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Testing and Screening

Please check back regularly for the latest on testing and screening guidelines as they will change. UC San Diego and UC San Diego Health leadership are working closely with federal, state, and county officials to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For the most up-to-date guidance on health and safety, please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

For more information about COVID-19 testing and prevalence in the UC San Diego community, please see the Novel Coronavirus Testing Dashboard, which is updated weekly with numbers based on tests conducted by UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego Student Health Services.

In order to improve the health and safety of our campus community by quickly identifying and containing any potential outbreaks of COVID-19, UC San Diego is scaling up symptomatic and asymptomatic testing efforts through our Return to Learn program. The current plan is for students, faculty and staff on campus in the fall to be tested on a recurring basis for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While these efforts are critical to improving the health and safety of our community, the situation with COVID-19 continues to change; we will continue to adapt our response to integrate the most up-to-date science, which will require significant flexibility from all of us.

The University is currently using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the virus itself in order to determine the presence of an active infection. Our goal is to transition from a nasal swab to an oral swab for sample collection once oral swabs have been validated. Whether you have symptoms of active infection, such as cough and fever, or have no symptoms, also known as asymptomatic, the PCR test can be used to detect the virus and diagnose COVID-19. Symptomatic individuals are being prioritized for testing, as well as other risk-based priority groups. Asymptomatic testing is expected to expand more broadly as testing capacity and campus density increase. At this time, the University will only conduct antibody testing for very limited groups, such as scholar-athletes, through the Return to Learn program.

Regardless of your test result, the entire campus community is expected to follow campus safety requirements, especially wearing a face covering—an important way to prevent infection.

CDC Guidance on Recent Studies for Wearing Face Coverings
State of California Mandate to Wear Face Coverings

Employees

All UC San Diego staff, faculty, student employees, and individuals who are working in a research lab who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location for work must conduct a daily self-screening for COVID-19 and report any symptoms or confirmed exposures for days that they will be on site. All remote employees are strongly encouraged to conduct a daily self-screening in order to help consistently monitor the community's  health and help you quickly schedule testing, if the need arises. After you complete the daily screening, your supervisor will be notified daily of your work status. If you have severe symptoms, you should call 911.

The Symptom and Exposure Screening tool can be accessed from a computer or mobile device. If you are unable to access the internet, you should call your supervisor/work lead/check-in person in advance of going to work on-site to complete the screening verbally. 

All employees are eligible for COVID-19 testing at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to employees, regardless of healthcare provider. 

Employee asymptomatic testing

After the fall quarter starts, we are offering an ongoing asymptomatic testing program for all University community members. All community members are strongly encouraged to take part in periodic asymptomatic testing as a collective public health program that will help minimize transmission of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and detect outbreaks early in order to resume on-campus activities as safely as possible.

There are some employee populations that may have increased testing recommendations, such as those who cannot physically distance or appropriately protect themselves with a face covering. Our strategy for testing is adaptive; we will adjust our risk-based frequency strategy on who we recommend testing and how frequently we recommend testing based on the viral activity we find during our ongoing monitoring.

Employee testing options

As of Sept. 3, 2020

All faculty, staff and student employees are strongly encouraged to schedule a voluntary, no-cost asymptomatic COVID-19 test regularly, ideally every 12-16 days. The purpose of the testing is to promote a healthy workplace and prioritize campus and employee safety.

Schedule your asymptomatic test »

Please note: UC San Diego will continue to provide free testing for symptomatic individuals or those with medically confirmed exposure to COVID-19. Do not use the asymptomatic scheduling link if you have symptoms of COVID-19. 

