Surveillance Testing

At this time, all unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to participate in surveillance testing. In addition, certain vaccinated populations will be required to participate in surveillance testing. Testing requirements may change based on emerging public health data and guidance.

  • Unvaccinated students who have received a medial or religious exemption are required to participate in regular surveillance testing.
  • All fully vaccinated undergraduate students, and fully vaccinated professional students in CVM, Law, Johnson, AAP and ILR, are required to participate in surveillance testing once per week.
  • All faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated with an FDA- or WHO-authorized COVID-19 vaccine and submit proof of vaccination via the Daily Check or receive a religious or medical exemption by the extended deadline of Jan. 18, 2022. Employees must participate in surveillance testing twice per week until fully vaccinated or participate in ongoing surveillance testing if they have received a medical or religious exemption.
  • Some vaccinated faculty and staff, due to the nature of their student-facing roles, will continue to participate in surveillance testing.
  • Any employee or graduate/professional student who is not currently enrolled in surveillances testing may choose to opt-in to weekly surveillance testing in the Daily Check.
  • Supplemental testing remains available on an as-needed basis to all asymptomatic students, faculty and staff.

Opt-in Program

Employees and graduate and professional students who are not currently participating in surveillance testing may choose to enroll in weekly, scheduled surveillance testing. Unlike supplemental testing, which is for on-demand, occasional use, surveillance testing provides the consistency and structure of a regular testing program. Participants will receive weekly testing messages and reminders and will be accountable for the completion of scheduled tests. Once you have opted into surveillance testing, you are allowed to opt out; however, you will not be able to opt in a second time.

To register, sign into the Daily Check and select the “Opt-in to scheduled surveillance testing” button.

  • Allow up to two hours for your request to process, after which your assigned testing day will appear on your Daily Check homepage.
  • If your assigned day conflicts with your work or class schedule, use the “change day” button to select your preferred testing day where there is capacity.
  • If travel will cause you to miss a required surveillance test, use the travel/time away form in Daily Check to pause testing.

If you are feeling ill or are symptomatic, do not proceed to a Cornell test site. Students should contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 for testing. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care provider.

For assistance with surveillance or supplemental testing, visit the COVID-19 Support Center.

Daily Check: Your Hub for Scheduling and Notifications

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

How notification and scheduling works:

  • 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 in order to schedule an appointment for your test.
  • Appointments are required for surveillance 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)

Testing Frequency, Locations & Hours

Testing frequency will vary by group. 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.

Using Daily Check, students, faculty and staff may schedule their surveillance test for any site location, unless otherwise noted.

Thanksgiving Break Testing Hours

  • Wednesday, Nov. 24: All sites close at 12 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 25 to Friday, Nov. 26: All sites closed
  • Saturday, Nov. 27: Testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) location only
  • Sunday, Nov. 28: Testing from 12 to 6 p.m. at Bartels Hall, RPCC, West Campus and Willard Straight Hall locations
  • Monday, Nov. 29: Regular testing schedule resumes at all locations

Fall Testing Hours

  • Bartels Hall, 554 Campus Rd, Upper Balcony:
    • Monday to Thursday 7 a.m – 5:30 p.m.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • College of Veterinary Medicine, Atrium Alcove:
    • Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • East Hill Plaza, Human Resources Training Room, Suite 345:
    • Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
  • Robert Purcell Community Center, Multipurpose Room, Room 218:
    • Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Friday 8 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
    • Saturday 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
      Note: RPCC Friday and Saturday hours are reserved for supplemental tests or completion of missed surveillance tests. Friday and Saturday tests must be scheduled in advance and can only be scheduled at RPCC. Hours subject to change.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Willard Straight Hall, Browsing Library, 4th Floor:
    • Monday to Thursday 7 a.m – 5:45 p.m.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • West Campus, 120 Mary Ann Wood Drive:
    • Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Unvaccinated students will be tested twice per week and vaccinated students once per week.
  • The frequency and dates of required surveillance testing will be displayed on your Daily Check homepage. You will see a notification banner in the Daily Check the day before your testing day and 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.
  • Only schedule an appointment for a time you can keep. Unlike last year, there are a limited number of appointments available per day. Do not reserve multiple appointments, as this will limit the ability of others to secure their required appointment.
  • Students seeking an exemption due to medical reasons should email Student Disability Services.
  • For MBA, Law, CVM, ILR, and AAP: Unvaccinated students will be tested twice per week and vaccinated students once per week.
  • Other professional degree students not mentioned above are strongly encouraged to seek supplemental testing.
  • Professional students who are not currently participating in surveillance testing may choose to enroll in weekly, scheduled surveillance testing. To register, sign into the Daily Check and select the “Opt in to scheduled surveillance testing” button.
  • The frequency and dates of required surveillance testing will be displayed on your Daily Check homepage. You will see a notification banner in the Daily Check the day before your testing day and 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.
  • Only schedule an appointment for a time you can keep. Unlike last year, there are a limited number of appointments available per day. Do not reserve multiple appointments, as this will limit the ability of others to secure their required appointment.
  • MBA, Law, CVM, and AAP students seeking an exemption due to medical reasons should email Student Disability Services.
  • Unvaccinated students will be tested twice per week. Vaccinated students are strongly encouraged to seek supplemental testing.
  • Graduate students who are not currently participating in surveillance testing may choose to enroll in weekly, scheduled surveillance testing. To register, sign into the Daily Check and select the “Opt in to scheduled surveillance testing” button.
  • The frequency and dates of required surveillance testing will be displayed on your Daily Check homepage. You will see a notification banner in the Daily Check the day before your testing day and 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.
  • Only schedule an appointment for a time you can keep. Unlike last year, there are a limited number of appointments available per day. Do not reserve multiple appointments, as this will limit the ability of others to secure their required appointment.
  • Students seeking an exemption due to medical reasons should email Student Disability Services.
  • Unvaccinated faculty and staff working on campus are required to participate in twice per week surveillance testing beginning the week of August 23.
  • Some vaccinated faculty and staff on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses whose positions require interactions with many other members of the community will be required to participate in weekly surveillance testing. Cornell is currently determining which populations will be placed into mandatory testing.
  • Faculty and staff who are not currently participating in surveillance testing may choose to enroll in weekly, scheduled surveillance testing. To register, sign into the Daily Check and select the “Opt in to scheduled surveillance testing” button.
  • Time off will be given to employees required to participate in surveillance testing.
  • The frequency and dates of required surveillance testing will be displayed on your Daily Check homepage. You will see a notification banner in the Daily Check the day before your testing day and 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.
  • It is strongly encouraged to schedule your testing appointment during the hours of 7 a.m. – 11 a.m.
  • Do not reserve multiple appointments, as this will limit the ability of others to secure their required appointment. Only schedule an appointment for a time you can keep.
  • 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 Test

What to Expect

  1. Be punctual for your appointment to help 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 surveillance 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. Surveillance 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 and the Possibility of False Negatives/Positives

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%. Cornell uses this sampling method for testing upon students’ arrival —as well as for testing for cause in individuals showing symptoms and as a confirmatory test following positive surveillance test results — as it provides the greatest chance of minimizing false negative results. 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%. Cornell seeks to minimize false positives in its testing wherever possible due to significant disruptions to individuals who are determined positive (isolation for 10 days and identification and quarantine of close contacts).