Testing Overview

Cornell is implementing pre-departure testing and enhanced arrival testing for undergraduate students and graduate/professional students as we begin the spring semester. Faculty and staff are required to complete a supplemental test before returning to on-site work.

All unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to participate in surveillance testing and certain vaccinated populations may be required to participate in surveillance testing. Testing requirements may change based on emerging public health data and guidance.

Testing Locations & Hours

Information about testing, including scheduled tests, can be found in the Daily Check. It is critical that all community members adhere to the testing schedule. If your assigned surveillance testing day(s) will not work with your schedule, please contact the COVID-19 Support Center.

Testing Hours for Jan. 18 – Jan. 23

  • Bartels Hall, 554 Campus Rd, Upper Balcony:
    (Bartels may experience sporadic changes in hours due to basketball games.)
    • Monday to Thursday 8 a.m – 5 p.m.
    • Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • College of Veterinary Medicine, Atrium Alcove:
    • Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • East Hill Plaza, Human Resources Training Room, Suite 345:
    • Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.
  • Robert Purcell Community Center, Multipurpose Room, Room 218:
    • Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    • Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Willard Straight Hall, Browsing Library, 4th Floor:
    • Monday to Thursday 8 a.m – 5 p.m.
    • Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • West Campus, 120 Mary Ann Wood Drive:
    • Monday to Thursday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Daily Check: Your Hub for Scheduling and Notifications

The Daily Check app serves as the hub for your testing details, providing your assigned testing day(s), testing frequency and access to schedule your test. All testing requires a scheduled appointment. Banner notifications will display in the Daily Check with actions steps, such as reminders and when it is time to schedule your test or pickup your antigen test kit. Walk-in appointments are not permitted.

How notification and scheduling works for antigen test kits:

  • Day before assigned test day: A blue notification banner will appear at top of Daily Check reminding you that tomorrow is your test day and to pick up a test kit from any test site.
  • No appointments are required to pick-up your test kit. You may pick up a test kit on each assigned day, or pick up two test kits for the week.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to complete your test.
  • Antigen tests must be completed and reported using the Self-Reported Testing form in Daily Check on your assigned testing day. There is no grace period to complete a missed antigen test.

How notification and scheduling works for PCR testing:

  • Day before assigned test day: A blue notification banner will appear at top of Daily Check reminding you that tomorrow is your test day and you will receive an email reminder. After 4 p.m., the banner will feature a link that you must follow to schedule an appointment for your test.
  • Appointments are required for testing. Advanced scheduling is not an option at this time; walk-in appointments are not permitted.
  • Additional notification banners will appear if you miss a test or do not schedule promptly. Students will also receive a text message informing them of a missed test.
  • There is no scheduling action required until you are prompted to do so on the day before your test.
Learn how to add the daily check website to your phone (PDF)

Surveillance Testing for Unvaccinated Individuals

At this time, all unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to participate in twice weekly surveillance testing.

If traveling will cause you to miss a required surveillance test, use the Time Away Form available on your Daily Check homepage to pause your testing requirement.

Preparing for Your PCR Test

What to Expect

  1. Be punctual for your appointment lp keep lines moving; walk-ins are not allowed.
  2. Bring photo identification and plan 15 to 20 minutes to complete your appointment.
  3. Follow the steps outlined in the video below.
  4. Continue your normal activities (with strict adherence to mask wearing and social distancing).
  5. You will only be contacted if evidence of COVID-19 is detected from your sample, in which case the Tompkins County Health Department will contact you. Please be sure to answer calls from a 607 area code, even if the caller is not listed in your contacts; it may be the health department calling with important information.

Sampling Method

All PCR testing sites operate under the same protocol for supervised self-collection of anterior nares (front of the nostril) samples. Anterior nares sampling is a simple, noninvasive nasal swab. Samples will be sent to the Cornell COVID-19 Testing Laboratory for processing. Watch this short video to familiar yourself with the sampling process beforehand.

PCR Testing

No medical test is 100% accurate, and tests for COVID-19 are no exception. Nevertheless, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have played a critical role in responding to the pandemic and, where used aggressively, have helped to minimize spread. Among the widely used sample sources for PCR testing, most studies have shown nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs to be most sensitive (i.e., fewer false negative results), with sensitivity estimates during the relevant part of an infection’s time course ranging from 70 to 90%. PCR tests for COVID-19 are typically highly specific (i.e., few false positive results) because the tests detect genetic sequences unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Laboratory results from around the country using the same testing methodology as Cornell suggest that the false positive rate among people who are actually free of COVID-19 is considerably less than 1%.

Antigen Rapid Testing

Antigen-based testing, while somewhat less sensitive than PCR, has the advantage of speed – it shortens the time to detect and notify a positive from days to minutes. Particularly for pre-departure testing, where it is important that tests be administered as close to the time of departure as possible, our modeling shows that the elimination of possible virus transmission by rapid response outweighs the increased sensitivity of PCR. The same thing is true for arrival testing, when the use of antigen tests allows rapid isolation for students in our dorms. Cornell has ordered FlowFlex antigen rapid tests for testing in the campus community.