Penn Cares Testing Program

Testing Criteria

Pre-Arrival Testing

All students are required to complete pre-arrival testing 48 hours before returning to campus. Faculty, staff, and postdocs are also strongly encouraged to complete a test before returning to campus. A PCR test is preferred, but rapid tests are also acceptable. Those who receive a positive PCR test result must email their result to and report their positive result through PennOpen Pass. Those who receive a positive rapid test result must report their result through PennOpen Pass. Anyone with a positive pre-arrival test should complete their isolation at home before arriving to campus. Negative test results do not need to be submitted to the University. Those who do not have access to a pre-arrival test should immediately test upon arrival to campus and quarantine until they receive a negative test result. 

Gateway Testing

As an additional safety measure, all students, faculty, staff, and postdocs who will be on campus and/or enrolled during the spring semester are required to complete a gateway test after returning to campus and no later than January 31, regardless of vaccination status or result of pre-arrival testing. Those arriving to campus after the end of January should test on the day they arrive to campus. This test must be completed through our Penn Cares testing system. Anyone with a positive result from a gateway test will be required to isolate and cooperate with our contact tracing efforts.

All University community members must schedule their Penn Cares gateway test online here:

Spring Screening Testing

The University will continue the screening testing approach from the fall semester. Regular screening testing is required for all students (other than students enrolled in an online program), faculty, staff, and postdocs. Please continue to use PennOpen Pass on a daily basis to report any symptoms. Faculty and staff in clinical schools, as well as medical students on clinical rotations, should follow local guidance. 

Reminder: all members of the Penn community have access to free testing at any time. Visit the Testing Sites and Hours.
Fully Vaccinated Undergraduate and Graduate Students 
All students who are fully vaccinated will be required to test once every other week. We encourage students to schedule all tests online now so that they can work around other time commitments and receive text reminders. 
Fully Vaccinated Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs 
We will continue to monitor a random sample of screening tests every two weeks. Faculty, staff, and postdocs are encouraged to test regularly. PCR tests will remain free and readily available to all members of the Penn community. 
Not Fully Vaccinated Students, Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs
All students, faculty, staff, and postdocs who are not yet fully vaccinated, or who have a vaccine exemption, are required to test twice each week. 

Screening Testing Details

Testing Schedule

Please schedule your appointments and indicate your consent to testing (view copy of the consent form) by visiting the web-based scheduling application. If you need assistance, please consult this tip sheet (PDF).

Appointments are booked at 15-minute intervals on a first-come, first-served basis. Scheduling in advance improves your chance of receiving your desired testing date/time/location. You must make or cancel any appointment at least 24 hours before the desired testing time. This allows for processes to run overnight and onsite registration to run efficiently for you and the staff when you arrive at the testing site.

Testing Locations

Learn about testing locations and hours on campus.

Before Getting a Screening Test

Participants should refrain from eating, drinking, tooth brushing, mouth washing, gum chewing, vaping, and tobacco use for at least 30 minutes before submitting their saliva sample at the test location. This prevents contamination of their saliva sample.

Participants should plan to be “hands-free” during the testing process. Storage of personal possessions will not be available. At testing sites, participants will enter through one location and exit at another location.

Participants should make sure to bring their current PennCard. They should perform their daily symptom check on PennOpen Pass before leaving their residence, and only leave it if they have a Green Pass. They will need to show their Green Pass at the testing site.

While lining up outside the testing location, everyone should wear a face covering and practice physical distancing.

The Screening Testing Process

Participants will be asked to provide a saliva sample. The sample collection only takes a few minutes, usually less than 30 minutes.

Step-by-step testing process

  1. Report whether you have had anything to eat, drink, smoke, or chew in the last 30 minutes.
  2. Present your Green PennOpen Pass.
  3. Swipe your PennCard so staff can locate your record.
  4. Provide your name and date of birth to confirm your identity.
  5. Verify that your name is correct on the test tube label.
  6. Move to a saliva station where you will take the lid off your test tube and dribble saliva into the tube until you have filled the required amount.
  7. Once complete, replace the lid and take the tube to the collection station.
  8. At collection, hold up your test tube so staff can confirm that there is enough saliva in the tube.
  9. Staff will ask that you return to a test station if enough saliva is not in the tube.
  10. Hand your tube to checkout staff and sanitize your hands.
  11. Schedule your next test.



Getting Test Results

Test results are expected well within 48 hours.

  1. Go to the COVID Results log-in page.
  2. Click on the login icon in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Enter PennKey and Password.

If a test result is positive, the participant will get a Red Pass in PennOpen Pass with instructions for next steps. Penn Medicine clinicians and contract tracers will also reach out to those who receive a positive result with appropriate next steps. Learn about testing positive for COVID-19.

A test result may show inconclusive due to a contaminated or insufficient saliva sample or other processing error. Participants should proceed with taking their next scheduled test. Participants will not receive a Red Pass because their test result shows inconclusive.

Questions about Testing and Results

Wellness at Penn is available to answer questions about on-campus testing and results. Please contact

On-Campus Testing Data

Data about the on-campus testing program, including the number of daily tests performed and positivity rates, are available online.

About the University of Pennsylvania Saliva Test

The University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with Penn Medicine, developed the saliva-based PCR test program to screen for COVID-19 in the University community. The program provides the following:

  • Faster results with an onsite laboratory equipped with robotics
  • Capacity for high volume, currently designed for 40,000 tests per week
  • Improved efficiency throughout the experience with automated processes
  • Reduced discomfort with self-collected saliva samples instead of nasal swabs
  • Improved supply chain of testing materials over the swabs and reagents used in other processes

Screening tests are a public health tool used to reduce the spread of the virus. The saliva-based screening can identify infection more quickly and allows contact tracing and isolation to be initiated before the virus spreads further. Regular saliva screening, as required by the University, is as sensitive as nasal PCR tests. Screening testing is not a tool used for personal and/or travel testing-related documentation.

Symptomatic and Close-Contact Testing

About the Nasal PCR Test

The anterior nares (lower nostril, less-invasive) nasal PCR test is used as a diagnostic tool at the University. Individuals report symptoms and exposure through PennOpen Pass. As they answer the series of Red Pass questions, individuals receive personalized clinical guidance, perhaps determining the need to test quickly. 

Both testing programs are intended to keep the University community healthy; neither testing program is available for personal use and/or testing related to travel. The University cannot accommodate requests for documentation for travel due to the specificity required by each country and airline.

For more information, please consult public health guidance at Penn.