COVID-19 Testing Program

You must complete a symptom self-check before getting a COVID-19 diagnostic test at the Columbia locations.

The goal of SARS-CoV-2 testing for individuals accessing campus is to estimate the prevalence of infection among those individuals. Gateway testing helps us compare the prevalence among those returning to Columbia campuses and facilities to overall prevalence in NYC, and ongoing surveillance testing helps us to continually evaluate prevalence on campuses and other Columbia facilities. We continue to evaluate and adjust the testing strategy.

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.

The sites listed below are NOT for testing of individuals with symptoms, for family/household members, or for any other reason outside of the required Columbia University Test and Trace Program. Testing is limited to no more than once per week for most members of our community.  Please visit the New York City Health and Hospitals website for additional testing resources.

Note: COVID-19 testing at University-designated locations is only available to test Columbia faculty, staff, students, and select external affiliates with University credentials. 

Testing from any other locations (including NYP) do NOT fulfill the campus testing requirements (including gateway or random sampling compliance).

There is no cost to you for this testing.

Testing Protocol

Updated: March 4, 2021

Note: Testing is limited to no more than one test per week for most members of the Columbia community, regardless of the purpose of testing.

A. Spring 2021 Gateway Testing

**If you are returning to University campuses and facilities after the gateway period in January you will need a test before you can access Columbia facilities and campuses.  In general you will have the test one day and be able to have a greenpass on the ReOpenCU app within 48-72 hours.  Please plan accordingly.**

Tests performed at any other location (including NYP) will NOT fulfill the campus testing requirement.

All Columbia faculty, staff, and students are required to have initial COVID-19 gateway testing upon return to campus, even if you were tested in the fall. Tests must be done in the University surveillance program managed by Columbia Health and completed between January 4 and January 25. 

All faculty and staff are required to have a COVID-19 PCR test during the gateway period in January or upon their return to campuses and facilities if later in the term.

All students are required to have a COVID-19 PCR test during the gateway period in January or upon their return to campuses and facilities if later in the term.

Barnard affiliates will be tested through Barnard's testing program.

Individuals who have had a positive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test in the prior 90 days may not need to undergo gateway testing or surveillance testing during the three months since COVID-19 diagnosis, unless they have symptoms of COVID-19. Please read the COVID-19 FAQs for more details.

B. Ongoing Surveillance Testing

Ongoing surveillance testing is also provided.

Undergraduate students are required to undergo frequent diagnostic testing throughout the term.  Students living in the undergraduate residence halls are assigned days of the week for their testing.  There is no "make up" if a test is missed and students are instructed to reschedule if arriving to a testing site on a non-assigned day.

All graduate students, faculty, and staff who are on campus are encouraged to participate in weekly testing and required to participate in the ongoing surveillance testing program. Each week, a new random sample of those accessing campus is notified by email for a required test.  Individuals may appear in more than one random sample and are required to participate every time they are notified. 

Tests performed at any other location (including NYP) will NOT fulfill the campus testing requirements.

Summary of testing approaches, including the ongoing surveillance testing plans, can be found here:

C. Voluntary Testing

Columbia University is offering an ongoing voluntary SARS-CoV-2 testing program, which allows one SARS-CoV-2 test per week, if individuals fulfill the following eligibility criteria:

  • Current graduate student, staff, or faculty
  • Accessing University campuses and facilities for purposes other than testing
  • Did not otherwise have a test in the given week

New York City Department of Health is also offering a no out-of-pocket-cost testing program that can meet voluntary testing needs, including offering rapid testing and mobile test site option. 

D. Travel-Related Testing

All affiliates arriving in New York from outside the United States or from a non-contiguous US state are required to quarantine for a period of 10 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine unless the following testing and quarantine guidance is met as per New York State’s Executive Order 205.2:

For travelers who travel outside of New York for less than 24 hours:

  • The traveler need not test prior to departure from the other state or country, and does not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York.
  • Such travelers must continue to fill out the traveler form upon entry.
  • The traveler must take a diagnostic test on the fourth day after arrival in New York.

For travelers who have traveled outside of New York for more than 24 hours:

  • The traveler must seek testing prior to departure from the other state or country, within 72 hours of departure, prior to arrival in New York.
  • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine according to Department of Health guidelines for a minimum of three days, measured from date of arrival.
  • On day 4 (or the next business day if day 4 falls on a weekend or holiday), the traveler may seek a diagnostic test to exit quarantine. The traveler may exit quarantine upon receipt of the second negative test result.

An individual who qualifies for the New York State exemption for essential workers, and are deemed as such by their department (including front line healthcare workers, researchers, or some clinical students) may return to work with a negative test within 24 hours of their return but must adhere to all other appropriate precautions.

Travel-related testing can be scheduled at select Columbia testing sites.

