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SARS-CoV-2 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.

Testing and Screening

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 mask—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 seek 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 who register for the Symptom Screening and Exposure tool are eligible for a one-time COVID-19 test at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to employees, regardless of healthcare provider. You will be contacted via email to self-schedule your test appointment at a UC San Diego Health drive-thru location. Please wait to be emailed—do not call directly to ask for an update.

Employee testing options

As of Aug. 7, 2020

Remote employees with symptoms

  • If you are working remotely in the San Diego region, you are strongly encouraged to complete the daily symptom and exposure screening
  • By registering for the Symptom Screening and Exposure tool, you will be offered a one-time asymptomatic COVID-19 test.
  • 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 using the phone number provided in the screening tool. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested. 
  • 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.

On-site employees with symptoms

  • 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. 
  • By registering for the Symptom Screening and Exposure tool, you will be offered a one-time asymptomatic COVID-19 test.
  • 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 unless you have already contacted them directly using the phone number provided in the screening tool. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested. 
  • 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 to speak with a healthcare professional who will assist you with determining if you should be tested. You will be sent home by your supervisor. 
  • 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 without symptoms

  • If you are working remotely in the San Diego region, you are strongly encouraged to complete the daily symptom and exposure screening. Daily screening by employees working remotely will help the university identify and anticipate potential outbreaks off-campus, which can inform our planning for repopulating the campus.
  • By registering for the Symptom Screening and Exposure tool, you will be offered a one-time asymptomatic COVID-19 test at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to employees, regardless of healthcare provider. You will be contacted via email to self-schedule your test appointment at a UC San Diego Health drive-thru location. Please wait to be emailed—do not call directly to ask for an update.
  • 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 on Days 3-6 after 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.
  • More details will be communicated as soon as the Return to Learn program continues to scale up periodic, risk-based asymptomatic testing for employees. If you start to develop symptoms, please refer to instructions for remote employees with symptoms for next steps.

On-site employees without symptoms

  • 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 start to develop symptoms while working on-site, you should retake the symptom and exposure screening immediately and call the UC San Diego Health Testing Support Line to speak with a healthcare professional who will assist you with determining if you should be tested. 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 on Days 3-6 after initial 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.
  • By registering for the Symptom Screening and Exposure tool, you will be offered a one-time asymptomatic COVID-19 test at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to employees, regardless of healthcare provider. You will be contacted via email to self-schedule your test appointment at a UC San Diego Health drive-thru location. Please wait to be emailed—do not call directly to ask for an update.

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 mask 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. 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 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 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 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.

Employee asymptomatic testing plans

After the fall quarter starts, we will begin an ongoing asymptomatic testing program for all on-site community members. On-site community members are expected 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 mask. 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

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, will be expected to participate in daily symptom and exposure screening.

The screening tool has been developed within the UC San Diego mobile app and is planned to launch on August 17, 2020 for all students. Should symptoms develop, the daily screener facilitates easy access to same day 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 seek testing, if the need arises.

Student testing options

As of Aug. 7, 2020

Students residing on or near campus with symptoms

  • Any student residing on campus and in the San Diego area who has symptoms of COVID-19 can call Student Health Services to receive a test at no cost to the student, regardless of insurance coverage. 
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your residence or suite and contact Student Health Services. Prior to August 17, please call (858) 534-3300 to speak to a nurse to determine if you need an in-person appointment or want to schedule a video visit. 
  • Beginning on August 17, any student residing in the San Diego region who reports symptoms of COVID-19 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 using the phone number provided in the screening tool. A healthcare professional will assist you with determining if you should be tested. 
  • 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

  • Student Employees: All students who are also campus employees and/or students working in a lab opened under Return to Research and have been identified for testing by the PI are offered a one-time asymptomatic test through the daily employee symptom and exposure screening registration process. A limited number of asymptomatic tests are available each day. Selected student employees will be contacted directly by email to self-schedule testing at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to the student. 
  • 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. Beginning on August 17, by indicating your exposure in the daily screening, you will be offered a test on Days 3-6 after 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.
  • Graduate students currently residing on campus: Beginning on August 12, graduate students currently residing on campus will be offered a one-time asymptomatic test. A limited number of asymptomatic tests are available each day. Students will be contacted directly by email to self-schedule testing at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to the student. Please note that one-time testing is only available for students at this time and does not include partners or children also residing on campus.
  • Graduate students arriving on or after August 12 who will be residing on campus for the fall will be offered free testing as part of the move-in process. The goal is to identify and isolate any asymptomatic individuals who could unintentionally spread the virus. Students will have 48 hours to complete testing once they arrive on-campus. Test results will be available usually within 24-36 hours in their MyStudentChart.
  • All students currently residing off-campus in the San Diego area will be offered a one-time asymptomatic test between September 9 through September 18, 2020 and again between September 29 through October 2, 2020. A limited number of asymptomatic tests are available each day. Students will be contacted directly by email to self-schedule testing at a UC San Diego Health location at no cost to the student.
  • Undergraduate students arriving September 19 through September 28, 2020 who will be residing on campus for the fall will be offered free testing as part of the move-in process. The goal is to identify and isolate any asymptomatic individuals who could unintentionally spread the virus. Testing during move-in week will take place at Torrey Pines Gliderport and we plan to administer approximately 1,000 tests per day. Students will sign up for a specific testing and move-in time. Test results will usually be available within 24-36 hours in their MyStudentChart.
  • 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.
  • More details will be communicated soon as the Return to Learn program continues to scale up periodic asymptomatic testing for students. If you start to develop symptoms, please refer to instructions for students residing on or near campus with symptoms for next steps.

Students 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. While waiting for your results, do not leave your residence or suite and remain in an isolated room alone and wear a mask 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. 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 Student Health Services at 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.

Student asymptomatic testing plans for fall quarter

The University is also planning to conduct periodic asymptomatic testing, most likely on a monthly basis. Students are expected 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. 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. More information about ongoing asymptomatic testing for students will be announced soon.

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.

Voluntary testing is available for you at a UC San Diego Health location between day 3-6 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 Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) for employees OR Student Health Services (SHS) for students, in partnership with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, 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 Symptom and Exposure Screening Program Privacy Practices.