UC Merced officials announced on Friday the university will return to in-person classes in stages, beginning on Jan. 31 with a plan to return to full in-person classes by Feb. 11.
The announcement comes amid surging cases of COVID-19’s omicron variant in Merced County and the Valley. In, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties, this week brought reports of more than 36,300 new cases among Valley residents, according to recent data released by local health departments.
According to the Merced County Department of Public Health, there have been 58,467 Merced County residents infected by COVID-19, including 733 deaths due to the virus.
UC Merced’s spring semester started on Jan. 18 with remote learning due to current surge of new COVID-19 infections reported in California and nationwide.
UC Merced’s plan to transition to face-to-face instruction on Jan. 31 will begin only for upper-division and graduate courses (all courses numbered 100 and above), excepting those few upper-division lectures with enrollment over 100. On Feb. 7, all other classes except lecture classes of over 100 students will return to in-person instruction.
All classes will be completely in-person on Feb. 11.
“It is essential to keep in mind, however, that throughout the pandemic we have seen circumstances shift, and our plans with them,” UC Merced officials stated in a press release.
Campus leaders also made the decision to offer in-person instruction in stages based on criteria that also includes the expected isolation and quarantine space available to students on campus and staff availability to maintain operations.
Campus officials originally pushed back the start of in-person classes on campus to give students, faculty and staff more time to be tested and get vaccinated.
The university estimates 97% of its students are fully vaccinated, along with 88% of academic personnel and staff — meaning they’ve had either the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The UC system is also requiring students and staff to get a booster shot once eligible.