Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid

COVID-19 Testing

Last updated: 10/10/22

Yes. The methods the lab uses to identify COVID-19 are able to detect Omicron and its sub variants BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.75 as efficiently as the initial strain of the virus.


 

Testing

Tartan Testing is CMU's testing program for the diagnosis of COVID-19 and is an important element of the university's ongoing strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Who Must Participate Weekly in Tartan Testing

The university no longer requires individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccination/booster exemption to complete Tartan Testing on a weekly basis, although it is strongly recommended. Tartan Testing is available to all symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all community members who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test.

Symptomatic Testing

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, UHS will assess their symptoms and determine a testing strategy. Tartan Testing is available to symptomatic enrolled students. In addition, at home antigen tests are available through CMU vending machines.

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.

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.

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 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 should contact their health care provider or seek testing options in the community.

Case numbers are updated every day on the CMU Dashboard reporting page.

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.

Positive test results will be used in a variety of ways in addition to notifying COVID-positive individuals. Guidance will be provided about isolation and notifying close contacts. 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.

Yes, Tartan Testing does qualify as an RT-PCR test and is suitable for international travel. More information and appointment scheduling is available on the Tartan Testing page.

Tartan COVID-19 Testing Program

The Tartan COVID-19 Testing Program, or Tartan Testing for short, is Carnegie Mellon’s program for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in support of CMU’s ongoing efforts to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. It includes sample collection in TCS Hall and a certified testing laboratory located in the Pittsburgh Technology Center (PTC).

Tartan Testing employs a COVID-19 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 TCS Hall 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).

All CMU faculty, staff and students in the Pittsburgh region are eligible for Tartan Testing. Tartan Testing is available to all asymptomatic and symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all faculty and staff who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test. Faculty and staff 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.

The university no longer requires individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccination/booster exemption to complete Tartan Testing on a weekly basis, although it is strongly recommended. Tartan Testing is available to all symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all community members who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test.

The university no longer requires individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccination/booster exemption to complete Tartan Testing on a weekly basis.

There are several reasons why one should NOT schedule an appointment to be tested in Tartan Testing: 

  • Faculty and staff who are 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
  • Faculty and staff who have 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

Faculty and staff should not participate in Tartan Testing or other asymptomatic testing within 90 days of testing positive for the virus. Tartan Testing is available to all symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all community members who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test.

Appointments

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.

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.

Parking is available in the GATF parking lot and is free for 20 minutes or less. Tartan Testing Program - COVID-19 Updates - Carnegie Mellon University (cmu.edu).

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.

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 TCS Hall.  

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.

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.

Results

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. 

Students 

  • 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.

No. Test samples are only being tested for the virus that causes COVID-19.

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.

Yes, the methods the lab uses to identify COVID-19 are able to detect Omicron and its sub variants , as efficiently as the initial strain of the virus.

More Information

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.

The safety and well-being of the CMU community, including our neighbors, continues to be our top priority.

Sample collection is performed in TCS Hall. 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.

If you have immediate questions or concerns, please contact drbc@andrew.cmu.edu.

The most up-to-date information on COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Symptomatic Testing

Tartan Testing is available to all asymptomatic and symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all faculty and staff who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test. Symptomatic faculty and staff should consult their health care provider.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or if you are not fully vaccinated (including booster when eligible) and been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 10 days, please stay home. Faculty and staff should contact their health care provider. Tartan Testing is available to all asymptomatic and symptomatic enrolled students, and it remains available to all faculty and staff who seek an asymptomatic COVID-19 test.

Individuals should complete any isolation or quarantine period as instructed by CMU contact tracers prior to resuming participation in Tartan Testing.