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Vending machines now dispense coronavirus tests

A California university makes getting a COVID-19 test as easy as grabbing a candy bar.

UC San Diego placed vending machines dispensing coronavirus test kits around campus.
UC San Diego
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

A lot of work and effort has gone into making coronavirus tests available to the masses during the ongoing global pandemic. The University of California at San Diego has figured out a clever solution for its students and employees: vending machines around campus.

As part of the university's Return to Learn program, free kits for self-administered COVID-19 tests are available through vending machines at 11 locations. The machines look a lot like a regular snack machines, but contain individually packaged nasal tests rather than potato chips or Hershey bars.

There's a process to using the tests. The tests have barcodes that work with a UC San Diego app that lets users access their test results. The university asks students and employees to return the tests within 72 hours to drop boxes next to the machines. 

Students living on campus or coming to campus are required to test weekly. Results are usually available within two days of dropping off the test.

UC San Diego's winter quarter started on Monday. Since last March, the university has logged over 100,000 student COVID-19 tests and over 28,000 employee tests. The majority of classes are happening remotely, though there are some in-person classes, including ones held in outdoor classrooms.

"Throughout fall, the campus' proactive strategies to detect and prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 proved effective -- the campus's positivity rates have remained far below average," the university said in an explanation of its winter 2021 plan.

There is a discipline process for students who don't comply with the mandatory testing, which makes the vending machines all the more important. The machines could be an inspiration to other schools and organizations working out how to best administer tests during a pandemic that continues to rage.

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