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Frequently asked questions: COVID-19 surveillance testing at Stanford

Stanford has launched a COVID-19 surveillance testing program for the autumn quarter. This web page provides answers to questions about the program and will be updated.

Program Overview

What is the surveillance testing program?

This testing plan is for “surveillance” testing, which refers to periodic testing for individuals who are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Testing will be provided at no charge to individuals. (If you are experiencing symptoms, information about seeking care is available here. If you use Health Check, report your symptoms there. Vaden Health Services, Health Check, or the university’s Occupational Health Center can provide additional information.) 

The plan provides COVID-19 surveillance testing this autumn for graduate and professional students, and for undergraduates who have been approved to live on campus this autumn due to a special circumstance.

The plan also offers surveillance testing for Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who have been approved to work on campus and who use Stanford’s Health Check system to report their health status. These include workers providing essential on-campus services as well as individuals involved in research. The process will be phased in beginning in late August. Those who are eligible will receive emails from University Human Resources in the coming weeks with details about participation. We expect to complete enrollment of all eligible faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars by Friday, September 18.

Who is providing the testing?

With the volume of testing Stanford is seeking to provide, and with the ongoing supply-chain challenges that have resulted from the pandemic, we identified two testing systems that utilize different supply chains. We have contracted with two companies that have each received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for the testing they will be providing for our community. Our medical experts have reviewed the testing methodologies and are confident in their rigor.

For students, sample collection and processing will be overseen by Verily, a company focused on life sciences research and health care.

For Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, we have contracted with Color, a company specializing in population health management, to provide nasal-swab testing kits for self-collection and to perform the clinical lab testing on each kit submitted by members of our community.

What type of testing is being used?

Color will be utilizing a LAMP diagnostic assay. Verily will be utilizing an RT-PCR diagnostic assay. Both companies have received emergency use authorization from the FDA for the testing of COVID-19.  Both assays test for the presence of the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Presence of the viral genome is an indication that a person is currently infected with the virus. These tests do not screen for antibodies against the virus, which are associated with previous infection.

Participation

Who is eligible to participate in the testing?

Until Friday, August 28, testing for students is available at Vaden Health Services. Students who have been away from the Stanford campus and are now returning should contact Vaden to schedule testing to fulfill the entry testing requirements. All testing is free of charge to students, regardless of a student’s insurance plan.

Starting Monday, August 31, we will begin ongoing surveillance testing for graduate and professional students who are living in on- or off-campus Stanford student housing assigned by R&DE (Residential & Dining Enterprises) or are coming to campus this autumn, and for undergraduates who are approved to live on campus due to a special circumstance. Students will receive an email with details about how to participate. Students will be required to participate in weekly testing, and students also will be able to access additional testing, up to a total of two tests per week, if they wish to have it. We will monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community in real time and may adjust the frequency of testing.

For Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, testing will be offered to those who are:

  • Approved to work on-site (based on information that is maintained in the On-Site Role Management System, or ORMS);
  • Regularly reporting to the main Stanford campus or at Stanford Redwood City at least one day per week; and
  • Reporting their health status through Health Check each time they come to campus.  

During the initial rollout of the testing program, eligible faculty, staff and postdocsreceived an email from University Human Resources with details about participation. The initial rollout was completed on the week of September 21.

Starting September 28, newly eligible faculty, staff and postdocs do not need to receive an invitation email to participate in the surveillance testing program. In recognition that the on-site population of staff, faculty, and postdocs will evolve throughout the autumn quarter, individuals are encouraged to participate in the program as soon as they are eligible in ORMS. 

Employees may confirm eligibility in ORMS by logging in to https://onsiteroles.stanford.edu.

We suggest that eligible individuals participate on a weekly basis. We will monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community in real time and may adjust the frequency of testing.

Why are students required to participate in testing?

