Last updated: 12/2/21
What is the university’s COVID-19 testing strategy?
Tartan Testing is CMU's testing program for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals and is an important element of the university's ongoing strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
In connection with the launch of the fall 2021 semester, the university required every student to complete two baseline tests through the Tartan Testing program.
Who Must Participate Weekly in Tartan Testing
- Students who are in progress with becoming fully vaccinated or those students who have been exempted from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement
- Faculty/staff who have not uploaded their vaccination information to the university’s Vaccine Database
Tartan Testing is also available for fully vaccinated CMU community members who desire a weekly test.
If an asymptomatic student receives a positive test result, University Health Services (UHS) will initiate a plan for care, isolation and contact tracing. Asymptomatic faculty or staff members who receive a positive test result should consult their health care provider regarding a plan for care and isolation. CMU’s Community Health and Well-Being will assist with referrals to primary care providers, as needed. Additionally, a plan for contact tracing will be initiated.
Faculty or staff who are in need of symptomatic testing or close contact testing should contact their health care provider.
For students with any symptoms that suggest a COVID infection or are close contacts of known positive or probable cases, CMU's testing strategy calls for three types of tests to quickly assess students and provide rapid results. Based on clinical guidelines and testing supplies, UHS will administer a rapid PCR test or a rapid antigen test so they can take swift action for confirmed positive cases (residential students will be administered a rapid PCR test so that appropriate housing accommodations can be made).
For negative antigen test results, UHS will administer a confirmatory PCR test (with results in 2-4 days) to validate the results of the initial test. Students will be provided care and guidance until results of the second test are received.
All students with positive test results, as well as those waiting for confirmatory results, will be provided care, guidance and contact tracing as appropriate.
Symptomatic students and unvaccinated students who were in close contact of known positive or probable cases should receive COVID-19 tests from University Health Services. Students who have been fully vaccinated with no symptoms and in close contact of known positive or probable cases may participate in Tartan Testing.
Asymptomatic Testing at U.S. Locations Outside of Pittsburgh
Carnegie Mellon University partnered with Quest Diagnostics to provide weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 tests for students, faculty and staff at our U.S.-based academic programs and campuses outside of Pittsburgh.
Learn more about our asymptomatic testing at U.S. locations outside of Pittsburgh.
How did the university develop its testing strategy?
Throughout the pandemic, leadership from the Office of the Vice President for Research, as well as Community Health and Well-Being, have conducted rigorous research to understand the evolving science of the disease, as well as steps we can take to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our community.
In developing these protocols, we have worked closely with the Allegheny County Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College Health Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to inform the university’s response to the coronavirus. Over many months, we expanded our consultation with local and national experts to include the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Allegheny Health Network (AHN). We also were fortunate to benefit from the expertise of a formal faculty committee that advised on our testing strategy, in addition to the counsel we received on a number of issues from faculty members across numerous departments.
Do faculty, staff or students have to pay for COVID-19 tests?
All asymptomatic testing provided through the Tartan Testing Program will be paid for by the university.
For our students, the university is committed to providing access to symptomatic and close contact testing with no barrier to care. For those enrolled in CMU’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), the cost of symptomatic testing will be automatically covered. For any student who is not able to secure coverage through their insurance, the university will cover the cost of symptomatic testing.
Faculty or staff who are in need of symptomatic testing and close contact testing should contact their health care provider.
Where can I find the latest numbers on positive cases within the CMU community?
Case numbers are updated every day on the CMU Dashboard reporting page.
How is the privacy of faculty, staff and students protected?
Student privacy is protected by the university, consistent with our commitment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Details can be found in the treatment agreement form you are asked to sign in the HealthConnect portal.
Faculty and staff privacy is protected by the university, consistent with the provisions of the consent form you are asked to sign in the HealthConnect portal.
How will positive test results be used?
Positive test results will be used in a variety of ways in addition to notifying COVID-positive individuals. CMU contact tracers will be notified in order to perform contact tracing for students, faculty and staff. Students and faculty who may have attended an in-person class or been in a research lab with the COVID-positive individual will be notified as a precautionary measure. The individual testing positive will be kept anonymous. CMU will also notify Housing Services (for isolation housing purposes), Facilities Management and Campus Services (for cleaning protocols), Student Affairs in order to provide support, and the Allegheny County Health Department. CMU’s Athletics Department will be notified if the individual is a student-athlete.
