The University of California system joined dozens of other universities and colleges nationwide to hold most of its classes online during the first two weeks of January.
The decision comes after the discovery of the Omicron surge models produced by the La Jolla campus announced on Sunday. Other colleges like Harvard, Stanford, and many others have made similar strides.
According to researchers, the amount of COVID-19 virus detected from San Diego County’s primary water treatment facility has predicted the region’s case load up to three weeks ahead of clinical diagnostic reports, and has identified both Delta and Omicron varieties. Wastewater screenings serve as an early warning system as people infected with COVID-19 will shed the virus in their stool before showing any symptoms.
“This is the steepest curve in viral load we've seen since we began screening wastewater in the summer of 2020, and it's continuing to get worse faster than ever before," said Rob Knight, professor and wastewater screening leader at UC San Diego School of Medicine.”
According to Dr. Robert Schooley, head of UCSD’s Return to Learn program, the 10 campuses made the decision on Dec.20, which was heavily influenced by wastewater findings. UCSD’s La Jolla campus will close for the Christmas Break on Wednesday and was scheduled to begin on Jan.3 with mostly in-person classes during the winter quarter. With this decision, classes will be held online through Jan.17.
All students and campus employees, regardless of vaccination status, must complete a COVID-19 test on the day they return to campus for the Winter Quarter 2022. During the Winter Quarter 2022, individuals who are not vaccinated and individuals who are vaccinated but have not received a vaccine booster will be required to test two times per week, between three and five days apart.
Students who are living on campus are allowed to remain in campus housing, and students will be permitted to return to dorms after break according to Schooley. The campus encourages students to stagger their arrival.
Federal health officials announced on Monday that the Omicron variant has become the dominant version of the coronavirus nationwide. Omicron accounted for 73 percent of infections last week and the numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week.
Much of the Omicron variant and its health impacts remain unknown. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.
California health officials urge people to get their vaccinations and boosters in addition to using face masks.
“In addition, every person in San Diego County needs to have a low threshold for testing right now,” chief medical officer and chief digital officer at UC San Diego Health, Christopher Longhurst said. “Don’t wait. If you feel the slightest symptoms, if you think you might have had contact with someone with COVID-19, if you’ve gathered in crowds without a mask, if you’re planning a get-together — test, test, test.”