Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel

March 6, 2020

Dear campus colleagues,

We are writing today to share with you the latest updates, policies and general guidance regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel. 

Please keep in mind that as we take steps to help ensure the health and safety of our community we also want to be respectful of everyone. We ask everyone to follow our Principles of Community and learn more about stigma and how to correct it with facts and information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Work-related, non-essential travel 
The University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) systemwide policy limits faculty, staff, and student work-related travel to impacted countries if the work is non-essential. Initially, this was for countries with a CDC risk level of 3, however, yesterday UCOP announced that it was expanding the list to Level 2 countries. We encourage everyone to view the continually updated information on travel posted on the campus Global Engagement Office website for more information.  

If your business travel has been canceled as a result of the coronavirus and you were not able to obtain a full refund of some or all of your expenses, you have options for requesting reimbursement, which can vary depending on how you booked your travel. We’ve outlined these options on the travel website.

If you are still planning to travel for business and booked the travel outside of the UC Travel Portal, Connexxus, but have not yet registered the trip for travel insurance, please be sure to register immediately, as the UC provided travel insurance program will cover trip cancellation or interruption (up to $2,000) as a result of the coronavirus and medical expenses up to $500,000 when traveling outside of the U.S. 

We understand that news about the virus and its spread is concerning and some individuals may be reluctant about travel -- domestic or international -- right now. We encourage managers and supervisors to review the CDC and UCOP guidance and direct employees with questions to that guidance as well.

Personal travel
We encourage you to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Department of State recommendations for travel. CDC currently advises against non-essential travel to China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea. Aside from any risk from coronavirus itself, the transportation bans and infrastructure disruption are significant. It is also possible that U.S. borders might close to re-entry from some areas, making it challenging to return.

Spring break and students
There will soon be a short spring break travel survey from the Division of Student Affairs that will help us understand more about students’ travel plans during the spring break. We encourage students who receive an email invitation to please fill out this form, as it helps the campus to better prepare.

Cal Dining will be providing service over spring break for students who remain on campus. There will be service at the Crossroads location Sunday, March 22 through Saturday, March 28, with hours of service to include brunch 10am-4pm and dinner 5pm-8pm. 

Study Abroad
There are no campus-based study-abroad programs operating in the spring  semester through the Berkeley Study Abroad office. The system-wide, UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has canceled its spring and summer programs in China, as well as its spring programs in South Korea and Italy. 

UCEAP is working with staff and partners in Italy and South Korea, UCOP, and the nine UC campuses to assist students who are currently in those two countries. Students and their parents have received instructions for activating the Trip Interruption Benefit of the UCEAP travel insurance for early departure. UCEAP is coordinating additional financial assistance for travel home and academic support as needed.

As Department of State and CDC updates are released, UCEAP will make decisions about programs in other countries. Likewise, campus-based summer abroad programs managed by the Berkeley Study Abroad office will also rely on Department of State and CDC updates.

International students unable to travel home this summer
We are aware that world events may cause some international students to choose not to return to their home this coming summer. To assist students who may not have summer housing in place, Cal Housing is encouraging these students to register for housing for the 12-week summer session (Session AD). Please visit the Cal Housing website for details. Please note that summer housing stock is limited.

For those students who choose to remain in Berkeley for the summer, Berkeley Summer Sessions offers options that can help keep their academics on track or allow them to gain a new credential.

If you are unclear as to how any of these choices may or may not impact your non-immigrant status you are encouraged to contact the Berkeley International Office.

Guidance to students, faculty, postdocs, staff, and visiting scholars and students, regarding travel to campus from impacted countries to work or study at UC Berkeley.

Students, faculty, staff and visiting scholars, student researchers and postdocs traveling to campus from mainland China after February 2, 2020 will, per California Dept of Public Health (CDPH) guidance, be screened and quarantined for 14 days after their return with close monitoring by their local public health department.

CDC now also recommends that individuals with a recent travel history from all countries/areas with widespread, ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice countries) stay home for 14 days from the time you left and practice social distancing.The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) echoed this guidance in a directive issued yesterday, stating that such individuals must self-isolate for 14 days.  

All UC Berkeley faculty, staff, students, postdocs and other UC affiliates including visiting scholars are asked to call the University Health Services COVID-19 Travel Line at  510-642-6622 upon arrival in the Bay Area.  All impacted international visiting scholars, visiting student researchers, and postdocs should also contact the Berkeley International Office to ensure that U.S. Department of Homeland Security SEVIS arrival reporting requirements are met and should also notify their host department of their arrival and/or any delays to the start of their program/stay.

CDC guidance instructs individuals traveling from the impacted areas as noted above to:

  • Stay home and avoid contact with others; not to go to work or school for this 14-day period. Discuss your work situation with your employer before returning to work.

  • Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares during the time you are practicing social distancing.

  • Avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.

  • Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).

  • Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.

  • If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:

    • Seek medical care. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. For students ONLY: call the UHS Advice Line (24/7) at (510) 643-7197.

    • Tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.

    • Avoid contact with others, and wear a paper mask, if you have one

    • If you need to seek medical care for other reasons, such as dialysis, call ahead to your doctor and tell them about your recent travel to an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

Additional resources
We encourage everyone to view the helpful resource information, including tips on proper hygiene such as lathering your hands and washing for at least 20 seconds, as well as mental health resources, on the UHS website.  For COVID-19 travel-related questions, UHS has set up an advice line. Please call  510-642-6622 during business hours.

These are trying times, so we encourage everyone to take care of themselves and be sensitive to the needs of those around you. 

The situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) is dynamic and consequently guidance from public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changes frequently.  Please review the content on the COVID-19 campus website regularly.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available. Students, please share this  document with your family and any other concerned parties. 


Marc Fisher
Vice Chancellor, Administration

This message was sent to all UC Berkeley faculty, staff and students.