The Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. Photo courtesy of CSULB.

Classes will remain primarily online during the fall term throughout the California State University system, Chancellor Timothy White announced today, saying predictions of possible surges in COVID-19 cases later in the year mandate steps to protect students and faculty.

Speaking to members of the CSU Board of Trustees during an online meeting, White said there will be “limited exceptions for in-person activities that cannot be delivered virtually, are indispensable to the university’s core mission and can be conducted within the rigorous standards of safety and welfare.”

He said such exceptions could include clinical nursing classes, life-science laboratory courses and interactive architecture or engineering programs.

“But anything done on a campus this fall won’t be as it was in the past, it will be different,” White said. “… This is a new and expensive reality for us. For those limited courses where in-person instruction is indispensable and can be justified, enrollment per section will be less.”

He said social-distancing guidelines will also be mandated, along with personal protective equipment and heightened cleaning standards.

White’s announcement comes about a week after Cal State Long Beach president Jane Close Conoley said much the same thing.

In a message to the campus, Conoley said the university planned to continue with mostly online learning to avoid the need for abrupt changes if the virus reemerges.

It’s unclear how this will effect sports at CSULB and other campuses.

“We have not canceled sports for the Fall,” said CSULB athletic director Andy Fee. “We will continue to assess things as we move forward but right now we are still planning to compete. That may change at some point but not as of today.”

CSULB and the rest of the CSU system moved to a “virtual mode” in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic heightened. White said planning for the fall term has focused almost exclusively on continued virtual learning, based on experts’ predictions about the virus’ continued impact. He said infections and deaths are “beginning to plateau or subside in some, but not all, regions of California.”

“The nonpartisan academic researchers and medical and public health experts forecast a second smaller wave later in summer, followed by a very significant wave coupled with influenza forecast for late fall, and another wave in the first quarter of 2021,” White told the board. “Experts also point out that immunity in the population is now approaching the 2 to 3% range, and needs to be in the 60 to 80% percent range to begin to achieve the so-called ‘herd immunity.’ That won’t happen in the next 18 months, and there’s no vaccine yet. And while hope springs eternal, it is unlikely that one will become widely available during the coming academic year.”

Mike Guardabascio contributed to this report.