Lengthy waits for Covid-19 tests are a thing of the past at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), now that the university is distributing free test kits from on-campus vending machines.
Last year, before the holiday season, UCSD controlled the spread of the virus by using proven methods such as enforcing mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent testing, Pradeep Khosla, UCSD’s chancellor, told ABC News.
As a result, only 183 of the approximately 10,000 students who live on campus have tested positive since March 2020.
But as the university prepared for an infection surge after the holidays, university authorities said they wanted to come up with an idea to make testing more widely available on campus.
“The way to think about this is, we are removing the friction associated with testing,” Khosla said.
Previously, an appointment with a nurse was required to get tested, but the new self-service scheme was already in place by the time students returned from their holiday break.
University rules require tests for all students as they return to campus for the spring semester. The first test must be within 24 hours of arrival, then five and 10 days later, Dr Angela Scioscia, head of student health and well-being at UCSD explained. After that, students who live on campus are required to get tested weekly or face disciplinary action.
She told ABC News that students collect the take-home kits from the vending machines, then returned them to a drop box. Results are uploaded to a student’s phone, usually the same day.
“They can pick up the testing kit from a machine at their convenience and they can drop it off when they’re done,” Scioscia said. “It’s much more user-friendly.”
In the first week, just a few hundred kits were distributed on Saturday, more than 1,000 on Sunday and more than 2,000 on Monday, Scioscia said.
Student Andy Goodman told ABC San Diego station KGTV that he was uncomfortable with the new process at first, “but after doing it a bunch of times, I got used to it.”
Khosla told ABC that the school has incentivised students to be diligent about testing. When a student gets tested 10 straight weeks, they receive a US$50 gift card.