As of 9:11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, there are 9,891 cases of COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County, including 97 deaths and 7,283 recovered cases.

UC Santa Cruz will house an additional 645 students for the 2021 winter quarter, adding to an existing population of just over 900. This comes as the Greater Bay Area’s ICU capacity is 8.4 percent, as of Jan. 5, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a regional stay-at-home order. 

Similar to fall, residents will “sequester” for their first 14 days on campus — minimizing movement to essential activities such as purchasing food, heading to work, receiving healthcare, and low-risk outdoor activities. New residents will not be allowed to move into their new housing until Jan. 16 due to COVID-19 mitigation requirements. These students’ housing and meal plan costs will be reduced to reflect this change.  

UCSC intended to house 2,500 students at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year. UCSC Director of News and Media Relations Scott Hernandez-Jason said those plans were sidetracked by the impact of the August CZU Lighting Complex fire in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. 

“The summer wildfires significantly interrupted our planning for fall quarter, particularly as it related to expanding our COVID testing lab and readying our buildings. As a result, we asked that students only live on campus if they had nowhere else to live or if their current living situation was making it difficult to study and learn,” Hernandez-Jason said in a text. “We’ve continued to see interest as we approached winter quarter, which is why we are providing another opportunity for students to live on campus.”

Executive Director of University Housing Services Dave Keller said between 800 and 900 students reserved new spots at the end of the winter housing application period. At time of press, about 150 students have withdrawn their winter application.

Although some students choose to live at home, for people like third-year transfer student Luis Garcia, the opportunity to live on campus is valuable to his academic success and college experience.   

“My housing situation back home isn’t too productive and it doesn’t really allow me to concentrate as much,” Garcia said. “I just felt that I would do better academically, if I had my own little room. Just the fact that I transfered and then I’m almost graduating, I feel like I make more connections actually being on campus than doing it remotely.”

To handle the flux in on-campus population, the university will be reopening residences in Stevenson College, adding to existing open residences in Colleges Nine and Ten, Crown, and Merrill. Split between apartments and residence halls, 129 students will move into Stevenson College, with the rest assigned to the already open housing facilities. Students will still live in single rooms in residence halls and apartments with a handful of students living in doubles in apartments. 

The Kresge K Building and Cowell apartment buildings One, Two, and Three will serve as quarantine and isolation spaces.

This winter, on-campus student COVID testing will be required twice weekly from the start of residents’ time on campus. Fall quarter testing increased from once a week testing to twice a week testing on Nov. 10. This will bring the gross number of mandatory student tests to roughly 3,000 per week this quarter. 

UCSC’s official COVID-19 Testing Matrix shows the university’s testing populations, mandates, and frequencies. According to the matrix, faculty and staff are not required to undergo the same mandatory testing that students are, but testing is provided upon request. Live-in residential staff can receive up to two tests per week at their discretion, and on-site employees and faculty can receive up to one test per week.

There are currently three on-campus testing sites at the Merrill Cultural Center, Porter Hitchcock Lounge, and Nine and Ten Namaste lounge. Executive Director of University Housing Services Dave Keller said the university will not be opening new sites this quarter because the current system is capable of handling the anticipated amount of tests. 

Crown/Merrill Dining Hall will be reopening, joining College Nine and Ten Dining Hall as the only two operational dining facilities on campus. Dining halls will continue to offer takeout through the GET app. The Market at University Center, a convenience store located on top of College Nine and Ten Dining Hall at the site of the repurposed Terra Fresca restaurant, will continue to operate in the winter. Other dining services and stores will remain closed.  

Closed dining services and stores:

  • Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall
  • Porter/Kresge Dining Hall
  • Rachel Carson/Oakes Dining Hall
  • Banana Joe’s
  • Bay Tree Express Store
  • Bowls by Café Brasil
  • College Eight Cafe
  • Global Village Cafe by Amazon Juices
  • Ivéta Cafe
  • Oakes Cafe
  • Perk Coffee Bar at Baskin Engineering
  • Perk Coffee Bar at Earth & Marine Sciences
  • Perk Coffee Bar at Physical Sciences Building
  • Stevenson Coffee House
  • Terra Fresca Restaurant & Coffee Bar

Despite the increased risk of COVID transmission due to the increased population on campus, university officials remain optimistic. Hernandez-Jason says the university will continue to safely house students even as state and national transmission surges. 

“The campus positivity rate has remained well below the county’s positivity rate,” Hernandez-Jason said, “which both underscores how seriously students are treating this virus and the importance of regular testing for COVID.”