COVID-19 General Information

What are the common symptoms of COVID-19?
Some common symptoms include:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider or the Student Health Center, or 911 for an emergency. Do not come to the on-site campus. The Student Health Center can assess if you will need to self-quarantine and provide quarantine resources.

How do I avoid COVID-19?
The CDC has a great list of things you can do to avoid COVID-19 and a Symptom Checker for a self-assessment. The UCSC Recovery site also has excellent tips on how to curb COVID-19 on the UCSC campus. In general, you want to avoid close contact with others who aren't in your household, wear a mask in public places, practice social distancing by maintaining a distance of six feet from those outside your household, avoid large gatherings, wash your hands frequently, and clean and disinfect your home and possessions regularly.

How do I know if I need to quarantine after being near a person with COVID-19?

You need to quarantine if you have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19. Here is how the CDC defines a “close contact.

  • You were within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
  • Be sure to read below about the new guidance for exposure after vaccination.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 or feel sick? 
Do not go to a kiosk, visit a medical facility, or come to the Student Health Center without first speaking to a healthcare provider by phone or video. Instead:

If you experience symptoms while you are on campus/on-site at a UCSC property:

  1. Immediately isolate yourself from others and wear a face covering if not already doing so.
  2. Contact your healthcare provider or the Student Health Center for further assessment.
  3. Students, notify your on-site class professors that you will not be able to attend on-site class.  You and your professors can discuss whether you are able to attend class or submit your assignment remotely that day.

What is the timeline for the COVID-19 vaccine?

See the latest updates on our vaccine information page.

Who can I talk to if I have questions about COVID-19 and my health?
The Santa Cruz County Call Center is available at (831) 454-4242 from 8 am - 6 pm everyday. Outside of these hours, call 2-1-1 (United Way of Santa Cruz County), text: "covid19" to 211211, or visit the 211 website. UCSC students may call the Nurse Advice Line at 831-459-2591 with health concerns. Staff and faculty should call their healthcare provider.

Should I wear a mask or face covering? How do I get a good fit on my mask?
Yes. Californians and Banana Slugs must wear face coverings in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible. Read more about the guidance and limited exceptions, and get more information from UCSC's Recovery site.

Santa Cruz County requires staff and customers at essential businesses to wear face coverings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Read the full order, a helpful face covering FAQ from the county, and some face covering tips in English and Spanish.

As of February, 2021, the CDC has new info about how to get the best mask fit with the most protection. Some highlights include:

  • Choose a mask with a nose wire
  • Use a mask fitter or brace
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly over your nose, mouth and chin
  • Layer the materials in your mask(s)
  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask
  • Do not combine two disposable masks or KN95 masks

Wash reusable masks regularly and be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when taking your mask on or off. And remember, a mask does not offer 100% protection, so continue to stay 6 feet away from others.

How do I know what business are open and what activities are allowed?
The State of California assigns every county a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate. Visit the  Blueprint for a Safter Economy website and enter your county. The site will show you which activities are allowed at that time. Tiers change regularly based on the severity of the COVID-19 situation in each county, so be sure to check back frequently.

Should I take hydroxychloroquine or consume disinfectants?
Research has shown that hydroxychloroquine can cause dangerous heart issues. The Food and Drug Administration asks that you avoid this medication unless instructed by your healthcare provider. Do not try to kill coronavirus by injecting or ingesting household disinfectants or cleansers. Bleach, Lysol, etc. are not safe to consume. Putting them in your body can kill or seriously harm you. Use them on household surfaces only.

What is UCSC doing to manage COVID-19?
UCSC is working hard to keep campus safe. See all campus updates, including news from beyond Student Health Services, at the official UCSC COVID-19 recovery website. Student Health Services follows the CDC's guidelines for preventing the spread of disease.

What steps will UCSC take when the campus is notified that a student has been exposed to COVID–19 or has been confirmed to have COVID–19?

COVID 19 tests conducted through Student Health Services that result in a confirmed COVID–19 result will be reported to County Public Health, as required. Students who may have been exposed to COVID–19 will be informed of any risks and proper measures to follow.

