COVID-19 Testing Program for Spring 2022

To support the health and well-being of the University community Columbia offers a robust testing program.

The Columbia University Test and Trace program has supplemented the many protective measures in place across the University by providing robust and ongoing surveillance, supported by rapid contact tracing, to further mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on Columbia’s campuses. Throughout the last 18 months, we have constantly reviewed and refined our approach to COVID-19 testing and have been fortunate to have maintained a low level of positivity across our campuses based on comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation effort.

The updated testing program for Spring 2022 term takes into account the University-wide vaccination mandate, the COVID-19 situation in New York City and the US, as well as the potential for infections in vaccinated individuals, the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, and the need to protect vulnerable members of the Columbia community.

For the purposes of this document, “fully vaccinated” is defined as 2 weeks after the second dose in a 2-dose series and 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine.


Individuals who had a positive PCR test (through the University Testing Program or external lab) are not permitted to re-test at a Columbia location within 90 days of the positive test. 


 

Testing Program

The following key principles and considerations that inform the Columbia University Testing Program will continue in place:

  1. That there continue to be a single testing program for the University, across all campuses, schools, centers and institutes.
  2. That no out-of-pocket costs or insurance billing for individuals tested be a necessary part of the program.
  3. That Columbia testing be centralized in order to ensure quality and uniformity of test performance.
  4. That testing laboratories be compliant with applicable regulations regarding diagnostic testing, specifically, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of the test assay, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory certification, and approval of the laboratory by New York State Department of Health.
  5. That all results of the testing be confidential with adherence to all applicable New York State, HIPAA, and FERPA laws protecting the privacy of individual health and educational information. Columbia affiliates who test positive through the Columbia testing program will be referred to the tracing component of the program for further management and tracking of close contacts based on CDC, New York State and New York City guidance.
  6. That testing results will be provided in a timely manner, ideally within 24 hours of specimen arrival at the laboratory, in order to promptly allow positive individuals to self-isolate and to initiate contact tracing.
  7. That sample collection be consistently available, minimally intrusive and accessible to the individuals seeking testing and the test uses approaches such as self-collected, observed, nasal swabbing (rather than the deeper, clinician-administered nasopharyngeal swabbing procedure).
  8. That the assay used in the laboratory must have high sensitivity and specificity.
  9. That participation in the testing program be mandatory. All affiliates accessing campus are required to sign the Columbia Community Health Compact agreeing to follow all of the elements of the public health approaches in place at the University as well as agreeing to participate in the testing program.

Utilizing the data and experience of the Columbia Testing Program, as well as consideration of the public health conditions in New York City, Columbia University’s Spring 2022 testing plan is as below.

Individuals who have had a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test in the prior 90 days do not need to undergo gateway testing or surveillance testing during the three months since their positive tests, unless they have symptoms of COVID-19. Read the COVID-19 FAQs for more details.

A. Spring 2022 Term Gateway Testing

This requirement must be completed by February 4, 2022. Campus access will be allowed while awaiting results of the gateway test. After February 4, 2022, red passes will be applied to all those who are not compliant with the gateway testing requirement outlined below.

Required Populations

1. Recent Positive PCR Test

If you had a PCR positive test in the past 90 days, and reported this to the University as required by the Columbia University Community Health Compact, you will be considered compliant with the gateway requirements.  Please do not re-test unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider and refer to the testing FAQ on how to submit your documentation in case of a positive test result.

Note that you will not be permitted to test at a Columbia location within 90 days of the positive test.

2. Morningside Undergraduate Students

Fully vaccinated students:
  • Residential students: Get a gateway COVID-19 PCR test from a Columbia testing location on the first business day after your return to campus and again between days 5 and 7 after you return.  
  • Non-residential students: Get a gateway COVID-19 PCR test from a Columbia testing location within 72 hours after your return to campus.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students

Get a COVID-19 PCR gateway test from a Columbia testing location prior to accessing campus, and weekly thereafter if you have an approved exemption or until you are fully vaccinated.

3. Morningside and CUIMC Graduate and Professional Students

Fully vaccinated students:

Get a gateway COVID-19 PCR test from a Columbia testing location within 72 hours after your return to campus.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students

Get a COVID-19 PCR gateway test from a Columbia testing location prior to accessing campus, and weekly thereafter if you have an approved exemption or until you are fully vaccinated.

