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before returning to in-person work. After their arrival to campus, all faculty and staff will be required to test again using a campus vending machine or distribution center. Three to five days after returning from winter break, faculty and staff will be required to take an additional COVID-19 test from a campus vending machine or distribution center. All faculty and staff that test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for 10 days. 

All students, faculty and staff will be required to test once per week at minimum throughout winter quarter. Testing twice a week throughout winter quarter is highly recommended. 

These changes come after a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to the newest COVID-19 variant. The omicron variant is currently the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new cases nationally last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the first week of December, the omicron variant comprised about 1% of new cases. 

According to the LA Times, the delta variant remains the dominant strain in California, but LA County has experienced a 31% increase in hospitalizations between the first week of December and last week. According to CDC guidance, the omicron variant is more transmissible, but current vaccines provide some protection against COVID-19. The guidance also encourages getting booster shots when possible. Preliminary research suggests that only the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and their respective booster shots can significantly prevent infection by the omicron variant, according to the New York Times.

These new plans will help minimize the risk of transmission at UCLA once we return for the winter quarter. We will, however, be prepared to adjust these plans as conditions change in the weeks ahead,” the announcement reads.

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Anushka Chakrabarti | News editor
Chakrabarti is currently the 2021-2022 News editor. She was previously the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the science and health beat, and she was a former contributor for online. She is also a third-year mathematics and economics student at UCLA.
Chakrabarti is currently the 2021-2022 News editor. She was previously the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the science and health beat, and she was a former contributor for online. She is also a third-year mathematics and economics student at UCLA.
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