I am not affiliated with the UCSC community and I want to visit campus. What do I need to do?
Complete the UCSC Visitor COVID-19 Symptom Check Questionnaire. After completing the questionnaire, a certificate indicating “Cleared” or “Not Cleared” will be emailed to you and, if applicable, to those you will meet with on campus.

COVID-19 Symptom Checks

What is the COVID-19 policy for the symptom check health screening process?

See the official policy here.

Do I have to complete the symptom check if I am attending classes remotely from home?
No, this protocol does not apply to students attending classes from home. If you are  attending classes from home and wish to Check for COVID–19 symptoms, visit the CDC COVID–19 symptom checking site.

What if I am a student attending class remotely, but I come on-site occasionally?
You will need to register for testing and screenings one week before you plan to come to campus. Get more information about off-campus students coming to visit campus and campus properties.

Are students' symptom check reports private?
UCSC will maintain individual privacy of the COVID–19 Symptom Check reports. This information will not be maintained in your student file.

COVID-19 Testing

What is the COVID-19 policy for COVID-19 testing?

See the official policy here.

Am I required to get a test?

See the COVID-19 Testing Strategy Matrix to see if you fall into a group that has mandatory (required) testing.

How can I schedule a test?
See the instructions for students or instructions for staff.

Where and when do the tests take place?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure: Don't go to the testing kiosks! Call for instructions about where to get your test.

  • Students:  call the Nurse Advice Line at 831-459-2591
  • Staff and faculty: call your healthcare provider

If you need an off-campus test:

If you need an on-campus test, schedule with Health e-Messenger at one of the following locations:

1) Merrill Cultural Center in Merrill College (map)

This video shows how to get from the Merrill Parking Lot (free 20-minute COVID-19 testing parking) to the Cultural Center:

2) Namaste Student Lounge at College Nine across from the Student Health Center (map). There is no free parking at Namaste, although there are permit lots nearby and a bus stop across from Colleges 9 and 10.

This video shows how to get from the bus stop outside of College 9 to the Namaste Student Lounge:

 3) George P. Hitchcock Lounge in the Porter College C building (map). Free 20-minute COVID-19 testing parking is available.

See the asymptomatic testing kiosk hours.

How much do the tests cost?

  • On-campus tests: free for enrolled students, including students without UC SHIP.
  • Off-campus tests: fees depend on your insurance carrier. UC SHIP will only cover the cost if you have COVID-19 symptoms or a medical professional has told you that you need a test. You will need a referral from SHS and your UC SHIP deductible and co-insurance will apply.
  • Note: county clinics are usually free. Check your county's Health Department website for local COVID-19 testing locations and to verify the costs. We also recommend checking with your local CVS - such as the CVS on 41st Avenue in Capitola - some CVS stores offer free tests.

Is on-campus testing or vaccination available to the general public or alumni?

  • Tests: UCSC COVID-19 tests are only for active, enrolled students, as well as current staff and faculty who are working on site. They are not available to the general public or alumni. If you are not a current student, staff, or faculty member, see here for testing options.
  • Vaccines: We do not offer COVID-19 vaccines to the public. Members of the public should contact their healthcare provider for vaccine information, or visit the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency vaccine website. California residents can use to get notified when they are eligible for the vaccine.

Can I be exempt from the COVID-19 testing requirement?

Make requests for exemptions from COVID testing by contacting:

  • Housing issues: Ross Maxwell, Associate Director, Student Conduct Colleges, Housing and Educational Services:
  • Medical issues: Send SHS a message via Health e-Messenger using your Gold password. Go to  Messages/New Messages/COVID-19 Question

What does Student Health Services do to ensure safety at the testing sites?

Safety is our primary concern and we take every effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 (and influenza) at the testing sites. Our techniques include:

  • enforcing masking and distancing
  • using disinfectant sprays and wipes in the swabbing areas frequently
  • ensuring good air circulation
  • limiting the testing sites to asymptomatic people.

Our testing site program was recently reviewed by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency and they found our practices to be aligned with best public health practices. If you are concerned about proximity to others at the testing sites, please call us and we can discuss alternate arrangements for you.

What should I do if I am staying on campus over break and I feel sick?

