UC Berkeley details quarantine, contact tracing policies for students

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University Health Services has updated UC Berkeley COVID-19 quarantine and contact tracing policies, detailing that vaccinated students do not need to quarantine after coming into close contact with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

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UC Berkeley’s University Health Services, or UHS, created a “Contact Tracing and Close Exposures” page on its website detailing campus guidelines and contact tracing policies for students.

Vaccinated students who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic will not be required to quarantine, according to the website. Close contact is defined as having stood within six feet of an infected individual for 15 minutes or longer.

ASUC Office of Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert noted that this policy has changed since last semester. Previously, all close contacts of those with COVID-19, regardless of their symptoms or test results, were required to quarantine.

“Students need to follow the advice of UHS,” Weichert said. “They’re doing a lot of work. Follow their instructions; they’re watching out for you as an individual and our community.”

The UHS website includes guidelines for those who are notified of potential exposure or are likely to be at lower risk of contracting the virus. According to the website, students who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 are not required to quarantine, but should continue to monitor their symptoms and consider getting tested.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 at campus testing sites will receive a call from UHS with instructions for isolation, according to the website. UHS will also ask about close contacts in order to inform those individuals about staying in quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with the infected person if unvaccinated.

“Contact Tracing is and can be very accurate if those who have tested positive can provide good details and contacts of who they have been within the timeframe being looked at,” said UHS spokesperson Tami Cate in an email.

According to Cate, the contact tracing team has been effective at slowing the spread of the virus by tracking clusters of close contacts, proving to be a useful “tool.”

Weichert encouraged students to get tested regularly, regardless of vaccination status. He said that without regular testing for all students, it is difficult to track the number of positive cases on campus.

While absences for illness are excused, Weichert expressed that campus has not done enough to provide accommodations for students who need to miss class for longer periods of time due to quarantine or isolation.

“There’s very little structure in place for what happens if a student or instructor tests positive,” Weichert said. “What we’ve seen is that instructors are also worried about the pandemic. In most cases they’re going to be understanding, but that’s not the safeguard and insurance of a robust policy.”

Contact Emma Taila at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @emmataila.