Penn Cares Testing Program

Testing Criteria: Who Must Be Tested

Screening Testing

Vaccinated Undergraduate and Graduate Students: Beginning the week of September 13, all vaccinated undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an on-campus program will be required to participate in mandatory screening testing every other week. All undergraduates and graduates will test on alternating weeks.

Fully vaccinated athletes must test once a week.

Vaccinated Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs: A random sampling of faculty, staff, and postdocs accessing campus for the fall semester will be notified each week by email if they are selected to participate in screening testing. They will be required to get tested within two weeks of selection. The proportion sampled will be determined based on the status of the epidemic, and other virologic and epidemiological data from the campus and the city.

Faculty and staff in clinical schools are required to follow their local guidance.

Unvaccinated Students, Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs: University students, faculty, staff, and postdocs who are not yet fully vaccinated, are exempt from vaccination, or have not recorded their fully vaccinated status are required to take part in screening testing twice a week.

Optional Screening Testing for Vaccinated Individuals: All members of the Penn community will continue to have access to COVID-19 testing on campus for any reason as an added measure of comfort.

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

Vaccinated Penn Community Penn Cares Screening Testing Frequency

Every other week starting September 13

Graduates Every other week starting September 20
Faculty, staff, and postdocs Random sampling notified via email each week
Unvaccinated Penn Community Penn Cares Testing Frequency
Exempt and/or not yet fully vaccinated Twice a week starting August 9

Screening Testing Exemption Conditions

Clinical faculty, staff, and postdocs in dental medicine, medicine, nursing, and veterinary medicine must follow the guidance of their school. 

Those students, faculty, staff, and postdocs whose clinical rotations have taken them away from campus are exempt from the screening testing requirement.

Those who have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 90 days are exempt from testing and should not schedule a screening test. Individuals should use PennOpen Pass every day in case new symptoms or exposures arise during the 90-day period.

Compliance with Required Screening Tests

Individuals who miss one week of screening testing will receive a Red Pass for non-compliance. Individuals who receive a Red Pass for non-compliance are instructed to schedule their screening test. Their Red Pass for non-compliance is cleared within 24 hours from the day on which the test is taken.

Red Passes will be given on the following days to undergraduate and graduate students who are non-compliant with the University's screening testing program: 

November 2 (must test by October 30)
November 16 (must test by November 13)
November 30 (must test by November 27)
December 14 (must test by December 11)

To avoid a Red Pass for non-compliance, students must test by the Saturday prior to the dates Red Passes will be given.  

Symptomatic and Close Contact Testing

Symptomatic and Close Contact
Before coming to campus, students, faculty, postdocs, and staff are required to perform daily symptom checks on PennOpen Pass. Anyone who receives a Red Pass is instructed regarding testing, self-isolation, and other steps to follow. A completed PennOpen Pass must be shown at Penn Cares screening testing sites and other University and Penn Medicine healthcare facilities.

The test is free.

Screening Testing Details

Testing Schedule

Testing is by appointment only. Please make 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 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.