Testing is required for graduate and professional students who are living in on- or off-campus Stanford student housing assigned by R&DE or are coming to campus this autumn, and for undergraduates who have been approved to live on campus this autumn due to a special circumstance. The required testing is largely due to the congregate and high-density living situations for students in university-provided housing. We are particularly concerned about supporting our community’s health by quickly identifying any COVID-19 presence in these residences.

Physical distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, using Health Check to report your health status, and staying home if you experience COVID-like symptoms are all essential to our work as a community to continue fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Additional information on the student testing requirement is available on this page.

Is testing required for faculty and staff?

At the present time, participation in this asymptomatic testing program for faculty and staff is voluntary.

Testing may be required for resident fellows living in Stanford housing assigned by R&DE when undergraduates return to dorms.

Is testing required for postdoctoral scholars?

At the present time, participation in this asymptomatic program for postdoctoral scholars  is voluntary, with the exception of postdoctoral scholars living in Stanford housing assigned by R&DE (Residential & Dining Enterprises), for whom it is required. The required testing is largely due to the congregate and high-density living situations in university-provided housing. We are particularly concerned about supporting our community’s health by quickly identifying any COVID-19 presence in these residences.

If I received a testing kit, can I share it with a family member or friend?

No. The testing kits may only be used by the designated faculty, student, staff member or postdoctoral scholar. 

Friends and family can be tested at one of Stanford Health Care’s locations throughout the Bay Area. For more information, visit https://stanfordhealthcare.org/discover/covid-19-resource-center/testing.html.

The Testing Process

What does the testing process consist of?

Students will go in person to a designated site on the main Stanford campus, at specified appointment times throughout each week. The collection method is self-administered (middle-turbinate) nasal swabs, observed by healthcare workers.  Students will receive an email with more information about how to participate.

Eligible Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars can learn more about surveillance testing here.

What if I can’t use the technology required for the Color testing for faculty, staff and postdocs?

The university Occupational Health Center will also offer surveillance testing for employees who are eligible for the testing but who face any technological, language or other barriers to participation. Consult your local HR manager, or if you wish, you may schedule testing through the university Occupational Health Center at https://ehs.stanford.edu/covidtest.

What is the turn-around time for results?

The majority of results will be available within 48 hours, but may take up to 72 hours. 

Who will see my test results?

For students, individual test results will be available to the participating student, Vaden, Environmental Health & Safety, limited other university offices to protect the Stanford community and prevent further spread of COVID-19 (such as exposure notification, cleaning, isolation and processing the information), as well as Verily and those physicians working directly with Verily. Laboratories must report all test results to public health authorities consistent with applicable laws and guidance. In addition, Stanford must report positive test results to public health authorities, consistent with applicable laws and guidance.

For faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, individual test results will be available to the participant, Environmental Health & Safety, the Occupational Health Center, limited other university offices to protect the Stanford community and prevent further spread of COVID-19 (such as exposure notification, cleaning, isolation and processing the information), and Color. Laboratories must report all test results to public health authorities consistent with applicable law and guidance. As noted above, Stanford also must report positive test results to public health authorities, consistent with applicable laws and guidance.

Deidentified test results will be aggregated to monitor community prevalence of COVID-19 at Stanford.

What happens if my test comes back positive?

Those who test positive through surveillance testing should self-isolate and refrain from leaving their isolation housing if living on campus or coming to campus if living off campus. Those living on campus in R&DE-assigned housing will receive isolation support and accommodations, including meal delivery at no cost to students. 

If you receive a positive test result, you will be asked to immediately complete Health Check to update your test status. Vaden or the university’s Occupational Health Center will reach out to you about receiving a confirmatory test and will initiate exposure notification for close contacts as defined here.  In the meantime, you must remain self-isolated based on the positive results of the first test.  Expect an additional call or follow-up by the local county public health department for contact tracing efforts.  If you are having severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, contact your healthcare provider immediately. 

Where can I direct questions about the program?

You may direct them by email to health-alerts@stanford.edu.