Stanford University announced Thursday that students returning from winter break will go back to remote learning for two weeks and will be required to obtain COVID-19 booster shots, joining other mainly East Coast universities as COVID-19 cases rise amid the Omicron variant threat.
When the semester begins Jan. 3, Stanford students will also be required to show proof of a booster shot by Jan. 31, with exceptions for those with medical and religious accommodations. The university will also continue previous restrictions placed on student gatherings for the first two weeks, restricting some to outdoor events and limiting food and drinks.
“We want to minimize disruptions to students’ coursework and also provide as much predictability as possible for both students and instructors,” Provost Persis Drell and Associate Vice Provost Russell Furr said in a message to the campus community. “The current uncertainty around Omicron poses a number of logistical challenges for the start of in-person classes, particularly if students either test positive over the break and cannot travel back to campus on time, or test positive upon arrival and need to isolate.”
At this time it appears no other California universities have announced they will require booster shots or delay a return to in-person learning.
On Wednesday, University of California President Michael V. Drake sent a letter to the UC community in an effort to encourage booster shots.
“Although there is still much we don’t know about the Omicron variant, public health officials have made clear that the variant has the potential to spread quickly,” Drake said, noting the increased concern due to the holiday season. “Vaccination, including boosters, is still our best line of defense.”
At UCLA, students who live in university housing on and off campus will be required to take a COVID-19 test after returning from travel, the university said. UC Irvine has not changed plans for the spring, according to spokesman Tom Vasich, but he added that the campus plans to “closely monitor the impact of the Omicron variant and transmission levels, and make adjustments as needed.”
USC intends to return in the spring with in-person classes and is strongly encouraging students to get the booster shot, according to its latest health advisory.
The two-week notice to Stanford students allows them and their professors to prepare for remote instruction. Students should not change their travel plans but are being asked to get tested before returning to campus, officials said. The Thursday message did not say whether university employees will also be required provide proof of COVID-19 boosters.
The announcement comes as the country faces a rise in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season and as thousands of students travel home. Other universities, including Princeton and Cornell, have moved to allow students to take exams remotely this semester. Princeton and Harvard universities have said students will be required to receive COVID-19 booster shots to return to campus in the spring.