Fall weekends in Berkeley, California, have passed in a more subdued manner than years past.
Where throngs of college students once partied raucously, sororities and fraternities now are dark and quiet. Around the University of California’s campus, it’s clear school is underway. But where is everyone?
Most students have been staying inside – for weeks.
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Like much of California, Berkeley students have faced overlapping crises that have limited options for learning, socializing and carrying out everyday life.
First, it was the coronavirus. The university scrapped its plan for a hybrid of in-person and online courses this fall when COVID-19 cases mushroomed in mid-July. Many students moved home. Those who stayed found pandemic restrictions in place on everything from large gatherings to indoor dining.
Then, the fires came. California is battling the worst fire season in recorded history. Smoke has blanketed much of the state for weeks.
That means physical exertion outside is not recommended, and prolonged exposure can lead to headaches, sore throats and worse. Weeks after thick smoke first sent Californians inside, fires have sparked again across California. The taste of smoke comes and goes, and at times, San Francisco is barely visible across the Bay.
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Online classes have made the whole experience more isolating, UC Berkeley third-year undergraduate Katie Lyon told USA TODAY. Lyon, co-president of the Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society, has found it hard to practice self-care while staring at a screen all day, which is why she usually hikes “every opportunity that I get between my academic schedule.”
That’s become more difficult this