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Campus Safety

Comprehensive COVID-19 Safety

UC San Diego’s Return to Learn Program is guided by three evidence-based pillars: risk mitigation, viral detection and intervention. These recommended guidelines, including wearing a face covering and physical distancing, can help reduce your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 when used consistently. As illustrated in the model below, no single defense method is invulnerable, but by applying multiple layers of defense, you can offset the weakness in any single layer. This illustration was adapted from the Swiss Cheese Model developed by James Reason, Ph.D.

Swiss Cheese Model. Reduce your COVID-19 risk with multiple layers of defense.


To protect all students, faculty and staff, UC San Diego has developed enhanced safety requirements for individuals arriving, working and living on all UC San Diego campuses, properties and locations. Policies focused on mandatory face coverings, physical distancing and daily symptom and exposure screening have been implemented and will be continuously reevaluated. A comprehensive plan has been established to ensure UC San Diego can respond rapidly to emerging COVID-19 trends.

Face Coverings

Wear a maskAll campus members and visitors should have a mask with them at all times while on campus. If a campus community member or visitor does not have a face covering while on campus, they will be provided with one or required to purchase one. University guidance will continue to evolve as Federal, State and County guidance is modified in response to the current public health environment.

For proper use, the face covering must cover both the nose and mouth. Further information can be found at the Campus Guidance on Use of Face Coverings to Prevent Community Spread of COVID-19 webpage.

General guidelines for outdoor settings:

Fully vaccinated: face covering not required except in crowded environments (300 people or more) such as sporting events, concerts and fairs.

Unvaccinated: face covering required during most outdoors activities when six foot distancing cannot be maintained. (Exceptions include going for walks, jogs or bike rides, or when taking part in small outdoor gatherings where everyone else is fully vaccinated.)

General guidelines for indoor settings:

Regardless of vaccination status, everyone must mask indoors. This includes shopping, dining, public transportation, exercising, studying indoors at a location that is not your primary residence, attending indoor business meetings and indoor events. Laboratory settings require everyone to be masked and distanced.

Exceptions for indoor masking:

  • Not required while eating or drinking.
  • Not required within primary residence.
  • Not required while driving in a car alone or solely with members of your household.
  • Not required while working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Not required for those who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
  • Not required for workers who wear respiratory protection, or persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings by other CDPH guidance.
  • Not required for persons younger than two years old.
  • Not required for persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication or persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Further details on when and where masking is required:

  • Offices: open indoors with modifications; mask required. Telework encouraged. Single vaccinated person working alone in an office with door closed, mask recommended.
  • Campus business meetings: limited to 10 individuals with required six feet distancing. No food or drinks allowed. Mask required.
  • Campus research settings: Six feet distancing required. Mask required.
  • Campus transportation (e.g. vanpool, carpool, buses): mask required.
  • Residential units: remain in phase II (no mask required within personal residence), no visitors allowed (including other residential students). If you are unvaccinated and leave campus you need to test within 24 hours of returning, day 5 and 10 and mask except for personal bedroom and shower until a day 10 test is negative.
  • Restaurants: open indoors with modifications at maximum 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer; mask required when not eating or drinking.
  • Outdoor classrooms: mask required.
  • Campus events: mask guidance varies depending on size and location. Please see more details here.
  • Gyms and fitness centers (both at housing and sports facilities): open indoors with modifications at maximum 25% capacity; mask required.
  • Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities: open with modifications; masking optional.
  • Hair salons and barbershops: open indoors with modifications; mask required.
  • Retail: open indoors with modifications; mask required.
  • Personal care services: open indoors with modifications; mask required.
  • Museums, zoo and aquariums: open indoors with modifications at 50% capacity; mask required.
  • Movie theaters: open indoors with modifications at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer; mask required.

View UC San Diego Campus Masking and Gathering Guidance PDF here

Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current guidance is less constrained. As UC San Diego concludes the Spring Quarter 2021, the Campus will apply knowledge of viral transmission as well as the California Department of Public Health and the County of San Diego’s guidance to Campus events and masking policies. Campus guidance will continue to evolve as Federal, State and County guidance is modified in response to the current public health environment. This guidance will be in effect until further notice.

