COVID-19 Testing Program

Last updated: November 12, 2020


To provide an additional layer of safety to the ongoing public health and preventive efforts, Columbia University is supporting a SARS-CoV-2 testing program. This includes an initial gateway test and ongoing surveillance testing, described below.

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

    The goal of SARS-CoV-2 testing for individuals accessing campus is to estimate the prevalence of infection among those individuals. Initial gateway testing helps us compare the prevalence among those newly returning to campus to overall prevalence in NYC, and ongoing surveillance testing helps us to continually evaluate prevalence on campus. 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.

    Note: COVID-19 testing at these locations is only available to test Columbia faculty, staff, and students. These sites 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 not permitted more than once per week.  Please visit the New York City Health and Hospitals website for additional testing resources.

    Tests done at any other location will NOT fulfill the campus testing requirement.

    There is no cost to you for this testing.

    Testing Protocol

    Updated: November 30, 2020

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

    A. Initial Gateway Testing

    All Columbia faculty, staff, and students are required to have initial COVID-19 gateway testing prior to return to campus. Tests must be done in the University surveillance program managed by Columbia Health.  Tests performed at any other location will NOT fulfill the campus testing requirement.

    All faculty and staff are expected to have a COVID-19 PCR test within the 14 days prior to their return to campus. Faculty and staff who have been on campus consistently since the spring may also have been contacted to get their gateway test in order to maintain campus access.

    All students are required to have an initial gateway COVID-19 PCR test prior to resuming campus activities. Students who have been on campus consistently since the spring may also have been contacted to get their gateway test in order to maintain campus access. 

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

    Individuals who have had a positive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test in the prior three months 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. Read the COVID-19 FAQs for more details.

    B. Ongoing Surveillance Testing

    Ongoing surveillance testing will also be provided. Undergraduate students are required to undergo frequent diagnostic testing throughout the term. Currently, all graduate students, faculty and staff who are on campus are required to participate in the ongoing surveillance testing program. Each week, a random sample of those accessing campus is invited for a repeat test. You will be notified by email when you are eligible for and required to have ongoing surveillance testing. 

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

    C. Voluntary Testing

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

    • Current graduate student, staff or faculty
    • Accessing campus on at least 2 days/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 14 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. Please do not come to one of the Columbia Testing Locations if you are having symptoms.

    Columbia has two sites for COVID-19 surveillance testing:

    Updated: September 30, 2020

    • Testing is available by appointment only; walk-ins will not be accepted
    • To schedule your appointment, go to the 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 (Morningside, Lerner Hall or CUIMC, Black Building)
    • Answer the questions regarding your testing needs
    • Provide your callback number
    • 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
    • COVID-19 testing appointments cannot be made by phone
    • If you are unable to schedule through the Online Patient Portal, email for assistance
    • 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, staff will be able to locate your record using your UNI or the QR code
    • Arrive at the time of your appointment, and follow all directional signage and staff instructions
    • Have your appointment QR code ready 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
    • 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 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 test result, you will be contacted by telephone and provided with guidance for isolation, care, and follow-up.

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

    • When your results are available, you will receive an email to your Columbia email address from
    • 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 address, if this results in an error code, please try 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
    • For issues with registering to view your results, email

    For information on contact tracing, please visit the "Columbia Contact Tracing Program."