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USC To Begin Spring Semester With Virtual Classes

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The University of Southern California campus was fairly quiet on Friday evening, as thousands of students returned to their homes around the nation to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families. That won't be changing anytime soon, as the school has announced that their Spring semester will begin with a full week of virtual classes.

This sudden change is a result of the emergence of the Omicron variant and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, not only worldwide but here in Los Angeles County. The university decided that the extra week should assist in preventing any massive outbreaks amongst students, staff and other faculty members.

USC joins UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Riverside in announcing that their Spring semesters will begin remotely.

In an email sent to the entire school, the university disclosed that for the first week of the semester, from Jan. 10 to Jan 17, classes will be conducted online. In-person classes are scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Psychology Professor Laura Baker is in full agreement with the announcement since students and faculty members are already so well-accustomed to the online learning procedures it would be more beneficial in the long run. "Seems like a good idea to me," she said, "We've done this before, we know how to do it, so why not take the precaution."

Some students had a distinct feeling of deja vu from a year ago, when their initial back-to-school postponement was supposed to be just a week as well. However, as with most things in 2020, those plans were derailed as classes at the university were conducted through a mostly online standard.

Other students were more hopeful, including graduate student Jordan Vu, "I think it's a little different now, I don't think pushing back one week is going to be the same as last time. I think it'll just be the one week."

Students will be required to show a negative COVID test before moving into university housing, which opens on Thursday, January 6, and resuming in-person classes.

Although no deadline has been set, all eligible faculty, staff and students are required to receive a booster shot as soon as possible.

In true teacher fashion, Baker took at-home schooling experience and turned it into a lesson, "One thing that we've learned is that we have to be flexible. I'm just staying opened minded and trusting the university and the administration to figure out what to do that's best for our community."

The university also delayed its Spring New Student Convocation set for January 7, for at least two weeks.

They did indicate that all other scheduled events will continue, planned in full compliance with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines.

Vu agrees with the university's decision, "I think it's a good idea. I think every friend group I have has someone who's gotten COVID. So, maybe it's good to just test the waters."

As with many schools, USC will remain optimistic on the nearest possible return. But the school also plans to continue to adapt as changes come, ready to roll with the punches that have been continuously dealt by the many hands of the Coronavirus pandemic. Professor Baker is also ready for whatever comes her way, "If it escalates, if they have to make more decisions to keep us online for longer, whatever it takes is fine with me. We know how to do this, so, it's not really a big problem."

This news comes in light of the most recent COVID-19 case reporting from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

On Christmas Eve, L.A. County reported nearly 10,000 new cases, a tenfold increase over the amounts being recorded as recently as December 16. The Department of Public Health confirmed 9,988 new cases, as well as 850 patients hospitalized due to the virus and 21 additional deaths.

Whatever the end result may be, students are excited to get back into class. One International Graduate Student respected the school's quick-thinking, and is optimistic about an equally quick return to in-person learning, "I think it's very smart, because the surge of cases will happen in the first couple of weeks, and then it will start going back to the normal rate. ... Actually, we're both international students, and online class are something we could've done in our home countries. So, we want to do in-person and get in touch with that - it's an experience."

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