On-site employees in the San Diego region

  • If you are required to physically report to a UC San Diego worksite, you MUST complete the daily symptom and exposure screening before you arrive. 
  • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you are strongly encouraged to schedule and complete a voluntary, no-cost asymptomatic COVID-19 test regularly, ideally every 12-16 days. Schedule your asymptomatic test here.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, do not report to your worksite. You will be contacted by the UC San Diego Health Testing Support Line at unless you have already contacted them directly at 619-543-8260. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested sooner. 
  • If you are already at a UC San Diego worksite and you develop symptoms, you should retake the symptom and exposure screening immediately and call the UC San Diego Health Testing Support Line at 619-543-8260 to speak with a healthcare professional who will assist you with determining if you should be tested sooner. You will be sent home by your supervisor. 
  • If you have a confirmed exposure or were deemed a close contact by a healthcare professional or a public health official, do not report to your worksite. If you are a non-healthcare worker, you should be in quarantine at home for 14 days since the last date of exposure. By indicating your exposure in the daily screening, you will be offered a test between 5-10 days after the last date of exposure by UC San Diego Health. If you test positive, you will receive additional clinical guidance as well as further contact tracing to minimize an outbreak. Additionally your worksite will require appropriate sanitation to disinfect the space as a safety precaution. Please note, even if you receive a negative test result, you must remain in quarantine for all 14 days.
  • Tests can be completed at no cost to employees at UC San Diego Health locations, regardless of healthcare provider. You may also choose to visit your own healthcare provider for testing. If you receive a positive test from a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to the UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at COEMexposure@health.ucsd.edu.

Remote employees in the San Diego region

  • If you are working remotely, you are strongly encouraged to complete the daily symptom and exposure screening
  • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you are strongly encouraged to schedule and complete a voluntary, no-cost asymptomatic test regularly, ideally every 12-16 days. Schedule your asymptomatic test here.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, reported in the tool, you will be contacted by the UC San Diego Health Testing Support Line unless you have already contacted them directly at 619-543-8260. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested sooner. 
  • If you have a confirmed exposure or were deemed a close contact by a healthcare professional or a public health official, you should be in quarantine at home for 14 days since the last date of exposure. By indicating your exposure in the daily screening, you will be offered a test between 5-10 days after the last date of exposure by UC San Diego Health. If you test positive, you will receive additional clinical guidance and aid as well as contact tracing to minimize an outbreak. Please note, even if you receive a negative test result, you must remain in quarantine for all 14 days.
  • Tests can be completed at no cost to employees at UC San Diego Health locations, regardless of healthcare provider. You may also choose to visit your own healthcare provider for testing.

Symptomatic employees waiting for test results

If you were tested because of symptoms or possible direct exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual, you should behave as if you have been infected and can infect others while you are waiting for your results. Do not report to your work on-site. You should avoid contact with other people, including those sharing your residence. Stay in your residence in an isolated room alone and wear a face covering if you enter common areas. Practice proper hand hygiene before leaving your room or when coming into contact with others.

If you are tested at a UC San Diego Health location, a healthcare professional will call you with your test results, usually within 24 hours, if your test results are positive. If your test results are negative, you will receive a notification in MyChart. Please note if you do not have a MyChart account, you will receive a phone call to convey your test results, regardless of positive or negative results. If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, do not report to your work on-site. If you are required to work onsite, you must report your results to the UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at COEMexposure@health.ucsd.edu.

Employees who test positive

If you test positive for COVID-19, do not report to work on-site. You will be instructed to self-isolate until you are cleared to return to work. Per mandate of the County of San Diego, all positive test results must be reported to the County of San Diego, Public Health Department.

If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a UC San Diego Health location, your results will be shared with UC San Diego’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) and/or Infection Prevention/Clinical Epidemiology to support contact tracing efforts. See more information about contact tracing below. COEM will provide you with a Cleared for Work note to provide to your supervisor/HR contact. Due to privacy concerns, your supervisor will not be told the reason why you are not permitted to work on-site. All test result information will be stored in the Epic health record system. For information about data sharing and privacy related to test results, visit UC San Diego Health Notice of Privacy Practices.

If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to the UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at COEMexposure@health.ucsd.edu to support contact tracing efforts. See more information about contact tracing below. Your healthcare provider should provide you with a Release from Work note initially, and later a Cleared for Work note to provide to your supervisor/HR contact.

If you test positive, take care of yourself and continue to isolate to prevent further spread of the virus. Follow all of the recommendations provided by your healthcare provider and the County of San Diego. Work with your supervisor and HR contact to ensure you know all of your options related to taking sick or administrative leave and to determine when you may return to a physical worksite. Please refer to the Human Resources Blink FAQ page for additional information.

