March 16, 2022
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
With the end of Winter Quarter and Spring Break approaching, and in preparation for the Spring Quarter, we are writing to share an update on our masking and event protocols, as well as campus travel guidance and return-to-campus COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements. We appreciate the consultation and collaboration with our campus medical experts, the Academic Senate, students, academic deans, members of the staff and administration, and medical colleagues systemwide.
Local transmission of the Omicron variant has decreased dramatically in the past month. From a peak on January 9, case rates in Santa Barbara County have since dropped to pre-Omicron levels. The CDC has classified all of coastal Southern California in the low transmission risk category. The reduction in case rates is reflected on our campus COVID-19 dashboard and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department dashboard. Thanks to these welcome developments, we can look forward to further normalization of campus life in the Spring Quarter.
We are grateful to be part of such a resilient and compassionate community. We are excited to have our students back in our classrooms and to work and collaborate with our colleagues on campus. By coming together and committing to looking out for each other – as we have all done throughout this pandemic – we can continue to minimize risks and have a successful and healthy Spring Quarter.
As previously communicated, our campus masking mandate will continue through the end of this current quarter (March 18, 2022). With the rapid reduction in COVID-19 cases across the United States as well as locally, the risk of transmission in campus indoor locations has dramatically declined. Because of these improving conditions, our campus will transition to the masking guidelines of the California Department of Public Health after March 18, 2022, as described below:
- Beginning March 19, masks will no longer be required in indoor spaces on campus, with the exception of classrooms (see next bullet point). Nevertheless, all persons, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly recommended but not required to wear a mask while indoors, except when working alone in private offices. Universal masking is still required in high-risk settings such as healthcare facilities and public transportation.
- As many students and instructors will return from their spring break travel on or before March 28, masks will continue to be required of everyone in classrooms through the end of the first week of Spring Quarter. As of April 4, masking will no longer be required in classrooms, although it will remain strongly recommended.
- Masking outdoors is optional, but strongly recommended for individuals who are not fully vaccinated in situations where they will be in sustained close contact with others.
We will continue to closely monitor campus and community conditions, and will provide updated guidance if public health recommendations change in the future.
We respect and support everyone’s individual decisions, including those who choose to continue to wear a mask. Wearing a mask helps protect others in our community who may be immunocompromised or at greater risk.
Free surgical face masks are available on campus at many locations: Library, UCEN, RecCen, and Housing front desks; N95 respirators are also available upon request at the UCEN Bookstore Customer Service Desk and the Pardall Service Center. Employees may also request N95 respirators through an EHS request form.
General Travel Guidelines
For those traveling during spring break, it is clear that there are national and international regions with continued high case rates, and travelers should assess the risk at their destinations and take appropriate precautions.
- All travelers arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries should follow CDC travel guidance.
- All travelers arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries should test 3-5 days after arrival.
- All travelers who test positive or develop symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate and follow public health recommendations.
Testing Guidance – Return to Campus
Many members of the UC Santa Barbara community will be traveling over the upcoming break. In addition to following CDC guidelines for travel during the pandemic, we strongly recommend that all persons who leave the area perform a COVID-19 test within a day of their planned return to campus by using an at-home rapid antigen test. If the test is positive, please report the result through the Student Health Patient Portal under “New Message,” and contact your instructors (for students), supervisor (for staff), or department chair (for faculty) to inform them of the situation. At least 5 days of isolation are needed after a positive COVID-19 test, and a full 10 days if symptoms continue and a rapid antigen test result continues to be positive. Details on how employees can return to work after 5 days are posted on the HR website.
The campus is distributing free at-home rapid antigen test kits to all campus personnel (campus ID required) at the customer service desk at the front of the UCEN Bookstore during regular business hours, as well as at University residence hall front desks and apartment complex offices as well as the Loma Pelona testing center. Additionally, at home rapid antigen test kits are available for purchase at many pharmacies throughout the country.
Testing & Quarantine Guidelines for return-to-campus after travel outside of California:
- Whether you’re vaccinated or not, get tested 3-5 days after returning with either a PCR or at home rapid antigen test.
- If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster shot if eligible, CDC requires that you stay home and self-quarantine for a full 5 days after travel.
- PCR tests are available at Loma Pelona by appointment. PCR test kits can be picked up at Loma Pelona, the UCEN, RecCen, Library, SRB or some campus Housing front desks, samples prepared and then dropped off at your appointment time at Loma Pelona (within 4 hours of sample preparation). For details, click here.
Testing Guidelines for Spring Quarter:
- Anyone who is not fully vaccinated (including a booster if eligible) must obtain a mandatory weekly campus COVID-19 PCR test at Loma Pelona throughout the quarter. This includes anyone with an approved or pending exemption.
- Fully vaccinated: Recommended frequent PCR tests at Loma Pelona.
Updates to the campus guidelines for events and gatherings and for campus visitors are posted on the UC Santa Barbara COVID-19 Information website. The most recent updates include:
- Proof of vaccination is required for all guests for “mega-events,” defined as over 1,000 persons for an indoor event or 10,000 persons for an outside event, as well as for indoor events with 500 or more guests with food and beverages.
- Invited campus guests should complete the On-Demand Daily COVID-19 Screening Survey before coming to campus, which requires a self-attestation that COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date, or have received a negative COVID-19 test result within the prior 48 hours for a PCR test, or 24 hours for a rapid antigen home test.
We wish everyone a successful completion of Winter Quarter and a safe and enjoyable break. We look forward to everyone’s healthy return for spring.
Henry T. Yang
Scott Grafton, M.D.
Campus COVID-Mitigation Program Manager and Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Stuart Feinstein, Ph.D.
COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator and Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Vejas Skripkus, M.D.
Executive Director of Student Health and Campus Physician
Mary Ferris, M.D.
Campus COVID-19 Clinical Advisor