Call an urgent care facility for instructions on what to do. In Santa Cruz, these are:

  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation Midtown: (831) 458-5537
  • Dignity Health/Dominican Urgent Care: (831) 684-7611
  • Kaiser Urgent Care in Scotts Valley Dr: (831) 430-2740 (only for students with Kaiser health insurance, not for UC SHIP)

If you receive a positive COVID-19 test, notify the Student Health Center right away. Log into Health e-Messenger and select Messages > New Message >COVID-19 Questions

Students staying on campus over the break may be required to get on-campus tests. More information is coming soon.

Here's where to get an off-campus COVID-19 test and here's general information about how to get healthcare when the Student Health Center is closed.

Where can I get a test if I can’t get to campus easily, if campus is closed, or if I want a test for a family member? 

Some CVS stores offer free tests, such as the CVS on 41st Avenue in Capitola.

Here are a few other options:

I've been vaccinated. Do I need to keep testing, wearing masks, and physically distancting?

When you're vaccinated, you must continue to particpate in this asymptomatic testing program if you're an on-campus student. Find out why here.

COVID-19 Positive Test Results

How do I interpret my test result (positive or negative)?

See How to Interpret Your COVID-19 Test Report for information about positive and negative test results.

What happens if I get a positive COVID-19 test?
SHC staff will contact you by phone. They will provide information about managing your symptoms, reducing the spread to others and will explain how long you may need to stay home. You will also receive a new daily symptom screening survey that's different than the one you've taken before. Make sure you complete it every day so that we are aware of your health and can help you if needed.

Who is notified of my positive test result?
Your privacy is of the utmost importance to us, but the county health department mandates that we report all positive COVID-19 tests. In addition, your close contacts will be notified and their risks and needs will be assessed.

If I test positive, where can my roommates/partners who are not UCSC-affiliated get tested?
See the off-campus COVID-19 testing options, as well as Slow the Spread of COVID-19 While Sheltering With Others from the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency.

How long will I have to stay home?
In general, you will stay home for ten days from the onset of your symptoms. If you don't have symptoms but have a positive test, stay home for ten days starting on the day you took the test. Your provider may have additional guidelines for you.

How long will my test remain positive? Do I need another test?
You can remain positive for COVID-19 for up to three months after your positive test result. However, doesn't always mean you are contagious. Typically you would not need another test during the quarter. However, if you begin to feel ill again, stay home and contact SHS or your primary care provider immediately.
If I've already tested positive for COVID-19, do I need to keep doing the asymptomatic tests?
If you tested positive for COVID-19 and have fully recovered, you don't need to participate in asymptomatic testing for three months following your positive covid test. After the three months are done, you need to get your COVID-19 asymptomatic tests again.

Is there help for me on campus if I need quarantine housing, groceries or meals?
Yes. When we contact you with a positive result, we discuss what resources you will need. UCSC has many resources to help you, including meal delivery, quarantine housing, etc.

What should I do if tested positive and my symptoms are getting worse?
Call 911 if it's an emergency. During business hours call the SHC Advice Nurse at 831-459-2591. If it's after hours, see our After Hours Sheet about how to get help.

Do I have to get a letter to return to work/campus?
You don't need a letter to return to campus. Your Clearance Badge (students) or Qualtrics results (staff) will let UCSC staff know when you are clear to return. If you work off-campus and your employer needs a letter from us, log into Health e-Messenger to request a letter. Go to Messages, New Messages, and COVID-19 Question and make your request. In general, we will respond with your letter within 48 hours.

If my test is positive, will my biospecimen be sequenced?

In the event that you test positive for COVID-19, biospecimens such as blood, tissue, or saliva,  collected from you and/or information obtained from your biospecimen may be used by the  University of California for virus genome sequencing. If used, your biospecimen will be de identified. The result of viral genome sequencing will be a sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus  that was present in your biospecimen; it is not a sequence of your human genome nor does it  contain associated genomic information about you. This sequencing is part of an effort to  identify emerging COVID-19 variants in the Santa Cruz community, and is consistent with  World Health Organization’s emergency committee's recommendation to ramp up genome  sequencing to help combat the emerging variants (January 14, 2021). You will not share in any  commercial value or profit derived from the use of your biospecimen and/or information  obtained from them.