4. New faculty, researcher, or staff OR any individual who has not received a gateway test since Jan. 1, 2021

Get a gateway COVID-19 PCR test from a Columbia testing location within 72 hours after accessing the campus.

5. Faculty and staff who are also students

You must meet the student requirements described above.


You may notice that the testing requirement box on the ReOpenCU app will be unchecked until after you have completed the requirement.  Please allow up to 72 hours for the box to be checked following your University gateway test.

 

Barnard students 

Barnard students will be tested through Barnard's testing program; more information can be found online.

B. Surveillance Testing

Ongoing surveillance testing will be required.

  1. Any Columbia affiliates (i.e. faculty, staff, and students) who will be accessing Columbia campuses during the Spring 2022 Term and have received a medical or religious exemption for COVID-19 vaccination will be required to undergo once weekly COVID-19 diagnostic PCR testing throughout the term.
  2. Any Columbia affiliates (i.e. faculty, staff, and students) who are arriving from an international destination and are not considered fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorized by the FDA or WHO will be required to undergo once weekly COVID-19 diagnostic PCR testing until they are fully vaccinated (considered to be 2-weeks after final dose).
  3. All fully vaccinated faculty, staff, and students who are accessing campus for any reason during the Spring 2022 Term are required to participate in the ongoing surveillance testing program. Each week, a random sample of those accessing campus will be notified by email if selected and will be required to get tested within two weeks of notification of selection. The percent sampled will be determined based on the status of the epidemic and other virologic and epidemiological data from the campus and the City.
  4. Waste water surveillance of undergraduate residential buildings on the Morningside campus will continue as another methodology to detect presence of COVID-19 cases in those settings. If a wastewater spike is detected in a building, all building residents will be required to test within the assigned timeframe shared during notification of the spike.

C. Supplementary Testing

Supplementary COVID-19 PCR testing is available no more often than once weekly for the following reasons:

  1. Before and after Columbia-related travel (domestic or international)
  2. When identified as a close contact with a known positive case (social or household).
  3. Following notification by the contact tracing team of a classroom or workplace notification of a positive case.

D. Faculty, Staff, and Student Voluntary Testing

Faculty, staff, and students who regularly access campus during the Spring term but do not fall into the criteria above), are allowed at most one COVID-19 PCR test per week on a voluntary basis.

E. Symptomatic Testing

Individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, should contact their campus medical service (students) or primary care provider (faculty and staff) for guidance on testing. The Columbia Testing Locations are NOT to be accessed by individuals with symptoms. Individuals with symptoms making false entries on the ReOpenCU app to obtain a green pass and access testing centers or making false entries about being asymptomatic in order to schedule a test are subject to disciplinary action for falsifying information and potentially endangering the University community.

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.  

All testing locations will be closed on Monday, January 17, 2022 in observance of the University holiday for MLK Day.

COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Locations

What You Need to Know About Scheduling

  • Testing is available by appointment only; walk-ins are not accepted in most locations.
  • 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 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 Patient Portal, email [email protected] for assistance.

Testing appointments open 7-10 days in advance. 


 

Step by Step Instructions

  • To schedule your appointment, go to the Columbia Health 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 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 the label and tube for your specimen, it must not be dropped or lost
  • Complete the consent form (first time only)
  • You will then be directed into a testing booth
  • Follow instructions for specimen self-collection:
    • 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 to collect your nasal swab, including opening the packaging, collecting the swab, and placing it back into the tube
    • Use the hand sanitizer provided
    • Replace your face covering
  • Drop off your specimen at checkout
  • 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 [email protected]
  • 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 [email protected].

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.  

Failure to comply with the required gateway test, mandatory weekly testing for unvaccinated affiliates, or participation in the random sampling surveillance testing for faculty, staff, and students, or in the post wastewater spike testing and in case of detection of cluster of cases will result in reporting of non-compliance to departmental HR (faculty and staff) or Dean of Students (students) for follow-up, including disciplinary action as appropriate. Schools and departments will be responsible for assisting in follow up with members of their community who remain out of compliance.