All UC San Diego students, faculty and staff returning to campus for the fall quarter will be asked to undergo recurring COVID-19 tests in an attempt to diminish the likelihood of a significant outbreak, the university announced this week.
Officials said students are expected to participate in testing upon arrival on campus, and their arrivals will be staggered to ensure laboratory capacity isn't overwhelmed. If an individual tests positive for the illness, isolation housing will be provided, and contact tracing will be performed in accordance with county health procedures, according to Clark.
However, students can opt out of the testing regimen if they so choose.
"Students are encouraged to take testing, and we’ll be promoting the testing via various methods, but it’s voluntary," Christine Clark, a UC San Diego assistant communications director, told NBC 7 on Friday. "There are no repercussions if students do not want to take the test."
In addition to the voluntary monthly tests, all students residing on campus will be expected to participate in daily symptom screening.
Higher testing frequencies are recommended for populations like college students, for whom social distancing is difficult, and also for people who are at higher risk of infection.
There will be no cost for the tests if they are done at a UC San Diego Health location or through Student Health Services, officials said.
"Our simulations indicate that if more than 75% of the population was tested per month, we would be able to detect an outbreak before there are 10 detectable infections on campus," said project lead Natasha Martin, an associate professor of medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine.
Following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommending a 14-day quarantine period for people returning to the United States, UCSD will allow students with housing contracts to complete the quarantine period in specially designated on-campus housing with no additional fees.
The testing requirement is the latest element of UCSD's Return to Learn program which also includes policies on face coverings, social distancing and visitor symptom screening that have been implemented and will be continuously reevaluated, Clark said.
In-person class sizes will be limited to fewer than 50 students per class, or 50% of classroom capacity, whichever is smaller. Many in-person classes will have fewer than 25 students. Any classes with more than 50 students enrolled will be offered in a remote format.
Approximately 30% of courses will be conducted in person and the rest in remote or hybrid formats.
"We aim to mitigate risk in a way that will allow UC San Diego to provide an environment for learning and offer a university experience that our students expect," Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla is quoted as saying in UC San Diego's news release breaking out the new policies.