Si usted da positivo en la prueba de COVID-19, los especímenes biológicos recogidos, como la sangre, el tejido o la saliva, o la información obtenida del espécimen biológico pueden ser usados por University of California para la secuenciación del genoma del virus. Si se usa, el espécimen biológico no se identificará. El resultado de la secuenciación del genoma viral será una secuencia del virus SARS-CoV-2 que estaba presente en el espécimen biológico; no es una secuencia de su genoma humano ni contiene información genómica relacionada a usted.

Esta secuenciación forma parte de una iniciativa para identificar las variantes emergentes de COVID-19 en la comunidad de Santa Cruz, y es coherente con la recomendación del comité de emergencia de la Organización Mundial de la Salud de intensificar la secuenciación del genoma para ayudar a combatir las variantes emergentes (14 de enero de 2021). Usted no tendrá derecho a ningún valor o beneficio comercial derivado del uso de los especímenes biológicos o de la información obtenida de ellos.

If I test positive for COVID-19, how will you ensure my privacy?

We take privacy and data protection seriously. All Student Health Services staff trained annually in HIPAA privacy practices, and all our technology is HIPAA-compliant. If you test positive, we only share your information if it poses a risk to a campus.

If I've tested positive for COVID-19 and have fully recovered, do I need to keep doing the asymptomatic tests?

If you tested positive for COVID-19 and have fully recovered, you don't need to participate in asymptomatic testing for three months following your positive COVID-19 test. However if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and do not come to campus.

If I've tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered, do I need to keep doing the daily screening surveys?

Yes, continue to complete the daily screening surveys for every day that you're coming to campus. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and do not come to campus.

Can I stop wearing masks and socially distancing if I’ve already had COVID-19 or if I’ve been vaccinated?

No, please keep wearing masks and socially distancing until scientists have learned whether COVID-19 can be spread by vaccinated people or those who have already had COVID-19. Even when vaccinated, you can still have the virus in your nose or mouth. It won't make you sick but you can spread to others if you cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, etc.


COVID-19 Travel

What should I do if I'm currently traveling abroad or will soon return to UCSC?
Any students returning from a country with widespread ongoing transmission of COVID-19, contact SHS at 831-459-2519 for information about required self-quarantining, health monitoring and other support. If you're diagnosed with COVID-19 while away from campus, please call Student Health Services at 831-459-2591 so that we can be aware and coordinate care if needed. See the UCSC Global Engagement websites below for the most current requirements about self-quarantine and travel restrictions

How can I get proof of a negative COVID-19 test before traveling on an airplane?

If you're planning to travel and need proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to fly, do not schedule a kiosk appointment online. The kiosks may not be able to process your test in time for your flight. For fastest service, call the health center at 831-459-2500 at least three days before you fly. Make sure to tell us you need a COVID-19 test for travel and we will make an appointment for you.

 COVID-19 and Student Life

I'm young and healthy, so why should I take COVID-19 and social distancing seriously?
Going to college has probably meant meeting and being with new people, but social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is important—even for young and healthy people. Here are some common misconceptions about social distancing, and how these beliefs can be a real danger.
  • “COVID-19 won’t hurt young people like me.” The CDC reports "During June–August 2020, COVID-19 incidence was highest in persons aged 20–29 years, who accounted for >20% of all confirmed cases." So yes, it can hurt young and otherwise healthy people. Masking and social distancing reduces that risk.
  • “I’m not sick, so I don’t need to socially distance myself.” You could easily spread the disease—without knowing you have it—to grandparents, older neighbors, and your friends and family with health conditions like diabetes, asthma, heart conditions, etc. Social distancing reduces this possibility. 
  • “I’m healthy, so COVID-related strain on the healthcare system won’t affect me.” If medical providers and staff are overwhelmed treating an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, they may not be able to treat people with “ordinary” emergencies like a car accident, appendicitis, or a broken leg. Social distancing reduces the spread of the disease and lessens burden on the healthcare system, so you’re more likely to receive care if you have an emergency.
  • “I’m not going to let a virus stop me from partying.” You may have seen the news stories about students on Spring Break refusing to socially distance. Some of these same students are now sharing apologies. Other students sick with COVID-19 are posting warnings to their peers. Please seriously consider these warnings from other students who were not initially concerned about social distancing.