Support is available

Employees are encouraged to seek counseling support and may reach out to the UC San Diego Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP). The confidential service offers one-on-one counseling sessions via Zoom or phone. Current and returning clients can contact their counselor directly by phone or email; new clients can request an appointment online. For more information, contact fsap@ucsd.edu.

Students

Currently UC San Diego has thousands of graduate students living on campus who have remained here since the pandemic began. For many of our students, our campus is simultaneously their place to learn, work, and live. As the fall quarter approaches, we have carefully planned a phased approach to repopulate the campus as safely as possible.

Undergraduate and additional graduate students will begin to return to San Diego and the campus to begin the fall quarter of classes, research, and other activities. While great efforts have been made to ensure gradual repopulation of the campus, the University understands that plans could change based on community spread of the virus and public health orders that are in effect during this planned move-in time period. The University will be as flexible and proactive as possible to address concerns from our student community, especially those living on the campus during a very challenging public health situation. Student health and safety will always be our first priority in our decision-making and will be the primary basis for changes to our fall plans and beyond.

Screening

All UC San Diego students who reside on campus, and students who reside in the San Diego region planning to physically come onto the campus for various activities, such as attending an in-person class, are expected to participate in daily symptom and exposure screening.

Should COVID-19 symptoms develop, the daily screener facilitates easy access to COVID-19 testing with an online self-scheduling process in MyStudentChart and results are available usually within 24-36 hours. All students are strongly encouraged to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and conduct a daily self-screening in order to consistently monitor their health and quickly schedule testing, if the need arises.

Student testing 

As of Oct. 7, 2020

All undergraduate and graduate students coming to campus for educational, research, co-curricular, recreational or social activities (including all students living in university-owned housing) are required to participate in free, periodic asymptomatic testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Students coming to campus are required to take part in periodic asymptomatic testing as a collective public health program that will help minimize transmission of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and detect outbreaks early in order to resume on-campus activities as safely as possible.

Testing compliance

Unless granted a special exemption approved by Student Health Services, students who have not been tested for more than 16 days will be referred to the Student Conduct Office for the progressive discipline process. For students who complete their COVID-19 test outside of UC San Diego, please send an email to shsmr@ucsd.edu and attach your result as well as your PID to ensure correct attribution. Your result will be added into your student health chart.

See the full noncompliance policy.

Required testing will take place every two weeks with each test completed at least every 12 days with no more than 16 days between tests. For clarification: “educational activities” includes attending a class as a student, but not as an instructor. All students residing in the San Diego area are encouraged to participate in twice monthly asymptomatic testing, even if they are not coming to campus. Our strategy for testing is adaptive; we will adjust our risk-based frequency strategy on who we test and how frequently we test based on the viral activity we find during our ongoing monitoring. 

Students residing on or near campus with symptoms

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your residence, do not attend any in-person classes, and seek guidance from a healthcare provider.  
  • Any student residing in the San Diego area who reports symptoms of COVID-19 or a confirmed exposure to a COVID-19 infected individual in the daily symptom and exposure screening will be contacted by UC San Diego Health Testing Support Line unless you have already contacted them directly by calling 619-543-8260. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested sooner than your next scheduled test. 
  • Tests can be completed at no cost to students at Student Health Services or at any UC San Diego Health locations, regardless of healthcare provider.
  • You may also choose to visit your own healthcare provider for testing. If you receive a positive test from a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to UC San Diego’s Student Health Services by calling (858) 534-3300.

Students residing on or near campus without symptoms

  • All students currently residing on-campus or off-campus in the San Diego area should schedule their asymptomatic testing. Learn how to schedule an asymptomatic test in this video, and schedule your asymptomatic test here. After your initial test, you will receive reminders to test again between 12-16 days later. If at any time you begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19, refer to the above section on how to receive expedited testing for students with symptoms. Please note testing site availability varies day to day and scheduling in advance is encouraged. Students should only schedule one test at a time to ensure testing availability for the campus community. Test results will be available usually within 24-36 hours in their MyStudentChart. Students who wish to schedule their test immediately prior to their class do not have to wait for a result before they can attend class.
  • All students who have a confirmed exposure or were deemed a close contact by a healthcare professional or a public health official should be in quarantine for 14 days since the last date of exposure. By indicating your exposure in the daily screening, you will be offered a test 5-10 days after the last date of exposure by Student Health Services or at any UC San Diego Health locations. If you test positive, you will receive additional clinical guidance and aid further contact tracing efforts to minimize an outbreak. Please note, even if you receive a negative test result, you must remain in quarantine for all 14 days.
  • Testing for travel purposes: Student Health Services will also provide testing for students who need to travel, for a small administrative fee. Please call (858) 534-3300 to speak to a SHS nurse to schedule an appointment.

