COVID-19 Screening, Testing & Contact Tracing
Testing Requirements for All-University Commencement
Degree candidates who plan to attend the in-person All-University Commencement on May 16 will need to test for COVID-19 at one of the University test collection sites on the Charles River or Medical Campus between May 13 and noon on May 15. Please note that graduates will be required to register to attend, and a green daily attestation badge/email will be required to enter Nickerson Field.
As part of a multipronged initiative to restore residential learning, expand research activities, and return to campus life, Boston University has instituted our own COVID-19 screening, testing, and contact tracing program for all members of the BU community arriving on campus—undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty, and staff. Testing frequencies are based on guidance from public health authorities. All students, faculty, and staff are tested as they arrive on campus at the start of the semester and regularly throughout the semester, or returning after an absence, according to their on-campus status and testing category.
We consider in-house COVID-19 testing an essential public health step—along with self-screening, physical distancing and face coverings, hygiene, contact tracing, and treatment for those infected—as we resume the activities that make up the traditional residential college experience. To reopen our classrooms and campus life and restore the reasons that drew many of us to BU in the first place, it’s imperative we seek to protect the health and safety of all members of the University community across our Charles River, Fenway, and Medical Campuses.
We are working with doctors, epidemiologists, and public health experts to determine the best courses of action. We will post the latest updates here on this website, so please check back regularly. In the meantime, please see below for current information on our protocols for screening, testing, and contact tracing.
A web portal, Healthway, guides all BU community members living, learning, or working on campus through a daily health screening to check if they have COVID-19 symptoms. This portal includes tutorials, videos, the COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard, and resources that you may find helpful. The screening and testing program focuses on identifying both asymptomatic and symptomatic members of our community who are carrying COVID-19 so they can be promptly treated and isolated. Everyone in the BU community uses this Healthway site to securely access health systems for the following tasks:
- Completing daily self-screening symptom reports
- Scheduling testing—for faculty up to 30 days in advance; for students up to 10 days in advance
- Checking test results
- Displaying health compliance status
Daily Symptom Checking: Students
The Healthway website links undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to a daily health screening at Patient Connect that routes their responses to medical professionals at Healthway. Students who report symptoms are advised to stay home and wait for a call from Healthway. A medical professional will call the individual, evaluate their status, recommend a course of action, and provide further instruction regarding testing.
Upon completion of the daily health screening, individuals receive a COVID-19 badge/email that indicates that individuals are clear to come to campus if they are asymptomatic, in compliance with the testing schedule, and have recently tested negative for COVID-19. Otherwise, it indicates that they are overdue for testing/survey or advised to stay home until contacted by a Healthway medical professional. To reinforce the importance of complying with all the testing requirements, a green daily attestation badge/email is required to enter dining halls, the George Sherman Union, and several other public spaces on campus.
Daily Symptom Checking: Faculty and Staff
Faculty and staff complete the health survey on Healthway via Occupational Health Connect, which transmits your responses to the Occupational Health Center. Revised guidance on daily health screening requirements specifies that all faculty and staff in testing categories 1, 2, and 3 must complete a daily health screening on all weekdays (Monday through Friday), whether or not you come to campus that day. Screening is not mandatory on weekends, holidays, and regularly scheduled days off, unless you will be on campus for any reason on those days. If your work schedule includes Saturday and/or Sunday, you are expected to complete the daily health screening on those days.
If you report symptoms on your self-check on Occupational Health Connect via the Healthway portal, you will be advised to stay home and wait for a call from a Healthway triage specialist. Do not report to work if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. A Healthway medical professional will call you, evaluate your status, recommend a course of action, and provide further instruction regarding testing. You are also advised to contact your primary care provider.
Upon completion of the required health screening on Occupational Health Connect, you will receive a COVID-19 pass via email that you may be required to show to enter BU buildings and events. The green pass will indicate that you are clear to come to campus if you are asymptomatic and in compliance with the testing schedule. A red “not cleared” result will indicate that you should not come to campus.
Testing frequencies are based on accepted models of COVID-19 spread and simulations of transmission that take into account specific details of our classroom and residential environment. Testing frequencies are determined by the four Testing Categories to which students, faculty, and staff have been assigned and are described below in Testing Categories.
Testing for Students Arriving on Campus
The goal of community testing is to detect cases of COVID-19 in our community and quickly move individuals who test positive into environments where they can get needed medical attention and prevent spread of the disease. All undergraduate and graduate students are tested immediately upon arriving on campus, and subsequent testing is described below. Graduate students are subject to the same stay in place guidelines that apply to undergraduate students, in addition to fulfilling the Massachusetts travel advisory.
