Though the transmission level of COVID-19 in the UCSB community is in the low category by the CDC’s scale, the return of students to campus still means the increased risk of spreading the virus, demonstrating the largest concern surrounding student health. 

Art by Ruhika Nandy

To mitigate this, UCSB Student Health recommends masks indoors in shared spaces, specifically during the first two weeks of the quarter where risk is predicted to be highest. The most recent booster shot, which targets the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, is available by appointment via the Student Health Patient Portal. Rapid testing remains available for students at the front desks of the residence halls, in the campus bookstore at the UCen, the Student Resource Building, Recreation Center and University Library. 

The risk of outbreaks of the monkeypox and COVID-19 viruses are being currently monitored via data collection by the Santa Barbara Department of Public Health. As of Sept. 20, only 14 cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Santa Barbara County. 

According to the CDC, monkeypox is not known to be transmitted via shared airspace and is rather spread through direct contact with the body fluids or sores of a person infected. Students not included in the priority groups for vaccines can protect themselves by washing their hands often, particularly after contact with high-touch surfaces or the skin of someone who appears to have a rash resembling monkeypox. 

According to UCSB Student Health Services, a limited number of students can receive the JYNNEOS vaccine for monkeypox. The guidelines state that those who should prioritize getting the vaccine are people who have knowingly been in contact with someone who has monkeypox or “attended an event or venue where there was known monkeypox exposure.”  Students who are “gay, bisexual, and other men (including cisgender and transgender men) who have sex with men or transgender women” are priority groups of the CDC for vaccine allocation.

In a partnership between the Recreation & Wellness and University Health departments at the University of Maryland, student health consists of eight different dimensions of wellness: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, vocational, environmental, spiritual and financial. All eight dimensions overlap and affect one another, uniquely summing up to a student’s overall health and wellness. A healthy balance of these eight dimensions, the guide reads, is different from person to person, depending on one’s environment and control over their circumstances. 

In a survey of 30,967 participants conducted by Statista in 2021, only 39% of the surveyed college students said they believed that they were in good physical and mental health. 

In the same survey by Statista, 23% of respondents reported feeling fatigued every day in the week before they took the survey. 41% of respondents said they experienced symptoms of depression in the last year. 26.9% of students reported a diagnosis of a respiratory illness in the last 12 months before they took the survey. 

The beginning of the year marks a period of adjustment for many students as they experience new living situations and new campus involvements, matching their current involvements to an ever-changing set of goals for the future. 

According to a guide by the University of New Hampshire, being healthy is more than not being sick. Physical wellness specifically requires informed choices when it comes to precautions against illness and infection, alcohol, eating, reproductive health, sleep and stress management. 

A wellness map detailing where resources like condoms, menstrual products, hydration stations and rest chairs are located on campus can be found on the UCSB Health and Wellness website.