Coronavirus Health FAQ

About Coronavirus

How do we protect ourselves from Coronavirus?

  • Keep your immune system healthy by getting plenty of SLEEP, nutrition, stress-relief, and exercise. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (contains at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available. Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, and certainly after sneezing or before/after touching your face or a sick person.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.  
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with others who are sick
  • At this time, in alignment with public health guidelines, we strongly recommend that practicing physical distancing and in particular around those - or if you are one of those - who are at higher risk for developing severe disease: individuals over age 65 and people with significant underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, or suppressed immune systems.  
  • It is required that you wear a cloth face covering when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. A bandana, fabric mask, neck gaiter or other cloth barrier may help prevent those who have mild or no COVID-19 symptoms from unknowingly spreading it to others, however it does not substitute for physical distancing and hand hygiene.
  • The CDC website has excellent resources available to guide both personal protection and household preparation,

Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus? Does the flu shot help prevent Coronavirus?    

A vaccine for this coronavirus is not available at this time, although a lot of labs are working on it. The seasonal flu vaccine does not prevent coronavirus.  However, CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get the seasonal flu vaccine because it will help protect you for the most common strains of the flu.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.  While much remains unclear, and epidemiology may vary depending on location, strain, and access to medical care, a pattern is emerging that:

  • Early symptoms may be nonspecific, such as fever, body aches or chills, scratchy throat, and or/mild stomach upset (diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, loss of smell)

  • A few days later a dry cough may emerge, that can worsen to start including shortness of breath over several days

  • Upper respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion or sneezing are less common

In addition, it remains true that 80% of people will have mild disease, and most - but not all - with more severe disease are older or have underlying medical conditions. And: we still don’t know how many people have no symptoms at all.

Is COVID-19 worse than the flu?

 While data is still very incomplete, it looks as if COVID-19 is significantly more transmissible than influenza and likely slightly more dangerous, however, true mortality remains unknown since we do not have a “denominator” (the total number of people infected).  While older populations and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe disease from both, COVID-19 seems to affect children much less than flu. And only a small percentage of COVID-19 patients have significant upper respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion.

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

No.  There is at this time no treatment for COVID-19 other than supportive care, meaning analgesia (Tylenol) if needed for fevers and body aches, hydration, and respiratory support through inhalers, oxygen, or respirators (intubation) in a hospital setting.  Scientists all over the world are racing to test existing medications and to identify new ones that might work, and several clinical trials are already ongoing.

UHS Response and Services

How is UHS prepared for COVID-19?

For the past couple of months now UHS has amended our triage processes (online and nurse-staffed) to enhance our ability to take care of as many people as possible while minimizing the risk of exposure to others through enhanced screening and dedicated sick and well clinics.  We have moved most appointments in all departments to virtual platforms, however, we are still able to see patients in person when needed, within Primary Care, Urgent Care, Physical Therapy, Counseling & Psychological Services, and Occupational Health Clinics.  The pharmacy and lab are also open. Please check our reduced in-person services page for more details.

Outside the building, we have a robust set-up including multiple sheltered open-air spaces dedicated to assessing and caring for students with potential COVID-19.  We are able to perform limited examinations, collect samples, and even perform XRays if needed without entering the building, which minimizes the risk of contamination and allows for far greater efficiency.  We have also set up a separate rapid walk-through and drive-by swabbing area for UCB students, faculty and staff with milder symptoms who qualify for testing.

Is testing available at the Tang Center? And who can get 

PCR (swab) testing for COVID-19 is available at UHS for UCB students, faculty or staff who fall into one of the following categories:

1. close contact with a confirmed case, as notified by UHS or public health personnel

2. program requirements, per agreement

3. symptons concering for COVID-19, which may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

See relevant section below to find out how to access testing.  Clinical consultation is generally required.

