Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

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COVID-19 Testing

Testing is an important tactic that the university is utilizing, along with numerous mitigation strategies, to combat the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

We are closely tracking the course of the pandemic and continue to study the best options to serve our community, regularly incorporating new information into our strategy and plans as the evidence base grows on best-in-class standards of testing and new options become available to us.

NEW! Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program

The Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program, or Tartan Testing for short, is Carnegie Mellon University’s program for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals and is the latest element of CMU’s ongoing strategy to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Tartan Testing Process

During the week of January 4, 2021, CMU began rolling out our Tartan Testing Program by offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing to a limited number of the faculty, staff and students who are required to be on campus to perform their work. (Those invited to participate in Tartan Testing will receive a separate email with detailed directions for their participation.)

Each week throughout the month of January, we will increase the number of CMU faculty, staff and students who are invited to participate in Tartan Testing.

All students who plan to engage in campus activities are expected to be tested before on-campus instruction resumes on February 15, 2021. Additional information will be shared with the CMU community as we proceed through the Tartan Testing Program’s roll out. We anticipate that Tartan Testing will be at full capacity by early February.

Once selected to participate, 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.

We are 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.

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, the cause of COVID-19 and is simpler to administer than nasal swab testing methods while providing comparable accuracy.

Note for individuals with symptoms or who are close contacts of known positive or probable cases: Tartan Testing is only for asymptomatic individuals. Symptomatic students and students who were in close contact of known positive or probable cases will receive COVID-19 tests from University Health Services. Symptomatic faculty and staff should consult their health care provider. Read more information on symptomatic testing.

Fall Arrival Testing
August 19 - September 18, 2020
The university offered asymptomatic testing to all students, both in CMU housing and those living around the Pittsburgh area. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were 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. 

Ongoing Asymptomatic Testing
September 16 - November 6; December 1-2, 2020
During the fall semester, random samples of students located on campus and in Pittsburgh who were engaging in any on-campus or CMU-related activities such as in-person instruction, research and campus life, were invited to participate in asymptomatic testing.

Pre-Thanksgiving and Winter Break Asymptomatic Testing
November 9-13 and 16-18; December 7-11, 14-18 and 21, 2020
Prior to both the Thanksgiving and winter breaks, the university offered asymptomatic testing to all Pittsburgh-based students to support their travel plans and, along with other mitigation tactics, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 virus spread.

View the results of CMU's past asymptomatic testing

Symptomatic Testing

If students present with any symptoms that suggest a COVID infection or are close contacts of known positive or probable cases, CMU's testing strategy calls for two types of tests to quickly assess students and provide rapid results. The benefit of this approach is to minimize the time students spend waiting for results and to accelerate our ability to initiate care and contact tracing when required.

University Health Services (UHS) staff routinely processes clinical tests in their on-site laboratory and are trained and certified by the federal government through CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) to conduct in-house COVID-19 testing for students. For symptomatic students, UHS will administer an antigen test that returns rapid results within 15 minutes so they can take immediate action for confirmed positive cases.

  • If a student receives a positive result from an antigen test, a plan for care, isolation and contact tracing will be initiated.
  • If a student receives a negative result from an antigen test, a confirmatory PCR test (that will return results in approximately 2-4 days) will be performed to validate the results of the initial test. Students will be provided care and guidance until results of the second test are received.

Carnegie Mellon is committed to providing student access to symptomatic and close contact testing with no barrier to care. For students enrolled in CMU’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), the cost of 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 testing. 

Faculty & Staff 
Faculty or staff who are in need of symptomatic testing should contact their health care provider. Additional info for faculty/staff with symptoms