COVID-19 Response Update and New Spring Quarter Guidance

March 14, 2020

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

I would like to acknowledge what a challenging time this has been for all of us. Together we have worked collaboratively and continuously to take precautions against the COVID-19 virus. The current situation is serious, and we need to make adjustments to our normal routine in order to prevent widespread transmission in our community. This communication will cover:

  • Decision to end all in-person instruction and continue remote instruction for the entire spring quarter
  • Decision to urge students who can safely leave to do so and to take all of their personal items from their university-owned housing
  • Guidance for students and parents on housing and dining services
  • More detailed guidance preparing for increasing social distancing through remote work for our staff colleagues
  • COVID-19 Response Working Group rationale 

Extending Remote Instruction 
Our initial announcement to transition to remote instruction through April was made as a proactive step in order to protect our community and to give everyone as much clarity as possible at the time we made the decision. As the situation has continued to evolve, we have made the difficult decision, in consultation with many of our students, faculty, and staff, to extend remote instruction through the entire spring quarter and to end all in-person instruction. 

We are asking instructors, who are faced with the daunting task of adjusting to remote instruction, to extend their planning through the spring quarter. We know that there will be specific courses that cannot be taught effectively in remote formats. Faculty and departments will have to exercise maximum flexibility in these unique circumstances. 

We will continue to work to be as accommodating as possible in an attempt to make sure all of our students are able to receive the courses they need to fulfill requirements. However, given the extraordinary circumstances that we are facing, there will be individual challenges among students, faculty, and staff that must be addressed. We will share additional guidance as soon as it is developed. 

While we know how disappointing this situation is, especially for our graduating students, social distancing and lowering the density on campus is the best way to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19, according to our health experts.

Housing
With these changes and in order to lower the density on campus, we are also urging students who can safely leave to do so and to take all of their personal items from their university-owned housing. We have a small window to take proactive steps to protect our community, and we are asking everyone to do their best and to be community-minded. Instructions related to moving out of campus housing will be forthcoming. 

Housing and dining refunds have been addressed in guidance sent directly to students to help with decisions for the coming spring quarter. Related questions can be directed to housinginfo@housing.ucsb.edu or 805-893-4371.

We are also reviewing options related to campus-based fees as well as financial aid considerations, and will be communicating separately by the end of next week with students and parents as new policy is developed. 

Our campus remains open and operational in order to accommodate our students who need to stay and to continue with our research mission. We will do our best to continue to offer roles to our student employees, although the work may be modified based on campus needs. 

Staff
We continue to urge managers to exercise maximum flexibility in working with members of our staff, prioritizing the health and well-being of our employees. We know that the K-12 school closures across the region have only added to the pressure on our community. Our offices of Administrative Services and Human Resources yesterday issued more detailed guidance preparing for increasing social distancing through remote work. Staff should consult with their managers. 

Our COVID-19 Response Working Group continues to convene daily to monitor the evolving situation. I have also spent many hours talking with and listening to our students, staff, and faculty across campus. Their invaluable thoughts and ideas have made a great impact on the decisions we have been making. We so value the input of each of our community members. 

We greatly appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we navigate this challenging time together. Thank you for all you do to support and care for our UC Santa Barbara family. 

Sincerely,

Henry T. Yang
Chancellor


COVID-19 Response Working Group Rationale
In explaining the basis for our recommendations, we ask that you understand the gravity of this threat and remain calm. Our recommendations are based on the evidence, and the evidence strongly suggests that we can get this pandemic under control if we follow the guidelines.

To understand the gravity of the situation, consider how rapidly the virus spreads. An approximate rate of spread is doubling every two days. If one person is positive for the virus, that means in one month there will be thousands of cases if no measures are taken. If in the more likely case a group of people are infected at once, say 10 people, in one month we will have tens of thousands of cases. Here are some concrete examples:  

Based on the current situation in other regions of the world, it is estimated that if drastic measures are not taken early to prevent transmission, 40-70% of the U.S. population will be infected within 12 to 18 months. In Italy, two weeks ago there were 300 cases, one week ago there were 2,500 cases, and today there are over 21,000 cases. In the U.S., two weeks ago we had fewer than 100 cases, one week ago we had over 400 cases, and today we have close to 2,500 cases and 51 confirmed deaths. If the infection continues as it is, next week we will have tens of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths. The risk of severe disease and fatality is elevated in high-risk populations – individuals over 65 and those with underlying conditions. There are no vaccines or treatments available at this moment for the general population. If the infection continues unrestrained, the impact of COVID-19 in our healthcare system will be severe.

The current situation is serious, and we need to make adjustments to our normal routines. We need to act fast. In other regions of the world, like Hong Kong and Singapore, where early precautionary measures were taken, the mortality rate is as low as 0.5%. In places where the measures were adopted later, the reported mortality rate is between 3-10%. Time is of the essence. The virus is transmitted by droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure. There is an unknown fraction of the population that shows mild or no symptoms.

Even if you do not develop severe disease or show symptoms, you can still transmit the virus to other people. We need to work together to prevent widespread transmission in our community. These are some of the measures we need to take as a community:

  • PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE COMMUNITY. Try to avoid crowded places and social gatherings (lots of people in small spaces). You can be most safe by minimizing unnecessary contact with others.
  • Keep your distance from others. It is recommended to be about 6 feet from people in close spaces (cafes, elevators, library, etc.).
  • Wash your hands for more than 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • IF YOU ARE SICK, STAY HOME. Expect to be home for two weeks.
  • Have a plan in case you get sick. Include the following items in your plan:
    • How are you going to isolate yourself (how long, where)? 
    • Who are you to contact if you have symptoms (doctor phone number, Student Health, friend, family member)? 
    • If you are in isolation and have a need, who will you contact?
  • Stay calm. We understand this is a stressful situation for everybody, but remember that we can work together to get this pandemic under control.