Campus update: COVID testing changes; expanded vaccine eligibility; celebrating commencement with a special Slug crossing

The spring quarter is picking up steam, and summer will be upon us before we know it. I hope these updates are helpful and allow you to stay on top of what is happening as we move through the rest of this academic year and start eyeing the fall quarter. Hopefully then, campus life will resemble something closer to our lives pre-pandemic. My fingers are crossed that will be the case, and I’m sure yours are, too.

The highlights

  • Governor aims to reopen California by mid-June, with a host of caveats.
  • Changes are in store for our campus asymptomatic testing protocol.
  • Protect your personal and financial information in light of the recent UC data breach.
  • Mark April 19-25 on your calendar, as Alumni Week zooms you back to campus.

New campus resources open

  • The Seymour Marine Discovery Center’s long-awaited reopening is on the horizon. The center is poised to open “Seymour Center Outdoors!” on April 24. The new in-person outdoor education program features a variety of interpretative stations run by docents, allowing visitors to learn about favorite attractions like the blue-whale and gray-whale skeletons. The center has also opened registration for an in-person Ocean Explorers Summer Camp for children. The program and the camp are both detailed in a story on our campus newscenter.
  • The campus Housing Portal has remained open throughout the fall, winter, and current spring quarter for students to apply for housing and to take care of other housing-related tasks. Know that we’ll soon be opening the housing application processes for both summer and the 2021-22 academic year housing. More information is available online.

Governor announces reopening date

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that California could lift most statewide COVID-19 restrictions by June 15 if the vaccine supply proves to be sufficient and hospitalizations remain low. This is obviously very encouraging news, but it’s important to point out the big caveats that come with the announcement — the need for continued low infection numbers and climbing vaccination rates. That means that we must all continue to do our part to curb this pandemic. Wear face coverings in public, continue to practice distancing, avoid large gatherings, and strongly consider getting vaccinated when a shot is made available to you.

The state changes would also mean some operational changes on our campus. Our Business and Administrative Services team put out a message earlier today that offers guidance on the continued ramp-up of operations as we head into fall quarter — everything from when it is appropriate to return to offices to what travel restrictions remain in place. The message is chock-full of helpful information, so please take a look.

As a side note, there has been some confusion regarding paid sick leave for employees dealing with COVID-19. A message from our HR teamswent out to all staff and faculty earlier this week that seeks to clarify things, detailing a recent update to UC’s COVID-related leaves for employees. Hopefully it clears up any questions.

Mandatory COVID testing reduced to once-weekly

I would like to offer my gratitude to all on our campus — faculty, staff, and especially students — who have been doing their part to keep our community safe during this pandemic. Learning or working from home, getting tested regularly, adhering to the many safety measures we have in place — these are not the most enjoyable rules to follow, but your efforts have paid off! As a result of the low infection rates we are seeing in our campus testing program and in the greater Santa Cruz community, we are changing our asymptomatic testing protocol, reducing the testing requirements for students living, working or taking classes on campus from two tests per week to only one. The new protocol is laid out in detail in a message to students that went out this morning. Thank you all for helping keep our community safe.

Vaccine eligibility expanded

All Californians 16 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine beginning today, April 15. Remember, however, that eligibility and availability are two different things. Even with expanded vaccine supplies, it is expected to take several months for all willing Californians to be vaccinated. The best way to ensure you’re in line for a shot is to sign up at . The site is adding appointments regularly, and is a great one-stop shop for all things COVID.

Protecting your personal and financial information

Like several hundred other institutions throughout the country, UC is working to protect its community after a data breach involving the service provider Accellion. The cybersecurity attack is a reminder of the importance of doing everything possible to protect ourselves online. It’s more important than ever to follow best practices for cybersecurity whether you’re at home or in the office. Our campus has a cybersecurity webpage that details how to protect your data. Please visit the site when you have a chance!

Slug family growing by the day

This time of year is celebratory for a host of reasons, not the least of which is we get to salute a new class of students who are choosing to accept our offers of admission. Right now, our Banana Slug family is growing by about 100 Slugs a day, which is much faster than what occurs in the wild! That number will jump even higher as we approach the acceptance deadlines: May 1 for first-year students and June 1 for transfers. All told we expect about 3,900 new first-year students and 1,700 transfer Slugs over the summer and fall. Each brings unique perspectives and talents to our community, combined with a passion for making a difference — the hallmark of all Banana Slugs!

Celebrate commencement with a special Slug crossing!

Virtual commencements are planned for June to ensure Slugs near and far can celebrate their achievements with families and friends. All of the details are available at our commencement website . In addition, we are planning a student-only stage-crossing opportunity for graduates over a period of several days. In the coming weeks, graduates will be invited to sign up for a block of time during which they will have their name read, their photo taken and the opportunity to cross the commencement stage at an outdoor venue on campus. I am excited that we can do this for our students.

No matter where you are …

On campus or not, you can still access campus resources, engage with other Slugs, and stay connected.

  • Our alumni celebration is virtual this year, which allows Slugs far and wide to reconnect and celebrate a lifelong connection to UC Santa Cruz. We have a host of virtual events on tap that will interest alumni as well as current students, faculty and staff. Check out the Alumni Week website for the full lineup!
  • An important email invite will be landing in your inbox a week from today, April 22. Please be on the lookout. A year ago, UC San Diego conducted a survey for our campus to assess your early experiences in the pandemic and how we could best address your needs. Feedback from more than 1,500 respondents helped inform our recovery efforts. As we ready ourselves for the next stages of our recovery and the continued ramp up of on-site activities, we are reaching out again for your input. Please take the time to share your perspectives. They truly do make a difference.
  • Looking to attend a concert with friends? It’s your Lucky Daye then! Our Live! From the (virtual) Quarry free concert series is getting ready to announce the latest installment set for May 28 — and yes, it’s Lucky Daye, brought to you by the Quarry Amphitheater and the Women’s Center. Keep your eyes peeled for details, which will be posted soon on the quarry website!

Enjoy these beautiful spring days, and I’ll be in touch again soon.