As cases of COVID-19 surge across California, one university is hoping to ensure students and campus employees have adequate access to testing using a machine once solely reserved for tasty snacks and beverages. The University of California, San Diego is using vending machines to distribute self-administered COVID tests on campus as part of its efforts to detect and prevent the virus' transmission.
"Students and campus employees may now pick up a self-administered COVID-19 test kit at one of numerous vending machines across campus," the university announced on a webpage discussing Testing and Screening under the college's Return to Learn program. "Samples should be returned within 72 hours —from the time the kit is picked up — at a dropbox next to a vending machine."
According to UC San Diego, there are at least 11 vending machines stocked with free individually packaged COVID-19 nasal tests throughout campus. Under the university's Return to Learn program, all students living on UC property or reporting to any UC campus, location, or property must self-screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms daily and submit to a mandatory free asymptomatic test every week. While not required, the university recommends students who live and learn off-campus to do the same. University employees working on campus are also required to screen themselves for symptoms daily and submit to weekly COVID tests.
To complete the tests, students and campus employees must have both a smartphone and the UC San Diego app. Individuals using a test would use the app to both scan their test kit when completing and submitting it and to access their results.
UC San Diego began its Winter Quarter 2021 on Jan. 4 with limited in-person classes. A majority of the students and employees currently learning and working remotely will continue to do so until at least the end of May, the university noted in its Return to Learn plan.
Of course, UC San Diego isn't the only organization to use vending machines to distribute self-administered COVID tests. According to CNN, both Hong Kong and Latvia placed vending machines stocked with COVID tests at various locations in December in an effort to increase testing access.
As of Jan. 9, California has recorded 2,670,962 confirmed cases of COVID and 29,701 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began last year, according to the state's Coronavirus Tracker. While cases of the virus have surged across the state in recent days, areas of Southern California have been especially hard hit. On Friday, public health officials in San Diego County reported a record high 4,550 new infections along with the occupation of more than 80% of the county's hospital beds, Fox 5 San Diego reported.