Students were restricted from going outside for "solo outdoor exercise" and any activities other than medical care or picking up food
U.C. Berkeley campus
UC Berkeley
| Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Students at the University of California, Berkeley are able to leave their dorm rooms for outdoor activities for the first time since Feb. 1, after a major outbreak of COVID-19 sent the campus into an intensive lockdown.

As of Tuesday, the 2,000 students living in residence halls "may now leave their rooms to recreate or exercise outdoors between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.," according to the school's website. Previously, residents had to remain in their dorm rooms unless they were receiving medical care, using the bathroom or going to pick up food from kiosks outside of their buildings.

Berkeley put students under the "self-sequester" order on Feb. 1 after a campus outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-January led to more than 400 positive cases, with around 200 of those cases coming in February alone, according to KCRA.

Students were required to get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, but otherwise they could not spend time outdoors. The school decided to ban outdoor workouts late in February as they searched for ways to reduce infections.

"You may NOT leave your room for solo outdoor exercise," the school said in an email to students, the outlet reported. "We are working with the City of Berkeley to determine whether outdoor exercise may be permitted, and we will provide more information on this in the near future."

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"We believe that small off-campus gatherings are linked to the outbreak," university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore told KCRA when asked about the ban on workouts. "The various terms of the self-sequester period are part of the effort to prevent further spread."

On Monday, Berkeley announced that the lockdown would end as "the number of COVID-19 cases within campus residents have continued their downward trend." Students who have been told to quarantine or isolate must remain in their dorms, but others can "leave your rooms and floors as long as you continue to use face coverings and physical distance," they said in an email to students.

"COVID-19 is still widespread in our community, including in some off-campus student populations, and it could easily be reintroduced into the dorms. Our hope is that if all residents continue to practice these important measures, we won't have to revisit self-sequestration in the future."

Berkeley also thanked students for following the self-sequester rules.

"We realize that the last two weeks have been a challenging time for everyone involved, and we truly appreciate you doing your part to mitigate the surge of infections," they said. "Your sacrifices have made a huge difference: contact tracing shows that there have been almost no cases of new spread between students affected by sequestration, a remarkable achievement within a congregate setting."

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