By Madisen Keavy

DAVIS (CBS13) — The UC Davis campus was nearly empty halfway through the first week of Winter Quarter due to remote instruction for all classes, a move that was extended through the end of January.

The extension, announced Thursday, is in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant that has impacted staffing in “some crucial areas,” according to UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May.

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May announced the remote instruction extension to the campus community in a video posted to the official UC Davis website on Thursday, four days before students and staff were set to return to campus for in-person instruction. May’s full remarks can be found online but in part he said:

“It’s important to stay in the Davis area. That includes students living on campus. We need to stabilize our community, and that means staying put so that we can reduce the risk of introducing new COVID cases. We have the right tools and resources here in Davis, and restaurants and other local activities are still available. But we really need your cooperation so that we can return in-person.”

Students, who chose to continue remote learning on-campus, were mixed to the news of the extension. A freshman Animal Science student told CBS13 this was nothing new, considering he graduated on Zoom.

Another student, in the M.B.A. program, told CBS13 that he wished the call to stay remote was made earlier than Thursday.

“It’s frustrating it brings me a lot of distrust in the administration,” said Daniel Chalolachvilli Mergener.

Another student, a freshman studying Biological Sciences, who lives in campus housing, told CBS13 that because campus is empty it feels like it did at the height of the pandemic.

“It’s really hard to work in your room alone on that, I think that would be a big adjustment going back to [remote learning] again,” said Genevieve Phares.

Getting Answers: Is there enough quarantine/isolation housing?

The university has nearly 250 beds reserved for students who need to quarantine or isolate if positive with COVID-19. At the peak of cases, so far, only half of the beds are full, according to Cindy Schorzman, medical director for Student Health and Counseling.

Right now, there are still enough beds if students required quarantine or isolation rooms, and are at no-cost to students who use them.

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There are also contingency plans, according to Schorzman, who said while many elements of this latest move-to-remote may feel familiar, the plans in place to respond, are different than 2 years ago.

“They’ve [university health officials] been planning this the entire time, including multiple contingency plans,” said Schorzman, “Even at our maximum, our on campus isolation and quarantine housing is only half full.”

Students need to isolate for 10 days from the day any symptoms started or the day you took your test, whichever is earlier.

After five days, if the student does not have symptoms or if any symptoms are resolving, he or she can end isolation upon a negative antigen COVID-19 test. If the student does not have a negative antigen COVID-19 test, he or she must continue to isolate for the 10 days.

A close contact who is fully vaccinated, shows no symptoms and follows testing requirements from the contact tracer, UC Davis guidance — based on CDPH guidance, students are not required to quarantine and can continue attending classes without any disruption.

On-Campus Testing Hits Record Numbers

At the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center the COVID-19 testing site is busy daily. Monday, the site saw a record number of tests conducted at 6,006. On average, the site sees 5,000-6,000 tests conducted per day.

Vaccination rates are near 100% for both students and staff: 99% of students are vaccinated and 95% of staff are vaccinated. Anyone who is eligible, and not exempt, is now required to get the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot by the end of January. Now, there is more time to reach that requirement due to three more weeks of remote learning.

Even with near 100% vaccination rates the surge of positive cases shows how contagious the Omicron Variant is, said Schorzman.

“The vaccine is still excellent in preventing serious disease and serious hospitalization,” said Schorzman.

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Chancellor May added in his online video address he would update the campus on the status of remote learning and COVID-19 impacts on January 14 as part of a series, “Checking In with Chancellor May.”