UCSD to Provide Widespread Recurrent COVID-19 Testing


Graphic of a COVID 19 test.
Kristina Stahl / The Triton

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UC San Diego announced plans today to make COVID-19 testing widely available for over 5,000 students still living on campus as the first step in the rollout of their Return to Learn Program.

The program’s ultimate aim is to help return UCSD to in-person instruction, without risking public health.

Starting May 11, testing will be offered to all students, faculty, and staff on a recurring basis. The University hopes to have the participation of some of the 5,000-plus students still living on campus to better gauge the feasibility of implementation in Fall Quarter 2020, which may involve upwards of 65,000 students, faculty, and staff.

According to the University’s virus model, testing 60–90% of the campus population should be enough to detect the spread of the virus before more than 10 people contract the virus. This model was formulated using mathematical modeling tools and a team of epidemiologists, molecular biologists, UCSD clinicians, bioinformaticians, and public health experts. The statements released have not specified if the University will require testing to attend in-person classes in Fall Quarter 2020, or just encourage it.

The program will make testing kits available throughout campus, where nasal swabs will be located in a special container. Each container will have a unique barcode that can be scanned to link the sample to the individual.

The Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine at UC San Diego Health will test the samples for the virus. If the test is positive, individuals will be notified and Student Health Services will refer individuals to a specially trained public health team that will determine whether people who came in close contact with the infected individual are at risk and subsequently help with self-isolation efforts.

The specifics of how this process will work have not yet been released; however, students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19 may be moved to housing designated for isolation. Last week’s campus-wide notice explained that triple occupancy would be eliminated in on-campus housing for social distancing purposes. Measures for off-campus students and staff have not been addressed or identified.

UCSD anticipates that this program will provide data that leaders, physicians, and scientists can use to better direct their response to any campus outbreak and better prepare a return to normalcy for the campus.

Sahana Narayan is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow her @saharadesert00.