While attempting to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, students and staff at UC Santa Cruz are faced with long testing lines, and inaccessible email links. Over winter break, Fulgent Genetics took over the COVID-19 testing at UCSC, and these issues have led many in the campus community to raise concerns.  

Fulgent, founded in 2011, is a southern California company that provides a variety of medical testing such as tumor profiles, cancer screenings, and COVID-19. It was announced to students that Fulgent would be conducting testing at UCSC on Dec. 21.

“It became clear that the best course going forward would be to wind down [UCSC’s COVID-19 Testing Lab] and move our reliance on testing to Fulgent,” said Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC’s Executive Director of Communications & Marketing. “We’ve been working with Fulgent to ramp up their abilities to test our campus in a manner that is just as straightforward as it has been under our campus lab.”

Students with appointments face long lines that wrap around the Merrill Cultural Center, the primary asymptomatic testing site on campus — a fact which has caused concern amongst the campus community. Some students also note difficulty securing appointments with Fulgent due to access difficulties on the website regarding registration and site navigation. 

A long line of stick figures forms on the path alongside Merrill dorm buildings. Each figure is wearing a blue surgical mask.

Waiting in a line that wrapped around the Merrill Cultural Center and continued down along the Merrill dorm buildings, students and staff faced a wait time of at least half an hour during the peak of operations. Illustration by Yitong Lei.

Long waits extend even to test results, leaving students in the dark about their COVID-19 status. The Fulgent website for UCSC states a  turnaround time of three to five days, compared to previous testing which had a 24-hour turnaround. 

“The turnaround time for results has been slow,” third-year Jesse MacDonald said. “It takes four days to get results, which doesn’t seem effective.”

With 6,912 tests conducted on campus since the new year, UCSC’s seven-day positivity rate continues to climb. The surge in positivity began before the holidays, and has now reached to 4.5 percent, only .5 percent away from the positivity rate at which the WHO recommends lockdowns. 

Despite testing protocols in place, the UCSC administration has put their trust in Fulgent Genetics for testing the entire campus community. Consistent confusion with Fulgent software and testing results has left students wondering whether an in-person return will be feasible.

Students in long lines wait outside the Merrill Cultural Center waiting to be tested.

Photo by Sam Glover, awaiting his own COVID-19 test.

Fulgent Genetics Testing did not respond to City on a Hill Press’ request for comment at the time of publication.
This is a developing a story that will be updated as more information is provided.