UC Berkeley, UMass campus lockdowns called “misguided” by Harvard epidemiologist

February 12, 2021

UPDATE February 21, 2021 – UMass ends lockdown, resumes in-person classes.

UPDATE February 16, 2021 – Lockdown lifted on Cal-Berkeley campus.

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — The University of California Berkeley ordered all students in residence halls sequestered immediately on February 1. The Division of Student Affairs said the lockdown would span through February 8. But on that day, they extended it another week, through February 15. It’s likely to be extended again.

The University increased the number of police patrolling campus for strict enforcement. Students were cited for eating in the courtyards and congregating outdoors in general, according to the Daily Californian. University officials said via email:

Be aware that students are subject to serious residential conduct sanctions for not complying with campus directives including being disqualified from housing and suspended from the University. We don’t wish for residents to be alarmed by this increased UCPD presence, but we must ensure the health of our community.

Students cannot exercise outdoors, according to the mandate. They can leave their dormitories only for food, medical care, mandatory COVID testing, and for verifiable emergencies. Students must “report” anyone violating the lockdown orders. They also must show their electronic badges proving that they are being tested regularly as well. Any staff member or university police officer can request the badges at any time.

From the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast

The University of Massachusetts is also locked down. Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy emailed all students telling them that the “self-sequester” will last two weeks. The email reads in part:

Self-sequestration means that students must stay in their residences, both on and off campus, except to get meals, undergo twice-weekly COVID testing, or to attend medical appointments. In addition, to minimize potential spread, students should refrain from travel from campus or outside the surrounding area. Failure to comply with these directives is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include removal from residence halls and/or suspension.

The FAQ section of the self-sequester web page highlights the extent of the measures. Students cannot exercise outdoors. School officials say students can get exercise by walking to the medical facilities twice per week for mandatory testing. Elevators are limited to one passenger at a time. In addition, the directive suggests that students quit their jobs to comply with the self-sequester.

We also understand that the directive to self-sequester may present financial hardship for students who rely on income from their employment. As a result, we have set up an Employment Assistance Grant program to support students in need.

Misguided measures

Dr. Julia Marcus, a Harvard epidemiologist, told the Boston Globe that the lockdown measures at UMass are misguided and that the university must adopt smarter policies. She said there is little to no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 is spread through short, outdoor contacts between two or more people. The university is risking its credibility and destroying trust between itself and the students with these measures, she said.

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