Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

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For Students

Update 9/10/2020

Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue through the winter months and with a desire to reduce the number of weeks we are in session during flu season, CMU will delay the start of the spring semester until February 1, 2021.

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Update 8/28/2020

The university has announced an expanded approach to our COVID-19 testing plans. We will begin conducting asymptomatic testing of all off-campus undergraduate and graduate students living in the Pittsburgh area. 

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A Tartan's Responsibility

A Tartan’s Responsibility outlines the expectations we have for all CMU students who will resume living, learning, working and interacting with our campus community, whether living on or off campus. By coming to Pittsburgh for in-person instruction, research and campus engagement, you agree to adhere to the following rules both on and off campus, for as long as they are in effect.


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Minimize the introduction of COVID-19 into and around our community by self-quarantining in your residence hall or in the Pittsburgh area for at least 14 days prior to coming on campus (if you are arriving from outside Southwestern Pennsylvania), monitoring your health for COVID-19 symptoms throughout that period, and completing pre-arrival safety and prevention training.


Prevent the spread of COVID-19 in and around our community, including when off campus, by maintaining required physical distance, wearing facial coverings, limiting the size of gatherings, practicing good hygiene, limiting non-essential travel and following the university’s directions regarding travel outside the region throughout the semester, and adhering to other governmental and university requirements. 


Contribute to the identification of COVID-19 in and around our community by complying with required testing protocols, completing the daily self-assessment survey, responding to contact tracing and other related requests as necessary, and receiving a seasonal flu vaccine.


Support the containment of COVID-19 in and around our community by timely reporting to University Health Services and following their guidance when experiencing symptoms or when you believe that you may have been exposed to the virus.

Minimize the Introduction of COVID-19

Modified Arrival Quarantine Period

As part of our arrival process, and as outlined in A Tartan’s Responsibility, the university is requiring every student coming from outside Southwestern Pennsylvania to complete a 14-day modified quarantine period in a residence hall or in the Pittsburgh area prior to joining in-person coursework or engaging in other on-campus experiences. Our modified quarantine approach permits specific types of in-person interactions and outdoor activities to support social and emotional connections that maintain positive mental health and well-being.

We wish to emphasize the importance of this 14-day arrival quarantine period for all students arriving from outside the region — whether on-campus or off. We urge you to please take this commitment seriously and to re-read A Tartan’s Responsibility to ensure you understand all of the expectations to which you are agreeing before you arrive on campus.

If you cannot arrive to the area 14 days prior to your first permitted in-person instruction date, the hybrid model of education is intended to allow you to participate fully in your education until your quarantine period is completed. Faculty and advisors are aware that students must abide by this expectation, which in a number of cases will mean that students begin the semester learning remotely.

This modified arrival quarantine provides students the opportunity to self-monitor their health after travel, and if students find they are experiencing symptoms during this period, they can seek COVID-19 testing and support from UHS. Guidance from both our county and state suggests that this period will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus on campus and in the broader community.

The modified quarantine period begins once you have moved into the local location where you will be residing during the quarantine, and have obtained all of the essential items (such as groceries, supplies or medications) that you feel you will need during that time. Students completing their quarantine period from another location in Southwestern Pennsylvania prior to moving into a fall residence near campus are expected to uphold these guidelines for two weeks prior to joining in-person coursework or engaging in other on-campus experiences, and may do so while living in the other Southwestern Pennsylvania location, in your on-campus or off-campus residence or a combination of the two.

The expectations for the quarantine period will look slightly different depending on whether you are residing on campus or off campus.

While in modified quarantine, residential students may not attend events or classes on campus, nor may they leave campus for any reason other than a personal emergency. On-campus errands such as pickup of (1) food from a campus dining location, (2) supplies from the University Bookstore or (3) packages from the Postal Services package window will be permitted so long as physical distancing is maintained and a facial covering is worn. Attendance at health care appointments, including those for COVID testing, is also acceptable as is sitting, walking or exercising outdoors so long as the university’s mitigation requirements are followed.

Except for being outdoors on campus for those purposes, residential students are expected to remain at or in their residence hall. Students can form “pods” with other students living in their hall with whom they can interact, eat and move while following all of our mitigation requirements such as wearing facial coverings and physically distancing.

