Cal's COVID-19 Outbreak Grows As School Announces Virtual Start To Fall Semester

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By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Administrators at UC Berkeley have announced the fall semester will begin with fully remote instruction, pointing to COVID-19 trend lines in the state, region and Alameda County, in particular.

"However, we continue our preparations to implement hybrid and/or flexible modes of instruction as soon as public health conditions allow," a news release Tuesday said.

Select in-person activities will be made available for "students who can take advantage of them, as conditions allow." Students will also have the option to contiue remote learning if the school resumes in-person classes during the fall semester.

Campus update: We have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction.

— UC Berkeley (@UCBerkeley) July 21, 2020

The academic year starts August 26.

There now are more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the school, mostly among students, and dozens of cases have been traced back to fraternity and sorority parties in June. Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford pediatrician and infectious disease expert, believes it demonstrates the need for public health officials to get the message to young adults to take this virus seriously. 

"It’s really about getting them to understand that they have some kind of personal and social responsibility to family members around them, friends and others," said Dr. Maldonado, as younger people are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus and therefore may feel less impacted by the pandemic. 

Young adults may not be swayed by the same messages as other generations. 

"These are people who are old enough and mature enough to be able to think on their own and act on their own, but are really still strongly influenced by peers and also by whatever’s going on in the local culture," said Dr. Maldonado, who is advocating for a targeted messaging campaign. "One of the possible approaches is really to use peer to peer education. That seems to work really well."

Many schools and universities are working on this type of messaging.

A UC Berkeley spokesperson told KCBS Radio that the university has been reaching out directly to student groups about unsafe behavior. 

But, that tactic will not reach everyone, according to Dr. Maldonado.

"Less than half of all people in this age group actually go to college," Dr. Maldonado said. "So we need to find a way to get to the other young adults who aren’t going to college and find out how to reach them."