Community health guidance for returning from winter break

To: All UCSC Students

From: Student Health Services

Dear UC Santa Cruz students,

We hope you are enjoying winter break to the fullest. We are writing to share guidance to help our campus community mitigate the spread of respiratory viruses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19. Because these three viruses are spreading at the same time, we want to be sure all Banana Slugs are equipped with the information they need to prioritize personal health and our community’s well-being this winter. Following the guidelines below will not only limit the spread of viruses during the break but will also help our community as we return for the start of the winter quarter.

COVID-19 Winter Break Testing Guidance

We strongly encourage all community members to take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test before returning to campus, especially if you:

  • Develop symptoms
  • Have known contact with a positive COVID case
  • Travel to an area where infection rates are high
  • Attend a high risk event

If you test positive for COVID, please delay your return to campus and follow these COVID-19 Positive Test Result Instructions. If you test negative for COVID and you still have COVID-19 symptoms, complete another rapid antigen test 48 hours after the first negative test, for a total of at least two tests. The CDC advises that multiple negative tests increases the confidence that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

If you get a negative result on the second test and you are concerned that you could have COVID-19, you may test again 48 hours after the second test, consider getting a laboratory molecular-based test, or call your healthcare provider.

Even if your COVID tests are negative, do not return to campus if you have flu-like symptoms to help prevent the spread of flu and RSV in our community. If you are not able to attend class, notify your instructor as soon as possible. 

Need a test? Starting today, every U.S. household can again order four, free at-home COVID-19 tests via

In addition to these testing guidelines, the California Department of Public Health offers these five tips to protect yourself and others from winter viruses:

Tip #1: Get Vaccinated, Boosted (and Treated)

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines continue to be the best defense to limit severe illness and death—and you can get both at the same time. If you test positive for COVID-19 and wish to receive antiviral treatment, contact your doctor or a test-to-treat site immediately.Treatments work best when started right after symptoms begin.

For off-campus, low- to no-cost vaccine options in your area, go to UC SHIP members can use their Optum pharmacy benefits at these locations.

Tip #2: Stay Home if You're Sick

If you are feeling sick, it could be COVID-19, flu or RSV. Stay home and away from others, take a COVID-19 test, and call your doctor if you have any symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, new loss of taste or smell, or sore throat. 

Tip #3: Wear a Mask

There is no vaccine for RSV, so wearing a mask can significantly slow the spread and protect babies and young children who do not yet have immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves. Wearing a mask in indoor public places is a good way to limit the spread of germs.

Tip #4: Wash Your Hands

Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water—for at least 20 seconds, is an easy and very effective way to prevent getting sick and spreading germs.

Tip #5: Cover Your Cough or Sneeze

Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a disposable tissue to help prevent the spread of winter viruses. Just make sure to wash your hands or sanitize and dispose of your tissue after.

Winter break offers our campus community the opportunity to rest, recharge, and connect with friends and family. We hope you are able to enjoy the break in all the ways you desire. We thank you, in advance, for doing your part to mitigate the spread of viruses and promote community wellness.

We look forward to seeing you in winter quarter!

In community,

Student Health Services