COVID-19 Testing for CUIMC Students

Updated May 6, 2022

Student Health on Haven only offers diagnostic COVID-19 testing for students experiencing symptoms. See below for more information on at-home tests.

Types of Testing Available to CUIMC Students

Columbia Gateway and Surveillance Testing for Spring 2022

Columbia Gateway Testing

All CUIMC students who are new or are returning to campus and have not been tested at a University testing site in 2022 are required to get a PCR test from a Columbia gateway testing location within 72 hours after returning to campus. 

  • 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.
  • Students who received a positive PCR Test within the past 90 days: You must report your positive test results to the University as required by the Columbia University Community Health Compact; doing so meets your compliance requirements for gateway testing. Please do not re-test unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider and refer to the University's testing FAQ on how to submit your documentation in case of a positive test result.

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.

Surveillance Testing 

A random sample of Columbia affiliates will be required to re-test throughout the term. Testing is available at the William Black Building (CUIMC) and Lerner Hall (Morningside). 

  • The Columbia University testing program results are generally available in 24-36 hours, though it may take up to 72 hours for results to be reported and there is no option to expedite tests. 
  • The program does not offer antigen testing, commonly called rapid testing. 
  • Students will not incur out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 PCR tests conducted through the Columbia Testing Program. These requirements may change based upon public health conditions and guidance. 
  • Students who received a positive PCR Test within the past 90 days: You must report your positive test results to the University as required by the Columbia University Community Health Compact; doing so exempts you from surveillance testing for 90 days from the date of the test. Please do not re-test unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider and refer to the University's testing FAQ on how to submit your documentation in case of a positive test result.

Read More about Columbia University's COVID-19 Testing Program

Diagnostic Testing (Symptomatic Students)

COVID-19 Testing at CUIMC Student Health on Haven

CUIMC students who are symptomatic may use an FDA-authorized at-home test or schedule a testing appointment with Medical Services through the Student Health Portal. See below for important information on what to expect following the appointment.

Awaiting Your Results:

  • Two COVID tests were conducted: a rapid PCR and a lab-based PCR. After the results of both tests become available, a medical provider will notify you about when you can end isolation. You must continue to isolate until your results are reviewed by Medical Services.
  • Your rapid PCR test results should be available by 7 p.m. on the evening the test was completed; your lab-based PCR test should be available in approximately 72 hours.

Accessing Your Results:

  • You will be notified of your test results either by secure message via the Student Health portal or by phone. Please be sure to check your secure messages in the Student Health Portal to view your results.
  • If your rapid PCR test is negative, you must continue to isolate until we have your lab-based PCR results to confirm the negative results of the rapid test.
  • If either of your tests come back positive, we will provide you with instructions for isolation; Columbia Contact Tracing will contact you as well. Please be sure to answer the phone when they call. Learn more about how to isolate safely.

Off-Site Testing

Testing remains widely available in New York City and the metropolitan area; however, you should consider that the results may, in certain locations, not be available immediately. Additional resources for outside testing:

Students having difficulty obtaining a test should contact Student Health by calling 212-305-3400 for assistance. 

At-Home COVID-19 Testing

In light of the broader availability of self-tests, “at home,” or “over-the-counter” tests through the U.S. government  or health insurance plans, the following is guidance on when to use such tests and how to access FDA-authorized at-home tests. If you are not sure that the at-home COVID test you received is FDA-authorized take a look at the guidelines for Counterfeit At-Home OTC COVID Tests suggested by the FDA.

When to Use At-Home Tests:

To use the self-test effectively, make sure you follow the instructions exactly; perform the steps in the order that they are listed; and read the result at the specified time interval. The manufacturer may also provide quick reference guides or instructional videos to help you perform the test correctly.

Visit the University COVID-19 website for additional details on the use of at-home tests and recommended next steps based on your results, for instance, in what situation a PCR test would be warranted after taking an at-home test.

How to Get Low-Cost, At-Home Tests:

  • Use Your Insurance Plan for an FDA-Authorized Test
    • Students on the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan can learn more about purchasing, reimbursement, and reduced out-of-pocket cost options for at-home test kits. Read more about At-Home (OTC) COVID-19 Tests.
    • Students who are not on the Columbia Plan should contact their insurance provider for details about how to obtain at-home test kits with no or reduced out-of-pocket costs or how to submit documentation for full reimbursement.
  • Order through covidtests.gov
    • Households may be eligible to receive four free FDA-authorized at-home tests via covidtests.gov. You may also order by phone at 1-800-232-0233.
    • Students living in dormitory-style housing may experience challenges in ordering. Columbia is working with the US Postal Service to resolve this issue.

Additional Testing Considerations

Supplemental Testing After Higher Risk Activity

Regardless of your vaccination or booster status, supplemental testing is recommended 5 to 7 days after you participated in activities that may be associated with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission:

  • A large indoor gathering where masks were not worn the entire time.
  • You are uncertain of the vaccination status of all the attendees at a gathering. 
  • You were at a very large and crowded outdoor gathering, especially if attendees were not masked. 

Students who are asymptomatic can schedule an appointment at any off-campus testing site or take advantage of at-home testing kits. Read more about diagnostic testing for CUIMC students who are symptomatic

Testing After A Recent Exposure

For all close contacts, regardless of vaccination or booster status, PCR testing is recommended on days 5-7 after exposure. For unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or booster-eligible individuals who have not received a booster, a negative test will not shorten the length of quarantine. Read more about how to quarantine safely.

  • Students who are symptomatic and concerned about exposure should immediately isolate and schedule testing at an off-campus site, use an FDA-authorized at-home test, or schedule a testing appointment with Medical Services through the Student Health Portal
  • Students who are asymptomatic can schedule an appointment at any off-campus testing site or take advantage of an FDA-authorized at-home test.

If you test positive, you should isolate immediately and email your results to covidtesttrace@columbia.edu. Read more about how to isolate safely.

Travel Testing

Student Health on Haven does not provide pre- or post-travel testing. Students participating in approved University-related travel may seek testing through the University testing program. Read more about asymptomatic testing available to 'other permitted groups' through the University's surveillance testing program.

Domestic Travel Testing

Testing is recommended 3–5 days after: 

  • Domestic travel outside NYC via any form of public transportation (e.g., airplane, bus, train), excluding normal commuting travel from home and Columbia campuses. 
  • Travel to an area in the U.S. with high COVID-19 incidence rates (defined as ≥50 cases per 100,000 population in latest week). 

International Travel Testing

Proof of COVID-19 Testing for Travel

  • Students who are required to submit proof of a negative PCR test for the purposes of traveling should reach out to their off-campus testing site for this documentation. 
    • Please note that students who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 will continue to test positive by PCR for up to 90 days since the date of their positive test.
    • If you have successfully completed isolation and have fully recovered from COVID-19, you may use the New York State Department of Health Affirmation of Isolation form in lieu of submitting a negative test.
  • Please note that it is your responsibility to confirm proof of COVID-19 vaccination, qualifying test results, or documentation of recovery prior to making travel plans. View the CDC’s Airline Checklist as a helpful tool. Students who have additional questions may reach out to covidtesttrace@columbia.edu.

Extended Expiration Dates for At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated its online information to help consumers find the current expiration date for any FDA authorized at-home OTC COVID-19 diagnostic test. Visit the FDA website for additional information about your At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests. Questions? Email: studenthealthservice@cumc.columbia.edu