Even With Mass Coronavirus Testing, UC San Diego Officials Are Cautious About Fall Opening
UC San Diego officials this week unveiled what they say is the first plan by a U.S. university to test all students, faculty and staff. But the expert in charge of the program said it shouldn’t lead people to believe the campus will be fully open in the fall.
On Tuesday, University Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said beginning May 11 the approximately 5,000 students currently on campus would start being tested, the first step in a plan to test all 65,000 students, faculty and staff by the time the fall quarter starts in late September.
The doctor in charge of the program described the testing plan as one piece in the larger effort to reduce the threat of the pandemic as students return to school and university operations gradually resume.
“The goal of the testing program will be to try to detect spread of the virus before people become symptomatic,” said Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UCSD. “We know that as time goes on, more and more people spread the virus without knowing it.”
In the event of a student testing positive, university health officials will place the student in quarantine and inform his or her contacts of the test result.
However, Schooley was quick to say that a robust testing and contact tracing regimen does not guarantee that things will be back to normal at UC San Diego any time soon. Schooley said the university would have to wait and see what the federal, state and local guidelines are come fall.
But if things do go well with mass testing at UC San Diego, Schooley said he would be open to partnering with neighboring universities and colleges to help them implement similar strategies.
One student interviewed by KPBS agreed that more testing and contact tracing needs to happen. But those measures aren’t enough for him to feel like he can safely walk into a 400-student lecture hall.
“There would have to be a full vaccine,” said Trevor Jones, a current student at UC San Diego. “ I do have family members who are at risk. Even if I get the test, a week later, that’s still enough time for them to become infected.”
Jones said his entire college experience has been disrupted, from his coursework to his volunteering. But he said he and most of his peers seem to be willing to accept the possibility of learning online in the fall.
“It’s not fun, but I don’t want to graduate later,” Jones said. “I’m pretty lucky. I live with my parents, and I have good WiFi.”