Working Together to Protect our Community and Advance our Academic Mission

Testing FAQs

General Information

What is the University’s approach for testing the campus community for COVID-19?

The University of Chicago launched a three-part COVID-19 testing program for the 2020-21 academic year, designed to identify and isolate both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection. This testing approach is based on guidance from the University of Chicago Medicine (UCM) and other public health guidance and includes:

    • Mandatory Surveillance Testing – required weekly testing for all those living in University residence halls as well as off-campus varsity student-athletes (concluded for the 2020-21 academic year).
    • Voluntary Surveillance Testing – weekly screening for interested students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who will regularly be on campus or at another Chicago-area University site and opted in to participate in this screening program.

Symptomatic Testing – for those with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Who qualifies for testing or should get tested?
  • If you are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19, all members of the campus community, including students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff, should contact UCM or UChicago Student Wellness for screening and testing in UChicago’s Symptomatic Testing Program, if directed to do so after screening. (Individuals experiencing symptoms may also contact their own medical provides if they do not wish to be screened and tested through the University’s Symptomatic Testing Program.)
  • Students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff who will regularly be on at a University location in the Chicago area and can commit to regular testing may opt in to the University’s Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program.

(For the 2020-2021 academic year, there was also a Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program for students, faculty, other academic appointees, staff members, and their family members living in University Housing; as well as student athletes living off campus. That program concluded in June 2021 with the end of the academic year.)

Why is UChicago doing regular testing of individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms?

Systematic, ongoing testing of asymptomatic individuals is designed to help the University understand the prevalence of COVID-19 on campus, isolate those who are positive, and trace close contacts, all of which will help limit the spread of infection to campus. Such testing has helped curb the spread of COVID-19 in other congregate living facilities like nursing homes and may help the University identify any outbreaks and clusters earlier.

What type of COVID-19 test does UChicago perform?

The UCM PCR nasal swab test, to be administered by a trained medical assistant. This is less invasive than a nasopharyngeal test; it requires a light swabbing of the inside of the nose.

How long will the test take?

The sample collection process should take less than 10 minutes to complete.

What will I need to bring with me to my test?

Participants should bring their UChicago ID.

Do I need to sign a consent to participate in testing?

Yes. To participate in any of the testing programs you must sign a consent form and a HIPAA authorization which permit the release of your results to the University and the UCM.

What do the consent and HIPAA authorization say?

The consent and HIPAA authorization describe the applicable testing program(s) in which you will enroll – Mandatory Surveillance Testing, Voluntary Surveillance Testing, and/or Symptomatic Testing – and the procedures that you will be required to follow as a participant in those programs. The consent and HIPAA authorization also describe information that is collected about you, with whom that information is shared, and the purposes for which it is used (e.g., contact tracing).

Where do I find my results?

Negative results can be found on your MyChart account, a medical patient portal. Positive results will also be located on the portal, but you will also be contacted by phone with your result as well as next steps. Students will be contacted by UChicago Student Wellness; while all faculty and staff will be contacted by a UCM medical professional.

How quickly will I be notified of my results/my results become available?

Typically, within 48 hours.

What happens if I test positive?

In addition to notification through MyChart, you will be notified by phone if you have a positive result and be provided next steps. Students will be notified by UChicago Student Wellness; all other staff and faculty will be notified by a UCM medical professional or his/her designee. Individuals under an isolation or quarantine directive should not report for testing in the Voluntary Testing Program for the duration of their isolation or quarantine.

Any member of the University community living off campus who tests positive or has close contact with a known COVID-19 case will be advised to stay in their home during the period of isolation or quarantine. Students living off campus will also have telehealth access to on-campus physicians at UChicago Student Wellness and receive regular check-ins from our clinical staff.

Any faculty member, academic appointee, postdoctoral researcher, or staff member who receives a positive result from a test conducted through the University testing program will be provided with instructions for follow-up care. Additional Information and resources on COVID-19 benefits can be found on the HR website.

Who will have access to my test results?

UCM will report your results to the University, which will use the results to regularly appraise the health of our community and adjust plans accordingly. If your test is positive, it was also be reported to the University’s contact tracing team. If you are a student, your results will be sent to UChicago Student Wellness so they can help you with any medical needs you may have. UCM or the University will also report results to federal, state, and/or local public health authorities as required by law.

If you are a student and you test positive, your positive test result, including your name, will also be shared with your area Dean of Students and other staff who need to know your identity to assist you while you are required to isolate and make sure you are taking precautions to keep yourself and others healthy. In all circumstances, the University will instruct its personnel to keep your identity confidential to the extent possible. However, there may be cases in which the University determines that it is necessary to disclose your identity to prevent harm to you or others. For example, if you have roommates, the University may also provide your identity to them. The University may also be required by law in some cases to disclose your identity to public health authorities, government agencies, or others. In such cases, the University may disclose your identity as it determines is appropriate. In some cases, even if the University does not reveal your name or other identifying information, others may be able to infer your identity based on the circumstances.