“Pods” will be determined as follows:

  • First-year residential students will be assigned to a pod consisting of 10-15 of their fellow residents. This pod will also serve as an Orientation group for the purposes of participating in the week’s activities. Each pod will be joined by their resident assistant (RA) for meals, a limited number of in-person sessions and some socializing activities. At the start of Orientation, the RA will provide more detailed information about how the pod will operate in relation to these experiences.
  • Upperclass residential students can form a self-defined pod of up to 15 students living in the same residential facility and ideally on the same floor. Residents who will be sharing a private bathroom and/or private kitchen will be automatically considered a pod (one that is permitted to grow up to 15 students total) and should work together to maintain and utilize those amenities in a manner that mitigates potential viral spread by sanitizing any shared spaces in bathrooms and kitchens between use. Upperclass students who will be in a pod together are strongly encouraged to coordinate travel schedules for move-in to occur on as close to the same day as possible.

Individual or group engagement across or between established pods is not permitted. Residential students from SWPA who wish to interact with other residents during the quarantine period will be expected to join a pod and follow the same requirements as the other students in the pod.

Residential students are reminded that all expectations related to housing-specific health and safety mitigations will also be in effect during the quarantine period.

While in modified quarantine, off-campus students are not permitted to be present on-campus for any reason other than to pick up items left in storage during the transition to remote education this spring. As students are expected to remain at their local residence for the entirety of the quarantine, plan on either obtaining all food and supplies needed for the quarantine prior to starting it, or by using drop-off delivery services. Proximate to the university, Aldi, Market District, Whole Foods and Target all offer delivery to nearby private residences.

Students living together in an apartment or house are strongly encouraged to coordinate travel schedules for move-in to occur on as close to the same day as possible in order to start the quarantine period together. Thereafter, they should work together to maintain physical distancing whenever possible within the residence, especially related to use of shared spaces such as the bathroom and kitchen. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces in these spaces is also strongly encouraged.

Under no circumstances should off-campus students host or attend in-person gatherings of any form. In particular, the university will swiftly respond to any reported incidents involving parties or other social events that occur off-campus, which have already been documented as a significant potential source of virus spread at other universities this summer.

Attendance at health care appointments, including those for COVID testing, is also acceptable as is sitting, walking or exercising outdoors so long as the university’s mitigation requirements are followed.

When navigating shared community spaces and outdoor spaces that may exist at students’ off-campus residences, students should follow the current order by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The order states that all individuals are required to “…wear a face covering, in both indoor public places and in the outdoors when they are not able to consistently maintain social distancing from individuals who are not members of their household… Whether inside in a public place or outside, and when wearing a face covering or not, everyone should socially distance at least 6 feet apart from others who are not part of your household.”

Once a student has successfully completed the quarantine period, attendance at in-person classes and engagement with available on-campus experiences and resources is permitted beginning the next (15th) day. We are not requiring students to sign a written statement attesting to the successful completion of the expectations encompassed by the quarantine period, as we trust that an individual’s eventual engagement with our in-person campus experience signals the same.

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Maintaining Required Physical Distance

Keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between you and others and minimize any close contact to no more than 15 minutes.

This also might include: using drive thru, delivery or take out when possible for food, medicine and essentials; rearranging rooms to keep a safe distance; and avoiding public transit unless it is essential.

Wearing Facial Coverings

Everyone must wear a facial covering (sufficient to cover the nose and mouth) at all times — both inside and outside of buildings.

Exceptions include: While eating or drinking, if working outdoors during hot and humid conditions, or when alone in a private space, such as an office, assigned residence hall room or enclosed vehicle. When outdoors, facial coverings are expected to be worn whenever physical distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained. If you cannot wear a facial covering due to a medical condition, please contact the Office of Disability Resources to request an exemption as an accommodation.

Limitations on In-Person Gatherings

Under no circumstances should students host or attend in-person gatherings where physical distancing cannot be maintained at all times. In particular, the university will swiftly respond to any reported incidents involving parties or other social events where physical distancing has not been maintained, as these have already been documented as a significant source of virus spread at other universities.

In-person gatherings or meetings for departments or organizations on campus are discouraged. All meetings should be held virtually via Zoom or other conferencing technologies whenever possible. However, in-person gatherings or meetings of up to 25 persons are permitted in spaces that will allow physical distancing and proper adherence to guidelines for reducing health risks.

Shared food should be eliminated and any catered food should be individually sealed and wrapped.

Practicing Good Hygiene

Wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, washing your thumbs, wrists and in between your fingers. If soap is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Cover your mouth with the crook of your arm or a tissue when you cough or sneeze while eating or otherwise not wearing a mask, then promptly wash your hands.

