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UC San Diego will resume operating at full capacity in September

Students walk on the UC San Diego campus.
UC San Diego will return to operating at full capacity in September. Students will be required to wear masks.
(Gary Robbins / San Diego Union-Tribune )

In a sign that institutions are anticipating the end of the pandemic, UC San Diego announced Wednesday that it will resume operating at nearly full capacity when the fall quarter begins in September.

Most students will take in-person classes, many of which will be held in the university’s largest lecture halls. The rest will study online.

The university estimates that about 36,000 of its 40,000 students will return to campus for classes and that its residence halls, which can hold 17,500 students, will be almost 100% full.

Students will still be required to wear masks on a campus that has received national acclaim for keeping its COVID-19 infection rate low. On Wednesday, that rate was 0.13%. And they still will have to practice social distancing. But in a change, they’ll have to stay only 3 feet apart, instead of 6 feet.

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COVID-19 brings good news and bad news as University of California draws a record number of applicants, while Cal States see application numbers fall.

“We’re ready to return to campus,” Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said in a statement.

“Our students, faculty and staff went above and beyond throughout the pandemic to keep one another safe while continuing to learn, create and conduct research. While we learned many new ways to connect and serve our students over the past year, we are ready to reconnect in person, as safely as possible, in spaces specifically designed for collaborative learning and discovery.”

Khosla said the campus will phase in athletic events and social gatherings, provided that the risk of COVID-19 infection remains small. It is possible that UCSD will announce this week that it will hold outdoor commencement ceremonies in June.

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It is likely that the University of California Board of Regents will require all of the system’s students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they enroll for the fall — a policy strongly supported at UCSD.

“I think the arguments for [such a requirement] are very strong, and imagine that most universities will be moving in this direction,” Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, who is managing UCSD’s Return to Learn program, said last week.

“If such a decision is made, there would need to be a process to enable any medically justifiable opt-outs.”

The university said that it feels comfortable announcing that it will go back to full capacity because the vaccine rollout nationally is going well, and it appears that 90% of adults will be vaccinated by late August.


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