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COVID-19 updates for winter break

graphic of the VPGE Shield
Dec 9 2020
COVID-19, Stanford, Students, VPGE

Dear graduate and professional students,

We hope that you are staying safe as winter break and holidays get underway. Today we are following up on Monday’s message from Provost Drell to explain what the university’s plans for undergraduates in winter quarter may mean for you. Perhaps more urgently for some of you, we also want to update you on the most recent local public health policies, which have changed significantly since we last wrote to you on Nov. 20. These policies have significant implications for travel and campus activity during winter break and, should they be extended, for the start of winter quarter.

The health and safety of our entire community continues to be our primary goal in the second surge of the pandemic, and we appreciate your collective efforts to keep our campus safe. You can find this and other updates on Grad Updates.

Bay Area Stay-At-Home Order: As of Dec. 6 and extending through at least Jan. 4, Santa Clara County and other areas of the Bay Area are under a new stay-at-home order similar to what we experienced in March at the start of the pandemic. As explained in a Dec. 4 message to the Stanford community, “the order prohibits private gatherings of any size with individuals outside of one’s household, closes business operations except for critical infrastructure and retail (which can operate at 20 percent of capacity) and requires face coverings and physical distancing. It restricts non-essential travel and requires people to stay at home as much as possible, but allows access and essential travel for critical services, health and medical care, school and study, and work. Outdoor activities to preserve physical and mental health are still permitted.”

The good news is that previously approved “student households” and registered essential visitors are still allowed under the current Bay Area stay-at-home order for students who stay on campus during winter break. However, students who are traveling to campus from more than 150 miles away must follow the 14-day Santa Clara County quarantine policy described below, which is in place until at least Dec. 21.

Testing: Weekly testing over winter break is generally not required for students but is strongly recommended for those living on or coming to campus regularly. We understand that some students had difficulty making appointments, as many sought testing before traveling, and that “no-shows” also increased. Please book one appointment at a time and cancel an appointment if you cannot use it so another student may pick it up. Vaden and Verily have contracted to dramatically increase testing capacity during winter quarter. A schedule and other information about winter break testing can be found here. Testing in winter quarter will likely initially be required twice a week as more students move in and campus activity ramps up.

Winter Quarter Plans: The Provost shared that frosh and sophomores are invited to move to campus after the start of winter quarter (Jan. 21-24), allowing more time for the current COVID surge to get under control. Undergraduates with approved special circumstances, many of whom have been living on campus in autumn, may return or move in earlier. This phased arrival is designed to keep the campus community as safe as possible. Fortunately, graduate and professional students who left campus on essential travel during break are free to return to campus on your own schedule. Newly-arriving students who will live in housing assigned by Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) will receive move-in information directly from R&DE. In sum, your return or arrival dates are likely not affected by the frosh and sophomore move-in schedule announced by Provost Drell.

Restricted Activity on CampusWe want to reiterate critical information from Provost Drell that applies to all returning or newly-arriving students: Importantly, for the first two weeks that returning or newly arriving undergraduate and graduate students are on campus, there will be no in-person gatherings (including gatherings of student households), and there could be additional county requirements for those who are completing travel. Currently, Santa Clara County has a 14-day quarantine directive for those who arrive in the county from more than 150 miles away. This directive expires Dec. 21 but could be extended. If it is in place in January, those arriving from travel more than 150 miles away will need to be prepared to follow quarantine requirements, which involve staying home and minimizing in-person contact with others.

Travel: In addition to the quarantine information above, we also want to emphasize the importance of discussing your travel plans with your apartment-mates in advance, as we noted in our Oct. 30 message outlining winter break travel information, especially given the new possibility of a quarantine being in place. As noted previously, the university reserves temporary alternate housing for students in particular situations, such as new arrivals who request it or students who need to travel due to an emergency situation. We may not have the capacity to provide temporary alternate housing for students returning to their same apartment.

Access to Food: As noted above, Santa Clara County’s 14-day quarantine directive requires that you stay in your residence if you travel into the county from more than 150 miles away. Currently that directive is in place until Dec. 21, but you should plan for its possible extension. Should you need to quarantine when you arrive on campus, you have the option to purchase a block of meals from Stanford Dining for pick-up at a nearby location. You can also have groceries or prepared food delivered until you are able to leave your apartment.

Housing: We know that the more restrictive county and  campus policies and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic may cause you to reconsider your plans about living in R&DE assigned housing. If you wish to terminate or cancel your winter quarter housing assignment, you can do this through the Housing and Dining portal in Axess. If you are canceling due to COVID-19-related reasons, be sure to also file a petition to request that the termination fee be waived. Please note that you cannot leave your belongings in your apartment if you terminate your contract. You may also submit questions about your belongings via the Housing and Dining portal in Axess.

Before choosing not to come to campus at all, please consult with your program staff or faculty advisor to discuss how you can maintain academic progress and receive financial support if you are away from campus. Please also ensure that your quarterly check-in information is accurate; you can update it via Axess if your circumstances change before the start or during the first few weeks of the quarter.

Resources for Winter Break: The Graduate Life Office and Community Associates have organized a variety of winter break virtual events and resources to support you and build connections. The GLO Deans will be on call throughout break for students on and off campus: email or call 650-723-7288, provide pager ID #25085, and indicate that you need to reach the graduate dean-on-call. The VPGE office has also curated a list of virtual Stanford opportunities, Stanford@Home, to help you “engage a different part of your brain” and take a break from academics.

We are hopeful that these latest restrictions and policies will help contain the virus until the new vaccines can be widely implemented. Until then, we all must do what we can to keep our community and our loved ones around the world safe. We appreciate your attention and look forward to connecting with you again in January.

With our best wishes,
Susie and Stacey

Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Stacey F. Bent
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs
Jagdeep and Roshni Singh Professor in the School of Engineering