UC Berkeley announced today that it will shift to online education for the beginning of the fall semester due to worsening local conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university previously had plans to offer hybrid instruction with remote classes and in-person instruction until Thanksgiving Break, but cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Alameda County. UC Berkeley reported 25 cases of the virus among students last week. The previous week, 47 people contracted the virus after attending some fraternity parties. The city is currently working with the university’s health department to educate students and provide resources, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said during a recent town hall. 

The university did not directly address the student cases in the announcement sent to the community, but said the local increase in infections is “of particular concern.” Alameda County has been placed on a state watchlist along with neighboring counties, and public schools in Berkeley have also pivoted to remote learning for the fall.

Administrators said, however, that they are still working on hybrid education models and will consider implementing them down the line — perhaps later in the fall — in accordance with public health guidance.

“COVID-19 is showing us that we have to be not only agile, moving quickly between degrees of openness and sometimes pulling back, but also prepared to move forward as soon as conditions allow,” the announcement said. “This means we will keep a fully remote option open for all students, but also be prepared to implement our plans for select in-person instruction activities for those students who can take advantage of them, as conditions allow, even if it is partway through a term.”

Even if health conditions improve and the university is able to introduce some in-person education during the fall semester, administrators said they will keep their original plans for remote learning after Thanksgiving break due to increased travel, and the possibility of virus transmission.

The announcement was signed by the Chancellor for Student Affairs, Stephen C. Sutton, the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division, Lisa Garcia Bedolla, the Vice-Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, Catherine P. Koshland, and the Vice-Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, Oscar Dubón.

UC Berkeley campanile tower surrounded by trees
The UC Berkeley Campanile. Photo: Pete Rosos

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...