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COVID-19 Testing Program Expands

By Brenda Dawson on November 10, 2020 in University

COVID-19 Testing at UC Davis

Quick Summary

  • Newly added students and employees are receiving email invitations for testing
  • Campus has administered 17,000 tests since mid-September, revealing 12 positives
  • Starting Thursday (Nov. 12), the testing kiosk will be in the ARC

The rapid saliva-based COVID-19 test developed by UC Davis has officially been validated, which means more students and employees who do not have symptoms are beginning to get tested. The expansion comes as the testing kiosk moves indoors as the weather cools.

About 6,000 additional students, academics and staff members have been invited by email to make their first weekly testing appointments this week. New groups joining the testing process include employees associated with Custodial Services, UC Davis Library, School of Veterinary Medicine, in-person instruction, select research projects, Information and Educational Technology, Offices of the Chancellor and Provost, and Finance, Operations and Administration.

In a recent statement on the outlook for winter quarter, Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff of Finance Operations and Administration explained that testing is expected to be available to all employees by December — and that it will be mandatory for those who access campus facilities.

The university’s asymptomatic testing began in mid-September and has so far included students who live on campus and those who live in sororities and fraternities off campus, as well as employees of Student Housing and Dining Services, Student Health and Counseling Services, Occupational Health Services, and the Police and Fire departments. More than 17,000 tests have been administered, revealing 12 positive results, according to the testing dashboard.

See the updated list of eligible groups on the Campus Ready COVID-19 Testing webpage.

Testing moves indoors

After today (Nov. 10), the testing kiosk will leave the Pavilion Parking Structure for a new home in the Activities and Recreation Center, or ARC, opening there on Thursday (Nov. 12).

The new location in the ARC is the Four-Court Gym (officially Room 125). Access is via an exterior door along Orchard Road, the driveway leading into Parking Lot 25. Campus Ready signage will point the way.

Woman self-administers COVID-19 test.
Proving a sample of saliva.

A multidisciplinary team carefully evaluated multiple indoor options to find a space that was large enough to accommodate 10,000 people coming through each week and had adequate HVAC to mitigate potential viral risks related to airflow.

The site team included David Coil, a project scientist who works in microbiology and has recently been conducting research on campus to find evidence of the coronavirus in HVAC systems; as well as experts from Safety Services, Industrial Hygiene, Campus Planning, Student Health and Counseling Services, and UC Davis Health.

“What are we doing to make this safe? We’ve actually gone in with smoke machines and verified that the air is circulating efficiently,” Coil said. The initial test revealed some “dead spaces” — and those have been remedied.

“We know that the air is turning over at a high enough rate,” he said. “This space wins because it is huge and we can bring in 100 percent outside air. And if we can’t do that because it is too cold, then we have MERV 13 filters which have a very high efficiency of removing the coronavirus particulates from the air.”

Learn more about campus ventilation and filtration considerations for COVID-19.

The testing process

  • Make an appointment before you go.
  • Bring your appointment QR code and your Daily Sympton Survey approval. Remember that this test is only for people who do not have symptoms; if you have symptoms, employees should contact Occupational Health Services or their doctor; students should contact Student Health and Counseling Services..
  • Follow the signs outside the ARC to the designated kiosk entrance along the Orchard Road driveway. Be prepared to wait in line outside, and wear your face covering and maintain physical distance while you wait.
  • Inside the testing kiosk there are 48 testing stations, spaced 10 feet apart.
  • When it’s your turn, follow the seven-step process previewed in this video (and at the top of this page). The process includes gently swirling water in your mouth, then pushing saliva through a straw, into a vial.

No more nasal swabs

Now that the saliva-based testing process has been validated, the concurrent nasal swab testing has been discontinued.

To achieve validation, the campus testing process was compared to another validated saliva-based test and achieved similar results in terms of sensitivity and specificity. Because the Food and Drug Administration does not currently require review of laboratory-developed tests for accuracy, the lab director for Student Health and Counseling Services followed UC Davis Health procedures to validate the UC Davis test.

The saliva test is considered a molecular test and uses a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) process borrowed from the agricultural genetics industry to detect whether someone is actively infected with the coronavirus, even though they do not have symptoms. Learn more about molecular tests from the FDA.

“I really hope this screening process serves as a tool to help with early diagnosis and fast action to help stop outbreaks before they occur,” said Cindy Schorzman, medical director for Student Health and Counseling Services and project lead for the Campus Ready COVID-19 testing program.

“Every time I am in the kiosk, though, I take a minute and appreciate what so many amazing Aggies have collaborated and worked so tirelessly to build from scratch, and to truly appreciate what makes our community special — the people.”

Woman self-administers COVID-19 test.
The testing kiosk is moving out of the Pavilion Parking Structure and into the ARC.

Aggie teamwork

The testing kiosk is run by 56 staff members and more than 50 student employees and volunteers. Many of the staff members have been temporarily reassigned from their career positions, including those from the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, Student Housing and Dining Services, and the One Health Institute.

Many of the students are working at the kiosk as part of timely a two-credit evolution and ecology course in the College of Biological Sciences. The course,  “Mass Testing for COVID-19,” or EVE 198, is managed by Coil and led by Professor Jonathan Eisen.

Though the team has been working together for only a short time, they are principled in treating every individual with respect, dedicated to following sanitary practices to avoid contamination and driven by their mission.

“Basically, we are helping to keep the campus open,” said David Goldenberg, mass screening team supervisor who is also a training coordinator at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. “We have continually informed our staff about the need to be prepared for increased testing. They are ready to the task and look forward to a rewarding opportunity to serve the students, faculty, staff and the town of Davis.”

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About the author(s)

Brenda Dawson Brenda Dawson is a writer in the Finance, Operations and Administration communications office. Reach her at 530-752-7992 or bldawson@ucdavis.edu.

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