Limiting Non-Essential Travel

Thoughtful consideration should be taken before engaging in personal travel, and high-risk travel is strongly discouraged. Students contemplating out-of-state personal travel must work with their student affairs liaison to determine if the travel is high or low risk, and discuss arrangements for any needed 14-day self-quarantine or testing following their return. More information on travel protocol.

Contribute to the Identification of COVID-19

Completing the Daily Self-Assessment Survey

Join your fellow Tartans in completing a quick Self-Assessment survey every morning before beginning your day. Each of us has a shared obligation to support the health and well-being of our entire campus and surrounding community.

Responding to Contact Tracing and Related Requests

Contact tracing is key to our strategy for preventing community spread of the virus, which is critical to protecting your health and to maintaining the privilege of an in-person educational experience. The Allegheny County Health Department has authorized the university to conduct contact tracing on behalf of university community members. Under the direction of University Health Services, staff are trained on proper protocols and systems that are consistent with those used by the county in order to integrate seamlessly with the broader community.

For all COVID-positive reports, the university will initiate a contact tracing process including plans for UHS to test students identified as close contacts. Under the direction of UHS, staff will interview individuals who have been determined to be a confirmed positive COVID-19 case and notify anyone who came in close contact (6 feet or 2 meters apart for 15 minutes or more) with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were believed to be infectious. Those individuals identified through contact tracing will be provided direction, resources and support.

All contact tracers are obligated to maintain confidentiality. If you test positive for COVID-19, your identity will not be disclosed to those identified through contact tracing. However, you may elect to give permission for your college liaison to disclose your status to your faculty members or others on campus who can provide individualized support or accommodation.

If you are contacted by the university to participate in the contact tracing process, we expect you to respond immediately and follow all guidance and direction provided. This is a critical role you must play to support your own and the community’s health and well-being, as expected in A Tartan’s Responsibility. All official CMU contact tracing phone calls will come from a Carnegie Mellon area code and prefix (i.e., 412-268-XXXX).

Complying with Required Testing Protocols

Our strategy for COVID-19 testing begins with asymptomatic testing of all residential students upon arrival, an approach identified by the CDC as one that universities can deploy to identify outbreaks and inform control measures. 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 arrival on campus. The university will pay for these tests.

We will also conduct 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 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.

After arrival and throughout the fall semester, if students present with any symptoms that suggest a COVID infection or are close contacts of known positive cases, our 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.

UHS staff routinely process clinical tests in their on-site laboratory and are trained and certified by the federal government through CLIA (The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) to conduct in-house COVID-19 testing for students. UHS will administer an antigen test that returns rapid results within 15 minutes so we 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 one day) 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 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. We have thoughtfully planned for multiple contingencies to ensure we have adequate supply to execute our testing protocol. We are also adding staff at UHS who are trained in both testing and contact tracing to support our efforts.

Support the Containment of COVID-19

Isolation and Quarantine Plans

We will use a combination of isolation and quarantine plans to help protect our community by preventing exposure to people who have or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Isolation separates people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as people who are close contacts of someone with a positive diagnosis and are symptomatic (probable cases) from people who are not sick. Students with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 and probable cases will be directed to isolate until cleared by a health care provider to return to any campus or community activity.

  • Residential students who test positive for COVID-19 or who have a probable COVID-19 diagnosis will be provided isolation housing. We have reserved private bedrooms and bathrooms in campus residences, and will organize meal delivery and laundry service for these students to reduce spread of infection.
  • Off-campus students will be given instructions on how best to isolate in their residence, including how to isolate with family/roommates when necessary.
  • All students diagnosed with COVID-19 will be actively supported by university staff throughout their isolation period to ensure their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who are asymptomatic but need to be monitored due to close contact with a COVID-19 individual. Students will be directed to quarantine when appropriate and given instructions on how to meet their basic needs and receive support from the university while ensuring they do not contribute to community spread.

  • During quarantine, we expect students to monitor their health and follow the guidance of a health care provider. They must remain in quarantine until cleared by a health care provider to return to any campus or community activities.
  • This type of quarantine is more restrictive than the modified quarantine approach students must complete prior to joining in-person coursework or engaging in other on-campus experiences at the beginning of the semester.
  • If students in quarantine receive a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, they will be directed to isolate until cleared by a health care provider.