Saturday, April 4, 2020

Regents' Health Services Committee to Discuss Coronavirus

The agenda of the Regents' Health Services Committee is now published:


Date: April 15, 2020
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Locations: Teleconference meeting conducted in accordance with Paragraph 3 of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20

Agenda – Open Session 

Public Comment Period (20 minutes)
Action: Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of February 12, 2020
H1 Discussion: The Response of the UC Health System to the COVID-19 Pandemic
H2 Discussion: Community Benefit and Impact, UC Health


UCLA Count at 12

Updates on confirmed cases among the UCLA campus community

Last Updated 

Currently, 12 people among the UCLA campus community have been confirmed by medical professionals to have COVID-19 and have reported their diagnoses to UCLA.
Consistent with the protocols for infectious disease response, anyone identified within our campus community as being at risk of exposure from these individuals will be notified if they need to be isolated or tested.
The increased availability of testing for COVID-19 will reveal more cases in our campus and local communities. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, maintain a safe distance from others, wash your hands regularly, and cough or sneeze into tissues or your sleeve. 
Information on confirmed cases:
  • April 3: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 18.
  • April 3: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 13.
  • April 2: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 14.

No Tuition Reduction in Spring

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

...The University of California and California State University systems will not offer tuition reductions for the spring term, according to spokespersons. They are giving pro-rated refunds for housing and dining services..., because most students left campus for the rest of the school year.

...UC Berkeley students launched a petition of their own, gathering nearly 2,400 signatures. That petition noted the University of Maryland board of regents unanimously voted in favor of partial refunds of spring fees, in the wake of coronavirus safety measures. But the UC system has avoided a similar move, to the dismay of students such as Bradley Devlin. Devlin, a senior from Yorba Linda (Orange County) majoring in political economics, returned home to help his dad run his small business during the coronavirus crisis. Devlin pointed to the on-campus resources and professor visits not available to students the rest of the spring semester. “You’re not getting the full value of these services you’re accustomed to,” he said in a phone interview.

Full story at

Will You Get Personal Cash April 6?

As part of the recent "stimulus" legislation, individuals are supposed to receive cash grants up to certain income levels based on past tax filings. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) , many folks are supposed to receive this money directly in their bank accounts by Monday. We'll see.

Broad-Based Cash Assistance in COVID-19 Recovery Actions 
(from Legislative Analyst's Office)

On Friday, March 27, the President signed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal relief act aimed at mitigating the economic and public health consequences of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The CARES Act includes direct cash assistance for most Americans. In this post, we describe that cash assistance and put it in the broader context of existing income support programs and the economic challenges presented by the current public health crisis. (Everything in this post reflects our best understanding at the time of publication. We will continue to review and may update this post as more information becomes available.)

Public Health Response to COVID-19 Limits Many Californians’ Income. Although the full economic consequences of the current COVID-19 public health crisis will not be known for some time, many Californians already have experienced reduced income. For some Californians, reduced income has resulted from reduced hours or temporary business closures and their incomes are expected to increase soon after current public health measures are eased. For others, reduced income has followed layoffs or other effects expected to be longer-lasting.

State, Federal Government Operate Several Long-Standing Cash Assistance Programs for Targeted Populations. For example, one large, long-standing cash assistance program is the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, which supported more than 350,000 low-income families in 2019. Participating families receive cash assistance that varies based on household size, income level, and region. Cash assistance is also provided through the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) program, which provides cash assistance to low-income aged, blind, and disabled individuals. Another related program is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or its state-funded equivalent CalEITC, which provides refundable tax credits to low-income workers.

State and Federal Government Also Ensure Some Wage Replacement in Specific Situations. One example of a wage replacement program is unemployment insurance (UI), which provides time-limited cash assistance to recently unemployed workers. Other examples include paid family leave and disability insurance. (See our recent post for more information on how COVID-19 relief actions have affected UI.)

Existing Income Support and Wage Replacement Programs Have Limited Reach. Although caseloads in many cash assistance programs tend to grow as overall economic conditions decline (for example, CalWORKs served approximately 70 percent more households during the Great Recession than it does today), none is designed to have a universal reach. For example, individuals without children are not eligible for CalWORKs, whereas those who are still employed can only receive UI under certain conditions.

Federal Government Issued One-Time, Broad-Based Cash Assistance in Last Two Recessions. In 2001, the federal government issued about 90 million checks nationwide, totaling as much as $300 per single adults ($600 for married couples). Then again in 2008, the federal government issued about 125 million checks nationwide totaling between $300 and $600 for single adults ($600 to $1,200 for married couples) and an additional $300 per child. (In both cases, the size of the rebate depended on recipients’ income.) In both cases, these direct cash payments were intended in large part to alleviate the economic stress many households experienced during then current economic downturns.

