Home  /  Cases, Testing, Tracing, and Vaccination  /  Testing

COVID-19 Testing

Updated October 14, 2021

Caltech offers two types of COVID-19 testing through Student Wellness Services (SWS). These services are provided free-of-charge to members of the community, as detailed below, as part of a continued effort to proactively screen for and mitigate the risks of disease transmission within the Caltech community.

While an important aspect of Caltech's risk-mitigation efforts, testing alone is not enough. All members of the community are expected to adhere to all required preventative health measures (including wearing a mask indoors if you are not fully vaccinated and washing your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) as well as to notify the Institute through the COVID-19 Web Reporting Application if you are experiencing any COVID-like symptoms of illness.

Testing for Symptomatic/Exposed Individuals

Members of the campus community (faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and students) may be eligible for SARS-CoV-2 nasal swab testing through SWS in the following circumstances:

  • You are experiencing COVID-like symptoms;
  • You have been referred to SWS for diagnostic testing after being identified through the Institute's surveillance testing as having a potential positive result;
  • You have been identified as a close contact (within six feet for an accumulated 15 minutes or longer) of a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Individuals pursuing testing for personal travel, medical procedures, or other personal reasons will be referred to testing through primary care providers or other testing resources in the community.

Vaccinated community members may also participate in the surveillance program; while individual test results are not made available to participants, those who wish to test before attending an event, lab meeting, travel, or other activity may submit samples up to twice per week. Participants will be contacted only if their sample is part of a 2-sample pool flagged for confirmatory diagnostic testing.

Contact SWS by phone (626-395-6393, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.) in advance of acquiring a testing appointment, so that a medical provider can evaluate your situation and provide you with further instructions. Individuals experiencing COVID-like symptoms should also promptly report the illness through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting App.

On-Campus Surveillance Program

Caltech maintains a campus-based surveillance program to regularly screen individuals reporting to campus or regularly accessing campus facilities for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Institute's surveillance program is being conducted via a self-collection process operated through the Caltech COVID Surveillance Lab (CCSL), located in the Beckman Institute.

The following groups are required to participate in surveillance testing:

  • All students, faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, staff members, and campus affiliates with an approved exemption, as well as those who report to campus but who have not yet submitted proof of their full vaccination status. These individuals must submit two samples per week for any week in which they report to campus.
  • All enrolled undergraduate students (regardless of housing location) and graduate students living in Institute-owned housing must submit twice weekly specimen for analysis.

Students who may be absent from campus and not able to submit a sample, should record their absence with Student Wellness Services through an online form (you must be logged into Google Workspace with your access.caltech credentials).

Graduate students who have submitted proof of their vaccinated status and do not live in a Caltech-owned residence are excused. However, employees and graduate students who are not otherwise required to participate in regular testing, but who want to participate in surveillance testing on a voluntary basis may do so by picking up a self-collection kit.

Kits may be picked up between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday at the former Tech Express location (Lloyd 107, on the Olive Walk). No advance registration is required.


Instructions for how to collect samples are available in English and in Spanish. Specimens can be dropped off between the hours of 9 am - 4 pm, Monday through Thursday at the four drop-off locations (in front of Bechtel on the Moore Lab breezeway, the Beckman Institute courtyard, in the Linde Laboratory courtyard, and in front of Lloyd 107). If you miss the drop-off time, please discard the sample and provide a new one on the next available date.

The CCSL will pool all submitted samples in groups of two, meaning that they will process the specimen samples collected from two different individuals at one time. Participants will receive a confirmation email or text message (depending on the preferred contact method provided at registration) every time they submit a sample and that sample is received by the CCSL for processing.

Participants are only contacted if their sample is in a pool that has been flagged for confirmatory diagnostic testing. In such instances, Student Wellness Services will contact the participants in that pool on an individual basis and schedule a diagnostic test at SWS.

If you have additional questions about the testing program, please contact SWS at covid19@caltech.edu.


An individual who is required to participate (as outlined above) but who does not complete mandatory testing may have their access to campus restricted. Non-compliance will be managed through the individuals' manager or supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, the Office of the Provost, or the Graduate and Undergraduate Deans' offices.

All undergraduate and graduate students who are required to participate in the surveillance testing program are asked to report any absence from campus that will impact their ability to submit one or more samples in a given week. Such absences should be recorded through an online form (you must be logged into Google Workspace with your access.caltech credentials) managed by Student Wellness Services.