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Frequently asked questions: COVID-19 surveillance testing at Stanford

Stanford launched a COVID-19 surveillance testing program in the autumn quarter. Starting January 4, through the winter quarter, surveillance testing will be required for faculty, staff, and postdocs who are approved to work on-site. 

This web page provides answers to questions about Stanford’s testing program and will be updated.

Program Overview

What is the surveillance testing program?

“Surveillance” testing refers to regular testing for individuals who are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Surveillance testing is provided for free to students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, and is an added safeguard to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 within our community. 

Student testing program: The plan provides COVID-19 surveillance testing for graduate and professional students, and for undergraduates who have been approved to live on campus. Testing for students is required once weekly during the autumn quarter and will increase to twice weekly at the beginning of the winter quarter. Additional information on the student testing requirement is available on this page.

Faculty, staff and postdoc testing program: The plan offers surveillance testing for Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who have been approved to work on-site at least one day a week. 

Beginning January 4, 2021, COVID-19 testing will be required for all faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who work on-site at a Stanford location in Santa Clara or San Mateo counties (which includes the main Stanford campus and Stanford Redwood City). SLAC also requires testing and details will be communicated separately with SLAC employees.

The testing requirement will apply to those who are recorded in the On-Site Role Management System and are coming to a Stanford campus for on-site work. Individuals can check their  status in ORMS here.  Anyone working on-site at least one day per week will be required to test once per week. Others who work on-site infrequently (less than one day each week or every other week, for example) will be required to test on the day they are scheduled on-site.

Additional information on the faculty, staff and postdoc testing requirement is available on this page.

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 Life Sciences (for undergraduates) or Color Genomics (for graduate and professional students). Here is more information.

For Stanford faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, we have contracted with Color Genomics, 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. Color’s technology uses a LAMP diagnostic assay. 

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.

What should I do if I’m experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms, information about seeking care is available here

All members of the Stanford community who study, teach, work or conduct research at any Stanford location, including the main campus, Stanford Redwood City and SLAC are required to submit Health Check each day they plan to be on-site, and should report symptoms there. 

Vaden Health Services, Health Check, or the university’s Occupational Health Center can provide additional information.

Participation

Who is required to participate in the testing?

Stanford is providing a free ongoing screening program for graduate and professional students who are living on- or off-campus, including Stanford student housing assigned by R&DE (Residential & Dining Enterprises) or coming to campus, and for undergraduates who are approved to live on campus. Students are required to participate in weekly testing, which will increase to twice weekly at the beginning of the winter quarter. We will monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community in real time and may adjust the frequency of testing.

Starting January 4, 2021, testing will be required for faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who meet the following criteria: 

  • Approved to work on-site: 
    • Individuals working on-site at least one day per week, must test once each week.
    • Individuals working on-site infrequently (e.g., less than a day or every other week), must test the day they are scheduled to work on-site.
  • Eligibility to work on-site is recorded and maintained in the On-Site Role Management System (ORMS), or ORMS. Individuals may confirm eligibility in ORMS by logging in to https://onsiteroles.stanford.edu. Individuals should contact their manager, local HR Manager, DFA, DFO, or ORMS Program Manager to have their ORMS status updated. Collection site staff cannot update ORMS records. 

In addition, individuals must regularly report their health status in Health Check whenever they are scheduled to be on-site. Note, individuals experiencing symptoms who have been on-site in the last 14 days must report symptoms on Health Check, which will provide additional guidance.

Why are students required to participate in testing?

Information on the student testing requirement is available on this page.

Is testing required for faculty and staff?

Starting January 4, 2021, testing will be required for all faculty and staff who are working on-site. 

Individuals working on site at least one day per week will be required to test weekly. Individuals working on-site infrequently (less than one day a week or every other week, for example), must test the first day during any week they are scheduled to work on-site. 

Additional information on the faculty and staff testing requirement is available on this page.

Is testing required for postdoctoral scholars?

 Starting January 4, 2021, participation in Stanford’s surveillance testing program for postdocs will expand to also require all postdocs who are working on-site to test. Postdocs working on-site at least one day per week will be required to test weekly. Those who work on-site infrequently (e.g. less than one day a week or every other week), must test the first day during any week they are scheduled to work on-site.

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

Why is the testing requirement being implemented for faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars?

Thanks to the efforts of people across our community, the prevalence of COVID-19 at Stanford has remained low so far. This is a testament to our community’s respect for public health and its embrace of the safeguards that are necessary to keep one another healthy and safe.

However, COVID-19 cases are rising once again both nationally and in California, which calls for increased vigilance. A testing requirement for faculty, staff and postdocs aligns with the university’s existing requirement of testing for students who are on campus

In addition, we know that many in our community are understandably concerned about protecting their health if they need to work on-site. We want to make certain that as Stanford gradually resumes in-person activities as health conditions allow, those who are working on campus can have the confidence that their working environments will support their health and safety.