Recent Federal Legislation Includes Broad-Based, One-Time Cash Assistance. Under the CARES Act, adults earning less than $75,000 in their most recent tax filing (2019 for those who have already filed, 2018 otherwise) are generally eligible for a one-time cash payment of $1,200, and $500 for each child. As Figure 1 shows, these payments are phased out starting at $75,000 of income for single adults with no children ($112,500 for single adults with children, and $150,000 for married couples), such that a single adult is no longer eligible for assistance if they earn $99,000 or more. The administration has publicly set a goal to start processing these payments by April 6.

Some Low-Income Californians Are Not Eligible for Direct Cash Assistance. Although the direct cash assistance in the CARES Act is far more broad-based than in other cash assistance programs, it is still limited in two important ways. First, only Californians who have already filed federal tax returns for 2018 or 2019 will receive cash assistance. (Some individuals who do not file taxes will still receive assistance, for example some older adults living primarily off of Social Security benefits.) Millions of Californians do not earn enough income to require them to file tax returns.

Though some of these Californians nevertheless file taxes (in many cases to qualify for federal tax credits), an unknown number do not. (The federal deadline to file 2019 tax returns was recently extended to July 15, and anyone filing by that date would appear to be eligible for the assistance.) Second, about 800,000 California residents file taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security Number due to their immigration status. The CARES Act renders ITIN filers ineligible for cash assistance.

Would Not Affect Eligibility for Large Means-Tested Programs. Although income typically affects individuals’ eligibility for many social service programs, it is our understanding that the direct payments authorized by the CARES Act will not affect eligibility for the largest of these programs. In particular, subsidized health coverage provided by Medi-Cal, food assistance provided through CalFresh, and cash assistance provided by CalWORKS do not include nonrecurring lump sum payments such as these when calculating household income for purposes of program eligibility.

Expected to Provide Roughly $25 Billion to Californians. Using tax data from 2017 (the latest available, although not perfectly representative of 2018 and 2019 returns), we roughly estimate about 14 million California households (or about 85 percent of all tax filers) will be eligible to receive a total of about $25 billion to $30 billion in direct cash assistance from the CARES Act. This assumes all those who qualify—based on 2017 federal returns—would receive the benefit. Although this is our best estimate, we acknowledge that there is uncertainty in the number of individuals who will ultimately receive the CARES Act benefit for two primary reasons. First, the number of eligible federal tax filers in 2018 and 2019 may be more (or less) than the number who filed in 2017. Second, low-income individuals who were not required to file a federal return for 2018 could now file for 2019 in order to receive the benefit. To maximize the benefit to Californians, the state may wish to consider efforts (such as outreach) to increase the number of low-income individuals filing federal tax returns in order to qualify them for the benefit.

Effect on California Economy Is Uncertain. Part of the motivation for sending one-time cash assistance to households is the expectation that these households will spend the cash in a way that creates new economic activity. Research on checks sent out in 2001 and 2008 provides some support for the expectation that this cash assistance will boost the state and national economies. That being said, several unique aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak—such as the wide-spread closure of businesses, cancellation of major events, and restricted mobility of much of the population—raise serious questions about the applicability of past research to the current situation. For this reason, while the cash assistance provided by the CARES Act likely will create some new economic activity, the ultimate magnitude is highly uncertain.


More Info:

Waiting for stimulus check or unemployment benefits? Here’s when they might arrive

David Lightman, April 3, 2020, Sacramento Bee

Another two weeks and that cash payment of $1,200 or more should be in most people’s bank accounts. But if you are getting a paper check, or just lost your job, it could take a lot longer to see at least some of your benefits. Washington and Sacramento officials say they’re working furiously to get economic aid to the people who need it most, which nowadays is just about everyone. But not all money is going to come everyone’s way at the same time.

There’s no easy way to learn what’s coming when. Whether online or on the phone, response lines are jammed. Websites are not updated quickly. One suggestion: Contact your local congressional office. But be warned: They’re swamped too. In the past two weeks alone, for instance, the office of Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, has received 995 emails and 104 phone calls related just to COVID-19. Of those 155 have turned into cases; in normal weeks, the office opens 15 cases per week on different issues.

So the watchword among the experts is simple: “Be patient,” advised Nicole Kaeding, economist at the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation. Here’s an estimated timeline compiled from government agencies, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office and taxpayer and interest groups, subject to constant change:


The first day small businesses can apply for “Paycheck Protection Program” forgivable loans to help largely with payroll. Businesses generally must have fewer than 500 employees. Some of the money can be used to pay rent, mortgages and utilities. Nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors are also eligible, though not all can apply Friday (see below).