For employees, the Office of Human Resources is also informed in order to provide assistance with any needed leave or health insurance benefits as well as with the return to campus clearance process.
Does Tartan Testing qualify as an RT-PCR test suitable for international travel?
Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program
What is the Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program?
The Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program, or Tartan Testing for short, is Carnegie Mellon’s program for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals in support of CMU’s ongoing efforts to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. It includes sample collection in the East Campus Garage and a certified testing laboratory located in the Pittsburgh Technology Center (PTC).
The Tartan Testing Program is not available to symptomatic students, faculty and staff or those that are in quarantine due to being close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual. Individuals should complete any isolation or quarantine period as instructed by CMU contact tracers prior to resuming participation in Tartan Testing.
How does Tartan Testing work?
Tartan Testing employs a COVID-19 asymptomatic test based on the SalivaDirect open-access protocol developed by the Yale School of Public Health. This test uses saliva samples to detect the presence of RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
CMU community members check in for their appointments at East Campus Garage where they provide a saliva sample in the presence of trained personnel. Sealed samples are transported to the PTC building multiple times a day and remain sealed until the laboratory is ready to analyze them.
Test results indicate if the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is detected (positive) or not detected (negative).
Who is eligible for Tartan Testing?
All CMU faculty, staff and students in the Pittsburgh region are eligible for Tartan Testing. However, individuals who have symptoms should not access Tartan Testing until they have completed the necessary isolation or quarantine period.
The university is also working with certain affiliated service providers on campus, such as our dining and custodial vendors, to provide Tartan Testing to these contracted employees who provide essential support to the CMU community.
Is asymptomatic testing required?
All students who are in progress with becoming fully vaccinated or those students who have been exempted from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, and faculty/staff who have not uploaded their vaccination information to the university’s Vaccine Database, must participate weekly in Tartan Testing (the university’s COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program).
I am not coming to campus for in-person activities. Should I come specifically to get a test?
Members of the CMU community who have not uploaded their vaccination status or have received an approved exemption from vaccination will be required to come to campus to participate in weekly Tartan Testing and completion of the Daily Self-Assessment.
Who should not participate in Tartan Testing?
There are several reasons why one should NOT schedule an appointment to be tested in Tartan Testing:
- Currently sick and/or unable to come to campus
- In quarantine/isolation under instruction from University Health Services and CMU contact tracers or the County Health Department
- Tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days (after 90 days window, you are expected to participate in weekly testing if you come to campus)
- Those restricted from being on campus
- Those with religious belief against this kind of practice
- A disability that physically precludes them from being tested
Should I be tested if I’ve previously had COVID-19 or received the vaccine?
You should not participate in Tartan Testing or other asymptomatic testing within 90 days of testing positive for the virus. Following 90 days, if you are not fully vaccinated, you are expected to participate in weekly testing.
Tartan Testing is also available for fully vaccinated CMU community members who desire a weekly test.
How often can I be tested, and how can I make an appointment?
There is a limit of one test per week. Appointments can be scheduled through HealthConnect.
You will receive a confirmation email from University Health Services on the day of your appointment. If you are making an appointment for the same day, you will not receive a confirmation email.
What is a QR Code? Can I use the same QR code for multiple appointments?
A QR code contains information about your appointment and is used to connect you with your sample for laboratory analysis. It can only be used for the scheduled appointment. A new QR code is generated each time you schedule a weekly test.
I don’t have a parking permit for campus. Where can I park for testing appointments?
Parking is available in the East Campus Garage and is free for 30 minutes or less.
What if I cannot schedule an appointment time because it conflicts with my work schedule?
Employees should work with their supervisors to make arrangements to schedule their weekly appointment. To provide convenience for employees that work an overnight shift, early morning appointment times are being established.
What happens if I miss my appointment or need to reschedule?
We encourage you to arrive on time and keep your scheduled appointment. However, you will not be charged a fee for arriving late or missing your test. Please note that is important to arrive on time, as appointments are scheduled in 15-minute increments to control participant density in the East Campus Garage.