If you are under the age of 18, the University will also contact your parent(s) or legal guardian(s). In that case, the University will disclose your identity and your test results.

Does the University require us to download a contact tracing app, and if so, which one?

No, the University will be utilizing a specially trained team of employees who will complete contact tracing for all positive tests occurring within the University community.

Who should I contact if I have any questions or issues related to COVID-19 testing?
Do members of the broader Hyde Park-area community have access to COVID-19 testing?

Members of the surrounding community who are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 have access to UCM’s curbside testing program and must provide their insurance information in order to be scheduled for a screening. You will need to provide your insurance information in order to schedule a screening. Insurance will be billed; however, there will be no bill from UCM or out of pocket expense even if your insurance does not cover the testing or requires a copay. For additional information please visit coronavirus patient education.

Is testing available through the University for family members of international students who are traveling to Chicago to drop off their students and returning to countries that require COVID-19 testing before they depart for home?

If you require proof of a negative COVID-19 test result in order to return to your home country following move-in, the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) is able to provide this testing service at no cost to you. If your home country requires a certain type of COVID-19 test, please note the University uses the nasal swab PCR test.

Testing will take place at UCMC’s curbside testing site, located at the corner of South Drexel Avenue and East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Screenings take place Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and test results generally take one to two days. To schedule your screening, first please review the travel and testing requirements of your home country in advance of your travel. Then, email Dr. Rajlakshmi Krishnamurthy at rkrishnamurthy@medicine.bsd.uchicago.edu 
noting your requirements and your student’s name.

Why are participants in the testing programs getting tested once each week and not more frequently?

Regular surveillance testing is one important part of the University’s layers of precautions to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which have been designed by infectious disease experts at the University of Chicago Medicine. But no single measure alone is sufficient, and so far, evidence does not indicate that more frequent testing would be enough to prevent spread of the disease – in fact, some campuses with more frequent testing have encountered problems arising from non-compliance with restrictions on social gatherings or other required precautions.

That’s why adherence to a layered approach with many precautions is essential. At UChicago, the other layers include enforcing requirements around face coverings, social distancing, and restrictions on gatherings; dramatically reducing the capacity of residence halls and classrooms; limiting on-campus housing to single-occupancy bedrooms; performing contact tracing as soon as any cases emerge; preparing for isolation needs, including two residence halls staffed and equipped for on-campus isolation housing; performing deep-cleaning in classrooms every day; and other precautions.

For surveillance testing, the University is using a nasal swab PCR test with high sensitivity to detect SARS-CoV-2. One benefit is that there is less risk of obtaining false negatives or false positives than with some other tests. Our infectious disease experts have concluded that weekly testing accompanied by swift contact tracing and isolation is the best and most reasonable testing plan for U Chicago right now. We will closely monitor the pandemic as it evolves and are prepared to change course if needed, regarding testing or any other aspect of our precautions

Will I continue in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program if I test positive?

Participation in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program will be suspended for students, faculty, other academic appointments, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who test positive for a period of up to 90 days after testing positive for COVID-19. People who have recovered from COVID-19 often continue to have positive tests even though they are no longer contagious. The PCR test we use at UChicago can detect even fragments of RNA from the virus, but studies show that no live, transmissible virus is present after 10 days.

The testing program staff will work with participants to suspend weekly testing and to re-schedule the testing when appropriate to resume. If during the period of suspension, any faculty member, academic appointee, postdoctoral researcher, or staff member experiences symptoms, they must call the UCM COVID-19 triage hotline for screening and testing, at 773.702.2800. Students must call UChicago Student Wellness at 773.834.WELL.

If you are scheduled to participate in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program, and you have tested positive for COVID-19 at any point in the 90 days prior to the day you are scheduled for your first test in the UChicago program, you should provide such evidence to the attention CovidSolutionsSupport@uchicago.edu.

Will or should I continue in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program if I receive a vaccine?

Members of the campus community who are considered fully vaccinated may opt out of the Voluntary Surveillance Testing programs if they are considered fully vaccinated. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or
  • Two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Participants who are fully vaccinated may continue in the testing programs if they choose to do so. Note: if you are fully vaccinated and receive a positive test result, isolation requirements according to public health guidance will continue to apply regardless of your vaccination status. While it is still possible for a fully vaccinated individual to contract COVID-19, a positive test in a person without any symptoms is more likely than not to be a false positive

More information about vaccination status and how to opt out is available on the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program page.

Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program

I was part of the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program for the 2020-21 academic year. Even though the program has ended, can I still get tested?

Yes. If you were a part of the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program for the 2020-21 academic year but will be frequently on campus or at another University facility in the Chicago area for summer 2021 and can commit to regular testing, you have the option to enroll in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program. We strongly encourage anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated and who will be at a University location this summer to continue with regular COVID-19 testing. You can find more details on the Voluntary Testing Program page.

Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program

If I’m considered fully vaccinated, can I opt out of the testing program?