Students with symptoms

Students interested in assessment and possible testing for COVID-19 should:

  • If mild symptoms: schedule a telephone appointment with a UHS clinician online at is external) ( M-F) OR

  • If ill: stop by the Durant side of Tang M-F 10-4pm for in-person assessment or go directly to the nearest Emergency Room

Students are always encouraged to call the UHS Advice Line 24/7 at (510) 643-7197 if you are ill and are unsure if you need to be seen. 

UCB Faculty and Staff with symptoms

Employees interested in testing at UHS should:

  • If mild symptoms: call the UCB Occupational Health COVID hotline (510) 332-7192 for assessment and instructions (Monday - Friday from 10am-4pm; messages can be left any time).

  • If ill: please call your own health care provider first for advice or go directly to the nearest Emergency Room.  You are welcome to call Occupational Health as above for testing if advised by your PCP.

Occupational Health does not have capacity to care for staff who are seriously ill or who have non-work related conditions: please do not call for non-COVID conditions unless work-related.

Do students need to have SHIP insurance to be seen at Tang Center for COVID-19?

All registered UC Berkeley students can use all services at UHS whether or not they have the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). Copay for primary care and urgent care the same regardless of insurance.

What does SHIP cover related to COVID-19?

There is no cost to students for testing, regardless if you have SHIP or not. Testing is for those people that meet the CDC criteria for testing. 

Call the UHS Advice Line at 510-643-7197 if you believe you might have this illness, and we will help guide the next steps.

What if I have left campus, how do I use my SHIP insurance? 

For students with SHIP for the Spring 2020 semester, your benefits are still valid and remain in effect through July 31, 2020.  The Fall 2020 SHIP coverage period begins on August 1, 2020.

Given the unique situation that continues to evolve around the coronavirus, effective March 16, students with SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) are no longer required to seek a referral from University Health Services before accessing care. The referral exception will remain in place until further notice. For more information on how to use SHIP

Campus & the Berkeley Community

What is quarantine, and how is that happening here on campus? 

Quarantine in general means the separation of a person or group of people not known to HAVE, but reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent possible spread.  It is not the same as isolating symptomatic people suspected to have an infection, which is what we routinely do when we are in the process of testing someone for COVID-19 or any other potentially serious communicable disease.  Only the public health officer has the legal authority to order quarantine; if students are quarantined they may do so at home or, if needed, on campus in designated quarantine spaces.  Public health, and by delegation, UHS personnel, support and monitor quarantined individuals closely to ensure they and others remain safe.

For more detailed information regarding quarantine and isolation, see this link.

What is the campus doing for infection control?

Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through contact with inanimate objects contaminated with the virus. However, current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces of these inanimate objects. Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces with soap and water followed by disinfection with an EPA-registered disinfectant is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings. Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting if possible. Use unexpired diluted household bleach solutions (1/3rd cup bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water), alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants. Be sure to use all products according to the directions on the label. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas such as tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, counters, desks, toilets, and sinks. Remember to wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.

Is COVID-19 spreading on campus or in the Berkeley community

There is community transmission of COVID-19 in the Bay Area. The focus now is mitigation of potential exposure. 

Health experts advise that COVID-19 has been circulating widely in the Bay Area for some time now and it is highly likely that many of us have come into contact with an infected individual. 

The primary public health strategy now is mitigation: reducing exposure by rigorous compliance with social distancing recommendations, regular handwashing and extra care to avoid unnecessary contact with our most vulnerable populations. This is most effective when followed by all of us as individuals. While local public health authorities are still tracing contacts of people who have tested positive, that capacity is unlikely to last much longer.  While this sounds frightening, it really doesn’t change the recommendation that anyone who has any flu-like symptoms may have COVID-19 -- or something else -- and should avoid contact with others until 1-3 days after resolution of fever and either stay home or wear a mask and wash hands when out and about for as long as any symptoms last.

What do I do...

I am worried I have coronavirus -- what do I do?  How can I get tested?