E. Symptomatic Testing

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please contact your campus health service (students) or your primary care provider (faculty and staff) for guidance on testing. If a person attempts to access the Columbia Testing Locations with symptoms they will be redirected to other resources.

 

Face coverings and completion of the ReopenCU app attestation are required for entry into buildings for testing appointments. Follow directional signage and staff instructions to the testing center.

If no appointments display for a given location it means testing is not available at that location on that day or all appointments are booked.  If it is a testing day as articulated in the schedule below, you may check back for cancellations and we work to add capacity in locations and at times when we can safely do so.  

COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Locations

Updated: January 6, 2021

  • Testing is available by appointment only; walk-ins are not accepted
  • If you arrive more than 10 minutes early you will be directed to wait outside the building until your scheduled time
  • If you arrive more than 10 minutes late you will be directed to leave the building and schedule a new appointment using the Columbia Health Online Patient Portal
  • Appointments cannot be scheduled by phone
  • If the date you prefer at a given location is not displaying options it indicates testing is not available at that location on that day (see above for locations and days/times) or all appointments are fully booked. 
  • If the date and location is an available testing date and fully booked you should check other sites or the portal periodically to see if more capacity has been added or there have been cancellations. 
  • It is not possible to add to a fully booked schedule.
  • If you are unable to schedule through the Online Patient Portal, email covidtesttrace@columbia.edu for assistance

 

Step by Step Instructions

  • To schedule your appointment, go to the Columbia Health Online Patient Portal
  • Sign in with your UNI and UNI password
  • Select "Appointments" from the main menu and select "schedule an appointment"
  • Select “COVID-19 testing” by location 
  • Answer the question regarding symptoms (these locations are for asymptomatic testing only)
  • Provide your callback number if prompted
  • Select the appointment day and time
  • Once your appointment is scheduled, the system will display a QR code. We encourage you to save the QR code to your phone as a screenshot or print it out. You can always access the code by logging back into the Online Patient Portal. The QR code is a touchless way to check in for your testing appointment
  • Complete your symptom self-screening (ReopenCU app) prior to coming to the testing center. Do not come if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, loss of sense of smell or taste, or stomach upset). Those who are experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and contact their health care provider
  • Face covering is required when coming to your testing appointment
  • Bring your Columbia ID (if you have one) to your appointment. If you do not have your CUID yet, bring a photo ID and staff will be able to locate your record using your UNI or the QR code
  • Arrive at the time of your appointment; follow all directional signage and staff instructions
  • Individuals arriving early may be accommodated no more than 10 minutes before their scheduled time. If you are earlier you must wait outside of the respective buildings until your scheduled time
  • Individuals arriving late may be accommodated no more than 10 minutes after their scheduled time. If you are more than 10 minutes late you will not be admitted and must self-reschedule using the online system.
  • Have your ReOpenCU greenpass and appointment QR code ready to show on entry and to scan as you reach check-in
  • At the check-in desk, present your QR code for scanning. This will check you in for your appointment
  • You will be given a label for your specimen. This is your personal label and must not be dropped or lost
  • Complete the consent form (first time only)
  • You will then be directed into a testing booth
  • You will be instructed to:
    • Immediately apply your label to the specimen tube
    • Lower your face covering to under your nose but keep your mouth covered
    • Blow your nose well using the tissues provided, and dispose used tissues into the garbage can
    • Use the hand sanitizer provided
    • Follow the directions on the table with the observer watching you to collect your nasal swab, including opening the packaging, collecting the swab, and placing it back into the tube
    • Leave the tube containing your swab on the table in the testing booth
    • Use the hand sanitizer provided
    • Replace your face covering
  • Exit following the directional signage
  • The entire process should take less than 10 minutes

You will receive either an email or a phone call when your results are available. In the event of a positive or inconclusive test result, you will be contacted by telephone and provided with guidance for isolation, care, and follow-up.

Emails will provide those with negative results with instructions on how to access your results:

  • When your results are available, you will receive an email to your Columbia email address from CareEvolve@LKnotification.com
  • The email will alert you that your recent laboratory results are available and will require you to click a link contained in the email to register, using the registration code provided
  • Once you click the link, you will be brought to the Broad Institute Care Evolve page, where you will need to enter your Columbia email address and the registration code. For those with an @cumc.columbia.edu address, if this results in an error code, please try @columbia.edu format instead.
  • After confirming your identity, you will be asked to enter 2 security questions and answers, as well as a password
  • You will receive confirmation of your registration, and a second email will be sent with a link to your results
  • Once you click that link, you will have to enter the new code your received, and then log into the system using your email and password
  • You will be able to view and download your results by clicking on the test and date
  • Registration is only required the first time
  • For issues with registering to view your results, email covidtesttrace@columbia.edu.

 

On occasion the lab may not be able to process a sample.  In these events you will receive a secure message (patient portal), an encrypted email, or a phone call notifying you to return for a repeat of the test.