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September 27, 2020

County, UC Santa Cruz partner to further expand Covid-19 testing

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—A partnership between UC Santa Cruz and the County of Santa Cruz—and funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act—will allow the county to expand its Covid-19 testing capacity to as many as 800 tests per day, county spokesman Jason Hoppin said Friday.

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The funds—$805,000 in all—will allow for the purchase of additional laboratory equipment for the UCSC Molecular Diagnostic Lab. 

The partnership will help address increased transmission in the community, and make Santa Cruz County more self-sufficient in its response through increased testing capacity and more rapid diagnosis, said Santa Cruz County Health Services Director Mimi Hall.

“Addressing Covid-19 in the community demands that we rely on the strength of our partnerships, and this partnership will form the backbone of our response efforts when it comes to testing and diagnosis,” she said. “We are thankful to have UC Santa Cruz in our community and to see them rise to meet the challenges before us.”

So far, the lab has been able to meet the demand for tests and continues to return results within 24-48 hours, said Scott Brandt, vice chancellor for research at UC Santa Cruz. 

“We are grateful to the county for these funds, which will help ensure that our diagnostic lab continues to be able to meet the increasing needs of the community and campus for coronavirus testing,” he said. 

UCSC officials estimate that it will take several weeks to integrate and test new equipment after it arrives. 

The UCSC lab tests samples from medical providers to determine if a patient is infected and does not treat patients or collect samples from patients directly.

County residents should not contact UCSC to request testing, but instead should work through local medical providers.

The new equipment includes two new robotic liquid handling platforms and a number of smaller items for the first stage in the process of ramping up the lab’s testing capacity.

The UCSC lab does not use the same suppliers as commercial labs, and has not yet experienced any shortages of supplies or reagents.

The lab is currently partnering with the UCSC Student Health Center to provide testing for students and essential campus personnel, and with Salud Para la Gente and Santa Cruz Community Health to provide testing for the area’s low-income and vulnerable residents.

In addition, the lab is partnering with Santa Cruz County Public Health and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to provide testing for various local community medical providers and public service entities on a short-term, immediate basis to address emergency needs.

The university is in the process of finalizing agreements with other local providers to expand testing capacity in support of the county’s needs.

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