New Campus Mask Mandate Comes As Cases Surge in San Diego County

CampusCoronavirusNews

Photo of someone wearing a mask.
Courtesy of Brian Asare / Unsplash

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In an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 following a recent rise in detected cases both on-campus and in San Diego County, UCSD has implemented new campus policies, including an updated mask mandate, the cancellation of all in-person classes, and further limitations on travel.

Effective November 17, those living on campus are required to wear masks and social distance at all times while inside and outside of their residences, except when in their private bedrooms or in the shower. This mandate arrived two weeks after a previous one notified on-campus residents that they were no longer required to wear masks and social distance within their residences.

In addition, all in-person classes at UCSD aside from courses and training for first-responders are now cancelled and will instead be moved to remote learning or outdoor classrooms.

Furthermore, students who leave campus for any reason that involves taking their mask off, such as meals or recreation, are required to isolate in their residences for 14 days and test on days one, five, and ten after their return. Previously, students were only required to isolate and rigorously test following off-campus trips of 18 hours or longer.

These changes came in the wake of San Diego County moving from the red to purple tier for COVID-19 restrictions. Purple tier guidelines require a number of businesses to cease indoor operations, including museums, aquariums, places of worship, gyms, and restaurants. The State also prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than three households; UCSD limits outdoor gatherings occurring on campus to three people as part of their “Three’s Company” Pilot Program.

“I think that the new COVID guidelines are ultimately put in place to keep everyone safe, but the additional burden created by the guidelines unfortunately hinders student experience, especially for freshmen,” Argo Hall RA and Revelle College sophomore Max Gruber said to The Triton. “Overall, I think the University has done a really good job of keeping everyone safe and healthy with the implementation of these guidelines, but the unfortunate side effect in doing so is that students are isolated and their opportunities to find connections with their peers is slim.”

Governor Gavin Newsom has also imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew from November 21 to December 21 in purple tier counties, during which non-essential work, movement, and gatherings must be stopped.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom said in a November 19 press release, less than two weeks after he was spotted maskless at a 12-person party in the Napa Valley.

Moreover, a new stay-at-home order has been issued in California that will be put in place  48 hours after a region’s intensive care unit (ICU) availability falls below 15%.  The five regions of California are Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California; as of December 6, the Southern California region, which includes San Diego and Los Angeles, had 10.2% ICU availability according to the tracker. While the Bay Area region has already preemptively begun the stay-at-home order, which restricts non-essential movement at all times of the day, the Southern California region’s order will go into effect Sunday, December 6 at 11:59 PST.

UCSD sent out their own stay-at-home order on December 7 notifying on-campus residents that the “Three’s Company” Pilot Program has been suspended and encouraging students to remain in their personal residences. This order will remain in effect for no less than three weeks. 

At a Town Hall held on December 8, officials from UCSD said that around 1000 applicants had applied for the winter quarter housing waitlist and that all applicants would be receiving offers. Residents who will have new suitemates in the winter will be notified the week of December 13. 

Students returning to campus from winter break will be required to self-administer their COVID-19 tests on days one, five, and ten after their return.

Those who want to learn more about the state of COVID-19 in California can do so here.

Bryce Pollack is a staff writer for The Triton.