COVID-19 Testing FAQs

COVID-19 Testing FAQs

Updated Sept. 10, 2020

What strategies will be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?

Seven core actions are being implemented: required education for all; daily self-screening for all; enhanced cleaning; increased testing and tracing capabilities; arranging for high-risk individuals to study and work remotely; increased mental health support; and use of face coverings and physical distancing.

Does UMass have a contact tracing program?

Yes, to determine the risk of potential exposure to others on campus the UMass Public Health Team will conduct contact tracing per Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines on any individual who has tested positive. The team will have a dedicated phone number and caller ID, and it will actively promote its “Answer the Call” program to protect the UMass community.

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

(Updated Aug. 18, 2020) The Centers for Disease Control define isolation as separating sick people with a contagious disease (such as COVID-19) from people who are not sick, and quarantine as separating and restricting the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Learn more about planning for isolation and quarantine in the Isolation and Quarantine Planning Guide For Students.

What happens if a student or their friends test positive for COVID-19?

All students living on campus are required to have an isolation and quarantine plan. For students who can travel in a private vehicle, we strongly recommend isolation and quarantine in the comfort of your own home. For students living on-campus who cannot travel home, the university has set aside dedicated isolation and quarantine space. Those students will be provided food and essential items.

All students living off campus will be strongly encouraged to have an isolation and quarantine plan. The university will provide support services in your off-campus location or at your home. The university will not provide on-campus isolation and quarantine space.

What support do students get if they are in isolation or quarantine?

UMass is committed to supporting all students during any required isolation and quarantine. This includes contact tracing, academic support, health services and counseling services. All students in isolation and quarantine, both on- and off-campus, will receive a daily wellness call.

Will students from out of state need to self-quarantine?

(Updated Sept. 8, 2020) The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires travelers arriving to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.are exempt from these restrictions as are individuals who produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts.  

All travelers must also complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival.

Will the cost of testing be covered by the university?

(Added July 22, 2020) Surveillance testing will not be charged to students; the university assumes the cost of all surveillance testing. Symptomatic testing and testing for individuals in close contact to someone who has tested positive is covered by insurance.

What is the difference between asymptomatic and symptomatic testing?

Asymptomatic testing is conducted upon return to campus and then throughout the semester, as a way to identify COVID-19 in people who are not showing any symptoms of the disease. This service is conducted at the Mullins Center and is provided free of charge for those students, faculty or staff designated as eligible for the program.

Symptomatic testing is conducted when a campus community member has any symptoms, even mild ones, of COVID-19. This testing is conducted at University Health Services and your insurance will be billed for this testing. All on- or off-campus students, faculty or staff, regardless if they come to campus, are eligible for this testing.

Who is part of the UMass Amherst asymptomatic testing program?

(Updated Sept. 10, 2020)

 For Students

  • Students who reside on campus are required to be tested twice a week. In addition, off-campus students coming to campus for face-to-face classes, research labs or work are also required to be tested twice a week.
  • Undergraduate students who live in the Amherst area and are not coming to campus for classes are strongly encouraged to get tested twice a week.  We ask that you take us up on this offer for free testing.
  • Graduate students who live in the Amherst area and are not coming to campus for classes are strongly encouraged to get tested weekly. These students also have the option to be tested twice a week.

Please note that the Amherst area is defined as Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett.


For Faculty and Staff

  • Faculty who are teaching or conducting research on campus are required to be tested weekly.
  • Clinical faculty who are working in healthcare facilities or University Health Services staff who are providing in-person healthcare are required to be tested twice weekly.
  • Staff who regularly work on campus are required to be tested weekly.


What are the eligibility restrictions for asymptomatic testing?

Faculty and staff who work primarily remotely are not eligible for asymptomatic testing. However, they can receive symptomatic testing at University Health Services. Also, family members of faculty, staff or students are not eligible for asymptomatic testing.

Who is conducting the asymptomatic testing?

Asymptomatic test collection operations at the Mullins Center are being conducted through a joint effort of the College of Nursing students and faculty, Environmental Health and Safety, and University Health Services. The test samples are then sent to the Broad Institute in Cambridge, which conducts the analysis.

What type of asymptomatic test is being used?

SARS-CoV-2 Real-time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Assay is a real-time RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test intended for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 in nasal swabs collected from individuals who may have contracted the virus.

When is the Mullins Center testing site open for asymptomatic testing?

(Updated Sept. 10, 2020) The Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC) at the Mullins Center is open or asymptomatic testing. Testing takes place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

This testing site is only for students living on or off campus in the Amherst area and for faculty and staff working on campus.

How can I schedule an asymptomatic test?

(Updated Sept. 10, 2020) Visit the Campus Health Hub and select “Book an Appointment” (NOTE: If you receive a message that says: Currently you are not registered as part of the program”, click the link that says Please Fill Out This Form, then fill out the form. You may now book your appointment.) Click “Walk-In at Mullins Center or Drive Up at Mullins Center." Choose the date and click next and Select an appointment.

If you are getting tested routinely, we recommend you schedule for the same day/time each week. If you are getting tested twice a week, we want you to be on a Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday schedule.

Is drive-through testing available?

(Updated Sept. 10, 2020) Yes, drive-through testing is available during certain days of the week. Visit the Campus Health Hub for the days and times drive-through testing is open.