How long will the testing requirement be in place?

For faculty, staff and postdocs, we expect the testing requirement will continue into the Spring quarter. The program, and the public health conditions affecting Stanford, will be evaluated on a continual basis.

Please note, it is essential for everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, to continue participating in all the tools available to help stop the spread of infection, including wearing a face covering, washing hands often, maintaining social distancing, following all guidance from State and County officials, and participating in available testing.

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 through their healthcare provider, at one of Stanford Health Care’s locations throughout the Bay Area or through a County testing site. For more information, view the Where Can I Get Tested page.

I am listed in ORMS as eligible for the COVID-19 testing and picked up a Color testing kit, but I cannot create my Color account. What should I do?

The vendor that manages Stanford’s COVID-19 testing is Color. If you are eligible for Stanford’s COVID-19 Testing Program, based on your status in Stanford’s On-site Role Management System (ORMS), you should be able to create a Color testing account. 

If you are unable to create your Color Testing account, make sure you are using your primary Stanford University email address (SUNETID@stanford.edu). Do NOT use a personal email or Stanford alias email. If you do not know your Stanford University email, or are unsure how to access your primary Stanford email, please contact the University IT Service Desk at  650-725-4357 or by submitting an online ticket.

Information on student testing and eligibility is available on this page.

Please note: If you are a contingent or casual employee, you may not have a Stanford-sponsored email. You will need to ask your supervisor to email covidtestinghelp@stanford.edu with your name, SUNET ID or employee ID, and your personal email address to help you create a Color testing account.

Are Stanford contractors, interns, vendors and affiliates eligible for the testing program?

The health and well-being of all members of our community is extremely important. We are working with our contractors, vendors and other affiliates to establish testing programs. At this time, Stanford is requiring that employees of contractors working in custodial, security, and childcare services be tested once each week they are scheduled to work on campus. Contractor testing will be facilitated through a parallel agreement with Color Genomics. The contractors are responsible for their employee compliance and for informing Stanford of positive cases to ensure appropriate exposure notifications.

Other members of our community are encouraged to test through their healthcare provider, at one of Stanford Health Care’s locations throughout the Bay Area or through a County testing site. For more information, view the Where Can I Get Tested page(link is external). The most common form of diagnostic or surveillance testing involves a nasal swab, though oral and throat swabs may also be administered. The turnaround time for results may vary, but could be available as early as 24-72 hours.

Can family members of faculty and staff participate in the testing program?

At this time, family members of faculty and staff are not eligible for the program. Friends and family can be tested through their healthcare provider, at one of Stanford Health Care’s locations throughout the Bay Area or through a County testing site. For more information, view the Where Can I Get Tested page.

Do employees working at Stanford Hospital need to participate? 

School of Medicine faculty and Stanford University employees who do not enter Stanford University buildings and facilities – including those who only work in Stanford Hospital — do not need to participate in mandatory weekly testing, but are strongly encouraged to do so.
All School of Medicine faculty and Stanford University employees who physically come into the Stanford campus (including SU buildings that are a part of the Stanford Medicine footprint) must follow the University’s requirement for weekly testing. All residents, fellows, and medical students completing clinical rotations, especially those who regularly enter University buildings, are strongly encouraged to follow the same Color weekly testing protocol.

The testing process

What does the testing process consist of?

Students can learn more about surveillance testing here.

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 (484 Oak Road) will also offer surveillance testing for individuals who face any technological, language or other barriers to participation. Consult your local HR manager, DFA, DFO or the Postdoctoral Affairs Office, or if you wish, you may schedule testing through the university Occupational Health Center at https://ehs.stanford.edu/covidtest.

My doctor referred me to get COVID-19 testing through my private insurance. Can I submit those results to Stanford to fulfill the COVID-19 surveillance testing requirement? 

Employees are expected to use the Color testing program to fulfill the surveillance testing requirement. While test results from outside providers can be self-reported into Health Check, noting the location of test draw (e.g. Kaiser), test results from outside providers will not be readily available for routine compliance review, and may be subject to additional review for these purposes if requested.

Please note that Color test results processed through Stanford Health Care are not sent to the university.

What is the turn-around time for results?

The majority of results will be available within 24-72 hours.  

Who will see my test results?

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.

Student testing information is available on this page.

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. 

Student testing information is available on this page.

For faculty, staff and postdocs: If your test is positive, you’ll be asked to self-isolate and refrain from coming to campus (if you live on campus, you may continue doing so while adhering to self-isolation guidelines). You’ll be asked to complete Health Check to update your test status. The university Occupational Health Center will reach out to you about receiving a confirmatory test and will initiate exposure notification for close contacts as defined here. 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.

Other Testing Program questions

I received a COVID-19 vaccine. Do I still need to get COVID-19 surveillance testing?

