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COVID-19 causing virus found in UC San Diego wastewater

UCSD has the ability to identify the virus in wastewater, even before someone tests positive.

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla Tuesday alerted students, faculty and staff that the university's wastewater monitoring system detected SARS CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, in multiple sites on Sunday and Monday.

"Our early detection system identified active virus in the wastewater outflow in the five campus areas from 11 a.m. on Sunday, November 22 to 1 p.m. on Monday, November 23," Khosla said.

The buildings with detectable virus in the wastewater are:

  1. Seventh College East buildings 1, 2, 3 and 4
  2.  The Rita Atkinson Residences
  3.  The Eleanor Roosevelt College Buildings North America, Latin America, Earth and ERC Laundry South
  4. Mesa Apartments Central 9232, 9234, 9236, 9252, 9254 and 9238 Central Mesa
  5. Nuevo West Viento

The virus is shed from the gastrointestinal tract and is present in feces early in the infection. UCSD has the ability to identify the virus in wastewater, even before someone tests positive. On Sunday, UCSD expanded its wastewater monitoring to 52 sample sites across campus.

An associate professor who is co-leading the school's Return to Learn program said it's learning if the Sars CoV-2 detected in sewage is from an infected person who is no longer contagious. 

"It may be that some of these signals are signals who had past infection, that are still shedding the virus in their fecal matter but are not infectious to others and resolved their infection," said Natasha Martin, PhD.

Khosla reminded members of the university's community that thousands of people are on the UCSD campus every day, including members of the public. This test is an early indication that one or more individuals are shedding the virus; viral shedding starts before symptoms develop.

Anyone who used the restroom in one of those buildings during that time frame should get tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution, according to UCSD.

Self-administered testing is available for students at Price Center, Seventh College and Nuevo Fitness Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kits containing all materials for testing and instructions are provided. Self-administered testing does not require an appointment. Completed tests are returned to any of the pick-up locations and placed in the designated drop box.

Additional UCSD Health testing sites are located throughout San Diego as well as the Price Center and Athena Circle. Testing at those locations requires an appointment which can be made for students and for campus employees.

Anyone suspecting they may have the virus or who is awaiting test results should monitor themselves for symptoms while isolating from others. Always wear a mask, practice six feet of social distancing and wash hands often.

UCSD is also expanding it's contact tracing app pilot to patients called the CA Notify app. It will also be managing its deployment statewide through its health system. The tech augments and expedites traditional contact tracing. Over 18,000 UC San Diego staff and students, or over 50% of the on-campus population, are now using the system. 

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