Receiving a positive COVID-19 test is only the first of many worries for those UC Santa Cruz residents sent to quarantine at a hotel 10 miles away in Scotts Valley. 

Despite having over 80 beds of isolation housing in the Village, UCSC has had to quarantine students in multiple hotels. First-year student Sharon Liu described the difficulty of quarantining in the Four Points hotel in Scotts Valley, which included insufficient food portions and having to share a hotel room with another COVID-19 positive student.

“The food itself was really bad. It could have been worse, we could’ve had to provide our own food. But still for the only food there was it was bad in quality and just wasn’t enough,” said Liu. “My roommate said she doesn’t eat that much but even she was hungry, and I was hungry throughout isolation. That was not pleasant, and it was really expensive to get food delivered.”  

Once positive tests are reported to the Student Health Center, the quarantine isolation coordinator’s desk contacts the student and prepares to move the positive individual to quarantine housing. Meals, transport, and other support are provided, according to Dave Keller, UCSC’s Executive Director of Housing Services.

“We’ve been doing [quarantine and isolation housing] going on two years now. It’s evolved into a pretty slick system that operates quite well,” Keller said. 

When Liu tested positive at the Merrill Cultural Center on Jan. 6, her first instinct was to reach out to the Health Center. But because her COVID-19 status wasn’t registered in the system, she couldn’t yet receive assistance from the school. The next day she was contacted asking if she was interested in off-campus isolation housing.

While the university is providing isolation housing for some, the lack of on-campus isolation rooms has led to students sharing quarantine spaces, or being told to remain in their university housing regardless of room occupancy. 

First-year Thomas Castillo struggled with the next steps after testing positive. On a call with a Student Health Center nurse, he was instructed to quarantine in his double dorm, as his roommate had not yet returned to campus.

“I decided to find online information about what to do if I tested positive, but there was hardly any information,” Castillo said. “It really sucked cause I didn’t know what to do […] I just stayed in my room, ate whatever food I had. I rationed it for a couple of days.” 

Students can receive assistance from Resident Assistants and housing services to get food while isolating on campus. 

UCSC had less than 100 cases through fall quarter, but still faced an increase of over 900 cases through January. In total, January had less than five days without a new case being reported.

As students return to campus in droves, crowding into classrooms, buses, and school facilities once again, UCSC’s COVID-19 response continues to students wondering.

“[On Jan 6.] the majority of students weren’t even back yet it was a very very tiny amount of people. It was like, ‘They’re out of isolation housing already? They don’t have that set up, what’s going on?’” Liu said. “It does make me question how overwhelmed these departments and admin will be by the time that the brunt of students come back and we start going back in person.”