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 is launching a three-part COVID-19 testing program for Autumn Quarter, 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 in-season varsity student-athletes.
    • Voluntary Surveillance Testing – weekly screening for up to approximately 5,000 students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who will regularly be on campus and request to participate in this screening program and are accepted into the 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, must contact UCM or UChicago Student Wellness for screening and must be tested in our Symptomatic Testing Program if directed to do so after screening.
  • Students, faculty, staff members, and their families living in University Housing; as well as in-season student athletes who live off campus, are required to be a part of our Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program.
  • Students who do not live in residence halls and who are not athletes; faculty; other academic appointees; postdoctoral researchers; or staff who will regularly be on campus and meet the criteria for the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program are encouraged to apply and may be enrolled.
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.

When does testing begin?
  • Testing for students living in residence halls and other members of the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program population was conducted during the move in period, September 20 through September 24, and will continue on a weekly basis that began the week of September 28.
  •  Voluntary surveillance testing began September 28 and has continued weekly for the first round of accepted applicants. The University reopened registration for the voluntary surveillance program during a signup period from Oct. 12-15, and testing for those who are accepted into the program will start no earlier than late October or early November.
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. If you are an undergraduate student living in a residence hall, the University has identified isolation housing to which you will relocate as soon as possible, for a minimum of 10 days. Students in isolation housing will have meals delivered to them, have telehealth access to on-campus physicians at UChicago Student Wellness, and receive regular check-ins from our clinical staff. Housing staff will provide more detailed information with those residential students who test positive, about how a student is transported to isolation housing and what to bring. Individuals under an isolation or quarantine directive should not report for testing in the Voluntary and Mandatory Surveillance Testing Programs 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.

Will the Mandatory and Voluntary Surveillance Testing Programs continue during Autumn Quarter when instruction is fully remote – from November 30 through December 12 - and during holiday breaks? What happens if I am not on campus during those time and unable to be tested?

Both the Mandatory and Voluntary Surveillance Testing Programs will continue to operate during these periods. However, we recognize that many participants of both programs will not be on campus during these times and therefore not able to be tested. For Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program participants, testing will continue to be required while you are living in the residence halls or coming to campus.

Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program participants should continue their testing if they will be on campus during this period, but they will not be expected to be tested if they will not be on campus. Make-up tests will be paused, as necessary, during this period.

We are planning for both surveillance testing programs to continue throughout the academic year. Operations will be limited during the week of Thanksgiving and other holidays observed by the University.

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

In addition to requiring testing for people living on campus, why isn’t the University mandating testing for the entire campus community?

In addition to mandatory testing for anyone living in on-campus residence halls, we are also performing large-scale surveillance testing of thousands of other members of the University community who live off campus, including students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff. Our Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program is an added tool to detect cases that may emerge off campus and provide earlier warning of changing epidemiology in our on- and off-campus community. In addition, any member of the University community who is exposed to a known case of COVID-19 or who develops potential symptoms of COVID-19 can be screened and tested through UChicago Medicine or UChicago Student Wellness as appropriate.

Evidence indicates that regular testing of asymptomatic people who live in communal housing, such as our on-campus residence halls, can be an important part of limiting the spread of COVID-19. But living in communal housing is different from living in a house or apartment. There is no evidence that routine asymptomatic testing of individuals living in regular homes or apartments will make campus safer. Additionally, evidence indicates that when a single member of a household is positive, the risk of spread to other residents of the house or apartment is moderate but can be decreased by taking appropriate precautions, such as those recommended by the University.

If my COVID test is negative, can I safely stop wearing a mask or attend a gathering?

No – everyone who is having regular COVID-19 testing must continue to follow all university and public health guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19.

A negative test means that you had no virus or too little virus to be detected by the test. It can take up to 14 days for someone who has caught COVID-19 to develop a positive test, and people may be contagious even though they have a negative test. Furthermore, a negative test does not mean that you won’t develop COVID-19 shortly after being tested. It is a snapshot in time that helps us to identify most of the people who are contagious on the day of the test. For these reasons it is essential to continue complying with all public health requirements, regardless of your test result on a given day.

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

Participation in the Mandatory/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 Mandatory/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 of Dr. Richard McDonough, Senior Medical Director for UChicago Student Wellness, at sccimm@uchospitals.eduor call 773.834.WELL for review and to initiate the suspension process.

Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program

How do I sign up for the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program?

