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Fall 2020 Plan

We have commenced with our plans to welcome back students, faculty and staff to campus for the Fall Quarter through an incremental repopulation of campus, which started in August and will ramp up in mid-September with undergraduate student move-in. Undergraduates will move in over a 10-day period at assigned days and times in order to allow for expedited testing and minimized contact with others. We expect to see cases as we bring students, faculty and staff back to campus in a reduced capacity and continue to offer more testing. We have comprehensive plans to reduce, mitigate and care for those impacted and are able to take actions on campus that can make coming to work, living or taking classes here relatively safe (among all the activities campus community members might do in their daily life).

For the majority of employees who are currently working remotely, they will continue to do so at least through December 31, 2020. There will be a low-density population on campus to provide plenty of space for effective physical distancing. While we cannot remove all risk, we are dedicated as a community to make our university an exemplar of caring and responsible behavior. Our plan is designed to be flexible and offers the university the ability to respond quickly should state and county public health guidelines or conditions change.

The Return to Learn program is designed with three adaptive pillars that will promote on-campus safety this fall, which are transmission reduction tactics, monitoring viral activity, and public health interventions. The success of our plan is dependent on the full support of our community in following campus safety requirements, including wearing a face covering, practicing physical distancing, completing the daily symptom and exposure screening, and washing hands often. In addition, a plan has been established to ensure that UC San Diego can respond rapidly to emerging COVID-19 trends.

This page includes information for students about SARS-CoV-2 screening and testingfall instruction, student-housing, student dining and student services, as well as updates for staff employees and researchers.

Fall Plan Slide Presentation (PDF) »

SARS-CoV-2 Screening and Testing

Daily Screening

All UC San Diego employees and students who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location must complete and submit a daily self-screening for COVID-19. Students will need to register once before completing the daily student self-screening. Students can learn how to register for the symptom screening in a video here.

Campus employees also register once by going to Blink, and then complete the daily self screening. If you are a student or employee within the San Diego region, you are highly encouraged to complete daily self-screening in case symptoms develop.

Daily Symptom and Exposure Screening

All UC San Diego employees and students who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location must conduct a daily self-screening for COVID-19. You will receive a colored thumb after you complete the screening to signify if you are cleared to work and attend class on-campus, or if quarantine or testing is needed.

Green Thumb icon
  • No symptoms or exposure
  • Cleared to come to campus
Yellow Thumb icon
  • “Exposure”, not cleared for on-site work
  • Must quarantine for 14 days
  • Tested between 5-10 days after exposure
Red Thumb icon
  • Symptomatic, not cleared to come to campus
  • Triage with Health Support line
  • Offered no cost test via UC San Diego Health


  • All undergraduate and graduate students coming to campus for educational, research, co-curricular, recreational or social activities (including all students living in university-owned housing) will receive free testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Required testing will take place twice per month with each test at least 12 days apart and with no more than 16 days between tests. For clarification: “educational activities” includes attending a class as a student, but not as an instructor. Students can learn how to schedule an asymptomatic test in a video here.
  • All UC San Diego staff, academic appointees and student employees, whether they are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location for work or working remotely, will be offered voluntary, free testing for SARS-CoV-2 at the UC San Diego Health system. Employees working on campus are strongly encouraged to test regularly, ideally every 12 to 16 days.
  • All faculty, staff and student employees are now eligible to schedule a no-cost asymptomatic COVID-19 test.
  • UC San Diego will continue to provide free testing for symptomatic individuals or those with medically confirmed exposure to COVID-19.
  • There is no cost for asymptomatic or symptomatic testing of SARS-CoV-2 to students, faculty and staff if testing is done at a UC San Diego Health location or through Student Health Services.
  • Through the implementation of many strategies for early detection of SARS-CoV-2, including adaptive testing and wastewater sampling as well as swift interventions by providing isolation and quarantine, we aim to lessen the likelihood of a significant outbreak on campus.
  • As we continue to offer more testing, we know there will inevitably be positive cases. Our role is to reduce, mitigate and care for those impacted.

More details can be found on the Testing and Screening page.

Fall Instruction

We are tracking enrollment, classroom space and course modality changes in real-time, and working with departments and colleges to make necessary adjustments that give our students access to the classes needed for timely academic progress.