Post move-in procedures

After you are tested and move-in to your campus residence, you will need to limit your movement and interactions for a period of time. Because SARS-CoV- 2, the virus which causes COVID-19, may not result in an infection for up to 14 days after an exposure and because young adults may not develop symptoms when they are infected and potentially infectious to others, we are asking ALL students to follow additional precautions during the first few weeks after arrival to minimize the chance of any student inadvertently introducing virus into the community.

  • After move-in, within your residential unit you will need to continue to mask and maintain physical distance except when you are in your personal bedroom or the shower.
  • After all students in the residential unit have been on-site for 12 days, you will be retested for COVID-19.
  • If everyone within your residential unit’s second test is negative, you will no longer need to wear masks or adhere to strict physical distancing inside your suite or apartment.
  • Each day complete your daily symptom and exposure screen. If at any time you develop symptoms, you will need to retest for COVID-19 right away. Should you test positive, you will be moved to isolation housing on campus until you recover and can return to your residential unit.
  • At all times when you are outside of your residential unit, you should be masking and maintaining a physical distance with others. To eat or exercise, you may remove your mask but you will need to maintain a 6 foot distance from others at all times.
  • If you leave campus and travel on the weekends or for University breaks, such as Thanksgiving, you may be required to complete the entire move-in testing process and procedures again upon return to campus. You must report if you will be leaving the campus for 18 hours or longer by completing the Returning Home Notification form available in the Housing Portal.  

Symptomatic students waiting for test results

If you were tested because of symptoms or possible direct exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual, which includes a California COVID Notify exposure notification, you should behave as if you have been infected and can infect others while you are waiting for your results. While waiting for your results, do not leave your residence or suite and remain in an isolated room alone and wear a face covering if you enter common areas. You should avoid contact with other people, including those sharing your residence. Practice proper hand hygiene before leaving your room or when coming into contact with others.

If you are tested at Student Health Services or a UC San Diego Health location, a healthcare professional will call you with your test results, usually within 24 hours, if you are positive. If your results are negative, you will receive a notification in MyStudentChart, usually within 24-36 hours. Please note if you do not have a MyChart account, you will receive a phone call to convey your test results, regardless of positive or negative results. If you are an on-site student employee who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, do not report to your work on-site. You must report your results to UC San Diego’s Student Health Services by calling (858) 534-3300.

Students who test positive

If you test positive for COVID-19, do not leave your residence or suite. You may be moved to designated on-campus isolation housing, where basic needs will be met and food will be delivered to the unit. Each student will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as to whether they will need to move into isolation housing. You will also receive care and information about additional support services from Student Health and Well-being Services. Per mandate of the County of San Diego, all positive test results must be reported to the County of San Diego, Public Health Department.

If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a UC San Diego Health location, your results will be shared with Student Health Services (SHS) to support contact tracing efforts. See more information about contact tracing below. SHS will provide you with a Release from Work note initially, and later a Cleared for Work note to provide to your supervisor/HR contact. Due to privacy concerns, your supervisor will not be told the reason why you are not permitted to work on-site. All test result information will be stored in the Epic health record system. For information about data sharing and privacy related to test results, visit UC San Diego Health Notice of Privacy Practices.

If you are a student residing on or near campus who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to UC San Diego's Student Health Services by calling (858) 534-3300 to support contact tracing efforts. See more information about contact tracing below.

Support is available

Students are encouraged to seek counseling support and may reach out to the UC San Diego Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Visit Student Mental Health Resources for more information.