Yes. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are highly likely to prevent people from becoming ill due to COVID-19. However, additional research over the next several months is needed to show: 

  • Whether the COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to preventing illness, also prevents infection from the virus
  • Whether the COVID-19 vaccine can prevent transmission of the virus by someone exposed after vaccination

It is essential for everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, to continue participating in all the tools available to help stop the spread of infection, including wearing a face covering, washing hands often, maintaining social distancing, following all guidance from State and County officials, and participating in available testing.

Will you be expanding the number of testing pick-up/drop-off sites, as well as the hours of some of the sites?

Yes, we have expanded testing locations to include increased hours of operation and additional 24×7 unmonitored test kit drop off boxes. We will closely monitor testing needs and will make changes to testing hours and locations accordingly. For a complete list of testing locations and hours, visit Health Alerts.

Who sees the results of my test? Will my data be used for other Color testing programs, such as genetic testing? 

Stanford’s testing vendor is Color Genomics. Color adheres to strict privacy and security controls and is HIPAA-compliant. You may view their COVID terms of serviceNotice of Privacy Practices, COVID HIPAA authorization, and COVID informed consent to learn more. They will not use your data for genetic testing.

Your test results will also be available to Environmental Health & Safety, the Occupational Health Center, and 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). Deidentified test results will be aggregated to monitor community prevalence of COVID-19 at Stanford. 

Laboratories must report all test results to public health authorities consistent with applicable law and guidance. Stanford also must report positive test results to public health authorities, consistent with applicable laws and guidance.

Do Color test kits have particular storage or temperature requirements? 

Color test kits do not have any particular storage or temperature requirements. They can be kept at room temperature and do not have an expiration date.

How do contingent staff who do not have a Stanford email register for the program?

Supervisors should provide the name, employee ID, and personal email address of contingent staff to without Stanford email accounts to covidtestinghelp@stanford.edu.  This will ensure they can create a Color account using a non-Stanford email address.

Should non-exempt employees include the time spent testing on their timecard?

Yes, non-exempt employees should record their time for picking up/dropping off test kits, as well as the testing time required if administered through Occupational Health. This should be done during regular work hours unless approved in advance by the employee’s supervisor.

How accurate are the Color tests?

This assay has a >99% accuracy with a limit of detection of 0.75 copies/uL for samples processed up to 72 hours from collection time. Positive results are indicative of an active infection with SARS-CoV-2 but do not rule out bacterial infections or co-infection with other viruses. Negative results do not eliminate the possibility of a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The sample collection technique can meaningfully impact test sensitivity. False positives and false negatives are possible. False negatives can occur for several reasons including (but not limited to) reduced sensitivity due to a viral load below the limit of detection of this assay, or mutations in the targeted viral sequence, or the presence of amplification inhibitors. For more information on Color’s COVID-19 test, please visit https://www.color.com/covid19-details.

What are the different result types, and what does an inconclusive test indicate?

Color provides four result types:

  • Positive for SARS-CoV-2. Positive indicates that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) was detected in the patient’s sample. False positives are possible.
  • Negative for SARS-CoV-2. Negative indicates that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) was not detected in the patient’s sample. False negatives are possible.
  • Inconclusive result for SARS-CoV-2. Inconclusive indicates that the test results were internally inconsistent and cannot be classified as either positive or negative.
  • Unsatisfactory sample. Test could not be completed.

A sample may be rejected or significantly delayed if they arrive with:

  • Insufficient, incompatible or congealed media in specimens collected in transport media
  • Dry swabs that arrive more than 56 hours after sample collection
  • Improperly capped or labeled tubes
  • Swabs inverted in collection tubes (i.e. swab bud facing up)
  • Missing physician order
  • Incomplete or missing patient information
  • Not in compliance with Color’s Terms of Service

I recovered from COVID-19 and have been told that I should NOT test for 90 days after my positive test. Do I still need to test within those 90 days?

No. To date, COVID-19 reinfection appears to be uncommon during the  90 day period after symptom onset. After this 90 day period, you will need to resume COVID-19 surveillance by participating in Stanford’s COVID Testing Program. 

I ONLY enter buildings in SHC/LPCH, non-university buildings. Do I need to get COVID-19 surveillance testing?

School of Medicine faculty and Stanford University employees who do not enter Stanford University buildings and facilities – including those who only work in Stanford Hospital or Lucile Packard Children’s Health facilities — do not need to participate in mandatory weekly testing, but are strongly encouraged to do so.

All School of Medicine faculty and Stanford University employees who physically come onto the Stanford campus (including SU buildings that are a part of the Stanford Medicine footprint) must follow the university’s requirement for weekly testing. All residents, fellows, and medical students completing clinical rotations, especially those who regularly enter university buildings, are strongly encouraged to follow the same Color weekly testing protocol.

Where can I direct questions about the program?

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