A total of $350 billion is available, and the National Federation of Independent Business is encouraging applicants to see their lender as soon as possible since there is a funds limit. There’s been criticism from banks and businesses that the government has not prepared lenders properly for the onslaught, so it could be awhile before you can get through.


That’s the latest estimate as to when the $600 a week federal unemployment benefit could be available to California workers, according to the state California Economic Development Department, which manages the program. The department said it is working on the programming needed to implement the federal program.

And, it said, “that programming can’t be finalized until states receive the details and final guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. Barring any big surprises in that guidance when it arrives, it is EDD’s hope that the extra benefit payments can begin next week and continue thereafter as bi-weekly payments come due for unemployed Californians.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak triggered an unprecedented number of applications, about 80% of first time claimants got their checks within three weeks. The agency has been increasing staffing and working extra hours and is still aiming for that timeline. California now provides a maximum of $450 of state benefits per week to claimants, and the federal government will provide another $600 weekly until the end of July. It’s unclear whether the sums will be in one check or sent separately.


Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday cash payments would be begin “within two weeks,” and The Washington Post reported they could as soon as late next week.

“I told you it would be three weeks, I’m now committing to two weeks,” Mnuchin said.

An estimated 60% of filers should see the extra funds distributed this way. Eligible for the full $1,200 per adult amount are individuals with incomes of $75,000 or less and joint filers earning $150,000 or less, plus $500 per child. The amounts are then phased out for higher incomes, and is unavailable entirely for individuals who earned $99,000 and couples who made $198,000. The incomes are taken from 2018 tax returns unless you’ve already filed a 2019 return.


The first day independent contractors and self-employed people can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program Loans.


State and local governments are due to get a total of $150 billion to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. Allocations are made largely on population. California is due to receive $15.3 billion, and up to 45% of that money can go to governments of cities with more than 500,000 people. That is expected to include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno and Sacramento. The money should be released April 24, according to Erlinda Doherty, director of the budgets & revenue committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Anticipated starting date for issuing for paper checks for the lowest income consumers, probably those making $10,000 or less. The Washington Post reported that paper checks would then be sent out depending on income, with those earning less than $20,000 due payments May 1. Each week, the income level would grow $10,000, a process that could take the entire summer. There could be another alternative, though.

“In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail,” according to the House Ways and Means Committee Republican staff.


Homeowners with Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages can qualify to defer or lower payments for up to a year if they are unable to pay full amounts because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

If you think you qualify, contact whoever handles your mortgage, the Department of Housing and Urban Development advises. And, the agency says,”you can use any available means of communication to contact your servicer to request a forbearance. This includes, but is not limited to, phone calls, emails, texts, fax, mail, teleconferencing, etc.” Homeowners are also advised to contact a HUD-approved housing counseling office...

Full story at

Friday, April 3, 2020

UCLA Count Now at 10

Updates on confirmed cases among the UCLA campus community

Last Updated 

Currently, 10 people among the UCLA campus community have been confirmed by medical professionals to have COVID-19 and have reported their diagnoses to UCLA.
Consistent with the protocols for infectious disease response, anyone identified within our campus community as being at risk of exposure from these individuals will be notified if they need to be isolated or tested.
The increased availability of testing for COVID-19 will reveal more cases in our campus and local communities. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, maintain a safe distance from others, wash your hands regularly, and cough or sneeze into tissues or your sleeve. 
Information on confirmed cases:
  • April 2: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 14.
  • March 28: A staff member who lives in an on-campus apartment.
  • March 28: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing.
  • March 26: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 13.
  • March 25: A student who lived on campus but has been at home since March 12.
  • March 19: A staff member who works on campus.
  • March 17: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing.
  • March 16: A staff member who works off campus.
  • Source:

UC-San Francisco Equipment Shortage Protested

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Nurses on the front lines of the Bay Area’s coronavirus response on Thursday called on the state to provide more personal protective equipment, warning that a shortage of masks and gowns could have devastating consequences for medical personnel and their patients.

The registered nurses from UCSF and Seton Medical Center in Daly City — members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United — protested outside their hospitals to highlight a shortage of N95 respirators and other protective gear critical for health care workers treating patients infected with the virus.

Both hospitals received additional medical supplies Thursday [that were] expected to last several weeks...

