December 23, 2020

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

With 2020 coming to a close, we look onward and upward to a new year and a new quarter. We hope the much-needed and more-than-deserved repose of winter break will provide renewed momentum and optimism to fuel us as we teach, learn, work, and conduct research together under the continuing circumstances.

While the ongoing challenges of the pandemic remain, we have a positive outlook for the year ahead. We are eager and excited to bring 1,000 of our undergraduate students back to on-campus housing next month, joining the 1,400 graduate and undergraduate students who have been living in university housing since the start of the academic year. We have so missed the vibrant energy of our entire student body, and we are hopeful that this revitalization is just the beginning as we continue to ramp up our campus life for spring and summer. 

Winter Quarter COVID-19 Testing
With the impending increase of our on-campus population, and with the health of our entire campus community in mind, we feel it is necessary to extend our asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program through winter quarter for all students living off-campus. Our undergraduate students living in university housing, working on campus, or attending any in-person instruction on campus will continue to be required to be tested weekly for COVID-19. Testing is also open to eligible staff and faculty who are coming to campus. To schedule an appointment, students, staff, and faculty should visit our campus patient portal. We also want to take this opportunity to encourage our campus community members to sign up for CA Notify, California’s COVID-19 smartphone exposure notification system. Since the app’s launch two weeks ago, more than 7 million residents statewide have signed up in an effort to help reduce transmission of the virus during this crucial time.  

Remote Instruction
As we communicated with you last month, the spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in a Santa Barbara County health order that prohibits indoor classroom instruction at this time. Thus, for the start of winter quarter, the small number of lecture courses we had planned to offer in-person will begin via remote instruction. We will continue to offer selected laboratory, performance, and field experience courses in a face-to-face format. We encourage students with questions about specific courses to check with their instructors. 

We don’t know what the public health situation will look like in the months, weeks, or even days ahead, but our campus is anticipating and preparing for the possibility of expanded on-campus instructional and residential offerings in spring quarter and summer. In the meantime, it is important for us to stay vigilant in protecting the health of ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors while we await greater access to the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Planning Underway
Locally, administration of the vaccine began last week for first responders, and public health experts anticipate availability to the general public by springtime. Our campus has organized a COVID-19 vaccine task force, and we are working with the UC Office of the President, our UC sister campuses, and Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health to assist with the vaccination effort. The vaccine is a critical and positive step toward the long-awaited return to normalcy for our campus and our community.

Thank you to our students, staff, and faculty for the countless ways in which you have met and overcome the challenges of the past year. The new year may still look different than what we had all hoped, but even so, countless opportunities and accomplishments await us in 2021! 

Happy holidays,

Henry T. Yang