COVID-19 testing

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Testing options

For MIT students
We recommend that each student bring 6–8 rapid antigen testing kits prior to coming to campus and have a supply on-hand throughout the semester.

Students enrolled in the MIT Student Health Insurance Plan (MIT SHIP), can get test kits at no cost. Visit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for more information.

Students enrolled in a different insurance plan should consult their plan's website to find out if free tests are available.

In addition, tests are available at the many local pharmacies within walking distance of campus, or via Capsule, a pharmacy service offering free, same-day delivery. MIT Medical does not carry rapid antigen tests.

For all MIT community members
Off-campus testing options are available to US residents. Access to 20,000 testing sites providing no-cost antigen and PCR Covid testing is detailed on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

The City of Cambridge provides PCR testing by appointment seven days per week to people who live or work in Cambridge.

If you test positive using an at-home test or a non-MIT test provider, be sure to report your positive result using the Pass feature in the MIT Atlas app (or on covidpass.mit.edu).

For symptomatic MIT community members only
PCR testing, using new unobserved self-administered test kits, is available to MIT community members who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Report your symptoms using the Pass feature in the MIT Atlas app (or on covidpass.mit.edu) to access on-campus PCR testing.

If you test positive using an at-home test or a PCR test somewhere other than MIT, be sure to report it using the Pass feature in the MIT Atlas app (or on covidpass.mit.edu).

How to test

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and wish to test at MIT:

  1. Report your symptoms using the Pass feature in the MIT Atlas app (or on covidpass.mit.edu). Note: Reporting symptoms will limit your campus access, except for residence halls, until a negative test result is received or, if you test positive, until you clear 5 days of isolation per CDC guidelines.
  2. Visit the Building E25 atrium to pick up a test kit. You may swab outside the atrium and return indoors to drop off your sample. Due to a limited supply, the test kits are limited to one per person.
    Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m, except on Institute holidays

These detailed instructions for use (PDF) are included in each kit. Follow the directions in the Pass app to scan and submit your test.

Testing tips:

  • To prevent invalid tests, be sure to not use hand sanitizer immediately before touching your test tube.
  • If your nose is runny, be sure to rub the swab firmly against your nose when you collect the sample.
  • Return the test the same day you collect and scan it.

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ provides information on Covid Pass testing. For more general information on testing, see the Testing for COVID-19 FAQ on the MIT Medical website.

Testing and Results

Q: What type of test will be performed?
A: MIT uses a molecular test that detects viral RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. We use a sampling technique known as an “anterior nares" collection.

Q: How long does it take to get the result?
A: Results typically come back within one day to two days. We are unable to guarantee specific test turnaround times for any member of the MIT community using our testing program. Testing is for symptomatic individuals only and is not intended to be used for travel purposes or similar kinds of requirements.

Q: How can I get my test results?
A: Results from MIT Medical's testing program for symptomatic individuals are available within the Covid Pass application, where you may download a PDF document of your result from MIT's testing provider (Color Genomics). Results from Covid Pass tests will only appear in the app, not in HealthELife, MIT Medical's portal for its patients. Tests done by appointment at MIT Medical – not through Covid Pass – will appear in HealthELife. Only you and MIT Medical will have access to your test results, which are protected medical information.

Q: What if I test positive?
A: If you test positive for COVID-19 through MIT’s Covid Pass program, the MIT Atlas mobile app and an associated email will notify you. If you tested outside of MIT's testing system, you should report your positive test using the Pass feature in the MIT Atlas mobile app.

Covid Pass will give you instructions on your isolation period. After five full days of isolation, your campus access will be restored, and you should not test for 90 days. You must continue to wear a mask around others, in all settings, for an additional 5 days. If you have had a fever in the last 24 hours, or your symptoms are neither mild nor improving, you must continue to isolate.

For further guidance about what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, test positive, or are a close contact, see this update on the MIT Now site.

Q: How do I report a positive test result received from outside of MIT?
A: In the MIT Atlas mobile application, tap Pass, then “I need to report…,” then “Report Positive Covid Result.” Enter the date and type of results, then tap Submit. Covid Pass will give you instructions on next steps (see above).

Q: In the event I receive a positive test, who will be notified?
A: In the past, positive cases have triggered notifications to relevant supervisors, advisors, instructors, and/or academic leaders, without sharing the identity of the person testing positive. This practice has changed. MIT teams will reach out only if these individuals need to take specific actions in response to a positive case. With this change, we aim to focus attention only on situations requiring follow-up. As necessary, individuals who test positive may contact their supervisors and/or HR managers (for employees), or advisors, instructors, and PIs (for students), as is true for other health-related absences.