Full story at

Here are the governor's recent news conferences which deal in part with available equipment:

April 2:

or direct to

April 1:

or direct to

March 31:

or direct to

Preview of Upcoming UC Budget Woes

...(Napolitano) said it... remains unclear how the coronavirus crisis will affect UC’s budget picture. In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 5% funding boost for UC, amounting to $217.7 million, but Napolitano said she was recently told that he will remove the increase in his May revision. However, the state will revisit its funding to UC in August or September after July tax returns are in, she said.

At the same time, UC regents withdrew a proposal to raise tuition for each incoming class for the next five years, beginning this fall. Napolitano said Thursday that regents would not bring back that proposal at their May meeting...

The ongoing grad student/TA strike - Part 2

From the Daily CalUC Santa Cruz GSIs who were fired after a continued wildcat strike for a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLAwere offered reinstatement Monday.

The actions at UC Santa Cruz, or UCSC, inspired strikes across the UC system, including at UC Berkeley, where a full work stoppage is still in effect. The reinstatements for the spring quarter at UCSC and the opportunity to find appointments in future quarters hinge on instructors inputting withheld grades and agreeing not to participate in future unauthorized strike action, according to a United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 press release. UAW Local 2865 represents UC tutors, readers, GSIs and TAs.
On the Pay Us More UCSC website, UCSC GSIs leveled a counteroffer to the reinstatements in a letter posted Tuesday that addresses UCSC administration. This counteroffer lists various conditions for resuming their positions, including a guarantee of full reinstatement for all of those who fired and compensation for those who cannot find spring quarter appointments.
“The agreement as it stands, which we have refused, would make all future wildcat labor action toward a COLA (or any other demand) virtually impossible for current graduate students at UCSC, and sets a very dangerous precedent for killing the COLA movement on other campuses,” said UCSC graduate students Kiley McLaughlin and Ghoncheh Azadeh in a joint statement.
McLaughlin and Azadeh, who were both fired, said in their statement that they will likely not be returning as instructors this quarter, as they believe UCSC administration will not accept the terms of the counteroffer. McLaughlin and Azadeh also noted the impact of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, on graduate student workers and striking efforts, saying the pandemic has “dampened morale,” and strikers are rethinking their strategy in the context of the transition to online learning. They added that the pandemic has only enhanced the “urgency of our demands for a living wage.”
UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez‑Jason said in an email that the campus has “no plans” to reinstate instructors still withholding fall quarter grades but added that UCSC has allocated financial support measures and offered two temporary housing assistance programs to support GSIs. “We are committed to working with our students and the community on a sustainable housing solution to resolve the issues underlying this strike,” Hernandez-Jason said in the email.

Return of the Straight Lecture? - Part 2

The way it was (and maybe needs to be).
In an earlier post, at a time when instructors were just converting to the online format, we posted about TV instruction that goes back to the 1950s (and radio instruction that goes back to the 1920s).* Straight lecture. One-way communication. No bells and whistles.

There is now a continuing flow of Zoombombing stories. Today's Inside Higher Ed has yet another article on the problem.** Even with passwords and other protections, if students share the sign-on information, the problem will continue. Those with experience in online education have recommended that given the sudden nature of the conversion, just getting basic information out there may be the immediate solution. Q&A can be done later by email. Obviously, there are some courses that require online interaction, such as language instruction. But the old method - straight lecture - is simple and direct. Moreover, it doesn't have to be viewed "live." Students can access a recording at any time. Just saying...

How bad is it? Bad, really bad - Part 5

You will see headlines today that the unemployment rate (based on a survey in mid-March (before the full effects of the coronavirus campus began to be felt) jumped from 3.5% in February to 4.4% in March. A jump by that magnitude is itself highly unusual. Moreover, buried in the news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is this sentence:

If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to “other reasons” (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical March) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been almost 1 percentage point higher than reported. However, according to usual practice, the data from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses.*

In short, respondents to the survey on which the unemployment rate and other labor force data are based in March may be understated by a percentage point due to confusion because of the unusual circumstances. If the official jump in the unemployment rate by 0.9 percentage points is highly unusual, a jump of 1.9 percentage points (based on the confusion adjustment) is another off-the-chart data point.

Note: Data at the state level will become available later.

Location Request: Purpose Unclear

We have a report that UCOP wants to know - by today! - about UC employees who are now out-of-state or who have crossed state lines as part of "working at home." Possibly, there are tax implications if someone normally employed in California has moved to another state - with a different state income tax system (and payroll tax system). However, the reason for the request is not specified.

It applies to situations in which:

  • The employee normally works in California but due to COVID-19 is now working in another state or country.
  • The employee had preexisting out-of-state work arrangements (for example: in New York), but due to COVID-19 is now working in another state (for example: Connecticut).

We will provide more information about this request if it becomes available.

Reassurance or End Date?