Members of the Mandatory Surveillance Testing population—those living in residence halls and in-season varsity student athletes—are automatically registered for the testing program but must complete and sign consent and HIPAA authorization forms and also sign up for their account in MyChart, a medical portal. These items must be completed prior to moving into the residence hall, and prior to the start of team activities for athletes.

How often do I get tested?

You will get tested on your first day of arrival to campus and once a week after that on a day that is assigned to you. When students first arrive to campus, they should report to the Ratner Athletics Center (5500 S. Ellis) before checking into their assigned residence hall for initial check-in and testing as part of the move-in process. Ratner will be open beginning at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. during the Sept. 20-24 move-in period.

Where does Mandatory Surveillance Testing take place?
  • Weekly testing will take place in each residence hall for Autumn Quarter: Granville Grossman (First Floor, Room W110), Max Palevsky East (East Room 104), Burton Judson (Cohler Room), International House (Dining Room), Campus North Residential Commons (Room 269, Second Floor), and Woodlawn Residential Commons (First Floor, Room 115).
  • Testing for student-athletes who live off campus will take place at one of the two locations used for the University’s Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program:
    • Rosenwald Hall, 1101 E. 58th Street, Suite 100
    • 950 E. 61st Street (formerly known as the Woodlawn Social Services Center (WSSC), Lobby
Do I get tested at the same time and location every week?

Each residence hall will have an assigned testing day Monday-Friday. Testing will be available from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on those select days and participants may come at time of their convenience between those hours. 

How many people will be present at the time of the test? Will it be scheduled in a way that allows for appropriate social distancing?

All testing locations have been carefully reviewed by the University and UCM team taking into consideration proper social distancing, ventilation, and privacy concerns. Specimen collection is expected to take no more than 10 minutes, and proper PPE will be required for the staff at all testing locations, as appropriate.

What are the repercussions for not participating in the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program?

Testing is required to live in residence halls and participate in varsity athletic activities. If you do not comply with the testing program, you will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including removal from the residence halls or suspension from athletic activities.

Is there a cost?

All costs for administering the Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program are covered by the University. All tests are free and insurance information will not be utilized. See below for information regarding the Symptomatic Testing Program.

Who performs the test?

Under the supervision of experienced clinical staff, trained medical assistants hired by the University will collect the sample at the testing locations; UCM will process the sample.

What happens if I miss my testing appointment?

A member of the COVID-19 testing team will contact you and register you for a makeup appointment. Makeup testing will be available on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at one of the two locations used for the University’s Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program:

    • Rosenwald Hall, 1101 E. 58th Street, Suite 100
    • 950 E. 61st Street (formerly known as the Woodlawn Social Services Center (WSSC), Lobby
If I have symptoms or have been exposed should I still attend my regularly scheduled Mandatory 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 Mandatory Surveillance Testing program will be paused until you are released from isolation or quarantine.

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

Participation in the Mandatory/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 Mandatory/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 of Dr. Richard McDonough, Senior Medical Director for UChicago Student Wellness, at sccimm@uchospitals.edu or call 773.834.WELL for review and to initiate the suspension process.

Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program

How are people selected for the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program?

Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program participants must be students (who live off campus), faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who are physically present on the Hyde Park campus on a regular basis. Those who will not be on campus will not be eligible for the program. Off-campus students who plan to interact with other current students, use on-campus resources, or otherwise be on campus for any reason, regardless of whether they are taking classes in person or remotely, are also eligible for the program.

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

Registration is currently closed.

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

The 2020-21 academic year. Those who intend to leave Chicago during vacation periods in the academic year are eligible to participate in the testing program.

Where does testing for the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program take place?
  • Two centrally located testing locations on the Hyde Park campus:
    • Rosenwald Hall, 1101 E. 58th Street, Suite 100
    • 950 E. 61st Street (formerly known as the Woodlawn Social Services Center (WSSC), Room 3. Testing participants access the facility from the playground entrance on the north side of the building.
Is parking available at the testing sites?

No additional parking will be designated for testing locations

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 miss my testing appointment?
  • A member of the COVID-19 Testing team will contact you and register you for a makeup appointment. Makeup testing will be available on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at one of the two locations used for the University’s Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program:
    • Rosenwald Hall, 1101 E. 58th Street, Suite 100
    • 950 E. 61st Street (formerly known as the Woodlawn Social Services Center (WSSC), Lobby
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 Mandatory/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 Mandatory/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 of Dr. Richard McDonough, Senior Medical Director for UChicago Student Wellness, at sccimm@uchospitals.edu or call 773.834.WELL for review and to initiate the suspension process.

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.