  • Over 4,750 undergraduate and graduate lecture, lab and discussion course sections will be offered this fall. 
  • Less than 10 percent of Fall 2020 undergraduate class sections will be offered in-person. The remaining courses will be conducted remotely. Students can learn more on the Fall 2020 Schedule of Classes FAQ website.
  • Class size is limited to fewer than 50 students per class, or 25% of classroom capacity, whichever is smaller; many in-person classes will have fewer than 25 students.
  • In-person courses are primarily lower division classes, graduate seminars and research or studio-based courses.
  • Four types of course delivery options will be available, including in-person only, in-person, hybrid and remote. Hybrid classes are defined as any class with an in-person element. Most hybrid classes have limited in-person interaction compared to traditional in-person classes. Students can learn more about course formats here.
  • The campus's Laptop Loaner Program enables students to request a laptop, hotspot or other technical support. Likewise, the Computer Lab Lookup is continually being updated

Classroom Safety

  • All faculty and students will be required to wear an approved face coveringfor the duration of each in-person class session.
  • Classroom seating distances will be identified, providing appropriate physical spacing for the given room but not less than six feet around each seat.
  • Building ventilation has been augmented to circulate fresh air from outside, hand sanitizer dispensers are placed at the entrances of all dining and market locations, and all buildings will be cleaned and disinfected frequently throughout the day.
  • Academic buildings have been reconfigured to provide one-way traffic into and out of spaces. Campus community members must abide by signage indicating entrance and exits for classrooms, teaching labs and lecture halls to avoid pinch points.
  • Building off a suggestion offered by faculty, multiple locations across campus have been identified as potentially suitable for outdoor instruction, based on having appropriate power, shade, acoustic isolation and the capacity for distanced seating. Over 20 outdoor spaces are being prepared for instruction and/or student support services.
  • For flexible and robust access to remote instruction, Information Technology Services is upgrading the WIFI strength and reception in classrooms and residence halls and improving classroom technology to support hybrid and simulcast courses.

Students can learn more about Fall academic instruction here.

Student Services

  • Student services and programs will be available remotely and, whenever possible, in-person in compliance with UC San Diego’s physical-distancing and face-covering policies.
  • This includes programs like Student Success Coaching, advising for thesis and dissertation completion, OASIS Learning Communities, Recreational Programs, the Basic Needs Hub, Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Health Promotions Services and the Community Resource Centers.
  • Student advising will be available primarily through the Virtual Advising Center, with virtual advising appointments available. 
  • The Colleges and the Graduate Division will continue to provide remote programs and services for students living both on- and off-campus.
  • The International Students & Programs Office (ISPO) has also developed programming to engage incoming international undergraduate and graduate students.

Student Housing

Housing Details

  • For campus residents, all residence halls (suite) and apartment occupancy will be limited to one student per room. Visitors to residential units are not allowed.
  • Single graduate students will also be housed in single bedrooms.
  • Undergraduate housing density is expected to be a 50 percent reduction from typical density.
  • All undergraduate residential common areas will be cleaned using a cleaning system that pairs an electrostatic sprayer with disinfectants and sanitizers.
  • All students who reside on campus will be required to participate in daily symptom and exposure screening. Students will need to register once before completing the daily student self-screening
  • If public health considerations cause the university to request students to vacate on-campus housing, students will not be charged for the unused portion of their housing and dining contracts.

Undergraduate Move-In

  • Undergraduate move-in is scheduled to be staggered over a 10-day period, September 19 through 28, 2020.
  • During move-in, students will be required to take a COVID-19 test at no cost to them upon arrival to campus as part of the move-in process. Approximately 800 tests will be administered each day.
  • For undergraduates, testing will be conducted in two stages. After the initial test, students living in residential units will wear face coverings at all times except for when alone in their bedroom and in the shower. After everyone has arrived, there will be a second test. Once a second negative result is received by all students within the unit, they are no longer required to wear face coverings within their unit.
  • Campus residents will also receive a free mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Students traveling from international locations will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Students with a housing contract can arrange to complete the quarantine period in specially designated on-campus housing. Students will be charged for meals that will be delivered to the housing unit during quarantine.