Close contact with or exposure to COVID-19 positive individuals

The University uses the definition of close contact put forth by San Diego County public health officials. A close contact is defined as someone within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for more than 15 minutes, or who had direct physical contact, including unprotected contact with bodily fluids and/or secretions (including being coughed on or sneezed on, sharing utensils, or drinking out of the same container), or providing care for a COVID-19 positive person without wearing personal protective equipment. If you are deemed a close contact, you must quarantine at home and not report to a physical site for 14 days after the last contact with the COVID-19 positive person.

To be deemed a close contact, you should speak with a healthcare professional or public health official who will make the determination of exposure and provide you with an official exposure notification. As an employee or student of the University, you will be contacted by the UC San Diego contact tracing team and guided on next steps within 24 hours of the determination of exposure. If you have not been contacted, it is very likely that you were not deemed a close contact by the contact tracing team. If you still believe you were exposed or in close contact with a person with COVID-19, you can contact the UC San Diego Health’s Testing Support Line at (619) 543-8260 for further assessment. If you are participating in the California COVID Notify program, you may receive an exposure notification directly to your phone. Please treat this notification seriously as you may have a potential exposure to COVID-19 and you should contact the Testing Support Line right away as well as follow all related clinical guidance.

Voluntary testing is available for you at a UC San Diego Health location 5-10 days after you were in close contact with the COVID-19 positive person. Call the UC San Diego Health’s Testing Support Line at (619) 543-8260 to schedule a test. If your test is positive, you will need to isolate. Isolation is more restrictive than quarantine since you are at definite risk of exposing others, and you will be contacted to determine if you may have exposed others. For students residing on campus, you will be provided with isolation housing. If your test is negative, you will still need to quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure since you may not have started to shed virus and may begin to develop symptoms later. 

Please note that quarantine instructions are different for healthcare workers. If you are a healthcare worker, you should refer to Pulse for quarantine instructions.

Contact tracing for the University community

If you test positive at a UC San Diego Health location, UC San Diego’s School of Public Health contact tracing team, in partnership with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) for employees or Student Health Services (SHS) for students, will advise you on the medical care you may need and help determine if any other UC San Diego employees and students may have been in close contact with you. A close contact is defined as any individual within six feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case for more than 15 minutes. In order to ensure proper notifications occur, UC San Diego follows San Diego County’s processes and guidelines.

If you test positive for COVID-19 through UC San Diego Health, a case investigation is promptly begun by UC San Diego teams to determine if there are other individuals who may have been exposed. Exposed individuals who are UC San Diego faculty, staff or students will be contacted by the contact tracing team and provided guidance on testing and quarantine instructions. The team will not disclose the name of the employee or student who tests positive. The case investigation team will also notify the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) if there are any facilities or residential areas on campus which need deep cleaning and sanitation.

The contact tracing team will guide you through determining and identifying who is considered to be a close contact by asking a series of questions. A contact tracer will then initiate phone calls within 24 hours to your close contacts at UC San Diego whether they are fellow students, co-workers or affiliates, such as vendors.

The notification process is timely, respectful and private; the close contacts are not informed of the identity of the person who tested positive, just that they were in contact with someone who tested positive in a certain location and timeframe. Testing is also offered at no charge at UC San Diego Health locations for any fellow employees or students who meet CDC guidance for community exposure and are deemed a close contact.

In addition to notifications and testing, appropriate sanitation measures are taken to disinfect the spaces where ill employees may have been present as a safety precaution. UC San Diego’s Emergency Operations Center will be notified that additional sanitation is required at specific worksite locations.

If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to the UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at COEMexposure@health.ucsd.edu to support university contact tracing efforts. If you are a student who tests positive, you should report your results to Student Health Services at (858) 534-3300. Additionally your worksite or residential area will require appropriate sanitation to disinfect the space as a safety precaution.

Contact tracing is only attempted for University affiliated individuals, meaning only students, staff, faculty, or other individuals working or living on UC San Diego campuses or sites. For all close contacts in San Diego County that are not affiliated with the University, the County of San Diego, Public Health Department will perform the contact tracing.

Privacy

Self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms is an important part of UC San Diego’s Return to Learn Program. Your screening information will NOT be a part of your employment/personnel file (for employees) or your student education records (for students), nor will it be shared with your healthcare provider without your permission.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Campus Health Management Program as well as testing and screening privacy practices.