As a part of UC Santa Barbara’s COVID-19 Early Detection and Prevention Monitoring Testing Program, the university announced on Oct. 7 that it will be randomly selecting and testing vaccinated students for COVID-19.
Unvaccinated students have to be tested weekly and thus are not included in the random testing program.
Emails are sent every Friday to 1,000 to 2,000 students informing them that they’ve been randomly selected for a test and must make an appointment for the following week at one of two COVID-19 testing centers on campus — the Loma Pelona Center and the Linda Vista Room at Santa Catalina Residence Hall.
According to fifth-year feminist studies major and Student Advocate General Geovany Lucero, most students will only receive the request to be tested once per quarter. However, any student who fails to fulfill their COVID-19 test may have their clearance status to be on campus affected and may be forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct if their negligence continues.
These appointments are made through logging into the Student Health Patient Portal Gateway with one’s UCSB Net ID and password.
This program began with conversations between Associated Students and the university to ensure students’ safety from COVID-19 transmission.
“[The random testing] serves as a way to get students tested more regularly because that was a big thing we’ve been talking about, was how we can get students tested more regularly rather than just mandating [testing] or leaving it up to [students] to choose to get tested,” Lucero said.
The first batch of emails was sent out on Oct. 8 following the confirmation of the program via email on Oct. 7. The first week of emails were only sent to undergraduate students, but the selection of students being tested expanded to graduate students last week.
“It’s a form of early detection testing … that will greatly help the campus monitor our COVID-19 status and promote mitigation efforts,” Lucero said.
Testing is provided on weekdays — excluding official holidays — on the following days: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the Loma Pelona Center and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the Linda Vista Room.
According to UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada, this surveying is a standard epidemiological strategy that can help “identify potential non-symptomatic cases” as well as provide data on the spread of COVID-19 in UCSB’s campus population in real time.
Lucero emphasized, however, that UCSB’s COVID-19 positivity rate is the lowest of all the UC schools at 0.46% and 99.52% of all students have been fully vaccinated, been partially vaccinated or submitted deferrals or exemptions to vaccination. Thus, this program is setting a protocol for more regular testing amongst the student population and to gather real-time data on COVID-19 transmission rates on campus.
“I know that students have been concerned that we’re not being safe or that we’re not really complying with vaccinations and stuff … but it’s good to let our students know that we are the highest [vaccinated population] in all of the UCs,” Lucero said.
Second-year English and linguistics double major Bethany Clements received the email notifying her that she was selected to be randomly tested for COVID-19 on Oct. 8. Following the email, she made her appointment to get tested the following week. Clements recalled seeing a longer line than usual for the COVID-19 testing center when she arrived at her appointment.
“I had to do a COVID-19 test before that … and there was definitely a longer [line] than there was when I did tests before, so I figured that a lot of people probably got selected for [random COVID-19 testing] as well,” Clements said.
Clements said she was allowed to choose how to get tested — with a nasal swab or with a spit test — and the staff working at the center made the process pass smoothly.
“[The staff members] were super nice; they gave out free masks and stuff outside and they were very organized,” Clements said. “It went by really fast and it wasn’t inconvenient at all.”
The university is anticipating that this program will roll out for the entirety of fall quarter, and Lucero predicts that randomized testing will continue until a pattern and/or results from testing data become clear.