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Frat Party Virus Outbreaks Force UC Berkeley to Start Fall Online Only

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University of California, Berkeley officials sent a letter to students Tuesday saying the school has made the “difficult decision” to offer only online classes at the start of the fall semester, which begins Aug. 26.

The move to remote-only instruction was announced a day earlier by Chancellor Carol Christ in a virtual meeting hosted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. It was a sharp turn from the campus’ preparations for limited in-person instruction, but the choice was made in response to the growing number of cases in Alameda County, and in the immediate UC Berkeley community.

The stairways at University of California, Berkeley will remain empty as the fall semester begins with just online instruction. Photo by Eden Rushing/Unsplash.

Christ said contact tracing has linked several recent Berkeley cases to fraternity parties.

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He said:

“After weeks of developing a very elaborate plan for a hybrid model in the fall, we decided after we had a serious fraternity outbreak, that it was just too risky to teach face to face.” 

The letter to students expressed a desire to get back to face-to-face instruction as soon as it is safe to do so and they continue preparing for implementation of “hybrid and flexible” class modes. Prior to the outbreak, the school was planning to bring students back in tiers for limited instruction, primarily focused on labs and other classes specifically impacted by in-person instruction and equipment. 

Unfortunately, that opportunity is not yet available.

Berkeley, Calif. confirmed Covid-19 cases by day. Data graphic courtesy of Alameda County Public Health Department.


As of Tuesday, the Alameda County Public Health Department reported 9,383 confirmed cases and 167 deaths. Berkeley accounts for 332 of the county’s cumulative total, with the majority of cases stemming from a July spike. 


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.