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UCSD Standing Firm On Ambitious Reopening Plan Despite Outbreaks On Other Campuses

A woman walks by a COVID-19 response sign at the Scripps Institution of Ocean...

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: A woman walks by a COVID-19 response sign at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla on Aug. 22, 2020.

While universities nationwide and in other parts of San Diego County are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases, UC San Diego is holding firm in its ambitious plan to bring back thousands of students back to campus later this month.

All told, about 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students will attend classes on campus in some capacity and 7,000 undergraduates will be living in dorms. These numbers differ greatly from those at other UC campuses.

In response to spikes of COVID-19 cases in recent months, both UC Berkeley and UCLA announced plans to scale back reopenings. Berkeley started its school year in late August with no in-person classes and just 2,200 students in campus housing. At UCLA, very few classes will be in-person and only about 700 students will live on campus.

UC San Diego officials say they feel confident about bringing so many students back because they’ve developed a rigorous safety plan that includes twice-a-month testing for all students and staff and single occupancy dorm rooms.

Yet, some students and faculty believe the reopening plan is doomed to fail.

“I don’t know what needs to happen before UCSD can bring students back, but I know right now is probably not the time to do it,” said Daniel Heinz, a PhD student in neurobiology at UCSD.

RELATED: San Diego County Reports 247 COVID-19 Cases, 12 Deaths As SDSU Cracks Down

Heinz points out that some other universities nationwide opened with similar plans as UCSD and are still having outbreaks, and says “we should be reconsidering the validity of our models.”

On Monday, Heinz sent an open letter signed by 600 students, alumni and faculty urging the university to reconsider its reopening plan.

UC San Diego officials, however, say they’re confident the plan will work.

“We have to try to figure out how to operate our schools, our businesses and our society in a new environment in which we’re gonna have the coronavirus looking over our shoulders for quite a while,” said Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UCSD who helped design the reopening plan.

RELATED: San Diego Schools With Both Academic, COVID-19 Disparities Face Reopening Dilemmas

Arianna Cubillan, a rising senior at UC San Diego said she feels eager to return to get back on campus and appreciates the opportunity to make the most out of her final year of college.

“I feel like the most important thing is you have to follow the guidelines,” said Arianna Cubillan, a rising senior at UC San Diego. “For me, I just like that they’re trying to give some semblance of a college experience instead of just saying no, it’s all online.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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