COVID-19 Initial Testing Implementation Process

Last updated: July 1, 2020


To provide an additional layer of safety to the ongoing public health and preventive efforts, Columbia University will require an initial single COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test of all faculty, staff, and students who are returning to campus per New York State Phase 1 and 2 guidance. For those faculty and staff who have been consistently working on campus, an opportunity to receive a single COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test will also be offered but is not required.

The goal of initial testing for individuals returning to campus as of June 22 is to estimate the prevalence of infection among those individuals. Initial testing will help us estimate prevalence among those newly returning to campus and how that compares to prevalence in NYC. It will also assist in design of further testing strategies.

We will continue to evaluate and adjust the testing strategy going forward. It is important to keep in mind that public health measures to prevent spread of the virus such as face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, have been shown to be effective in prevention of transmission of the virus, from both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. These actions are the most important preventive measures our community can take.

  1. All faculty, staff, and students who are returning to campus on or after June 22 are expected to have a COVID-19 PCR test through Columbia/NYP within 14 days of their return to campus.
  2. All essential employees who have been consistently working on campus prior to June 22 are also eligible to receive a test, though not required.
  3. All schools and departments will provide a list of their returning employees and students for tracking purposes.
  4. Appointments can be scheduled at any one of 10 Columbia Doctors/NYP testing sites. Clinical students (CUIMC) should go to the Morningside location. If you don’t live or work in the New York metropolitan area, you may go to any location to get a PCR test. However, for those returning to campus who require initial testing, such testing must be done at CUIMC/NYP testing site.
    • All tests are reported in Epic, and positive tests will receive a telephone follow up with appropriate clinical guidance. Negative results will be notified through the Connect portal, or via encrypted email if not registered in Connect. Results in aggregate will be tracked.
    • Completion of test (but not release of results) will be cross-referenced with eligible personnel for compliance within the 14-day window.
    • Positives will also be directed to report to their supervisor, Human Resources, or Workforce Health and Safety and cannot come to work. Positive results for students will be referred to their campus Student Health Service. They are not required to share the reason for their absence. They will also select “yes” on the symptom attestation app that they have had a positive test, and will then screen “red” and be instructed to not report to work.
  5. Tests will be billed to insurance. If someone does not have insurance, they will be instructed to provide any bills to CU for reimbursement. There will be no out-of-pocket cost to the individual.
  6. This process will be re-evaluated after one month and adjusted as needed.

How to Get a Test

Call 646-317-1999. Testing locations are throughout the four of the five boroughs and in Westchester County.