With the campus getting ready for the return of students and an increase in events and activities during the fall 2020 quarter, UCLA held a town hall for faculty, staff and students on Aug. 23 to answer questions about health and safety protocols for COVID-19 and monkeypox. A town hall specifically geared toward students will be held in September, closer to the beginning of the quarter.

The university recently modified its campus COVID-19 protocols to better align with current public health conditions and with guidelines already in place at other academic institutions, within Los Angeles County and across California. This included adjustments to UCLA’s guidance on mask wearing, testing, symptom monitoring and other longstanding protocols. (Separate protocols for UCLA Health employees can be accessed here.)

During the hourlong Zoom session, which was also livestreamed on YouTube, campus leaders and health experts answered audience questions about the implementation of the new COVID-19 guidance, hybrid work arrangements for employees, and monkeypox.

Key takeaways from the event included:

Masking rules

Indoor masking is now strongly encouraged but no longer required on campus or at UCLA facilities. Masks will continue to be available for free to employees and students at the UCLA PPE Store, the John Wooden Center, residence hall front desks, the Student Activities Center and in Ackerman Union at the A-level information window.

In September, UCLA will again offer sessions to instruct people on how to properly fit and wear N95 masks for optimal protection.

In response to a submitted question, Michelle Sityar, chief of staff to the administrative vice chancellor, emphasized that individual departments, instructors or managers would NOT be able to institute their own rules requiring masks and that everyone must abide by the campus-wide protocols.

Telecommuting for employees

During fall, departments and units across campus will continue to have the flexibility to offer hybrid, remote and FlexWork options for employees, said Lubbe Levin, associate vice chancellor for campus human resources.

Vaccines, testing and symptom monitoring

All students, faculty and staff are still required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to receive boosters when eligible. Responding to a question about new vaccines against coronavirus subvariants, Dr. Peter Katona, clinical professor of medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said they could be available by this fall.

UCLA will offer a flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinic in October for faculty and staff; if the new vaccines are available then, they would be offered, said Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck. Students will be able to obtain vaccinations from the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center.

Though regular surveillance testing is no longer in effect, UCLA will continue to offer free PCR tests via SwabSeq for the foreseeable future, said Sityar, who also noted students, faculty and staff no longer need to complete the daily symptom survey.

Monkey pox questions

Who can get vaccinated against monkeypox?

Due in part to the very limited supply in the U.S., monkeypox vaccines are currently available only for individuals at high risk according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s guidelines.

Are monkeypox vaccines effective?

Data is limited, and it’s a difficult question to definitively answer, said Dr. Annabelle de St. Maurice, a pediatrician and co-chief infection prevention officer for UCLA Health.

Can someone get monkeypox and COVID-19 at the same time?

According to De St. Maurince, it is possible though it’s not very common.

Can someone contract monkeypox by using equipment at a place like the gym?

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that using standard household cleaning products on such equipment should prevent infection, De St. Maurice said.

What is UCLA doing to prepare for monkeypox?

Sityar and De St. Maurice said that UCLA is finalizing a plan that involves protocols for testing, isolation, and disinfection and cleaning. The University of California Office of the President is working on systemwide guidance and checklists that should be available in September.