Isolation Housing and Quarantine

  • In the event a student living in on-campus housing tests positive for COVID-19 at any time during the academic year, they will be moved to designated on-campus isolation housing, where Student Health and Well-being Services will provide care and ensure basic needs such as food delivery are met. Graduate students may choose to isolate themselves in their apartment with their family with consultation from Student Health Services. Housing updates are available online.
  • Isolation housing is only available for graduate and undergraduate students who live in on-campus housing. Students with an on-campus housing contract will not be charged extra for isolation housing.
  • Meals will be delivered to isolation housing three times a day, charged to students’ dining meal plan or billed to their housing account.
  • Students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days; a student may or may not, subject to the University's sole discretion, be able to complete this quarantine in their own residence. The student will be tested for the virus between days five and 10 after the date of the last known exposure.
  • There are 300 beds available for asymptomatic quarantine and another 300 beds available for symptomatic isolation for our campus residents. UC San Diego’s isolation housing protocol has been in place since the end of the Spring Quarter, with no campus spread identified.

Students can learn more on the Housing, Dining, Hospitality FAQ page.

Student Dining

  • On-campus housing communities and dining facilities will remain open with enhanced precautionary measures to help protect the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.
  • During the move-in period, all dining will follow a “to-go” model.
  • Retail and dining facilities have been reconfigured to provide one-way traffic into and out of spaces. Acrylic barriers, cashless transactions and near-field-communication card readers will be utilized to limit contact between people.
  • Prepackaged food products will be offered, and mobile ordering and take-out will be encouraged. Limited outdoor seating options are expected to be offered.
  • All public areas are disinfected frequently, with hand sanitizer dispensers placed at the entrances of all dining and market locations.


Employees working remotely should continue to do so
  • The health and safety of our employees is a priority at UC San Diego. We are grateful to employees who have remained on campus to complete critical functions throughout the pandemic.
  • With the return of students for the Fall Quarter, some—but not all—student-facing staff may be asked to return to on-campus work. Staff will be contacted by their Vice Chancellor or supervisor, who will work closely with individuals to develop a plan for returning safely.
  • Employees who are currently working remotely successfully should continue to do so at least through December 31, 2020 (unless otherwise notified by your supervisor).
  • Maintaining lower densities of individuals on campus is important to provide space for proper physical distancing during the pandemic. For this reason, UC San Diego is taking an incremental approach to increasing the number of employees working on-site on campus. Maximum ratio of faculty and staff on campus is expected to be below 25 percent of normal operations.
  • All UC San Diego staff, faculty and student employees who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location for work must conduct a daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure and report any symptoms. The symptom screening tool can be accessed from a computer or mobile device.
  • Student employees will need to register once before completing the daily student self-screening. Campus employees can register once and complete daily self-screening on Blink.
  • All return to work plans will be reviewed by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and endorsed before final review by the VC. Only after VC review and approval of the plan will employees be permitted to return to on-campus work.
  • See additional Guidance to Vice Chancellors for Staff Return to Campus (PDF).

Learn more about COVID-19 information for employees.

Research Activity

Certain low-density research and other endeavors may resume on campus
  • UC San Diego began carefully ramping up on-site research and creative activities in early June in alignment with San Diego County Public Health requirements.
  • Several hundred programs are open with faculty, staff and students resuming their activities. UC San Diego is working hard to ensure its continued success in grant competitions and renewals and preparing for students to return in the fall.
  • In order to reduce the opportunity for community spread of COVID-19, the Research Continuity Task Force identified a personnel density of 25 percent of normal operations as appropriate. We are close to reaching this 25 percent cap, with some PIs still working on their initial ramp up plans.
  • All Research plans are reviewed by department chairs, deans, Environmental Health and Safety, and Research Affairs, and all personnel on-site for research must commit to safety compliance.
  • The Emergency Operations Center will offer one-time “welcome back” kits, providing a limited number of masks, gloves, and sanitization supplies.
  • Our research ramp-up activity is being conducted in accordance with state and local public health orders, CDC recommendations, and campus guidelines regarding physical distancing, reduced population density on-site, use of face coverings or personal protective equipment, and disinfecting protocols.

Learn more about Research Ramp-Up.

Due to the dynamic public health situation, UC San Diego will remain flexible. As has been the case since the beginning of this unprecedented challenge, the University’s plans may change as the pandemic evolves and government and public health authorities respond. While the California reopening plan is executed and assessed at each phase, UC San Diego will notify campus community members of any changes to their learning and work situations as appropriate. In all decisions, the health and safety of students, employees and local communities will be paramount.