Saturday, May 23, 2020

Whatever a Hybrid Reopening Features, It Won't Be Universal Testing

The Regents were told last week that testing for some kind of reopening during the coronavirus crisis would cost $24 million a week. Just the 10-week quarter for courses would be $240 million, and presumably you would have to have more than 10 weeks for exams and other functions.

If you looked at our earlier post today on the trigger you know that if Congress actually came through with the money requested - no guarantee of that happening - UC would get $338 million more funding.* Much of that money, however, would be swallowed up by a $24 million per week cost. Note that Berkeley and Merced are on semesters, so they would have more weeks than the campuses on quarters. Put another way, universal testing can't happen from a budget perspective.

From Calmatters: ...Dr. Carrie L. Byington, a top UC medical expert, pulled the curtain back on what campus re-openings would look like; the expenses are significant and the logistics complex. She said that she predicts that both COVID-19 cases and circulation of the flu will increase in the fall. Universal testing is unfeasible, said Byington, the executive vice president of UC Health, which includes five academic medical centers, a community-based health system and 18 health professional schools. With roughly 600,000 students, faculty and staff at the UC, weekly testing would cost the system $24 million a week because each test is $40. Instead, fall term will require social distancing, even within buildings. 

“That may mean staggering (class start) times, giving people a direct time when they can enter or exit a building or an elevator. The density is going to be really important,” she said. Everyone on campus will need to wear masks, track their symptoms, be truthful about when they think they’re getting sick and stay away from others, and wash hands constantly. Access to soap and hand sanitizer is paramount.

Partial testing based on a model is also a possibility to figure out “the minimum proportion of people that we can test to understand the likelihood that the virus is in our facility,” she told regents. Many of these strategies were formalized in a document the regents approved Wednesday that lays out the principles for safely operating campuses during the pandemic. 

Byington also shed light on a possible vaccine for COVID-19 in the form of a patch developed in conjunction with UC Davis. The hope is that the vaccine patch will go into clinical trials in the summer.  “Not only does it give us hope for having a vaccine, but also a mechanism to deliver that vaccine that would allow millions of people to receive the vaccine in their own homes, as the vaccine could be mailed, and they could place it on themselves in their own homes,” she explained.

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