University Health Services moves online, leads testing, vaccine distribution

Photo of UHS Testing at the RSF
Gisselle Reyes/File
According to University Health Services, or UHS, spokesperson Tami Cate, all UHS departments have moved their services online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cate added that UHS is working with the California Department of Public Health to develop a student vaccination plan.

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During the pandemic, UC Berkeley’s University Health Services, or UHS, has transitioned its services online while implementing efforts to contain COVID-19 through testing and vaccine distribution.

All UHS departments, including medical health, mental health and some forms of physical therapy, are now offered remotely via phone or video, according to UHS spokesperson Tami Cate. Cate said this was to offer students care even when they are not on campus. Meanwhile, in-person needs, such as pharmacy pickup or urgent care, have been moved outside.

According to Cate, UHS’ COVID-19 containment has three major parts: tests, vaccinations and the campus COVID-19 response team.

UHS has established both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. Cate said campus also offers surveillance testing at four sites, including the Recreational Sports Facility, Memorial Stadium, University Village and Underhill parking garage.

“We do about 15,000-18,000 surveillance tests a week to support the campus,” Cate said in an email. “From an IT perspective, we have set-up our eTang portal to be able to have students and staff book COVID testing appointments and the testing badge which helps track testing requirements.”

While no student vaccination plan exists yet, Cate added in the email that UHS is working closely with the California Department of Public Health to develop one. In the meantime, vaccines have been made available for essential staff.

The campus COVID-19 response team performs contact tracing and cares for students who test positive or those quarantining at the Foothill residential dorms. The team reaches out to those who have either tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive and helps them get tested.

“We have definitely seen periods where there are a surge in cases, typically after a holiday period where students may have traveled or if there were any gatherings in which households mixed,” Cate said in the email. “Our contact tracing efforts have been helpful in catching these surges early.”

For their safety, UHS employees are required to wear all necessary personal protective equipment and undergo regular surveillance testing and training on “safety and infection control guidelines,” according to Cate. UHS has also limited the number of personnel allowed at the Tang Center.

Some students, however, such as freshman Avery Klauke, have had concerns about the speed of testing.

“At the beginning of the semester, some of the lines were 45 minutes to an hour long,” Klauke said. “[For turnover times,] there are some days where I’ll get it in two days, and some days where I’ll get it closer to five days.”

Overall, Cate said UC Berkeley has had a “relatively low” amount of positive cases, attributing the success to student and campus efforts to follow proper COVID-19 preventative measures.

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.