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UCSC expands COVID-19 lab and testing capacity on campus

UCSC diagnostic lab

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The University of California Santa Cruz diagnostic lab is processing up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests per day. The lab's capacity has drastically improved over the course of the pandemic.

“It would be really hard to wrap our heads around the idea of doing a thousand tests a day, and yet here we are doing it with out straining,” UCSC molecular diagnostic lab lead scientist Michael Stone said.

The lab was granted $800,000 in CARES Act funding from the county and used it for equipment and supplies.

About 200 of the daily tests come from the various testing sites around Santa Cruz County.

“There are no other testing labs locally, and the testing labs that we do have available to our county residents all have a turnaround time of one week," UCSC Vice Chancellor of Research Scott Brandt said. We’re the only one that is able to provide a turnaround time in the neighborhood of 24 hours or so.”

In addition to processing samples from testing sites around the county, the lab also supports the survellience testing program for students living on or near the UCSC campus.

Twice a week students show up at a kiosk and self swab. Starting in the winter quarter pool testing will begin, drastically increasing how many tests are processed. As many as 10 samples will be pooled into one test.

"If it's a negative pool, then those samples are reported as negative to it to those individuals," Stone said. "If it's a positive pool, then there's a secondary test that occurs where the 10 samples and what we call children samples go into that parent pool. Those are then tested individually.”

This could open the door for more students returning to campus.

"In theory, if we were doing all asymptomatic testing with those thousand tests we could test, maybe 9,000 or 10,000 people,” Brandt said.

“So by doing this for our campus community we're not just serving UCSC, but we're also making sure that the several thousand students in the community are being surveilled on a regular basis,” Stone said.

The goal is to have every student tested twice a week.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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