As students and faculty return to campus, UC Santa Barbara outlined updated COVID-19 protocols as part of its mitigation efforts, including boosting, testing and isolation requirements.
UCSB mandated that all eligible students receive a COVID-19 booster shot by Jan. 31 and faculty and staff receive a COVID-19 booster shot by Feb. 4. Students with previously approved vaccination exemptions are not required to receive a booster shot, but they must continue to obtain weekly campus testing.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) partnered with UCSB to hold a booster and vaccination clinic open to students and surrounding community members every Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Embarcadero Hall in Isla Vista.
SBCPHD Public Information Officer Jackie Ruiz encouraged individuals to register for an appointment through MyTurn — a state website that allows residents to find the closest vaccine sites and make an appointment — although limited walk-ins are also available. The clinic offers first, second and booster doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The clinic first opened on Jan. 11, and its operations have been extended through February, according to Ruiz.
“The booster clinic at Embarcadero Hall has been extremely successful,” Ruiz said. “I know that our clinics have been vaccinating hundreds of community members and students that have come to the events, so that’s been really great.”
Locations for community vaccination clinics are offered by SBCPHD on a changing basis. Ruiz recommended visiting their website for the most current information.
In addition, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Walmart, Costco and various locations for Ralphs and Albertsons are offering vaccinations via appointment in Santa Barbara County.
According to Ruiz, 45% of eligible residents of Santa Barbara County have received their booster dose as of Jan. 24.
“We’re really, really hoping that more people get vaccinated as we go through this wave of omicron,” Ruiz said. “It is significantly impacting our health care system, and we do want to keep space available for true emergencies that come up, and so getting boosted is one of the ways that folks can contribute.”
UCSB also requires all students to obtain campus COVID-19 PCR testing sometime between Jan. 3 and Feb. 2. All staff and faculty who will be on campus during Winter Quarter 2022 are “strongly encouraged” to obtain a campus COVID-19 test as soon as possible, according to a staff memo from the UCSB COVID-19 response team.
In an email, the UCSB COVID-19 response team encouraged students to return to the greater Santa Barbara area no later than Jan. 25 in order to have ample time to complete testing, and in the case of testing positive, self-isolate for at least five days.
Campus testing is available through the Loma Pelona Center, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11:45 a.m. and then again from 1:05 to 4:45 p.m. Students and employees can make an appointment through the Student Health Services (SHS) Patient Portal Gateway.
Individuals can pick up a drop-off saliva PCR collection kit in advance of their appointment at multiple sites – the Loma Pelona Testing Center, the library front desk, the Student Resource Building’s (SRB) main desk, the Recreation Center Equipment Room or the building entry desks of on-campus residences. Drop-off kits must be returned to the Loma Pelona Center on the day of the appointment.
Addressing the UC Regents on Jan. 20, Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, UC student association president and UCSB external vice president for statewide affairs, said that UCSB lacks adequate access to testing and has a shortage of medical resources to deal with the omicron variant.
“I routinely see standstill lines stretching along the block at our sole testing center at UCSB, with appointments often being booked weeks in advance,” Quintero-Cubillan said. “A UC student’s access to testing and vaccines should not depend on the location or prestige of their campus.”
UCSB spokesperson Shelly Leachman said in a statement to the Nexus that the Loma Pelona Center has sufficient capacity to accommodate student appointments for testing.
“Our single testing site at Loma Pelona Center, which offers in-person testing and analysis of self-administered tests, provides ample capacity to handle the flow of all campus tests,” Leachman said.
Community initiatives also offer students the opportunity to access testing services not affiliated with the university. SBCPHD requested over 200,000 at-home COVID-19 antigen test kits from the federal government for distribution to approximately 35 community partners. The SBCPHD received 57,000 of these rapid testing kits on Jan. 21, with more expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD), in partnership with SBCPHD, distributed rapid test kits on Jan. 22 and Jan. 25 to the broader community. Although Ruiz said the IVCSD has since exhausted its rapid test kit supply, the SBCPHD is currently determining the future allocation of the remaining expected testing kits.
“We’re hoping to have it every Saturday, but that’s not our schedule yet. We are relying on the county. We’re wanting to see how that supply is coming to us,” IVCSD General Manager Jonathan Abboud said.
In addition, a federal program, launched on Jan. 19, is allowing individuals to request up to four rapid testing kits per household, which would be shipped within 10 days.
If a campus community member obtains a positive COVID-19 test from outside campus testing services, UCSB requires students to upload their results to SHS Patient Portal Gateway under the “New Messages” section and for faculty and staff to notify the university by emailing email@example.com. Positive campus tests are automatically recorded in UCSB’s dashboard.
Regardless of vaccination status, campus community members that test positive must self-isolate for five days after either receiving their test result or from the first day of exhibiting symptoms, whichever occurs first. UCSB recommended for community members to obtain COVID-19 antigen testing on or after day five; those who still test positive or have continued symptoms should remain in isolation for a full 10 days before returning to school or work.
Ruiz recommended that persons exhibiting symptoms or those with known exposures to COVID-19 get tested.
“If a person has symptoms, of course, we want to make sure that they get tested as well. We’ve heard cases in which folks don’t test positive right away but have symptoms, and so definitely recommend isolating yourself if you have symptoms and continuing to test to ensure what it might be, whether it be COVID, or the flu or a cold,” Ruiz said.
Completion of boosting and testing requirements will update students’ Clearance Badge. Upon return to UCSB, students must continue filling out their Daily COVID-19 Screening Survey through the SHS Patient Portal Gateway. Beginning Jan. 25, students must use Duo, a multi-factor authentication tool, to log in to the SHS Patient Portal Gateway.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Jan. 27, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.