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Testing Positive

Last Updated: September 1, 2022

On this page, you will find information on what to do if you have tested positive for COVID-19.

Important

  • Undergraduate and graduate students should read the guidance found here, and reach out to Vaden Health Center for any additional support.
  • Faculty, staff, and postdocs must notify Stanford via Health Check when they:
    • Experience COVID-like symptoms
    • Are a close contact to someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus)
    • Are awaiting COVID-19 test results, due to exposure or symptoms
    • Test positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus)

Note: This is required when on campus within the previous two weeks or if expected to be on campus.

Positive case reporting

For Students:

 All undergraduate and graduate students should follow the student exposure guidance, found here, and reach out to Vaden Health Center for any additional support.

For faculty, staff, and postdocs: 

Faculty, staff, and postdocs are required to notify Stanford, via Health Check, if they test positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus). This requirement is in place for those who were on campus within the previous two weeks or are expected to be on campus.

When completing Health Check, please report your last date on campus, buildings visited, potential high-risk close contacts and date of contact, as well as your test and symptom information.  Although the Health Check medical response team is automatically notified of positive tests conducted through the university’s Color testing programs, your Health Check submissions will assist with our case response.

Health Check will generate an initial recommended period of isolation and additionally notify the medical response team of your submission, who will review and adjust this date accordingly.   

When a student tests positive, a similar process is initiated by Vaden Health Services. For details, visit COVID-19 Guidance for Students

Close contact information

Please notify your close contacts if you test positive. 

For information on what steps a close contact should take, please review this guidance posted on HealthAlertsHigh numbers of cases can limit the capacity for local public health authorities, and the Stanford medical response teams, to provide individual follow-up to each contact. 

Repeat or follow-up testing: Color and PCR

Both Color (LAMP) and SHC (PCR) testing are nucleic acid amplification tests and are very sensitive and accurate. Nucleic acid amplification tests, like Color and PCR, can detect viral remnants days to weeks and sometimes even months after a COVID infection. Test reporting does not differentiate between infectious virus and non-infectious viral fragments, which is why these tests can remain positive, intermittently, for extended periods. Please treat a positive Color or PCR test as real and take steps to isolate yourself from others. 

Once you have received a positive COVID test, you are exempt from surveillance testing requirements for 90-days. Do not submit a Color or PCR test within 90 days, unless otherwise directed by a member of the Health Check Team or your personal care provider.  

Repeat or follow-up testing: Rapid testing

False positives on rapid tests are unlikely.  Please treat a positive rapid test as real and take steps to isolate yourself from others. A faint line on a rapid test is an indication that a lower level of viral antigens were detected in the sample, so a faint positive is still a positive. However, some rapid tests can be difficult to read, where a faint line can be visible under certain light. If you have no symptoms and no known exposure, and you see a very faint ‘positive’ line, you may consider repeating the rapid test, versus obtaining a Color/PCR test.

Once you have received a positive COVID test, you are exempt from surveillance testing requirements for 90-days.

Isolating after a positive test

Current isolation guidelines recommended by the County of Santa Clara and California Department of Public Health are time-based and permit ending home isolation after day 10 following a positive COVID test or clear onset of symptoms, provided that symptoms are absent or resolving. 

We recommend all positive faculty, staff, and postdocs, who will be working in close proximity to others, test negative on a rapid antigen test prior to returning to work, even if 10 days have passed since symptom onset.

Some individuals may experience COVID rebound, where symptoms return after 4-5 days of improvement.  This is most commonly seen after Paxlovid treatment but can also be seen in those who do not take antiviral therapy.  In this scenario, a rapid antigen test is a good indicator of potential infectivity; many individuals will test positive for an additional 3-5 days, prior to turning negative again.  In this scenario, re-isolation would be recommended.

The role of rapid testing to shorten the period of isolation

For faculty and staff, and postdocs: 

Faculty, staff, and postdocs may qualify for earlier return to campus on day 6 following a positive test/symptom onset, if they meet the following criteria:

  • Fever-free for 48 hours and with improving symptoms
  • Rapid-tested negative on day 5 or later and reported this testing in HealthCheck
  • Wear a high-quality mask thru at least day 10 after clear symptom onset or initial positive test

*Faculty, staff, and postdocs who meet the criteria above AND who have a critical need to return to campus prior to the end of their 10-day isolation period, fill out this EH&S Health Guidance form for more information about obtaining rapid antigen tests or the return-to-campus clearance process.

For Active SHC Clinicians: 

Please adhere to the updated recommendations for healthcare workers at Stanford HealthCare.  You should contact HRT at 650-497-9595 both to report your positive test as well as determine your return-to-work timeframe. 

Please also closely monitor the frequently updated StanfordMed Pulse and CMO Message emails for the latest details about testing, quarantine, and isolation protocols, as they may change frequently.

Additional information

COVID Testing

For information about Stanford’s COVID-19 surveillance testing programs, refer to these webpages:

COVID Symptoms

For information on what to do if you are experiencing any symptoms, please review this guidance posted on HealthAlerts.

COVID Exposure

For information on what to do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID, please review this guidance posted on HealthAlerts.

Stanford University Medical Support Team (For Faculty, staff, and postdocs)

Please note that both Health Check and the linked pages above should provide the most rapidly accessible guidance on COVID-related inquiries.  

For specific questions on your situation, you can also submit a Health Check Help Ticket or contact the Stanford University Occupational Health Center.

Stanford University Medical Support Team (For Students)

Please review the Vaden Health Center and Student Affairs websites for information on student support during the COVID-19 outbreak.