Email circulated yesterday evening below. On the one hand, it provides assurance. On the other hand, it has an end date: June 30. That's less than three months from now.

To the UC community:

We write today to acknowledge a new reality and to announce our decision to do all we can to support our UC family during this unprecedented time.
The novel coronavirus has now affected everyone on the planet in some way, and by all indications, we can expect more disruption in the weeks ahead. We are keenly aware of the health concerns and economic uncertainty weighing on the entire University community. Let us assure you: we are in this together.
Our people are the heart of the University of California and allow UC to live up to our aspirations and values. As we face the personal and professional challenges of the day, we are committed to doing all we can to alleviate concerns about income or job stability during this time.
To that end, today we collectively announce that there will be no COVID-19 related layoffs for all career employees through the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020.
Providing pay and health and welfare benefits during this period will allow employees to more effectively care for themselves and their families as we all support California and the nation by staying home and doing our part to reduce the spread of this virus.
To those of you who are performing critical services in the community, caring for our patients and continuing to teach and conduct research, we could not be more grateful for your hard work, courage, and dedication to serving the public good in this turbulent time.
To UC employees on our campuses, administrative offices, and clinical settings who are unable to work because of facility closures, curtailed operations, or other disruptions due to COVID- 19, we are committed to supporting you as long as we are able. We look forward to working with our unions to redeploy workers to areas of need and keep as many employees working as possible.
While there may still be reductions in hours, and in some cases staff, as a part of our typical student and career employee summer staffing and clinical workforce adjustments, we are committed to doing our best to keep people earning a paycheck whenever possible. The University will also begin conversations with various employee groups to consider the conditions under which we may be able to extend this promise of job protection beyond June 30th, should that be necessary.
Local HR departments will be working in real time to address questions from employees. We cannot predict exactly how the situation will evolve, or what future measures we may need to take to uphold our mission. What we do know is that we will face that future with courage and find our way together.
Fiat lux,

Thursday, April 2, 2020

UC Admissions Changes

Changes in admissions standards due to the coronavirus crisis for UC announced through the California Dept. of Education:

The University of California’s Response to COVID-19: Admissions and Financial Aid

The following systemwide measures are being taken to address the educational disruption of students affected by the COVID-19 crisis (as of April 1, 2020)


UC will temporarily suspend the letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 for all students, including UC’s most recently admitted freshmen. Freshman decisions have been released at all campuses: admissions offers have gone out to students.

The deadline to accept the offer of admission is May 1; campuses plan to provide maximum flexibility to students who request extensions and deferment of deposits. Individual campuses may consider extending a campus’ deadline beyond the systemwide date and will communicate this information directly with admitted students.

UC requests submission of final transcripts by July 1. If schools are unable or unsure about their ability to issue transcripts by this date, we request that they notify UC at and include a date when transcripts are expected to be available. No rescission of student admissions offers will result from students or schools missing official final transcript deadlines, and students will retain admission status through the first day of class until official documents are received by campuses.

The College Board recently announced changes to the AP exam content and format for spring 2020. UC recognizes the effort that students have already applied in these challenging courses and will continue to award UC credit consistent with previous years for 2020 AP exams completed with scores of 3, 4, or 5.


UC will temporarily suspend the cap on the number of transferable units with Pass/No Pass grading applied toward the minimum 60 semester/90 quarter units required for junior standing.

The systemwide Academic Senate is making efforts to request departmental faculty and campus admissions offices to exercise flexibility with transfer students applying for admission for 2020-21 academic year.

The deadline for transfer students to accept offers of admission to fall 2020 is June 1. Campuses will provide maximum flexibility to students who request extensions and deferment of deposits.


The University understands that families’ financial circumstances may have changed or may change in the coming months. UC campuses will work with families over the summer to review their eligibility for financial aid and, where allowable, to adjust financial aid packages to reflect their new financial circumstances. Follow-up to students will be handled by email responses, or telephone calls or virtual meetings as needed.


The temporary suspension of the letter grade requirement in A-G courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 extends to all students currently enrolled in high school who may apply to UC for admission to fall 2021, 2022 or 2023. For admission purposes, UC will continue to calculate a GPA using all A-G courses completed with letter grades in grades 10 and 11, including summer terms following grades 9, 10 and 11. Courses completed with Pass or Credit grades in winter/spring/summer 2020 will not be used in the GPA calculation but will meet A-G subject area requirements. No student will be penalized in the campus admission review processes for earning Pass grades in A-G coursework during the winter/spring/summer 2020 terms.

Additionally, the University recognizes the challenges that students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in response, is suspending the standardized test requirement for students applying for fall 2021 freshman admission.


