COVID-19 Screening

vials for COVID-19 screening

To identify COVID-19 cases, UC Davis is establishing a rapid, comprehensive screening and testing program on campus

We are working to take a unique, multi-disciplinary approach to screening and testing members of the UC Davis community for the coronavirus. Screening asymptomatic students and employees will help better identify COVID-19 and track cases on campus.

Pilot screening begins during student move-in

Students living on campus with Student Housing and Dining Services are required to get tested for COVID-19 before moving into their residences.

The easiest way to do so will be to visit a campus screening kiosk for a nasal swab and saliva sample, available to select students and employees as part of the pilot phase of campus COVID-19 screening.

For now, the first and only COVID-19 screening kiosk is located in the Pavilion parking structure, on the ground floor along Hutchison Drive. This screening process is supervised by medical staff from UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services.

During this initial pilot phase, the saliva screening process will be backed up with a more traditional, certified testing process using nasal swabs. Results during the pilot phase are expected to be received within 24-48 hours.

Student residents should expect to be tested on at least a weekly basis throughout the rest of the fall quarter.

How the COVID-19 screening process works

First, it is critical to know that this is asymptomatic screening, only for students and campus affiliates who do not have symptoms. If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19 symptoms, contact Student Health and Counseling Services (or Occupational Health or your personal physician if you are a campus employee).

To find out whether they have COVID-19, campus affiliates will provide a saliva sample at a COVID-19 screening kiosk on campus. 

Please stay well hydrated and drink plenty of fluids 1 hour before your appointment. Then in the 30 minutes before your test, do not eat, drink, chew gum or smoke. This will help you more easily provide a valid saliva sample.

Everyone waiting in line at the kiosk will need to do their part to follow campus safety rules, including wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing.

At the kiosk, you will be asked to sanitize your hands and provide your appointment QR code at a registration table. You will receive a straw and a vial with a barcode. Then you’ll follow this six-step process:

  1. Once asked, remove the cap from the vial and place it in the provided tray. Don’t lose the cap. 
  2. Place the straw in the vial, but be careful not to push the straw so far that it creates a seal. 
  3. Place your lips on the straw and push saliva through the straw into the vial. 
  4. After filling the vial a little more than halfway, remove the straw and place it in the tray. 
  5. Securely place the cap back on the vial and place the vial into the container. 
  6. The attendant will take your sample. Sanitize your hands and exit.

What happens when someone tests positive for COVID-19

When a test comes back positive, there will be a response protocol in place to isolate, trace contacts and do further testing if needed.

As campus screening increases the number of students and other campus affiliates who are tested, expectations are that more existing and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 will become visible. In preparation for this eventuality, the campus has set aside quarantine and isolation facilities. UC Davis also has worked with local housing complex owners to assist them in establishing quarantine/isolation spaces within their properties.

Expanding testing capacity for the UC Davis community

While the screening process will begin with students living on campus, we intend to make COVID-19 screening available to all who are using campus facilities.

Once the saliva screening process has been fully validated during the pilot phase, plans call for opening more COVID-19 screening kiosks with a phased implementation for all UC Davis students, academics and staff members to make use of this service on an ongoing, consistent basis. 

To provide this screening service to the campus community, UC Davis academics and staff members have been crossing disciplinary boundaries to work together in new and innovative ways. While the biochemistry of the saliva test is similar to tests used elsewhere, the UC Davis Genome Center will be making use of an open-source, high-throughput method that provides speedy results and is otherwise used in agricultural genetics. Learn more about the science behind this screening process.