Yes. Members of the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program may opt out of program for the remainder of Spring Quarter if they are considered fully vaccinated. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or
  • Two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Participants who are fully vaccinated may continue in the testing programs if they choose to do so. Note: if you are fully vaccinated and receive a positive test result, isolation requirements according to public health guidance will continue to apply regardless of your vaccination status.

More information about vaccination status and how to opt out is located on the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program page.

Who qualifies for for the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program?

Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program participants must be students,faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff who are present on the Hyde Park campus or a University facility in the Chicago area on a regular basis and can commit to regular testing for the duration of summer. Registration for the program took place at the start of each quarter for the 2020-21 academic year and in June for Summer 2021.

How do I sign up to be a part of the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program?

Members of the University community already in the testing program were sent an email with registration details at the start of the summer.

How long do I need to commit to being a part of the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program?

Voluntary surveillance testing will continue to be available through the summer for individuals who will frequently be on campus or another University facility in the Chicago area and can commit to regular weekly testing this summer; however, those who will be away from campus periodically during the summer are still eligible to be tested during the weeks that they are on campus. You can request make-up tests or changes to your test schedule at the test site or via COVIDSolutionsSupport@uchicago.edu.

Where does testing for the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program take place?
  • The Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program will operate this summer at one location, Woodlawn Social Services (950 E. 61st St.), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting Monday, June 14.
Is parking available at the testing site?

No additional parking will be designated for the testing location.

How many people will be present at the time of the test? Will it be scheduled in a way that keeps those being tested separated from others?

All testing locations have been carefully reviewed by the UCM and University Facilities Services team to ensure that proper social distancing, ventilation, and privacy. Specimen collection is expected to take no more than 10 minutes, and proper PPE will be required at all testing locations by the testing program staff, as appropriate. Screening have scheduled timeframes to help spread out the flow of activity.

Is there a cost?

All costs for administering the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program are covered by the University with no cost to participants. Insurance information will not be requested or required. See below for information regarding the Symptomatic Testing Program.

Who performs the test?

Trained medical assistants will collect the sample at the testing locations; UCM laboratory staff will process the sample and report your results.

What happens if I am away from the Chicago area when I am scheduled to be tested?

Testing team members will contact individuals who miss their scheduled appointments to arrange make-up tests.

If I have symptoms or have been exposed should I still attend my regularly scheduled Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program appointment?

No. You should self-isolate and call to schedule a screening. Students should contact UChicago Student Wellness at 773.834.WELL. Those working at UCM or within the BSD could call 773.702.6819. All other members of the university community should call the UCM triage hotline at 773.702.2800.

If you are symptomatic, test positive, or are exposed to COVID-19, your participation in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing program will be paused until you are released from isolation or quarantine.

For staff who are part of the voluntary testing program, will the time away from work for the weekly testing be considered paid time?

Yes. While the test should only take about 10 minutes each week, the time for the test as well as time getting to and from the testing location will be considered part of staff employees’ paid time. Employees who are part of the voluntary testing program should notify their managers of their testing schedule prior to their initial test in order to arrange for any necessary coverage. Employees who volunteer for the program are asked to select the testing site closest to their work location to minimize their time away from work.

Will I continue in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program if I test positive?

Participation in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program will be suspended for students, faculty, other academic appointments, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who test positive for a period of up to 90 days after testing positive for COVID-19. People who have recovered from COVID-19 often continue to have positive tests even though they are no longer contagious. The PCR test we use at UChicago can detect even fragments of RNA from the virus, but studies show that no live, transmissible virus is present after 10 days.

The testing program staff will work with participants to suspend weekly testing and to re-schedule the testing when appropriate to resume. If during the period of suspension, any faculty member, academic appointee, postdoctoral researcher, or staff member experiences symptoms, they must call the UCM COVID-19 triage hotline for screening and testing, at 773.702.2800. Students must call UChicago Student Wellness at 773.834.WELL.

If you are scheduled to participate in the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program, and you have tested positive for COVID-19 at any point in the 90 days prior to the day you are scheduled for your first test in the UChicago program, you should provide such evidence to the attention CovidSolutionsSupport@uchicago.edu.

Symptomatic Testing Program

How do I get tested if I have symptoms or have had a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

Any faculty member, academic appointee, postdoctoral researcher, or staff member who is experiencing symptoms or has been identified as a close contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 may call the UCM COVID-19 triage hotline for screening and testing, at 773.702.2800. Students should call UChicago Student Wellness at 773.834.WELL.

Is there a cost?
  • You will need to provide your insurance information in order to schedule a screening. Insurance will be billed; however, there will be no bill from UCM or out of pocket expense even if your insurance does not cover the testing or requires a copay. For additional information please coronavirus patient education.
Who performs the test?

The University of Chicago Medicine (UCM).

Will my test results be shared with University contact tracers?

Yes. After calling to be scheduled for a screening, you will be emailed consent and HIPAA authorization forms that you must sign in order to release your results to the University and to UCM.

If you have been exposed to or test positive for COVID-19, promptly report to C19HealthReport@uchicago.edu, even if you have not been on campus.