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Testing FAQ

Updated March 16, 2021

On-campus testing resources are available to all members of the Caltech community. The conditions for which testing is provided is detailed at on the Caltech Together page on testing programs. Individuals with questions about their personal circumstance or situation, are welcome to reach out to staff at covid19@caltech.edu for additional information.

As of January 5, 2021, on-campus surveillance testing is required for all individuals reporting on-site for research, teaching, or work responsibilities. If you have been identified as reporting to campus for essential activities more than one day per week, you will have been added to a twice-weekly testing group. The test schedule is broken into two appointment blocks each week; each individual in the testing group is expected to make an appointment to be tested once during the Monday/Tuesday block and then again once during the Wednesday/Thursday/Friday block. After you have taken your test for the current testing block, you will receive a reminder to schedule a testing time for the next appointment block.

If you report to campus only once per week, you should schedule an appointment for the day you are on site through the testing group system. Please disregard appointment scheduling reminders that cover days you are not reporting to campus.

If you have not received an invitation but believe you should be reporting to campus, check with your division office (research personnel) or manager or supervisor (administrative and support staff).

  • Prior to returning to a laboratory, faculty members and laboratory leaders need to develop plans and standard operating procedures with the assistance of the Caltech Safety Office. These plans must be approved by the cognizant division chair. Once approved, the division will send SWS requests to add necessary members of the lab to the testing schedule.
  • Administrative and support staff will need the approval of their department's vice president, who will send SWS requests to add necessary members of their staff to the testing schedule.

Yes, everyone accessing campus must participate in the testing program, even if they access campus only briefly. Individuals who access campus once per week will be expected to test on the day they report to campus. All others will be expected to select a Mon/Thurs or Tues/Fri test schedule.

If you do not regularly report to campus but must stop by unexpectedly, you can make a same-day appointment at check-in at the testing site by scanning a QR code at check-in with your smartphone, and following the prompts. A limited number of such appointments will be available Mondays through Thursdays; please only use this option if you must make an unexpected trip to campus – otherwise, use the scheduling links that are sent to you automatically after each completed testing appointment or at the end of the current testing block. At this time, there are no additional testing options for individuals who report to campus only on a Friday or over the weekend.

If you are running late or miss your appointment time, you may still access your scheduled test site on the same day as your scheduled appointment. We strongly encourage all individuals to test during their scheduled time to minimize negative impacts to clinic flow. If you access campus once per week, you may reschedule your appointment to a different day during the same week if you are reporting to campus on another day. If you access campus two or more times per week, the cohort testing schedule does not readily allow for individuals to test on days other than their scheduled cohort days. For example, if you are scheduled for Tues/Fri, and you are unable to attend your Tuesday appointment, you should report to your testing appointment on Friday. Individuals who miss a testing appointment should alert their supervisor, who may work with Human Resources and Student Wellness Services if further action is required.

Due to the variance in test result times, access to testing in the community, and the administrative infrastructure needed to review non-SWS processed tests, we will not accept outside test results at this time. Going forward, it may be possible to utilize your own healthcare provider for tests; if this becomes an option additional information will be provided to the community at a later date.

Yes, anyone accessing campus must participate in this testing program. The test site is configured to allow for ample physical distancing, appointments are schedule to ensure that as few individuals as possible are accessing the site at one time, and all personnel will be outfitted with appropriate personal protective equipment. All individuals will be required to maintain physical distancing and wear a face covering when accessing the test site, and to remove the face covering only during specimen collection. If you have the capability to work from home, and you do not wish to participate in this program, you should consult with your supervisor to confirm that you do not need to access campus.

Our testing protocols were developed in concert with UCLA Swabseq and established according to guidelines governing specimen collection, personal protective equipment use, and physical distancing. The test location has been established outdoors within a large tent to ensure that there is appropriate ventilation of the space, to prevent disruption or delays in testing due to inclement weather, and to minimize impact on other areas of campus and on research operations. The collection tables are spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart, and are sanitized between each use. All handing of specimen collection materials is conducted by personnel wearing appropriate PPE; we have also refined our procedures for the distribution of such materials to testing participants and implemented additional protective measures. Caltech's biosafety officers have and will continue to monitor the test operation site to ensure that collection protocols and test site operations support the safety of the staff and testing participants. We have also invited the Pasadena Public Health Department to visit the site and we will incorporate any additional guidance we receive from PPHD officials into our procedures.

All collection tables are spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart and are sanitized between uses. We ask individual providing a sample to lift their mask so as to expose only their mouth, if possible, and to keep their nose covered, and replace their mask as soon as they have collected their specimen. In addition, participants are asked to dribble saliva into the tube rather than spitting forcefully. Proper sample collection helps mitigate the potential for inadvertent spread of disease. In addition, each participant is given an individual alcohol wipe to sanitize the tube after it is closed up and prior to specimen drop off.

Registration information and test results are accessed only by SWS staff with appropriate training in safeguarding your protected health information. Individuals who test positive will be contacted by a medical professional, and when relevant, will be referred to the Disability and Leave Administration Unit of Human Resources, who are also trained to handle sensitive health information in order to facilitate appropriate timekeeping and administration of employee benefits. Supervisors and managers will not be informed of individual test results.

The majority of test results—resulting as positive or negative—will be available within 48 hours. However, if the specimen requires reprocessing, the lab will generally try to re-run these samples to obtain a result, and there may be a delay. Student Wellness Services (SWS) is working with UCLA Swabseq and PreciseQ to ensure that individuals are notified of results in a timely fashion.

If you test positive, a medical professional from SWS will contact you to initiate isolation measures and contact tracing procedures. Please be sure to answer your phone or respond to messages if a SWS clinician reaches out to you.

The accuracy of the test requires that you should not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to specimen collection. If you forget and have already arrived for your appointment, please notify the SWS intake personnel when you arrive for your test and describe what and how much you ate or drank. You may be advised to return in 30 minutes, depending on the situation.

Specimen collection on Fridays is currently limited to between 8 a.m. and noon. Because of this limited collection window, we are not able to accommodate unscheduled or same-day appointments on Fridays. Friday appointments will be available only to individuals with a scheduled appointment. Therefore, you should try to schedule drop-in trips to campus for earlier in the week; if you must stop by on a Friday, you should first try to schedule an appointment through the testing group system if you have been receiving regular appointment reminders from Swabseq. If you are unable to test on Friday through a scheduled appointment, you will not be penalized. We are actively working on alternative scheduling options and processing windows with the lab and will update the community as more information is available.

At this time, there are no additional testing options for the very limited number of individuals who report to campus only on a Friday or over the weekend. These individuals are currently exempted from the program and do not need to come to campus at alternative times or make a special trip to participate in testing.

All individuals who are accessing campus are required to participate in the testing program. If you believe you have an exception to this policy, please contact Disability and Leave Administration Unit (LeaveUnit@caltech.edu) for further consultation and instructions.