BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Students at UC Berkeley attended all classes online Wednesday for the first day of the new academic year under COVID-19 restrictions.
As you would imagine, college life is looking a lot different than it normally would due to the pandemic.
The area near the ASUC Student Union building would usually be bustling with students and staff. Instead, it was eerily quiet.
“It’s definitely pretty strange,” said UC Berkeley freshman Mai Sandell, who moved from Boston to Berkeley for his first year in the UC system.
“I know that I wouldn’t have a good time if I were just sitting at home at my desk not being able to meet any new people. Maybe online, but that’s not fun,” said freshman Dylan Crump.
At the dorms, students lined up to pick up their meals before heading back to their rooms to eat alone. They are being asked to self-sequester for at least seven days upon moving into their dorm rooms, which are all single occupancy.
“You definitely don’t see a lot of people just because we’re not supposed to, which is definitely different from the typical meeting of people freshman year,” said Sandell.
A few blocks away, empty tables and unoccupied chairs are the reality at 1951 Coffee Company.
“There’s not that high excitement, no orientation groups running around, getting excited about football games coming up. None of that’s happening anymore,” said coffee shop employee Doug Hewitt.
1951 Coffee Company, a non-profit that helps recent refugees find work, says revenue is down 90 percent since the pandemic shut-down started.
“We’re hoping with school starting up that there is a little bit of a bump, and we’ll be looking at that over the next few weeks. But it is a significant drop from where it would’ve been a year ago,” said Hewitt.
More than 31,000 undergraduates will start the school year learning remotely, but many are taking the chance to experience what college is supposed to be like.
“I need to be in a new environment, meet new people, get to know them better and be on campus, even though we can’t be in class,” said Crump.
“The entire hub of energy that normally you feel on the first day of school, it’s largely muted,” said Hewitt.
Students moving into on-campus dormitories were required to be tested before moving into their rooms.
University Health Services says testing is still limited, but officials are trying to increase capacity.
There are multiple sites available for students who have symptoms or who believe they’ve come in contact with someone who may be positive.
However, there is a different standard for some students. One member of the Cal Men’s Basketball team told KPIX 5 he is being tested once a week.