Zoom Concerns - Part 5

As we have noted in past posts, Zoom has become the default app for use in online education and meetings, not only at UC but throughout higher ed. Yet there is a continuing flow of concerns and examples of "Zoombombing" being reported, including at UCLA. Here is a further analysis:

‘Zoom is malware’: why experts worry about the video conferencing platform: The company has seen a 535% rise in daily traffic in the past month, but security researchers say the app is a ‘privacy disaster

Kari Paul, 2 Apr 2020, The Guardian

As coronavirus lockdowns have moved many in-person activities online, the use of the video-conferencing platform Zoom has quickly escalated. So, too, have concerns about its security. In the last month, there was a 535% rise in daily traffic to the download page, according to an analysis from the analytics firm SimilarWeb. Its app for iPhone has been the most downloaded app in the country for weeks, according to the mobile app market research firm Sensor Tower. Even politicians and other high-profile figures, including the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the former US federal reserve chair Alan Greenspan, use it for conferencing as they work from home.

But security researchers have called Zoom “a privacy disaster” and “fundamentally corrupt” as allegations of the company mishandling user data snowball. On Monday, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, sent a letter to the company asking it to outline the measures it had taken to address security concerns and accommodate the rise in users. In the letter, James said Zoom had been slow to address security vulnerabilities “that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams”.

A spokesman from Zoom told the Guardian on Wednesday it was planning to send James the requested information and comply with the request. “Zoom takes its users’ privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously,” the spokesman said. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are working around the clock to ensure that hospitals, universities, schools and other businesses across the world can stay connected and operational.”

And on Thursday, the company announced it would freeze all new feature development and shift all engineering resources on to security and safety issues that have been called to attention in recent weeks. Here’s what you need to know about the challenges with Zoom:

‘Zoom bombing’ on the rise

On 30 March, the FBI announced it was investigating increased cases of video hijacking, also known as “Zoom-bombing”, in which hackers infiltrate video meetings, often shouting racial slurs or threats. Zoom meetings can be accessed by a short number-based URL, which can easily be generated and guessed by hackers, a January report from the security firm Checkpoint found. Zoom has released guidelines in recent days about how to prevent unwanted guests from crashing video meetings and a spokesman told the Guardian it had also been working to educate its users on protections through blogposts and webinars.

No end-to-end encryption

Zoom has falsely advertised itself as using end-to-end encryption, a system that secures communication so that it can only be read by the users involved, a report from the Intercept found. Zoom confirmed in a blogpost on Wednesday that end-to-end encryption was not currently possible on the platform and apologized for the “confusion” it caused by “incorrectly” suggesting the opposite.

Security flaws

A number of security flaws affecting Zoom have been reported in the past and as recently as this week. In 2009, it was revealed Zoom had quietly installed a hidden web server on user devices that could allow the user to be added to a call without their permission. And a bug discovered this week would enable hackers to take over a Zoom user’s Mac, including tapping into the webcam and hacking the microphone. The company said on Thursday it had issued a release to fix the Mac issue, but the number of security issues with Zoom in the past make it as bad as malicious software, said Arvind Narayanan, an associate computer science professor at Princeton University. “Let’s make this simple,” he said. “Zoom is malware.”

In-app surveillance measures

Zoom has been criticized for its “attention tracking” feature, which allows a host to see if a user clicks away from a Zoom window for 30 seconds or more. This feature would allow employers to check if employees are really tuned into a work meeting or if students are really watching a classroom presentation remotely.

Selling user data

A report from Motherboard found Zoom sends data from users of its iOS app to Facebook for advertising purposes, even if the user does not have a Facebook account. Zoom changed some of its policies in response and said on Thursday that the company “has never sold user data in the past and has no intention of selling users’ data going forward.” But the Motherboard story was cited in a lawsuit filed in a federal court in California this week, accusing Zoom of failing to “properly safeguard the personal information of the increasing millions of users” on its platform.

This privacy flaw was also mentioned in the letter from James, which noted such privacy violations could be of particular concern as schools migrate to Zoom for class. “While Zoom has remediated specific reported security vulnerabilities, we would like to understand whether Zoom has undertaken a broader review of its security practices,” the letter said.