All students, including those living in Massachusetts—arriving or returning to campus who have been away for more than 24 hours—should be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to your planned return. If you have not received a negative test by the time you return to campus, you should get tested at one of the COVID-19 test collection sites on the Charles River Campus or Medical Campus, whether you live on campus or off campus. The state of Massachusetts advises that you practice stay in place for 7–8 days until you receive three consecutive negative test results (two for graduate students) separated by at least 48 hours between each test, as follows:
- You must limit your movement to your BU residence or your off-campus housing until your first negative test result. You may only leave your residence for essential reasons, such as picking up food, medical and testing appointments.
- After your first negative test, you are strongly advised to stay in place in your BU residence or your off-campus housing until you have a total of three consecutive negative test results (two for graduate students) separated by at least 48 hours.
- You are advised to limit your contact with others during this period (7–8 days).
- You must attend classes remotely if you are in quarantine or stay in place. Update your LfA status accordingly.
- Students living on campus are self-quarantined in their residence and, if tested positive or identified as a close contact, move to isolation housing on campus.*
- On-campus quarantine and isolation housing is available for off-campus students who test positive or have been a close contact of someone who tests positive.*
*Fully vaccinated asymptomatic students, faculty or staff who are identified as close contacts are not required to quarantine.
Testing for Students Who Leave Campus and Return
If you decide to leave campus or your household and socialize with others outside of your household, it is important to have a negative test before you leave. This helps to prevent spread of the virus before you travel. If you travel away from campus for more than 24 hours and return during the semester, you should get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to your planned return. If you have not received a negative test by the time you return to campus, you should get tested at one of the COVID-19 test collection sites on the Charles River Campus or Medical Campus, whether you live on campus or off campus. After you receive your first negative test result, you’ll practice stay in place until you receive three consecutive negative test results (two for graduate students) separated by at least 48 hours between each test.
Going forward, please update your LfA status as your circumstances change throughout the semester, when you leave and return to campus—changing your LfA status only 24 hours before the change in your location or status. This will officially notify the University that you have returned to Boston. Updating your status too soon (prior to 24 hours before) may result in your being out of compliance for your testing and attestation frequency.
Testing for Students during the Semester
- Undergraduate students living on campus are tested twice weekly
- Undergraduate students living off campus and attending in-person classes are tested twice weekly
- Graduate students living in on-campus housing are tested twice weekly
- Graduate students living off campus and attending classes in person and on campus more than once a week are tested once every 7 days
- Graduate students living off campus and attending classes in person and on campus no more than once a week are tested every 7 days
For students who have general questions, issues with badges, or not receiving prompts for testing/attestation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Testing for Faculty and Staff
Faculty and staff in testing categories 1 and 2 will be tested once every 7 days. Category 3 faculty and staff are tested when you come to campus for the first time, and thereafter based on frequency on campus. In no case will faculty and staff in categories 1, 2, or 3 be tested more than once every 7 days unless you report symptoms or are directed by a healthcare professional to seek additional testing. During those 7-day periods, you are strongly encouraged to get tested on the first day you are on campus. You are not required to take a test during 7-day periods when you are not on campus at all.
We also have prioritized testing available on demand for individuals who exhibit symptoms; this testing is distinct from the community testing at regular intervals discussed below.
If you are unsure of your testing category, please review the testing categories below, check with your manager, or go to MyBUworks and see the box “My Community Testing Category.” Testing frequencies are based on calculations of COVID-19 spread and simulations of transmission that take into account specific details of our classrooms, residential environment, and workplace conditions.
If you are in testing category 1 or 2 and do not report symptoms in your required check, you will be prompted to schedule a COVID-19 test at regular intervals. Using the Healthway portal, you can conveniently schedule this test at one of the testing collection sites that have been set up on our campuses. We have designed the process so that it only takes a few minutes. See a short video on How to Take the Test. At the testing collection site, you will receive a kit with a bar-coded vial for the sample. You will perform the test under observation and leave the vial for transport to the processing facility.
Faculty and staff in category 4 do not work on campus or engage in other activities on campus. If you are assigned to testing category 4, you are to remain off campus at all times, and on-campus testing is not available to you. If your situation changes and you need to return to campus, please notify your department chair or manager. They will discuss with you whether it is appropriate to reassign your testing category, in which case you would be required to be tested and complete the daily health screening in accordance with your new testing category.
Testing for Faculty and Staff Returning to Campus
- All faculty and staff in Categories 1, 2, and 3 must be tested upon return to campus for the first time.
