SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – All California State University campuses will remain under mostly virtual learning for the Spring 2021 semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“This decision is the only responsible one available to us at this time,” CSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a letter to the university community (.pdf) on Thursday. “And it is the only one that supports our twin North Stars of safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of our faculty, staff, students and communities, as well as enabling degree progression for the largest number of students.”

White cited several reasons to announce the decision four months before Spring classes were set to begin, citing a potential wave of infections later this year coinciding with the flu, along with another potential wave sometime in March. Getting adequate tests also remained a concern.

The chancellor also cited seasonal factors that could worsen the pandemic, including gatherings over the Labor Day weekend and wildfire evacuations that could also increase spread.

The nation’s largest higher education system in the country with more than 437,000 students and 23 campuses, including San Francisco State, San Jose State, CSU East Bay and Sonoma State, the CSU system decided to go mostly virtual for the Fall 2020 semester back in May.

According to White, less than seven percent of Fall 2019 course offerings are being held in-person for the Fall 2020 semester.

Thursday’s announcement comes as some CSU campuses have been struggling to control the spread of the coronavirus among students, despite the limits to in-person learning. At San Diego State, more than 500 students have tested positive in recent weeks. In response, the university paused most in-person instruction for four weeks and issued a stay-at-home order for students living in dorms and in off-campus housing.

In-person classes were also halted at Chico State last week after 36 students and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Many outbreaks at colleges across the country have been tied to gatherings among students where social distancing and mask wearing protocols were not being followed.

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