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UCSB to test students for COVID-19 after spring break

Beth Thornton
UC Santa Barbara's COVID-19 lab administers thousands of tests per week

UC Santa Barbara issued travel guidelines during spring break and testing requirements before students return to campus.

Since Santa Barbara County recently moved into a less restrictive COVID-19 tier, some schools and businesses are open with limited capacity. To keep case numbers down, UC Santa Barbara discouraged students from traveling during spring break.

Dr. Laura Polito, director of UCSB’s COVID-19 Response Team, said they wanted students to understand that leaving town can increase the risk of transmission to and from friends and family, and also to the whole community. And if they do leave, the university will require students to be tested when they return.

“We advised people to get tested before they leave and, upon returning, to self-sequester for seven days and then get tested within three to five days,” Polito said.

If students travel outside the state or country, Polito said they must quarantine for 10 days upon returning. The university also expanded no-cost testing for all students before and after the break, whether they travel or not.

The COVID-19 lab on UCSB’s campus administers as many as 4,500 tests per week. Polito said she anticipates even more testing after spring break.

“That is a good thing,” Polito said “The more we test, the more we can figure out what’s out there.”

The university also collaborates with Cottage Hospital to track virus variants locally. Dr. Stuart Feinstein, who oversees UCSB’s COVID-19 lab, said the most common variant found in the area is called the West Coast variant or CAL.20C. He said the county has also identified a small number of B.1.1.7, which is the variant originally detected in the United Kingdom.

“The importance is keeping an eye on how that changes week by week by week, so our clinicians will know better what they’re dealing with,” Feinstein said.

As for UCSB students, Polito said they have been cooperative about testing. And she expects they will be motivated, if they want to be back on campus. Her advice to everyone is to stay vigilant about masks and testing.

“We’re at mile 20 of this marathon,” Polito said. “It’s exhausting, and you can’t quite see the finish line, but we’re getting there. Hang in there.”

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