What is the university’s COVID-19 testing strategy?
All students living on campus or in the Pittsburgh area who plan to attend on-campus activities, including classes and research, are required to participate in weekly asymptomatic testing. In order to minimize the risk associated with a large population of students living in a congregate setting with some shared spaces, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be administered to all residential students several days after their arrival on campus and to all off-campus students prior to them attending in-person classes or other on-campus activities.
Asymptomatic testing will continue throughout the semester. All Pittsburgh-based faculty, staff and students can use the Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program (or Tartan Testing for short) with a limit of one test per week.
All faculty, staff and students planning to be on campus each week are expected to complete one asymptomatic COVID-19 test weekly through scheduled appointments. If you come to campus occasionally, you are expected to test during the week you will be on campus. If you are not coming to campus, you are not expected to participate in Tartan Testing; however, the opportunity to obtain an asymptomatic test is still available to you.
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.
More information about the strategy can be found on the testing section of the Students page.
Asymptomatic Testing at U.S. Locations Outside of Pittsburgh
Carnegie Mellon University is partnering 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.
Where can I find information about the testing plan from the fall semester?
Complete historical detail of CMU’s testing plan and actions from the fall semester are available at the university’s COVID-19 Testing page.
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.
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 Danforth Lounge in the Cohon University Center (CUC) and follow a designated path to the 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 or have been close contacts to someone with COVID-19 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?
Anyone who intends to participate in on-campus or CMU-related activities — in-person instruction/teaching, staff duties, research and campus life, etc. — is expected to participate in asymptomatic testing by scheduling a weekly appointment through HealthConnect.
All faculty, staff and students planning to be on campus each week are expected to complete one asymptomatic COVID-19 test weekly through Tartan Testing. If you come to campus occasionally, you are expected to test during the week you will be on campus. If you are not coming to campus, you are not expected to participate in Tartan Testing; however, the opportunity to obtain an asymptomatic test is still available to you.
I am not coming to campus for in-person activities. Should I come specifically to get a test?
Members of the CMU community who do not come to campus are not expected to participate in testing. However, the opportunity to obtain one asymptomatic test a week is available to you.
Who should not participate in Tartan Testing?
Even if you are invited to participate, 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, you are expected to participate in weekly testing if you come to campus.
Being vaccinated does not exempt you from testing if you plan to participate in on-campus activities. You are still expected to complete one asymptomatic test each week. We will continue to reevaluate this position as more is known about the impact and effects of the vaccine.
Those who have received the vaccination but do not come to campus are not expected to participate in testing. However, the opportunity to obtain one asymptomatic test a week is available to you.
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 CUC and 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?
No. Even if you have received an invitation for testing, we ask that you 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.
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.
Why are there separate locations for check-in and sample collection?
In order to provide as much space for physical distancing as you wait to check-in, registration is located inside the Cohon University Center at the Danforth Lounge. This also provides a warmer area than queuing in the East Campus Garage. Once you are checked in, you will walk to the garage to provide your sample.
The garage was chosen for the collection site because of a high volume of air circulation. Appointment times are scheduled to control participant density, and all individuals are required to wear facial coverings.
Where can I learn about the Tartan Testing Shuttle and view its pick-up locations and times?
As part of Tartan Testing, CMU is providing free shuttle service from various off-campus locations.
Shuttle stops include:
- 6555 Penn Avenue (Blue door entrance next to dock doors)
- Bakery Square (Across street from shuttle stop)
- National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Lawrenceville (main entrance)
- 300 S. Craig Street, near Mellon Institute (main entrance at escort stop sign)
- Pittsburgh Technology Center (PTC) on Second Avenue
- Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green (middle entrance on Lytle Street at the crosswalk)
Each shuttle route will take approximately 45 minutes and will seat a maximum of 11 people (due to safety protocols).
For specific shuttle routes and pick-up locations and times, visit the Tartan Testing Shuttle page.
How do I learn more about asymptomatic testing?
If you have immediate questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com.
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 have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 14 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 or have been close contacts to someone with 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.