Schools get UCSD's early COVID-19 detection system

University installs system in areas with high risk, low test rates
pic-covid ucsd.jpg
Posted at 5:06 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 20:25:02-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — UC San Diego is deploying its signature early COVID-19 detection system to schools and daycare centers in some of our region's most at-risk areas.

The move already appears to be paying off for some families.

Kristen Dimler’s life changed dramatically when her 11-year-old son Anthony had to start learning from home.

“I had to take on that responsibility of being the educator, being the occupational therapist, the speech therapist, the one-on-one aid,” she said.

RELATED: Wastewater testing may help San Diego County form school reopening plan

Dimler could no longer work as a teacher, and instead devoted herself to Anthony's education.

“I've said it a million times, 25 kids were no problem to teach, but my one child, I can't do it. And I'm sure many parents are having that same problem as well,” she said.

But Dimler is smiling more these days because Anthony is once again on campus at Rancho San Diego’s Vista Grande Elementary.

“It was just nice to be able to get him back into the school again,” she said.

Vista Grande Elementary is one of ten schools and two daycare centers participating in UC San Diego’s early detection Covid system.

The university installed machines to test campus wastewater for Covid, while staff are taking swabs from classroom floors looking for the virus.

In nine weeks, it’s detected COVID-19 in waste water 10 times, and found swabs of the virus four times. Positives bring on individual testing and safety protocols.

“We really wanted to think about, how can we keep child care available for people, and how can we open schools for kids who really, really need to be there,” said Rebecca Fielding-Miller, professor of public health at UC San Diego.

Kristen said she is looking to get back to teaching her own students.

“We're at that point to where my son's getting back into school five days a week, so hopefully we'll be back to normal soon,” she said.

UCSD chose schools in areas with the highest coronavirus rates and lowest testing rates, including El Cajon, Chula Vista, San Ysidro, Vista and Southeast San Diego.

It plans to expand to a couple more schools, and to publish a manual instructing other schools and childcare sites on how they can implement the system themselves.