UC students react to Bay Area’s ‘shelter in place,’ online classes

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Alameda County issued a “shelter in place” ordinance Monday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, but students say staying inside and taking online classes make it hard to focus on school.

Many UC Berkeley students said they are taking the plea to stay at home quite seriously. Although a number of students have already left campus and gone home, some students remain in Berkeley.

“There’s no one on the streets,” said campus junior Stefano Hurtado. “It feels like a ghost town.”

Restaurants are open only for takeout and drive-thru, and bars and public meeting spaces are closed, as the shelter-in-place policy aims to prevent large gatherings and promote social distancing. Events on campus and in the Bay Area, including Cal Day and concerts, are being canceled.

Many campus seniors are especially concerned that their commencement ceremony will be canceled. Some said they didn’t realize that they had already attended their last in-person college class.

The ban on nonessential travel as part of the shelter-in-place ordinance is changing many students’ spring break plans. With some flights being canceled and people wanting to prevent further spread of the disease, many are opting or have no choice but to stay home.

“I was going to go to Europe for spring break — that got canceled,” Hurtado said. “It completely destroyed my spring break plans. It destroyed a lot of people’s plans.”

Over the past two weeks, classes have transitioned to be completely online, largely through video conferencing platform Zoom. While students are adjusting to completing schoolwork from home, many are finding it difficult to stay focused on lectures and to find the motivation to do work, according to UCLA sophomore Asim Khan.

Without the same resources that are available on campus and without being able to interact with professors and GSIs in person, some students are concerned about learning effectively.

“I think tuition should be adjusted,” Khan said, when talking about the difficulties of remote learning and the lack of campus resources at home.

For students and instructors with weak Wi-Fi connections at home, online classes pose an additional issue.

To make up for the difficulties in adjustments, some professors are giving homework extensions and changing midterms and finals to be open-book, take-home or online, which may reduce the rigor of the classes, Hurtado said.

UC Berkeley senior Jordan Byck said he feels discontent with the changes that come with online learning.

“I don’t think I will learn nearly as much,” Byck said. “I think classes will be easier because of it, but I’m not excited about it. It seems kind of like a waste.”

The shelter-in-place order makes the situation seem more concerning than before and is scaring students from going outside altogether, according to Hurtado. He said it has added a “frenzy to the situation.”

Student spirits are not high. For the most part, people are “bummed” not to be able to see their friends, according to Khan.

Some students are concerned about getting bored from being stuck in one place all day, Khan said. Students say they have not left their houses more than once a day since the shelter-in-place announcement Monday.

To relieve stress and boredom, people are picking up new hobbies, playing card games and exercising.

Khan, who is from Contra Costa County, which also enacted a shelter in place, said while he agrees that the shelter-in-place order is “necessary” for public safety, he is concerned about the uncertainty of the length of this ordinance.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be three weeks or if it’s going to be longer,” said campus GSI Joseph Gorelik. “But if it helps (mitigate) the spread of the virus and save lives, then it will be worth it.”

Contact Gigi Nibbelink at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @giginibbelink.