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Phase 1 Results

Program overview

In May 2020, UC San Diego launched the Return to Learn Program, which aims to broadly test students, faculty and staff on campus on a recurring basis for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The program is intended to better position UC San Diego to resume in-person activities when fall classes begin in Sept. 2020.

Our models suggest that large-scale COVID-19 testing could potentially reduce the risks of outbreaks and could enhance our ability to respond if outbreaks occur. The program includes plans for contact tracing and isolation housing for on-campus student residents who test positive for the virus.

The testing program is led by a team of UC San Diego clinicians, public health experts, molecular biologists, infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists and bioinformaticians.

Phase 1 results

In the initial three-week phase, self-administered COVID-19 testing was made available to resident undergraduate and graduate students on campus from May 11 – 29, 2020. More than 1,500 students participated; notably, not a single student tested positive.

infographic on phase I results

Phase 1 key takeaways

Findings from the initial testing period have established the feasibility of expanding the program. UC San Diego is closer to being able to screen a greater number of students, faculty and staff moving forward.

  • Self-administered testing is possible. Student comments indicated that multiple testing locations resulted in easy access.
  • Testing is fast. On average, the entire sampling process took just seven minutes, from start to finish.
  • Based on student feedback, we are exploring the potential option of a saliva screening test, which participants revealed would be preferred over the nasal swab. The saliva screening test could be collected at on-campus student housing locations, which would remove some key barriers related to privacy, comfort and ease of sampling submission.
  • Future communication will be improved with more transparency and clarity about the importance of community safety, collective action, privacy and individual responsibility.
  • It is important to promote housing, food and employment support resources that are available for students, faculty and staff in the case of a positive diagnosis.

We continue to learn from our initial findings, which will inform our plan for large-scale testing to promote the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff as they begin to return to UC San Diego.

Future phases

New testing phases for students, faculty and staff will continue through the summer in preparation for the fall quarter. We are assessing and revising technological, logistical, and supply chain capabilities in order to scale up campus testing. In addition, a comprehensive strategic plan is being developed through ongoing analysis of Return to Learn Phase 1 results.

More information

For questions about the Return to Learn Program, contact us.

UC San Diego staff, faculty and student employees who are currently reporting to campus for work, please visit the COVID19 Screening Symptoms Checker.