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Exposure and Contact Tracing

Close contact

students sitting at steps on UC San Diego

The University uses the definition of close contact established by San Diego County public health officials.

  • If you have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
  • If you have had direct physical contact, including unprotected contact with bodily fluids and/or secretions (including being coughed on or sneezed on, sharing utensils, or drinking out of the same container).
  • If you have provided care for a COVID-19 positive person without wearing personal protective equipment.

Learn about campus safety guidelines »

Have you been exposed?

  • If you live in the San Diego area, use the daily symptom and exposure screener tool to indicate that you may have been exposed. You will then be contacted by UC San Diego’s Testing Support Line (you can also call directly at 619-543-8260) and a representative will help you determine if you should be tested sooner than your next scheduled test. COVID-19 tests are offered at no cost if conducted at a UC San Diego Health location.
  • If your test is positive, you will need to isolate for 14 days from the initial date of exposure. For students residing on campus, you will be provided with isolation housing.
  • If your test is negative, you will still need to quarantine for 14 days from the initial date of exposure since you may not have started to shed virus and may begin to develop symptoms later. For students residing on campus, you will be provided with quarantine housing.
  • Please note that quarantine instructions are different for healthcare workers. If you are a healthcare worker, you should refer to Pulse for quarantine instructions.

Confirmed Exposures

COVID-19 sign at UC San Diego

As a University employee or student, you will be contacted by the UC San Diego contact tracing team and guided on next steps within 24 hours of the determination of exposure.

If you have not been contacted, it is very likely that you were not deemed a close contact by the contact tracing team. If you still believe you were exposed or in close contact with a person with COVID-19, you can contact the UC San Diego Health’s Testing Support Line at (619) 543-8260 for further assessment.

What’s the difference?


Keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others. These individuals are not sick and may not have symptoms but must stay in their residence and watch for the development of symptoms for 14 days from the initial exposure.


Keeps someone who is infected with the virus away from others, even in their home. You need to stay in your residence in a separate room by yourself, whether you have symptoms or not. Do not leave your home except to get medical care.

Positive Results

Contact tracing is only attempted for University affiliated individuals—students, staff, faculty and other individuals working or living on UC San Diego campuses or sites. For all close contacts in San Diego County that are not affiliated with the University, the County of San Diego, Public Health Department will perform the contact tracing.

What happens if I test positive at a UC San Diego Health location?

  • You will first receive guidance on the medical care you may need to manage your symptoms.
  • A case investigation will begin promptly by the UC San Diego contact tracing team. A representative will guide you through determining and identifying who is considered to be a close contact by asking a series of questions. A contact tracer will then initiate phone calls within 24 hours to your close contacts at UC San Diego, whether they are fellow students, co-workers or affiliates, such as vendors.
  • UC San Diego faculty, staff or students who may have been exposed will be contacted by the contact tracing team and provided guidance on testing and quarantine instructions.
  • The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be notified to begin deep cleaning and sanitation of any residential areas or facilities necessary.
  • Case investigations are led by UC San Diego’s School of Public Health contact tracing team. The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) helps handle employee cases, and Student Health Services (SHS) helps handle student cases.


The exposure notification process is timely, respectful and private; the name of the employee or student who tested positive will not be disclosed. Close contacts are not informed of the identity of the person who tested positive, just that they were in contact with someone who tested positive in a certain location and timeframe.

Campus Health Management Program Privacy Practices »

Reporting Positive Results

uc san diego covid-19 drive-thru testing

If you are a student who tests negative at a clinic outside UC San Diego, please send an email to and attach your result as well as your PID to ensure correct attribution. If you test positive at a clinic outside UC San Diego, contact Student Health Services at 858-534-3300.

If you are an employee working on campus who tests positive at a clinic outside of UC San Diego, you must report your result to to support university contact tracing efforts.

Per mandate of the County of San Diego, all positive test results are reported to the County of San Diego Public Health Department.