This week’s Response & Recovery newsletter included a public health update from Guy Nicolette, assistant vice chancellor for University Health Services:
We’re continuing to see a high number of cases both within UC Berkeley and in the broader community. The good news is that we’re seeing milder cases than with previous variants and it appears that the peak of the Bay Area omicron surge is behind us.
With so many cases right now, some have asked why we’re still planning to resume in-person instruction on Jan. 31. Others have been asking why we didn’t start the semester with in-person instruction when other activities are still in-person.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve had to weigh the benefits of public health measures against the negative impacts of those measures on mental, social, physical and financial health. The general consensus of the public health community (endorsed by our own campus public health committee) is that the public health benefits of in-person instruction outweigh the risks — even amidst this surge.
Delaying in-person instruction by two weeks is allowing us time to address the operational challenges we’ll face when high numbers of students, staff and faculty are temporarily unable to come to campus due to COVID-19. It remains the primary goal of the Recovery Management Team and its subcommittees to be ready to resume in-person instruction on Jan. 31.
Given that there is no federal, state or local guidance discouraging in-person university instruction, evidence to suggest omicron is likely to start decelerating soon, and hearing compelling reasons for the return to on-site learning tips the balance of risk in favor of in-person instruction.
With a continued emphasis on boosters, high-quality masking indoors, staying home when you’re sick, and testing when advised, we’ll continue to manage through this latest wave while maintaining the in-person instruction and activities so important to the mission of our university.