UC Riverside will shift back to remote classes for two weeks in January and tighten COVID-19 testing requirements in response to surging infections and concerns about holiday gatherings that could lead to more spread of the virus.

UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox made the announcement in a letter to the campus community, saying the move responds to “the emergence of the Omicron variant” and the need to take “preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission on campus.”

“On-campus classes at UC Riverside will be delivered remotely for the first two weeks of the winter quarter, with exceptions for off-campus field courses and internships that may continue to meet in-person,” Wilcox wrote. “The quarter will begin on Jan. 3 with remote instruction, and we expect to return to our planned winter quarter modes of instruction the week of Jan. 17.”

The campus will also require COVID testing for returning students and staff “regardless of vaccination status.”

“All students must take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus, or immediately upon their arrival, then sequester and test again five days after arriving on campus,” according to Wilcox. “If you test positive before returning to campus, do not come to campus until you have completed your home isolation period and your symptoms have improved.”

The campus will also ban in-person indoor events during that two-week period.

University of California President Dr. Michael Drake sent a letter to all 10 chancellors in the UC system on Tuesday, saying COVID vaccine booster shots will also be required.

“Under existing UC policy, students, faculty and staff are required to keep their vaccination status up to date,” Drake wrote. “The policy mandates COVID-19 boosters for those who are eligible.”

Drake told all chancellors to develop a plan for the January return to campus “that mitigates public health impacts, responds to the unique circumstances facing your campus and maintains our teaching and research operations.”

“This may require campuses to begin the term using remote instruction in order to allow students to complete an appropriate testing protocol as they return to campus,” Drake wrote. “Given the differences in local conditions and campus operations across the university, the length of this remote instruction period may vary from campus to campus.”

He also wrote that campuses should not be holding any large gatherings.

“In line with public health best practices, your return plan should also emphasize the importance of preventive measures on campus, particularly during the initial return phase when students are still in the testing protocol,” he wrote. “This should include vigilance around masking and a responsible approach to in-person gatherings. Large, congregant events, particularly indoors, should be avoided in the opening weeks of your winter quarter or spring semester.”

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