  • First: take a deep breath, gently.  We continue to see other viruses circulating in the community, including influenza - COVID doesn’t have a monopoly.  That said: it is very hard not knowing, especially given how frightening it is to be ill in these times.
  • Second: think hard about your home setting and isolate yourself as best you can from others, especially anyone who is at higher risk for complications (elderly, heart or lung disease, diabetes, cancer, immunocompromised, maybe pregnancy).  If you have a mask, put it on. And wash your hands.
  • Third: call your healthcare provider for advice.  Students: call the Nurse Advice Line (24/7) at (510) 643-7197. 
  • Fourth: testing availability has improved locally over the last few week.  At UHS we are offering assessment and testing for any UCB student, faculty or staff who may have symptoms.  See our COVID-19 testing page for details.


What happens when there are confirmed cases of COVID-19?  How will I know if I am at risk?

We work closely with the public health department to contact individuals who are close contacts of confirmed positive cases who have been infectious while on the UCB campus.  Since COVID-19 is now circulating in the community and most cases will not be confirmed due to testing challenges, people should assume that anyone (especially anyone with symptoms) and any surface is potentially infectious and keep up the excellent work hand washing, wearing a face covering, physical distancing and staying home as much as possible.

What do I do if I'm living in the dorms or self-isolating in an apartment?

What about students, faculty, or staff who have returned from a country or area with widespread transmission of COVID-19?

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 for instructions and support. (CDC List of areas with widespread transmission of COVID-19)

If you are healthy and have no symptoms, take these steps to monitor your health and practice social distancing: 

  • Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school for this 14-day period. Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares during the time you are practicing social distancing. • Avoid crowded places (such as stores or movie theaters) and limit your activities in public as much as possible. 

  • Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing. You can discontinue these procedures 2 weeks after leaving the COVID-19 affected area if you do not become ill. 

If you have any signs of illness, especially fever, chills, cough, have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath: 

  • Put on a surgical (paper) mask, if you have one, and stay in a private room

  • Call your healthcare provider immediately for further guidance (students only: call the the UHS Nurse Advice Line at (510) 643-7197). 

  • Don’t expose others. Please be sure to let your healthcare provider know the concern for COVID-19 as soon as you arrive.

What if I have tested positive for COVID-19?

Please see our testing for COVID-19 page.


See our mask page for comparing masks.

Should everyone be wearing a mask or face covering when they go out?

At this time in the Bay Area it is required that you wear a cloth face covering when you must be in public places for essential needs.  Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. Make sure the covering is comfortable – you don’t want to have to keep adjusting the mask, which means touching your face.  Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before AND after touching your face or face coverings.

Please do not buy or hoard surgical masks or N-95s. Preserve the limited supply of medical grade masks such as an N-95 for health care workers or first-responders, who cannot use physical distance to protect themselves, especially from people at their most symptomatic, infectious period.  The City of Berkeley is collecting PPE donations through their website. All these donations will be vetted/ distributed to healthcare facilities, EMS partners, and Skilled Nursing Facilities/Long-term Care Facilities depending on need.

Staying home, washing hands regularly, and avoiding touching your face remain essential ways to avoid infection and flatten the curve in our community to ensure adequate hospital capacity.

Can students pick up free masks at Tang? 

The Tang Center has a limited supply of paper masks for students seen for respiratory symptoms, but we cannot supply the general student population. A bandana, fabric mask, neck gaiter or other cloth barrier may help prevent those who have mild or no COVID-19 symptoms from unknowingly spreading it to others.  Please see CDPH guidance for more information.  Supplies are short nationally: please preserve them for healthcare providers providing face:face care of infectious patients and stay home instead.

Are you accepting mask donations?

UHS has enough PPE for our staff. Please consider donating to the City of Berkeley.

How do I make a cloth mask?

You’re encouraged to cover your nose and mouth with cloth when leaving home, to further reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus per the city of Berkeley. A bandana, fabric mask, neck gaiter or other cloth barrier helps prevent those who might have COVID-19 but mild or no symptoms from unknowingly spreading it to others. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a guide to creating a cloth face covering out of materials you likely have at home.