- Thereafter, faculty and staff in testing categories 1 and 2 will be tested once every 7 days. Category 3 faculty and staff are tested based on frequency on campus, on the weeks you come to campus. In no case will faculty and staff in categories 1, 2, or 3 be tested more than once every 7 days unless they report symptoms or are directed by a healthcare professional to seek additional testing. During those 7-day periods, you are strongly encouraged to get tested on the first day on campus. Faculty and staff are not required to take a test during 7-day periods when you are not on campus at all.
- Faculty and staff in Category 4, which includes those receiving accommodations to work from home, will not be tested.
Faculty and staff with additional questions are encouraged to utilize the following resources:
- Go to Healthway for videos and tutorials on how to do your required symptom check, schedule your test, and much more.
- Healthway Line: 617-353-0550 – For all faculty and staff who are symptomatic, have tested positive, or to speak with a contact tracer
- COVID-19 Support Line: email@example.com or 617-358-4990 – For all faculty and staff who have nonmedical questions related to COVID-19
Testing Collection Sites
Testing Collection Sites have been installed at four locations on the Charles River Campus and one site on the Medical Campus. Hours of operation* are seven days a week, by appointment only. Find the locations of the Test Collection Sites.
Locations & Regular Hours of Operation
- Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, 610 Commonwealth Avenue, 7 am–8 pm
- 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Avenue, 8 am–9 pm
- Agganis Arena Lobby, 925 Commonwealth Avenue, 8 am–9 pm
- 925 Commonwealth Avenue Rear, Health Services Annex, in the back of Agganis Arena; this site is exclusively for those who report symptoms of coronavirus. 8 am–9 pm
- BU Medical Campus, Room R107, 72 East Concord Street, 7 am–8 pm
*Testing Collection Sites are closed for cleaning at the following times:
- Kilachand Center and BU Medical Campus
- 10:15–11 am, 1–1:30 pm, 3:45–4:30 pm
- 808 Gallery, Agganis Arena Lobby, and Health Services Annex
- 11:15 am–12 pm, 2–2:30 pm, 6–6:45 pm
Individuals who do not report symptoms are periodically prompted to schedule a COVID-19 test at regular intervals. Using their Healthway screening system, students, faculty, or staff can conveniently schedule this test at one of the Testing Collection Sites on the Charles River and Medical Campuses. At the Testing Collection Site, individuals receive a kit with a bar-coded vial for the sample. They perform the test under observation and leave the vial for transport to the processing laboratory. More information, including a tutorial for how to take the test, is available at the Healthway website.
The University has implemented our own in-house COVID-19 testing laboratory for students, faculty, and staff. While bringing a testing program in-house is an enormous undertaking, we are able to test and monitor our community faster as a result.
The University’s testing method uses the RT-PCR, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, which detects both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. The test is highly specific for COVID-19, with an extremely low false positive rate. Testing is collected by the AN (anterior nares) self-administered “nasal swab” method of acquisition, with observation, at one of the five Testing Collection Sites on our Charles River and Medical Campuses. This test detects the genetic material of the virus in the mouth, nose, throat, and nasal cavity. Considered the gold standard of available tests, it’s recognized for its ability to detect people who are asymptomatic or early in the course of disease.
The tests are processed through a laboratory we have established at the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, on the Charles River Campus. The BU Clinical Testing Laboratory is overseen by certified clinical lab professionals and works closely with Healthway and the Occupational Health Center. The facility has the capacity to process over 5,000 tests per day for the BU community, and results are delivered confidentially by the next day. In all cases, faculty, staff, and students receive test results and further instructions, as needed.
Protecting the privacy of your health information has been an integral part of the planning for the creation of the BU Clinical Testing Laboratory from the start. Negative test results will be reported to you through the Healthway portal. The health information from BU health screening and testing systems is available only to the individual and to medical professionals in Healthway for students or Occupational Health for faculty and staff. The information is used for no purposes other than monitoring your health relative to COVID-19.
What happens if you test positive?
Students who test positive will be contacted by a Healthway specialist who will provide further guidance. The University has prepared quarantine and isolation protocols for all students who have been exposed to the virus, or who have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have tested positive for COVID-19. Please watch this website for more information. Boston University offers isolation housing for off-campus students who test positive.
BU faculty and staff who test positive will be contacted by a Healthway triage specialist with the BU Occupational Health Center (BUOHC) to inform you of your test result and instruct you on how to isolate at home and for how long. Faculty and staff will be directed to reach out to their primary care physician. In general, we follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on isolation periods for those who test positive. The CDC currently recommends: “For most persons with COVID-19 illness, isolation and precautions can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms.”
