President's Message: Return to Campus Delayed
Dear Soka Community,
First of all, Happy New Year. I know that we continue to live in unprecedented times with the pandemic and most recently the unrest and tragic events in our nation’s capital. Considering this I wish I could share better news, but the winter COVID peak in Southern California has been more severe than officials expected. Given the current and near term forecast for the COVID pandemic in Orange County, we have come to the difficult decision to delay bringing our students back to campus at the beginning of the Spring semester. The class schedule for the semester will remain as planned and all classes will begin remotely.
Based on data showing extensive holiday travel and gatherings, both NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and CIDRAP Director Michael Osterholm have suggested in interviews that we can expect the number of daily COVID cases to continue to rise until around the middle of January. Hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise until mid-February, putting increasing strain on an already overstrained hospital system. Current ICU bed capacity is at 0 percent in Southern California. We cannot bring our students into a community where hospital resources would be in question if one of our students was in need of them. Our consultants from the American College Health Association concur with this decision.
In addition, the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain, first reported in the UK, has now been reported in Southern California. The science on this new strain is by no means conclusive, but there are indications that it could be significantly more contagious. If these preliminary estimates turn out to be true, we can expect a particularly severe COVID wave that could continue into the spring.
The progress of vaccinations against COVID has also been much slower than predicted (only 4 million vaccinated by the close of 2020 compared to the 20 million predicted), and in any case vaccination is unlikely to cover enough of the population to slow down this winter/spring COVID wave. For all these reasons we have decided to keep the campus closed and not bring students back at this time.
If you were accepted to return to campus, you will need to work with our financial aid office to adjust your financial aid offer. You will receive a separate email from the Office of Financial Aid shortly.
I understand this decision may create some challenging circumstances for those who were accepted to return to campus, such as housing accommodations. Our Dean of Students, Hyon Moon will also be sending an email shortly to gather information on those situations to determine if and how we might be able to assist.
While we have made every effort possible to have some of you return to campus, I know this is disappointing news. Ultimately, I believe it would be irresponsible to bring students back to SUA under the current circumstances in our community.
We will continue to monitor the situation with the possibility of permitting students returning later in the spring if circumstances improve. We will provide an update by the end of the month for those students who petitioned and were accepted to return to campus.
Please continue to stay healthy and safe.
Note: This message was delivered to the Soka community via email on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2020