The testing is done in the back parking lot of the Mullins Center, which is accessible from Massachusetts Avenue to Mullins Way (passing the Central Heating Plant). You will stay in your car, provide your ID and demographic information to the staff, and then be provided a labeled kit and observed swabbing your nose. You will exit the same way that you arrived.

Testing is only for asymptomatic (people not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19) testing of UMass Amherst students living on and off campus in the Amherst area, and for faculty and staff working on campus.

Are COVID-19 test results confidential?

Yes, your results are completely confidential. We will share our testing data with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, which is supplying the test kits and completing the results. Through the state’s Maven system, the UMass Amherst Department of Public Health will have access to these results as required by Massachusetts state law. The UMass Amherst Public Health department will conduct case investigations and contact tracing per state guidelines.

Do I need to self-isolate or quarantine while waiting for my COVID-19 test results?

In some cases, yes, but in general no.

Yes: If you have just come to campus from any of the states that Massachusetts has deemed as at higher risk, AND you have not been tested prior to arriving on campus., then you need to quarantine until you are tested twice. See travel details and information. If you are being tested at University Health Services because you have any symptoms, even mild ones, then you need to isolate in your room until you get your results.

No: If you are part of the university’s routine asymptomatic testing program and are getting tested once or twice a week, then you do not need to quarantine while you await your test results.

Why is UMass Amherst requiring the PCR test and not accepting the rapid response antigen test?

Research demonstrates that the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is more reliable than the rapid response antigen test.

Do students have to have their UMass ID to get a COVID-19 test?


What do I need to bring with me when I’m getting tested for COVID-19? Can I bring a parent/guardian/friend for support?

You should bring your student or employee ID. You cannot bring a friend or family member with you, but if you have a student or co-worker who also needs testing you can schedule your tests for the same time slot and go together.

How long will my COVID-19 asymptomatic testing appointment take?

The registration and testing process should take under five minutes.

How do minors give consent to be tested for COVID-19?

All students who are under 18 must complete this form in order to get tested. Please fill it out, have your parent or guardian sign it, and bring it with you when you come for testing.

Can I get a COVID-19 test on my own before I come to campus?

You are encouraged to get one PCR test within 72 hours before arriving to campus. If you are from one of the higher risk states this will allow you to go directly to your residence and then get your second test two to three days later.

I plan to get tested for COVID-19 off campus. What happens if I get my test conducted in the 72-hour window before my arrival, but I have not yet received my result?

You will need to be quarantined on campus until we receive those results and the results of your on-campus testing.

I need to reschedule my COVID-19 test. How do I do that?

If you missed your scheduled test, simply go to the UMass Health Hub app and schedule another one for the next available slot. If you are a student getting tested twice a week, we recommend you stay on a Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday schedule.

If I have already tested positive for COVID-19 prior to move-in, do I still need to be tested?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of coming to campus, please bring a copy of the results. You will not require testing until it has been 90 days since your last positive test.

Who do I contact if I have a question about asymptomatic COVID-19 testing?

Students, faculty and staff can email with questions related to asymptomatic testing at the Mullins Center. Please be aware this email is not for private health information, but for logistical or technical help with the testing process.

Do I have to be tested for COVID-19 twice weekly if my only in-person course is an internship that is not on campus?

(Added Aug. 14, 2020) Yes, you will need to be tested twice a week to keep you and your internship site safe. If this is a problem because of issues such as distance, childcare or transportation, please email and we will work with you on a modified testing schedule.

What if I only have a class once a week? Do I still need to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week?

(Updated Aug. 18, 2020) Yes, you will need to be tested twice a week, but if this is a logistical problem for you because of issues like distance, childcare or transportation, please email and we will work with you on a modified testing schedule.


What safety measures are in place at the Public Health Promotion Center at the Mullins Center?

  • Face coverings are required and compliance is monitored.
  • The ventilation in the Mullins Center has been changed to supply 100 percent outside air, which is then 100 percent exhausted, with no air recirculation. 
  • Heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) system air filtration is rated by Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, known as MERV ratings. The Mullins Center has upgraded filters to MERV13, as recommended for COVID-19 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
  • The Mullins Center is cleaned each night using an electrostatic precipitator.
  • Enhanced cleaning takes place throughout the day in the Mullins Center, including high-touch areas.  
  • Multiple hand sanitizing stations are set up across the Mullins Center. Individuals are instructed to use hand sanitizer prior to coming into the Mullins Center and then after they perform their test. 
  • Touchless UCard reader gathers individual contact information. 
  • Plexiglass is installed in the Registration Area and in the Testing Area. 
  • Staff are tested twice a week.

Do I have to pay for testing?

(Added Aug. 28, 2020) There is no charge to students, faculty or staff who are required to get asymptomatic COVID-19 tests at the Mullins Center's Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC).

Symptomatic testing for COVID-19 conducted through University Health Services can be billed to your insurance.

Can individuals be asked if they are compliant with the UMass asymptomatic testing program?

(Added Sept. 11, 2020) No. Neither supervisors nor faculty can ask staff or students if these individuals have been tested, nor can they ask to see any results. This information is private medical information. Trained staff from the Public Health Promotion Center are identifying individuals who are non-compliant with the asymptomatic testing program and are reaching out as appropriate.