The University of California, Davis is offering students US$75 ($104) to be used for "staycations" to encourage them to avoid nonessential travel during spring break.
Students who choose to stay home during the March 22-26 break will get the money in gift cards. Student response has been "awesome," the university said in statement.
"The idea behind this was to provide a positive incentive for students to follow public health guidance," Sheri Atkinson, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, told the Los Angeles Times.
About 50% of the student body is living either on campus or in the Davis area, she said.
To receive a gift card, students must apply by giving a basic description of their spring break plans. They must pledge to stay in town for their week-long break and complete a Covid-19 test.
The university initially planned to give 750 such grants, but because of student interest, it upped the cap to 2,000. The anticipated $209,000 program will be paid through philanthropy and other university funds — not student fees or tuition, Atkinson said.
Colleges around the country are scaling back spring break or cancelling it entirely to discourage partying that could spread the virus and raise infection rates back on campus.
Texas A&M University opted for a three-day weekend instead of a whole week off. The University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison also did away with spring break but are giving students a day off later in the semester. University of Mississippi also canceled spring break but will end the semester a week early.
In spite of students expressed reticence to go to the beach this year, destinations such as Miami have reported an uptick in hotel bookings.
Greater Miami hotel occupancy is expected to reach 70 per cent in this month, close to the 85 per cent peak, pre-pandemic. Govenor Ron DeSantis' stance was described by Associated Press as pro-business, with no state-wide mask mandate or limits on gatherings.
However the message from Miami Beach police is clear. Via an SMS campaign sent to out of state cellphones arriving in the area, visitors are being told: "Vacation Responsibly or Be Arrested".
- Associated Press with additional reporting.