UC San Diego Launches “Return to Learn” Program to Test All Students and Staff for COVID-19

UC San Diego officials recently announced that the university intends to mass test students for COVID-19, a major step toward resuming in-person classes in the fall. Their “Return to Learn” program begins today with the distribution of voluntary self-administered tests to 5,000 students currently living in campus housing. 

If successful, the university anticipates testing around 65,000 students, staff, and faculty each month. 

A recent statement from the university described the testing process, noting that students will pick up a clean nasal swab and container kit from one of several designated sites on campus. Then, using a downloaded barcode-reader app, the participant will scan the unique barcode on the container, linking their cell phone number to the specimen and generating a timestamp. 

They’ll swab their nose, drop it in the container, and leave it in a collection box. Swabs will be tested for the novel coronavirus at the UC San Diego Health’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine. Results are expected to be produced within 24 hours

“This effort will leverage the ingenuity and expertise of our clinicians, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, bioinformaticians, and others to work toward a tailored map of where the virus is, and where it isn’t,” stated UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. “We expect these efforts to help put us in the best possible position to minimize virus outbreaks and implement new interventions as needed, should we resume in-person activities this fall.”

Students are eager to get back to school as soon as it’s safe. Though online courses have been helpful in light of the quarantine, they can’t replace the value of in-person classes. Efforts such as UCSD’s are a great step to returning to normalcy for college students.


Photo by IBM Research via Flickr