Symptom and Exposure Screening

Complete symptom screening
  • All UC San Diego students who reside on campus, and students who reside in the San Diego region planning to physically come onto the campus for various activities, such as attending an in-person class, are expected to participate in daily symptom and exposure screening before arrival. The symptom-screening tool can be accessed from a computer or mobile device.
  • Non-vaccinated students who are currently living in University-owned housing or coming to campus for any reason must continue to complete the symptom screener daily.
  • Fully vaccinated students will need to continue the daily symptom screening if they are living in University-owned housing/coming to campus for any reasons.
  • All UC San Diego staff, faculty, student employees, and individuals who are working in a research lab who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location for work must conduct a daily symptom and exposure screening for COVID-19 before arrival and report any symptoms or confirmed exposures for days that they will be on site. The symptom-screening tool can be accessed from a computer or mobile device.
  • Employees required to return to campus are required to complete the COVID-19 Return to Work Training.
  • Employees must sign the training roster, indicating that they have read and understand the department/group’s specific Social Distancing and Sanitation Protocol. Supervisors will review the training record and sign the roster, verifying that the employee understands the requirements. 
  • Learn more about how the university treats the information we process as part of the Symptom and Exposure Screening Program.

COVID-19 Testing

  • Students and employees who have been fully vaccinated (two weeks after their final dose of vaccine) are no longer required to complete weekly asymptomatic testing. Symptomatic testing will remain available as needed
  • For students who are fully vaccinated and you received your vaccine outside of UC San Diego Health, please log into your MyStudentChart and send a message to “ASK-A-NURSE" in the Messages tab. Provide your vaccination information including which vaccine you received and the date(s) administered in order to be exempted from the weekly testing requirement. If you have additional questions, contact
  • All undergraduate and graduate students who are currently living in University-owned housing or coming to campus who are not fully vaccinated are required to participate in self-administered testing each week. Each test must be at least 5 days apart with no more than 9 days between tests.
  • All UC San Diego employees (staff, faculty, research, clinical) who report to work on campus and have not been fully vaccinated are required to get a COVID-19 test on a weekly basis unless they had COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
Learn more and schedule your test.

Physical Distancing

Maintain physical distancing. Limit one person per elevator
  • Physical distancing of six feet or more shall be maintained in all areas. Where possible, seating will be repositioned to address the required six feet separations.
  • Through the Three's Company Program, students to socialize in small groups (ten or fewer), so long as they are outside, wearing face coverings, and observing physical distancing. This program does not change the guest policy for campus residents; indoor socializing is not allowed at this time.
  • Campus community members must abide by signage indicating entrance and exits for classrooms, teaching labs and lecture halls to avoid pinch points.
  • Classroom seating distances will be identified, providing appropriate physical spacing for the given room but not less than six feet around each seat.
  • Elevator use is restricted to one person per car at any given time.
  • In buildings that meet the required fire life safety code, stairwells will be unidirectional to promote physical distancing. In case of emergency, all stairwells will flow towards the nearest building exit. 
  • Public areas (lobbies, meeting rooms, study rooms, laundry rooms, restrooms, etc.) and high-touch areas (door handles, elevator buttons, etc.) will be disinfected frequently. Hand sanitizer will be available at various entry points, dining facilities, study and other public areas.

Protect yourself

Wash your hands

Engagement and Intervention

We are counting on the members of our campus community to comply with these requirements to promote the health and welfare of all. Non-compliance is subject to progressive engagement and discipline, in accordance with appropriate policies and processes for students, faculty, and staff.

COVID-19 Testing Noncompliance

Under PPM 516-31, mandatory COVID-19 weekly testing applies to students who are not fully vaccinated and are on campus for educational, research, co-curricular, recreational, or social activities (including all students living in University-owned housing). Please see the testing policy here. As such, unless granted a special exemption approved by Student Health Services, students 9 days out of compliance with this policy will be referred to the Student Conduct Office for the progressive discipline process.


Throughout the pandemic, Resource Management and Planning (RMP) has continued to safely deliver essential services to the campus. In addition, UC San Diego’s Emergency Operations Center, led by the campus Environment, Health & Safety team, has been active since February, 2020 and continues to serve as the university’s hub for monitoring the pandemic, disseminating information, and providing expert support for all COVID-19 related matters. 