UCLA Count at 9

Updates on confirmed cases among the UCLA campus community

Last Updated 

Currently, nine people among the UCLA campus community have been confirmed by medical professionals to have COVID-19 and have reported their diagnoses to UCLA.
Consistent with the protocols for infectious disease response, anyone identified within our campus community as being at risk of exposure from these individuals will be notified if they need to be isolated or tested.
The increased availability of testing for COVID-19 will reveal more cases in our campus and local communities. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, maintain a safe distance from others, wash your hands regularly, and cough or sneeze into tissues or your sleeve. 
Information on confirmed cases:
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 10.
  • April 1: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing and has not been on campus since March 14.
  • March 28: A staff member who lives in an on-campus apartment.
  • March 28: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing.
  • March 26: A staff member who has not worked on campus since March 13.
  • March 25: A student who lived on campus but has been at home since March 12.
  • March 19: A staff member who works on campus.
  • March 17: A student who lives in off-campus, non–university-owned housing.
  • March 16: A staff member who works off campus.
  • Source:

Summer Session and Coronavirus

From an email circulated yesterday afternoon:
To the Campus Community:
Our priority during the COVID-19 crisis is to protect the health and safety of our Bruin community. Despite the challenges we face, we will continue to take steps that support our teaching mission. Based on the rapidly developing situation and new data every day, we have decided to continue to offer instruction remotely through Summer Session A, which starts June 22 and ends August 28. We ask faculty and staff to plan accordingly.
We recognize that there will be courses with specialized equipment or field work that may not be able to be conducted remotely. We ask faculty to consider ways to modify courses given these constraints.
For Summer Session C, which starts August 3, we will make a decision at a later date and will keep you informed. However, faculty are strongly advised to begin planning how remote teaching would impact Session C courses given the real possibility that the public health situation may require us to convert Session C to remote instruction as well.
Based on the unique learning needs of some academic units, we are deferring a decision for Session A courses and programs, and other summer programs, offered by the Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Dentistry, and by UCLA Extension.
The Summer Sessions webpage will be continuously updated as we finalize remote teaching course availability for this summer.
The facts related to COVID-19 are changing rapidly, so please routinely check with UCLA information sources for updates. The most up-to-date information can be found online at UCLA’s COVID-19 website, and emergency updates and resources are always available at Bruins Safe Online.
We ask all Bruins to remain flexible, and we appreciate your patience during this evolving situation.
Emily A. Carter
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Patricia A. Turner
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

Read the blog for the first quarter of 2020

At the end of each quarter, we put up the blog in alternative form you can read as a book. Below are links for the first quarter of 2020, January 1 through March 31. Note that all animated gifs, audios, and videos are omitted in book format.

You can read the blog for the first quarter at the link below:

or direct to

You can also read the blog for the first quarter (but not download it) at:

How bad is it? Bad, really bad - Part 4

Another off-the-chart leap in new claims for unemployment insurance has occurred in the week ending March 28: 6.6 million on a seasonally-adjusted basis, 5.8 million not seasonally-adjusted for the U.S. as a whole. Note that a) many people reportedly have not been able to register with the overloaded offices that process such claims, and b) even those who were processed will experience longer-that-usual delays in actually receiving cash from the system.

California accounted for 15% of the new claims (not seasonally-adjusted), 878,727 is the official preliminary number. The cost of providing unemployment benefits does not come from the state's General Fund. However, the state has to be spending lots of money related to the coronavirus crisis. It has deferred the income tax due date from April to July. So the only people who will file are those who expect a refund. April is typically a big cash inflow month for the state but now that situation has reversed. The next cash statement from the state controller will come out on April 10, but it will cover only through March. It won't be until May 10 that we will have data for the state's cash situation through April. The next meeting of the full Board of Regents will also occur in mid-May. There will be Bad News, whatever the details.

The latest new unemployment claims data release is at:

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Zoom Concerns - Part 4

From an email distributed today:
To the Campus Community:
We were horrified and angered to learn that earlier this week several of our online Zoom classes were disrupted by individuals making anti-Black and anti-Semitic comments as well as other racist remarks. Any form of bigotry is dehumanizing and hurtful and has no place at UCLA, including in our online and remote learning spaces. While such actions are despicable in the best of times, they are especially shameful in these times of tremendous anxiety as students and faculty work extra hard together to adapt to a new learning environment and to support one another.
UCLA has engaged law enforcement to help us, wherever possible, to identify and hold accountable those responsible in any known incidents. We ask that anyone who experiences a bias incident to report it to us by completing a UCLA Incident of Bias Reporting Form so we can take action. We are providing support to the students and faculty who were verbally attacked during these classes. We are also working to secure our online environments from external disruptions.
To all those who were targeted, to all those whose classes or meetings were disrupted, to all those whose sense of belonging was compromised, we promise we will do all we can to make sure UCLA fulfills its goal to create an equal learning environment that rejects bigotry and respects the value and dignity of everyone in our community.
Gene D. Block
Emily A. Carter
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