In cases where MIT needs to inform a supervisor, advisor, instructor, HRO, Dean, Department Head, or other MIT official that an individual within their area tested positive, MIT will not disclose your identity unless you consent or disclosure is necessary to allow these individuals to take appropriate action to protect the MIT community.

Q: My test came back as “invalid.” What does that mean and what should I do?
A: Invalid tests can occur when something goes wrong during sample analysis, or if a test kit was not dropped off in time. An invalid test does not mean that you are more likely or less likely to be positive for COVID-19. If you receive an invalid test, be sure to retest on the next available testing day. However, we cannot test individuals twice in the same day.

Q: Will the downloaded PDF test results satisfy travel requirements?
A: While Covid Pass testing may satisfy some airline and governmental requirements, results and other information related to MIT's testing program are intended for and designed to support campus use only. If you need to meet any domestic or international COVID-related travel requirements (e.g., a negative test result) or similar kinds of requirements such as inclusion of passport information, you should use alternative testing options designed specifically for travel use. MIT is unable to add information to Covid Pass testing results or to guarantee specific test turnaround times for any member of the MIT community using our testing program. We recommend you contact your airline or the appropriate government agency beforehand to ensure you have proof of your status in an acceptable form.

Q: Does MIT provide COVID-19 testing for children living in an MIT residence?
A: Children ages 14 and over living in an MIT residence are eligible for participation in the Covid Pass campus testing program for symptomatic individuals. There is no charge for Covid Pass testing.

Testing for children under age 14 who are symptomatic should be arranged by their primary care provider at the provider's preferred testing facility, and will be billed to health insurance.

Consent and Authorization

Q: What is the purpose of these agreements?
A: You are being asked to execute two separate agreements: (1) a consent for testing services (the “Consent”) and (2) an authorization to use and disclose health information (the “Authorization”).

The purpose of the Consent is to confirm your agreement to participate in MIT’s optional COVID-19 testing program, and your understanding that if you do participate in the testing, MIT will use your testing information for certain related MIT purposes. The Authorization provides MIT with the right to share your personal and health information (“PHI”) with certain outside clinical laboratories for COVID-19 testing and to use your PHI for four specific purposes:  (a) to operate and perform MIT’s testing program; (b) to perform contact tracing; (c) to make decisions about your access to campus; and (d) to otherwise protect the MIT community, for example if actions are needed to respond to a positive test for COVID-19 (see below).

Q: As part of MIT’s testing program, what PHI is being shared and with whom?
A: To facilitate the testing services with a designated clinical laboratory, MIT must provide your full name, date of birth, mailing address, and email address. This information is obtained from your personnel record if you are an employee, or through your student records if you are a student. No other PHI is shared with testing providers.

Apart from testing providers, your PHI is not shared with any other third party outside of MIT, but individual test results may be shared with Institute officials with a need to know to protect the MIT campus or to support members of the MIT community (including you) who may be affected by a positive COVID-19 test (see below).

This privacy statement explains how MIT handles and uses the personal information collected as part of MIT's Covid Pass application.

Q: Where and how are my testing results stored?
A:Your testing results are available through the Covid Pass web application and through the Covid Pass feature in MIT Atlas Mobile. Covid Pass uses MIT Touchstone authentication, which requires an MIT Kerberos account and Duo two-factor authentication. Your individual testing data is stored in a secure environment through Amazon Web Services (AWS). This privacy statement explains how MIT handles and uses the personal information collected as part of MIT's Covid Pass application.

Q: How long are my test results maintained in Covid Pass?
A: MIT will retain your test results for a period of one (1) year following the expiration of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Emergency COVID-19 Declaration.

Q: What happens if I revoke my consent and authorization?
A: Participation in MIT's testing is voluntary and you have the option to discontinue at any time.

Q: I am a patient at MIT Medical. Is any information from my electronic medical record (EMR) accessed or shared with any third parties?
A: No. As part of MIT’s routine testing program, no information from your MIT Medical EMR is accessed or shared, and your results will only be stored in Covid Pass. If you are someone who has not been cleared to be on campus and are not in the Covid Pass system, but you are tested because you are symptomatic and a regular patient at MIT Medical, this information will be stored in your EMR, not in Covid Pass.

Page updated 9/1/2022