Cleaning Protocols

Facilities Management has increased daily cleaning services, and is working to establish a dedicated sanitation team that will increase this frequency to twice daily. Current efforts include:

  • Daily disinfection of all building common surfaces and area touch points such as entrance doors and handles, lobby and interior elevator buttons, water fountains and more. COVID-19 Disinfection Guidance can be found here.
  • Daily restroom sanitation for all campus core buildings, continuing to service high volume restrooms more frequently.
  • In the process of installing hands-free access doors at main entry points, mounted hand sanitizer stations at all main building entrances and foot pedals on all exterior Big Belly trash and recycling containers.

In addition, an in-house COVID-19 Cleaning Team provides rapid response disinfectant cleaning for campus areas where an individual has reported symptoms or has tested positive and had been working within the last 72 hours. Sanitation services can be requested here.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Resources

UC San Diego’s Emergency Operations Center, in collaboration with Procurement and Facilities Management, provides a one-time “Welcome Kit” to all returning departments so that they are able to meet the required sanitation and health protocols. The kits include operational PPE for research units, an allotment of reusable face coverings and hand sanitizer for all returning employees, as well as self-cleaning supplies to enable those returning to clean their workspaces on a daily basis. A one-time initial supply kit can be requested here.

Ventilation and Water Quality

Facilities Management has upgraded ventilation and water quality in the following ways:

  • Upgraded all core funded buildings, where possible (90% of buildings), to MERV 14 or higher filters (hospital grade).
  • Adjusted ventilation settings in all occupied buildings to maximize air changes and fresh air within all spaces. This includes increased fan speeds and disinfection of cooling coils, condensate drains, changing pre and post filters and other items to ensure fresh air intakes are as clean as possible.
  • Removal of after-hours and night time schedules on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure maximum fresh air circulation 24/7.
  • Routine flushing of domestic water systems and replacement of all drinking fountain water filters with increased filter change frequencies.

General Campus Operations

Numerous other operations have commenced at UC San Diego to help reduce the risk of transmission.

  • Protective barriers are being installed within all campus shuttles, as well as regular cleaning of shuttle surfaces, parking pay stations and elevator controls.
  • New flexible parking guidelines allow faculty and others to park closer (avoiding shared spaces on shuttles), at lower cost, and pay for just those days that they are parking on campus.  Details about new parking guidelines can be found here.
  • UC San Diego’s Police Department provides social distancing education and enforcement to the campus team of 80 community service officers and 18 residential security officers. Thus far there has been complete compliance of safety protocols without the need to issue any warnings or citations.
  • Signs across the campus and on all buildings alert and remind individuals of the various health and safety measures that are in place and have been recommended.
  • Protocols are in place to maintain safe operations of Price Center Sunshine Market, the UC San Diego Bookstore, and Imprints. New protective measures are also being developed so that the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) can reopen in the near future.

All campus construction projects have continued without interruption. Rigorous standards and protocols have been put in place to mitigate risk to the health and safety of the construction workers and the campus community. This includes daily symptom screening of all workers and visitors; strict social distancing and facial covering requirements; extra cleaning and sanitation facilities; multiple work shifts to reduce density and professional hygiene; and cleaning and sanitation. We are closely monitoring all of our construction sites and do not believe there has been any community spread of the virus at this time. Safety protocols for on-campus construction contractors and contracted service providers can be found here.

Learn more about the campus’s modified operations and safety procedures.

Protecting Our Campus Community

If you live, work, or study on campus, you are unfortunately still at risk of developing COVID-19. The SARS-CoV- 2 virus that causes COVID-19 has the ability to spread wherever people congregate. Because of this, it is impossible to eliminate all risks of transmission among the campus population, even when the community is careful and abides by health and safety requirements like wearing face coverings. We are working diligently to protect our campus community, and we are following the instructions from state and local public health officials. For on-campus residents, we have a program in place for isolation housing, and our top-notch Student Health Services is available for all students. The campus is prepared to change our plans if necessary; if a major outbreak were to occur, our resources could become overwhelmed.