No SAT for UC Admission Due to Coronavirus

From EdSource: The University of California is drastically relaxing its fall 2021 admissions standards for applicants who are currently high school juniors, including suspending the requirement that they take standardized tests and allowing pass/fail grades for this spring’s classes affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a university announcement Wednesday.
The dramatic action came in response to the cancellation of testing by the SAT and ACT this spring and to the widespread disruption at high schools in California and nationwide during the health crisis. However, UC officials emphasized that the dropping of standardized tests for this upcoming year does not imply a permanent change and said the UC, which has nine undergraduate campuses, will continue to debate that contentious matter in the future.
The one year change about testing “is intended to reassure students and families who have to make decisions in the coming weeks about fall 2021 applications, and is consistent with actions taken by other colleges and universities. It is intended as an accommodation and not a permanent policy shift, and does not foreclose future (UC Regents) Board policy actions with respect to the use of standardized tests in University admissions for fall 2022 applicants and beyond,” a university policy statement approved by the UC regents said...

Zoom Concerns - Part 3

The Zoom problems have apparently begun. From the Bruin:

A barrage of vulgar words and messages interrupted several UCLA classes held Tuesday on the video conference application Zoom.
“Zoombombing”, a new type of internet trolling, occurs when an individual or a group of individuals use Zoom features to interrupt a meeting or class. Following the cancellation of in-person classes due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, many professors have been using Zoom to hold classes, discussions, labs and office hours.
Phillip Valdovino, a third-year psychology and Chicana/o and Central American studies student, woke up early Tuesday to join the Zoom lecture for Chicano 143: “Mestizaje: History of Diverse Racial/Cultural Roots of Mexico.”
Within the first few minutes, however, a few voices interrupted the lecture spewing racial slurs, Valdovino said. The class was cancelled five minutes in.
Nyah Alexander, a first-year pre–communication student, tweeted about the incident.
“ucla has struggled with issues of racism on campus and it continues to be an issue even as we move to a digital learning platform,” she said in the tweet.
Soon after, Jessica Jackson, a second-year African American studies student, witnessed another case of Zoombombing during her 11 a.m. Astronomy 3: “Nature of Universe” lecture.
“About five minutes into the lecture, someone was presenting as if they had a question, … and then finally, when the professor acknowledged the person, he just immediately jumped out with the N-word and was calling him that repeatedly,” Jackson said.
“Over time, I got my phone and started recording what was happening,” Jackson said. “It just then spiraled out of control – chaos.”
Jackson later posted the recording on Twitter.
“Everyone’s kind of in my Twitter DMs right now saying … like wow UCLA students are the worst,” she said. “I really don’t want to believe that these (Zoombombers) are UCLA students.”
In an email to his Astronomy 3 class, Michael Rich, the professor, addressed the Zoombombing. Rich acknowledged the interruption and said the class would shift its structure to prevent future incidents.
Rich made two attempts at the lecture in order to continue the class. The first lecture did not have an access code, but the second lecture was protected with an access code. However, the access code did not prevent similar incidents, causing Rich to cancel the class for the day.
“The technology is something I am new to, and I did not expect to have to take extreme security measures but it appears this will need to be the case,” Rich said in the email. “I am terribly sorry that this incident, which was upsetting, affected every student trying to learn in this class.”
Jackson said this is the first time she’s heard anti-black or anti-Semitic remarks in class...

UC-SF Coronavirus Study in Which You Can Participate

To help fight the novel coronavirus now plaguing humanity, a new initiative by UC San Francisco physician-scientists, dubbed COVID-19 Citizen Science (CCS), will allow anyone in the world age 18 or over to become a citizen scientist advancing understanding of the disease.
The spread of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has varied across individuals and regions, and the factors that determine how it affects individuals and populations are not well understood. A critical mass of CCS participants uploading information though the app, launched on March 26, 2020, could help data-crunching researchers gain insight into how the virus is spreading and identify ways to predict and reduce the number of new infections, according to Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, professor in the Department of Medicine at UCSF and a co-leader of CCS.
Based around a smartphone app, information on the study can be accessed via (if prompted, enter the study key: covid) or by texting “COVID” to 41411.
Marcus said the researchers’ hope is for the new study to “go viral” – in a good way – with a goal to ultimately enroll more than 1 million individuals around the world.
“We are asking each participant to share the link to recruit at least five others,” Marcus said. “We want to demonstrate that the number of people signing up for this scientific study and contributing their data can increase exponentially, faster than the disease itself.” To illustrate this hoped-for exponential growth, the researchers plan to create and share a data visualization that maps enrollment in CCS in real time, which Marcus hopes will show study participation outpacing the global spread of the virus...