UCLA leaders address employee questions about omicron variant at town hall

As the omicron wave nears its projected peak in the United States, UCLA leaders hosted a town hall for faculty and staff on Jan. 13 to offer the latest information on policies designed to keep the Bruin community as healthy as possible.

The hour-long Zoom meeting addressed topics ranging from how staff and students can get free masks to the factors under consideration for returning to in-person work and learning.

Some highlights:

New mask requirements: Whenever indoors, all students, faculty and staff must use upgraded masks, such as well-fitting KN95s, N95s or medical-grade masks. UCLA is making masks available for free, said Michelle Sityar, chief of staff to Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck.

Departments should order upgraded masks from the UCLA Emergency PPE Store and provide them to members of their communities. Starting Jan. 19, students can get free masks at locations including the John Wooden Center, the Student Activities Center, Ackerman Union and other ASUCLA locations, and at the front desk of residential halls on the Hill.

Sityar also highlighted the new isolation and quarantine protocol , which allows those who have tested positive for COVID-19 to end isolation after only five days if they meet key criteria.

  • The best tests: Dr. Daniel Uslan, co-chief infection prevention officer for UCLA Health, said that PCR tests — such as those available for free to Bruins through campus vending machines — are better for early detection of COVID-19 than antigen tests, such as those in home kits. The antigen tests are more accurate for detecting when a person is no longer positive for COVID-19, Uslan said.

  • Is UCLA setting a date for all staff to return to work? No. Lubbe Levin, associate vice chancellor for campus human relations, said remote work, hybrid work and flexible scheduling continue at UCLA, and that decisions on whether employees need to be on campus are being made at the department level. Staff should consult their supervisors to discuss their options.

  • Call center: Because of the omicron surge, staff currently are experiencing long waits when dialing into the UCLA Covid Call Center to get cleared to come back to work after emerging from isolation or quarantine. Leaders said that for now, as long as individuals follow the requirements in the campus isolation and quarantine protocol, they needn’t call in to be cleared.

  • The Jan. 31 return: Beck said UCLA leaders are driven by seeking the best outcomes for students when determining the date to return to in-person learning, and so must keep an eye on factors including campus’ ability to staff essential services, the mental and physical health of community members, and public health. Uncertainty is frustrating, he acknowledged.

    "We want to make sure we are making the right decision for the community based on the best available information at the time," Beck said.
  • Beck said that if there is a need to change the scheduled return date, campus will communicate any changes by early in the week of July 24. He encouraged those seeking more info to visit the or send questions to covid19@ucla.edu.

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