Students help power campus testing program

Arcelia Gonzalez Jimenez is one of the many students who are helping run the campus's asymptomatic testing program.

Tuesday Newsday will be featuring members of the campus community who are helping in the campus response to COVID-19 and welcomes suggestions about who else to highlight. 

UC Santa Cruz senior Arcelia Gonzalez Jimenez, who hopes to be a doctor someday, was searching for ways to help with the COVID–19 pandemic.

When she saw an ad asking for students to help with testing, she jumped at the opportunity. Last summer, she joined the first cohort of students trained to help run the campus’s asymptomatic testing program.

The program provides rapid, free, and easy tests for members of the campus community who do not show any symptoms of COVID–19. The program is helping to reduce the virus’s spread in the campus community and the surroudning community.

Jimenez provides testing materials—a swab and vial to collect the sample— to students, faculty, and staff who then self-administer their tests. She talks through the process and lets them know that they will get results back in two-to-three days.

Jimenez and her co-workers help administer between 200 and 400 tests each day at Crown and Merrill colleges, one of several testing centers on campus.

Students who live on campus are required to get COVID–19 testing twice a week.

While UC Santa Cruz has announced it will continue with primarly remote instruction this academic year, the campus continues to house students on campus and run dining halls. The health center and some other campus facilities remain open for in-person services.

Jimenez said she was a little nervous at first when she took the testing job because she wondered how it would affect her five roommates. But her fears eased when she learned about all the safety protocols and precautions.

“There really is very little to worry about in those spaces if you’re careful,” she said.

Jimenez and her co-workers change into new masks when they get to work and sanitize their stations regularly. They also have Plexiglas in place separating them from those who need tests. Everyone observes social distancing, staying six feet apart.

While there have been cases of COVID–19 on campus, she has never tested positive.

Jimenez, who is from Novato, is majoring in molecular, cell and developmental biology. She plans to take a gap year or two after graduating this year so she can get more experience in clinical settings or doing lab work before eventually applying to medical school.

Her experience working at testing centers has made her impressed with how efficient and streamlined everything is and made her proud of those who set them up. “We’ve had people who work at other testing sites not related to UC Santa Cruz who have come in to check out our testing process,” she said. The visitors look for tips of how they can improve their own testing sites.

“That made me appreciate even more the scientists and the workers who work on campus regularly, especially the ones who took the initiative to set all of us up so people can be safe and healthy and do their work or live on campus,” Jimenez said.