See “How To Argue For Social Distancing If Your Friend Won't Take It Seriously” for more student-friendly tips.

What should I do before returning to campus housing?

Visit Information on COVID-19 and student housing.

What should I do if I'm attending a private gathering?

The County of Santa Cruz published some helpful guidance on what to do if you're hosting or attending a private gathering, such as a barbecue, birthday party, or other celebration.

Image of the flyer; click for PDF
Get the Flyer here

What about sex during COVID-19?
Sex is a normal (and fun) part of life! During this extended public health emergency, people will have sex. SHOP's guide helps you think about the ways you can lower your risk for COVID-19 during sex: COVID-19+Sex.

Does vaping increase my risk of COVID-19?
New research shows that vaping and smoking may increase risk of COVID-19. Now is a great time to quit. Contact SHOP for free personal support to quit vaping or smoking.

How should I clean and disinfect my residence hall room?
If you live in a residence hall, check out these new tip sheets by UCSC Student Housing Services. Learn how to clean your room and laundry with COVID-19 in mind, and get some safety tips, too.

COVID-19 Cleaning Tips (click to enlarge)
Safety Advice and Tips (click to enlarge)

What low-risk, fun activities can I do with my friends or family?

There are relatively safe ways for us to be active, social, and entertained. Take a look at the list below and consider  how you may apply the recommendations from the CDC and WHO to resist COVID-19 infection. Individual risk for interacting with others depends on many factors, all of which may not be captured in the table below.

In addition to being High Risk, many activities in bold/strikethrough may also constitute violations of the Interim Public Health Policy and/or other policies. You are encouraged to review these documents carefully and ask University Student Conduct or Residential Life staff if you have any questions.

Note re Quaranteam: at this time, UCSC considers a “quaranteam,” as strictly members of your own household (i.e. roommates, housemates, apartment mates)




Virtual dinner party

Outdoor dinner with your quaranteam

Dining with others in a busy restaurant or other enclosed space.

Hike or walk with physical distancing

Camping with your quaranteam

Sports game with your friends on campus

Virtual trivia night

Outdoor gathering with your quaranteam

Indoor gathering on campus

Virtual movie “watch” party.

Movie night with your quaranteam

Large forest party

Virtual painting, cooking, or other course

Painting/Cooking night with your quaranteam

Going to a bar (if over 21)

Virtual student organization meeting

Student study group meeting outdoors with physical distancing, mask wearing, hand washing

Indoor student group/study group meeting

Outdoor date with your established partner in a monogamous relationship after discussing expectations and boundaries

First date outdoors with physical distance- without touching

Hook-up with a new partner

Beer with your apartment-mate (if age 21+)

Beer outdoors off campus with your quaranteam (if age 21+)

Attending a house party off campus

Virtual study session

Study session with your quaranteam

Study session at a coffee shop with your quaranteam

Virtual celebration

Quaranteam birthday celebration in the quad

Social gathering in a small enclosed space such as a residence hall room or campus  apartment

Virtual sightseeing tour

Weekend getaway to rental house with established partner- BYO cleaning supplies

Travel by train, bus, taxi or Uber or riding in a car with others

Virtual meditation

Outdoor yoga class with your quaranteam

Indoor exercise class with strangers

Distanced outdoor activity with your quaranteam (such as biking)

Frisbee golf with physical distancing

Basketball game off campus

Virtual fitness class from OPERS Recreation with a quaranteam member

Outdoor meditation session

Indoor meditation session

Virtual study group with friends and classmates

In-person study group with your quaranteam

Riding in a car with others

Virtual game night using House Party app

Outdoor game night with your quaranteam

Game night in your apartment with others not in your quarenteam/household. 

Surfing with your roommate

Kayaking with your quaranteam

Skiing at a ski resort/Surfing with the crowds at Cowell’s

(Adapted from Source: Northern Arizona University).

Can I get or give COVID-19 through a pet? 

While possible, it is very unlikely. See the CDC’s guidance on what to do if you have pets.

Staff and Faculty FAQs

Questions about coming to work or other issues related specifically to UCSC employees? See these staff-focused FAQs on the UCSC Recovery site.

Back to the SHC COVID-19 Home