SAN DIEGO — Students returning back to UC San Diego from winter break now have a new way to access COVID-19 tests.
University officials just installed 11 vending machines throughout campus with free self-testing kits as part of its “Return To Learn” program. Most of them are located near residence halls.
School rules state that if a student lives on campus or attends any in-person classes, they must be tested for COVID-19 once a week. If students do not comply with the testing, they could face disciplinary action.
UC San Diego infectious disease Professor Dr. Robert Schooley explained how they work.
"You go up, punch the knob, and out comes the swab in the kit. Each of the little kits has a barcode on it that you can key to your cell phone so that we know who has the kit and whose sample it is," he said.
Those samples must be returned within 72 hours to bins set up next to the machines. Once picked up, they're sent to an on-campus lab with results back in 24 hours.
"We monitor people's frequency of testing and when people are positive we have isolation housing for them," Dr. Schooley said.
Self-testing is nothing new at UCSD. The university started experimenting with it last spring as a way to get students back onto campus.
Since March, 445 students have tested positive for COVID-19, with a noticeable increase in testing since the machines were installed.
UC San Diego officials have also been testing wastewater at campus buildings to detect the virus, as well as launched a text system to alert students when they may have come into contact with an infected person.
Currently, only 10 percent of classes are in-person, either outside under tents or inside rooms with enhanced ventilation systems.
“I think we've done really well on campus," Dr. Schooley said. "Many of our students live off-campus and what we found is many of the students who live on campus got infected when they went off campus and went to a restaurant or dinner with friends but on-campus spread has been really minimal.”
Students we spoke with applaud the safety measures in place.
“It's good they're doing more,” second-year student, Ryan Beatty said.
Ryan hopes the steps being taken will lead to a more normal college experience sooner than later.
“It's definitely not the same online and I'm definitely missing the in-person classes," he added.