Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid
August 28, 2020

Expanded COVID-19 Testing Strategy

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community:

As the course of the pandemic evolves, we continue our careful preparations to provide all CMU students an outstanding experience and support our collective health and well-being. Last week we announced a staggered approach to starting in-person coursework this fall semester, and reiterated our protocols for the quarantine period required upon arrival, COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine.

Since that message, we launched the administration of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to over 1,000 residential students after their arrival on campus, introduced the student version of the self-assessment tool to support daily symptom monitoring by every student, and prepared wellness kits for our students that will include CMU-branded cloth facial coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a digital thermometer. Our University Health Services (UHS) staff are ready to quickly assess students who are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with a known positive COVID-19 case using point-of-care diagnostic tests that will provide rapid results and accelerate our ability to initiate care and contact tracing when required.

Given the emerging evidence base from the scientific community on the benefits of broader asymptomatic and surveillance testing, and recent improvements in testing supply chain capacity, today we are writing to announce an expanded approach to our asymptomatic COVID-19 testing plans.

Next week, we will begin conducting asymptomatic testing of all off-campus undergraduate and graduate students living in the Pittsburgh area. The tests will be self-administered using approved at-home saliva test kits and will be paid for by CMU. Students who are eligible for this start of semester testing will receive details next week on how to complete the test, including when and where to pick up and return the testing kits. We anticipate results will be received within approximately 3-5 business days after tests are returned. If a student receives a positive test result UHS will initiate a plan for care, isolation and contact tracing.

Further, we will implement ongoing asymptomatic testing to monitor for the occurrence of COVID-19 in our campus community, by testing a random sample of all students located in the Pittsburgh area. Early on, we expect to conduct approximately 1,000 tests per week using saliva-based at-home test kits. We are also simultaneously studying the possibility of a surveillance strategy using an on-campus lab to administer and process saliva-based tests for all community members on a regular and ongoing basis.

These expanded plans for asymptomatic COVID-19 testing are in addition to the modified arrival quarantine, symptomatic testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine protocols in place. We remind students to continue completing their daily self-assessments, practicing physical distancing, wearing facial coverings and handwashing. If a student shows symptoms of COVID-19 or has had close contact with someone with a positive diagnosis, they should stay home and call UHS immediately at 412-268-2157.

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. We will communicate updates to these plans as they are finalized. Please continue to check our COVID-19 website for the most current resources, policies and practices to support our return to campus.


Jim Garrett, Provost
Gina Casalegno, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students