If you know you’re unable to keep a scheduled appointment, please log into HealthConnect and cancel to provide an opportunity for someone else. By cancelling, you will immediately be eligible to reschedule for later in the week, based on availability. If you don’t cancel and miss your appointment, you must wait until the following day to log into HealthConnect to reschedule.
Can I walk up for testing without an appointment?
We encourage everyone to please make an appointment before coming on site for testing. Using scheduled appointment slots helps ensure that the density of persons at the testing site is controlled. The test takes less than 15 minutes to complete and same-day appointments are often available.
How will I be notified of my result?
Results are processed by the Tartan COVID-19 Testing Lab and are estimated to be returned 2-3 business days after providing your saliva sample.
- If you have a positive test result, you will receive a call and an email from University Health Services (UHS) directing you to log in to HealthConnect and view your test results. UHS and university staff will provide guidance and support to those who test positive or are close contacts of someone testing positive. A plan for care, isolation and contact tracing will be initiated.
- If you have a negative test result, you will receive an email from UHS directing you to log in to HealthConnect and view your test results.
Faculty and Staff
- You will receive an email from UHS directing you to log in to HealthConnect and view your test results when they are available.
Faculty or staff with positive test results should consult their health care provider regarding a plan for care and isolation. CMU’s Community Health and Well-Being will assist with referrals to primary care providers, as needed. Additionally, a plan for contact tracing will be initiated.
Are the saliva samples being used to test/screen for other viruses?
No. Test samples are only being tested for the virus that causes COVID-19.
How are samples used/disposed of and who can access the results?
Samples are used only to perform COVID-19 testing. Testing materials are deactivated and disposed of by Environmental Health and Safety in compliance with established safety protocols and regulations.
Student privacy is protected by the university, consistent with our community to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Details can be found in the treatment agreement students are asked to sign in the HealthConnect portal. Faculty and staff privacy is protected by the university, consistent with the provisions of the consent form signed in the HealthConnect portal.
Will this asymptomatic test pick up the new variant of COVID-19?
Yes, the methods the lab uses to identify COVID-19 are able to detect a new variant, B.1.1.7, as efficiently as the initial strain of the virus. We are actively working on adding new ways to be able to distinguish which of the variants positive individuals have and will continue to evaluate for additional strains.
Why can't I eat, drink, smoke, brush my teeth or chew gum within 60 minutes prior to spitting in the tube?
Eating food, drinking something other than water, smoking, teeth cleaning and chewing gum should be avoided for at least 60 minutes before sample collection. Avoiding these activities prior to the test gives the best chance in detecting the virus in your saliva sample.
To ensure you are well hydrated, you should swish water in your mouth and swallow it 10 minutes prior to your appointment. After this, do not drink anything else until you provide your sample.
Please also do not wear lipstick, lip gloss or lip balm to your appointment, as these can impact the accuracy of the results.
What safety precautions are being followed to ensure the well-being of those in the vicinities of the sample collection and the testing laboratory?
The safety and well-being of the CMU community, including our neighbors, continues to be our top priority.
Sample collection is performed in the East Campus Garage, where there is a high volume of air circulation. In addition, appointment times are scheduled to control participant density, and all individuals are required to physically distance and wear facial coverings. Samples are sealed immediately and remain sealed in sample tubes and secondary containers until the laboratory prepares them for testing using certified procedures.
A number of safety measures are being taken in the testing lab to ensure the well-being of all those who work in the PTC building. The lab meets all federal, state and local safety requirements; airflow is controlled in the lab so that air flows into the lab when doors open and air from the lab is exhausted above the roofline outside the building; all personnel involved in handling, transporting and testing samples are required to complete training, follow special procedures to disinfect surfaces and equipment and dispose of waste safely.
How do I learn more about asymptomatic testing?
If you have immediate questions or concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most up-to-date information on COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
If I’m symptomatic, do I schedule a test through the new Tartan Testing Program?
No. Symptomatic students receive COVID-19 tests through University Health Services. Symptomatic faculty and staff should consult their health care provider.
What should I do if I am experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or if you are not fully vaccinated and been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 10 days, please stay home. Students should notify Community Health and Well-Being. Faculty and staff should contact their health care provider. Individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 should not access Tartan Testing.
Individuals should complete any isolation or quarantine period as instructed by CMU contact tracers prior to resuming participation in Tartan Testing.