US university installs COVID-19 test vending machines for students

In a bid to keep students safe on campus, UC San Diego has taken an unusual approach to COVID-19 testing.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer on

Students returning to the University of California, San Diego, can pick now up COVID-19 tests for free from vending machines dotted around campus.

With students of the US university set to return to their studies over the coming week, UC San Diego officials have decided to offer COVID-19 tests -- used to determine if an individual is carrying the virus, whether or not they have symptoms --  as part of the organization's "Return to Learn" program. 

As reported by KTLA, up to 20 test kit vending machines will be installed. Current locations include laundry rooms, lobbies, and near food outlets. 

UC San Diego

The free tests can be acquired from the vending machines, self-administered, and then swabs can be placed in drop boxes next to the machines, seven days a week. Samples should be returned within 72 hours for processing. 

Students and staff returning to campus are being asked to participate in daily symptom screenings and weekly COVID-19 tests

The testing procedure chosen by UC San Diego appears to be focused on making the process as easy and streamlined as possible -- while also improving the chance of discovering both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection before an outbreak occurs. 

UC San Diego has also provided a dashboard for tracking student and campus employee COVID-19 infection rates. Approximately 10,000 students live on campus during standard semesters, while thousands more live off-campus. 

The Return to Learn program also includes contact tracing and wastewater monitoring. In total, 52 water samplers have been installed to analyze wastewater in over 100 residential buildings and identify any student hotspots where the virus is being shed. 

In September, a water sampler detected traces of COVID-19 in one of the UC San Diego colleges. Following mass tests, two asymptomatic individuals were traced as the potential source. 

"While UC San Diego is one of the few colleges in the nation with low rates of infection and a large student body on campus, the university remains vigilant to reduce transmission of virus in our community to the greatest extent possible," commented UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. "Our multi-layered strategy provides resiliency along many dimensions of the Return to Learn plan."

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