Because rapid identification of infection is crucial to controlling the spread of COVID-19, the University has also implemented contact tracing for the BU community, which involves identifying and reaching out to members of the BU community with whom an infected person has come into contact on campus. We are tracing infections of individuals in testing categories 1 and 2 referenced below. For residential students, the individuals in their immediate housing group or household are a primary focus, as well as others with whom they have had close contact in preceding days. Read the full text of President Brown’s letter announcing testing and tracing protocols and find more information on testing on this website. Cooperation with contact tracers is a vitally important element of our plans to repopulate our campuses.
COVID-19 Testing Categories
Based on guidance from public health authorities, the University recognizes four COVID-19 testing categories for students, faculty, and staff:
Testing Category 1.0 (tested twice weekly)
- Undergraduate students living on campus
- Undergraduate students living off campus and attending in-person classes
- Graduate students living in undergraduate residential housing
- BU Academy cross-registered students taking classes with residential students
Examples include: Undergraduate students and CELOP students living on campus, including undergraduate and graduate resident assistants and hall directors in campus housing, and undergraduate students living off campus and attending in-person classes.
Testing Category 1.1 (tested once weekly)
- Commuting graduate students, staff, and faculty who interact with residential students for significant periods of time either in classes or other activities or who otherwise spend many hours on campus in close contact activities like athletics, performing arts, or in some research and off-campus educational environments
- Faculty and staff who, due to age or medical condition, have disclosed (through a confidential process for requesting workplace adjustments) that they fall within a CDC high-risk category (or who have disclosed that they have household members in these categories) and are not in category 4 due to receiving a workplace adjustment
- Faculty and staff who use public transportation to go to or from campus at least weekly
- BU healthcare providers (including, for example, faculty, staff, and students providing healthcare services to members of the BU community or to the public, but excluding Boston University Medical Group faculty who do not have classroom or laboratory contact with students and other BU faculty and staff members) and first responders like the BUPD who have high contact hours with each other or must interact frequently with individuals outside the University who may not have taken basic CDC protective measures (face covering, distancing, self-diagnosis)
- BU Academy students who are not cross-registered
Examples include: Residential Life staff, including area directors, and residential security; students enrolled in programs without LfA options, graduate or nondegree students enrolled in in-person courses with undergraduates, a student or faculty member working in a law school clinic; or a graduate student working at the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center.
Testing Category 2 (tested once weekly)
- Commuting graduate students residing off-campus attending in-person classes, or whose on-campus employment or service obligations require interaction with other students and BU community members.
- Commuting faculty and staff, including certain faculty who are student-facing but have little contact with undergraduates and have limited contact hours in venues such as classrooms. Although at risk for infections from outside the Boston University community, individuals in this category will work within protocols established for entry into the BU work environment.
Examples include: A staff member in Enrollment & Student Administration who lives off campus and does not interact in person with students; or a faculty member who teaches only graduate students who live off campus and does not interact with undergraduate students in common spaces in their school or college, including graduate students enrolled in LfA-option degree programs and attending class in person.
Testing Category 3 (testing based on frequency on campus)
Category 3 testing requirements were revised in October 2020. Individuals assigned to Category 3 need to be tested on their first visit to campus; thereafter, regular community testing will be based on frequency on campus and requires one test within any 7-day period on campus. In no case will individuals be tested more than once every 7 days unless they report symptoms or are directed by a healthcare professional to seek additional testing. Health screening remains a requirement. This applies to:
- Commuting faculty and staff whose job duties require very limited contact with students and who can control their contact with other faculty and staff.
- Graduate students in degree programs that meet only once per week or less.
For example: If you come to campus during two separate weeks a month, you should be tested once during each of those weeks, and you are encouraged to do so on the first day you are on campus during those weeks. Depending on how often you come to campus, you should test once every 7 days, or when you come to campus, if there are more than 7 days between visits. You are not required to take a test during weekly periods when you are not on campus at all.
Testing Category 4 (not tested)
- Students, faculty, and staff who engage only in virtual learning, working, and other activities and events and who do not commute to campus.
Examples include: Students in online programs, attending courses on satellite campuses, or who have opted to attend all courses remotely; staff and faculty granted workplace adjustments for on-campus activity, and staff performing work duties entirely remotely.
If you are assigned to testing category 4, you are to remain off campus at all times. As a result, on-campus testing is not available to you. If your situation changes and you need to return to campus, please notify your department chair or manager. They will discuss with you whether it is appropriate to reassign your testing category, in which case you would be required to be tested and complete the daily health screening in accordance with your new testing category.