Public Health Provisions in Campus Housing

Page last updated Feb. 26, 2021


When a member of UC Berkeley’s residential community tests positive for COVID-19 (or has been in close contact with someone who has), several UC Berkeley campus offices work together to provide assistance with health and wellness needs, housing and residential support, cleaning, and meals for affected students while following Public Health requirements around contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine. These offices include University Health Services (UHS), Cal Housing, Cal Dining, and Residential Life.

Where to go for information and help

  • Questions about your own health: UHS Advice Line at (510) 643-7197
  • General questions about COVID-19 testing or contact tracing through UHS: please see UHS Coronavirus information. If you can’t find what you need, please email telltang@berkeley.edu

Contact Tracing, Isolation, and Quarantine for Students

Contact tracing, rapid isolation of COVID-19 (+) cases, and timely quarantine and testing of exposed individuals are vital public health tools that can help slow the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. The sooner health officials can alert close contacts, the lower the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading further within our housing units and elsewhere within the campus community. And by ensuring that affected residents receive dedicated isolation and quarantine housing, the campus is able to support students’ wellbeing and ability to continue their academic engagement while containing this spread.

Residents are required to adhere to these measures in order to comply with City of Berkeley public health orders, the Student Code of Conduct and your housing contract.

To help answer the many questions we have received about this topic, this page outlines the processes involved when a student in campus residence halls and apartments tests positive for COVID-19, or has had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing involves identifying people who have come into close contact with someone known to be positive for COVID-19. If an individual at UC Berkeley tests positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer from UHS will work with the individual to identify anyone with whom they have been in close contact — and therefore might have infected — during the period during which they have been infectious (which varies depending on their clinical circumstances).

The contact tracer will then confidentially contact each of these individuals, assess whether they can quarantine safely at home, and facilitate testing to determine whether they have been infected. If you have been infected with COVID-19, please know that your identity and health information will be kept private during the contract tracing process in compliance with privacy and public health laws. Your close contacts will be informed that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, but will not be informed of your name or any other identifying information. Close contact with someone who has COVID-19 is defined as:

  • You were within 6 feet of the person for a total of 15 minutes or more (regardless of masking)
  • You provided care to them
  • You had direct physical contact (hugged or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you

Those sharing a household residential grouping, and therefore using the same bathroom and lounge, are defined as “household contacts” and are subject to the same response; however they may be quarantined as a cohort with restrictions when space allows. Additional details about the quarantine process can be found below.

Lots of factors contribute to the likelihood of transmission between individuals, only some of which are known; the COVID-19 response team at UHS will provide guidance to exposed individuals about their own personal risks and what actions they need to take to protect themselves and others.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you are living in a campus residence hall and you test positive for COVID-19, you will need to move out from your residence hall for a period of isolation; campus apartment residents may also need to move temporarily if you cannot safely isolate at home. It is strongly advised that you take advantage of UC Berkeley’s specialized isolation space so that we can best support your ongoing needs, physical, mental, and otherwise. We strongly recommend against returning to your family/home, where you could risk spreading infection to others. Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (both those who are sick with COVID-19 and those without symptoms) from people who are not infected. COVID-infected individuals do not need to be isolated alone; they may be housed in a room or suite with others in similar circumstances.

UC Berkeley will coordinate cleaning, food service, and other logistics for you during this time. A dedicated team of staff will serve as liaisons to students in these spaces, coordinating move-in and move-out as well as access to food and other logistics. Medical and mental health support are available as needed 7 days per week through UHS, both by telephone/Zoom and in-person.

A nurse from the UHS COVID-19 Response Team will reach out to you to see if you need to be seen by a clinician, support any other medical/mental health needs, and walk you through next steps; this will include direction regarding your need to isolate in accordance with current public health orders. In addition, a contact tracer from UHS will work with you to identify anyone else that might be at risk, for instance, those who you have been in close contact with during your infectious period — generally thought to start 48 hours before you develop symptoms, or your test date, if you never had any symptoms.

Isolation for COVID-19 generally lasts for no more than 10 days, requiring in addition that you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours and have improvement in any symptoms. Exceptions may apply when someone is seriously ill or has serious underlying medical conditions. The UHS COVID-19 Response Team, in consultation with the Public Health Department, will inform you when you no longer need to isolate.

Please visit the CDC’s Isolation page and the City of Berkeley’s home isolation page for more information.

What happens if I’m exposed to someone who has COVID-19?

If you have close contact with someone with COVID-19, it’s essential that you quarantine for 2 weeks since your last contact with the person with COVID-19, even if your test is negative. Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been infected with COVID-19 away from others, and it is required by Public Health order. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are infected — especially important with this virus, which does not always cause symptoms. You may spread COVID-19 to others without even knowing you have it, including some who may become seriously ill.

If you are living in campus housing and someone you have had close contact with or who is a household contact tests positive for COVID-19, you will need to quarantine. Students living in campus housing are generally offered a space in the campus's dedicated quarantine housing. (As of February 2021, quarantine space in the dedicated quarantine housing units has become quite limited. Therefore, asymptomatic students who live in the residence halls who are required to quarantine may not be offered quarantine space at the dedicated quarantine housing units as has previously been the case. These asymptomatic residents will quarantine in their current residence hall rooms. See Quarantine-in-Place section above for more information.) We strongly recommend against returning to your family/home, where you could risk spreading infection to others.  Quarantine for COVID-19 generally lasts for 14 days from your last contact with the person with COVID-19, independent of test results — in other words, you still have to quarantine even if you test negative. Although a negative test result can provide some reassurance, current evidence shows that you need to wait the full two weeks before you can consider yourself “in the clear.” The UHS COVID-19 Response Team, in consultation with the Public Health Department, will inform you when you no longer need to be in quarantine. Please visit the CDC’s Quarantine page and the City of Berkeley’s Quarantine page for more information.

Are there other reasons I may have to isolate or quarantine?

You may also be required to quarantine while you are undergoing evaluation for COVID-19 and are awaiting test results.

We are all in this together

Please know that our dedicated staff from UHS, Cal Housing, Cal Dining, and Residential Life are here to support you. You are not alone. If you need to move to isolation or quarantine housing, our team will be there to support you every step of the way. By participating in contact tracing, and moving to quarantine or isolation housing if directed to do so, you are protecting your fellow students and our community, and caring for one another.