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UC San Diego deploys COVID-19 test vending machines for returning students

Ovidiu Balaban-Popa

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As universities nationwide begin a new semester under the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of California, San Diego is making diagnostic screening a more ubiquitous fixture of day-to-day life by offering tests in sidewalk vending machines.

The self-administered kits are now available free to students and employees at 11 locations, with more planned in the near future. After swiping a UCSD ID card and swabbing their nose, samples can be sealed and returned to drop boxes around the campus to be analyzed by the university’s own EXCITE laboratory established last fall, according to the La Jolla Light

Each barcoded PCR test kit can be scanned, logged and tracked via a personal smartphone app, with results expected within 12 to 24 hours. Currently, all students on campus are required to be tested on a weekly basis, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. 

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The university is also offering walk-in and drive-thru testing options, and isolation and quarantine housing is available for up to 600 students who test positive or are exposed to the virus.

Starting earlier this week with data from Jan. 3 and 4, USCD’s testing dashboard posted over 2,200 tests being processed each day, with 90 new positive cases reported.

According to a report from Reuters, about one-quarter of the school’s total student body is living on campus for the spring semester—or about 10,000 people—while classes are conducted outdoors or virtually. In addition, the university also screens wastewater and sewage from student dorms to gauge community-wide levels of COVID-19, with samples collected every 24 hours.

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