Skip to main content

A message on winter quarter return policies

UPDATED 12/16/21: In addition to the information below, Stanford will be moving to online instruction for the first two weeks of the winter quarter. Students are welcome to return to campus on-time from the winter break and do not need to change their travel plans. Other university operations will continue. Read the announcement here.

Dear Stanford community,

As we previewed on Nov. 8 and Nov. 30, we’re writing to provide more information about our protocols for returning to campus from the upcoming winter break.

We continue to plan for an on-schedule return to in-person classes for the winter quarter. Of course, we are now doing this as scientists and public health authorities work to learn more about the recently identified Omicron variant.

While Omicron is not a reason for panic, it is a reason for us all to continue taking prudent steps to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We are grateful for your continued cooperation, which has played an important role in keeping infection rates at Stanford low throughout the autumn quarter.

Our approach to supporting a healthy return consists of (1) continued masking, (2) enhanced COVID-19 testing, (3) an additional rapid test upon arrival for students who return to on-campus housing the weekend of Jan. 1-2, and (4) limitations on student parties and certain other gatherings for the start of the quarter. Details are provided below in this message.

Overall, for the coming break:

  • Please remember to wear face coverings while in transit and in gatherings.
  • If you’re eligible, get a COVID-19 booster shot. All individuals 18 years and older are now eligible for boosters, available through Stanford Health Care, Santa Clara County and other providers.
  • If you plan to travel internationally, be alert to possible changes in countries’ travel restrictions (including testing on arrival and quarantine), as well as the new requirement to obtain a negative test within one day before returning to the United States. Also, non-U.S. citizens who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged not to travel outside the U.S., as returning may be problematic under CDC guidelines (read more below).
  • We expect our testing system to identify some – hopefully small – number of positive COVID-19 cases as students return. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible and not penalize students if they are unable to begin in-person class attendance on time due to a positive test.

We wish you a productive end to the autumn quarter and a safe, healthy, enjoyable winter break.


Persis Drell

Russell Furr
Associate Vice Provost, Environmental Health & Safety



Protocols for winter quarter 2022 return to campus

We are planning for an on-schedule return from the winter break.

  • Undergraduate residences, which close this Saturday, Dec. 11 at noon, will reopen as planned on Saturday, Jan. 1.
  • Dining halls close this Friday, Dec. 10, and reopen on Saturday, Jan. 1. Continue to show a Health Check badge to enter; to-go meals will be provided as needed.
  • Graduate students with new on-campus housing contracts will be able to move in as planned beginning Friday, Dec. 31.
  • The winter quarter for most students begins Monday, Jan. 3. We are planning for classes to be in-person.

For vaccinated students, our protocol for returning to campus will be:

  • If you arrive to on-campus housing the weekend of Jan. 1-2, take an arrival-day rapid test provided by the university: Details about this process will be emailed to students in advance. Plan to remain masked, including around roommates, until you take this test. We are focusing these rapid tests on those arriving Jan. 1-2 due to the short turnaround time before classes begin Jan. 3.
  • Complete a Color test TWO times during your first week back on campus: The first Color test should be as soon as possible after your return; the second, 3-5 days later. After that, continue with once-per-week testing.
  • Continue wearing face coverings: Continue wearing masks indoors and anywhere crowded, when not eating or drinking. If you have traveled, err on the side of caution and wear a mask anywhere you are around others.
  • Attend class: Under these protocols, you will be able to attend in-person classes.
  • Be aware of limitations on gatherings: For vaccinated students, including those who have traveled internationally, there will not be a general period of restricted activity. However, for the first two weeks of the quarter, parties and similar gatherings will be prohibited to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission. House meetings and private residential gatherings will be allowed, within defined parameters. See this web page for details.

For vaccinated faculty, staff and postdocs returning to campus, our protocols will be:

  • Complete a Color test TWO times during your first week back on campus: The first should be soon after your return; the second, 3-5 days later. After that, continue with once-per-week testing.
  • Continue wearing face coverings: Continue wearing masks indoors and anywhere crowded, when not eating or drinking. If you have traveled, err on the side of caution and wear a mask anywhere you are around others.

I’m a graduate student staying on campus and not traveling during the break. Will I need to take an “arrival-day” test?

  • No. The rapid arrival-day tests are intended for students who travel, and who arrive on campus the weekend of Jan. 1-2. Otherwise, take two Color tests within one week – either over the first week of the quarter or, ideally, during the last week of December (to allow more capacity in Color’s system as traveling students return).

I will be living or working on campus during the winter break. Is Color testing required during that time?

  • For the weeks of Dec. 20 and Dec. 27 – the “winter close” in which most university offices are closed – Color testing will be available but optional.
  • Expect longer turnaround times around Christmas and New Year’s Day. Check this web page for details.
  • Meal delivery will be provided for students who are required to remain in isolation/quarantine spaces during the winter break.

I am NOT fully vaccinated (including those with an approved exemption and those still going through the process). What requirements apply to me?

  • You will need to follow all the above protocols for vaccinated individuals.
  • In addition, individuals who are not fully vaccinated will continue twice-weekly Color testing, which is the current requirement.
  • In addition, those who are not fully vaccinated who return from either domestic or international travel will have a period of restricted activity until receiving a negative Day 5 test result back – as was the case for the Thanksgiving recess.
  • For students, restricted activity includes no in-person class attendance or in-person dining. Instructors should be alert to the possibility that some unvaccinated students may be in this situation and will require flexibility. Under restricted activity, students living on campus may leave their residence only for COVID testing, medical care, laundry and trash, solo outdoor exercise, and meal pick-up if you have a Stanford Dining meal plan or pick-up of grocery or prepared food deliveries.
  • For employees, restricted activity means not returning to campus until receiving a Day 5 negative test result following arrival from travel.
  • Important note about international travel: If you are unvaccinated and are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, Stanford strongly cautions against international travel. Under CDC guidelines, you may not be allowed to board a plane to return to the United States if you are not vaccinated. Consult CDC information here and here. If you are an undergraduate and are concerned that your winter break housing will be affected by international travel disruptions, please consult with your Resident Director.