COVID-19 campus update as Santa Cruz county moves to red tier and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) update guidance for fully vaccinated individuals

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From:  Sarah Latham, Vice Chancellor, Business and Administrative Services

I write to provide several updates on campus planning and changes that are unfolding in the COVID-19 pandemic landscape. For the near term, these changes will not result in significant operational changes. However, as the pandemic environment is dynamic, we anticipate that there will be changes that will influence our planning for fall 2021. More information on these changes will be provided beginning next week.  

Our campus COVID-19 case rates remain at a low level, with a 0.09% positivity rate, and as of today, we have vaccinated nearly 2,600 people with one or both doses. 

In additional positive news, this week, Santa Cruz County moved into the red tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidance for individuals who are fully vaccinated. As a result, you might have questions about how this impacts campus operations and your need to follow certain safety guidelines when on campus.

How California color tiers impact what is and what is not allowed

There are a multitude of federal, state, University of California, and local guidelines and requirements that impact our operations. One of the key guiding documents, and a good resource to refer to is the industry guidance for higher education institutions. Some of the guidelines and requirements are mapped to the color tiers, while others remain effective regardless of the color tier. In addition, as our campus also contains a variety of operations, other industry guidance, such as that for dining, child care, and construction also applies to us.  

As part of the state vaccination efforts, the data points used to determine when a county can move forward through the tiers will be loosened. Forty percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state have occurred in communities that are in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index. To address this inequity, the state will now be directing 40 percent of vaccine doses to those communities. Once 2 million vaccines have been given in those locations, the thresholds for moving forward in the state color tiers will change, and once 4 million vaccines have been given in those communities, the tiers will change again. A summary of the changes to the tiers and how that impacts a number of industries can be found here.

Though the shift from purple to red tier only allows for minor adjustments to campus operations, if case rates and vaccinations stay on a positive trajectory, we are planning for our move through the orange and yellow tiers soon. Specific changes will be announced as the programs and operations are ready to shift.  

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance for fully vaccinated individuals

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released updated guidance for fully vaccinated people. Except for the isolation and quarantine requirements, the status quo for safety mitigations remain in place for our campus. 

You still need to follow the Slug Strong actions to promote a healthy campus:

  • Complete your daily symptom check, if you are accessing a campus site

  • Wear a face covering 

  • Abide by posted physical distancing guidelines  

  • Participate in the asymptomatic testing program that has been made available for members of our campus community. 

  • Do not come to work or on site if you are feeling ill

  • Regularly wash your hands

In addition, we encourage you to sign up for the MyTurn website and get a vaccine through the earliest means available to you. Our vaccine update earlier this week provides additional information.

Even with the new guidance for fully vaccinated people, the CDC still advises that you delay travel if possible. Non-essential campus travel is still not permitted at this time. Principal Officers can determine what is essential travel for their unit. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations

For many of you, it might be overwhelming to keep track of the seemingly daily changes in the state of the pandemic and the changing guidelines. We continue to update our plans and resources to take into account the changing landscape around us. Additional updates will be provided in the weeks to come. In the meantime, thank you for your continued patience and vigilance as we navigate COVID-19.