COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 Testing

Update: Given the current state of the pandemic, as well as continuing uncertainty around President Biden’s Executive Order regarding vaccination of federal contractors and subcontractors, mandatory, on-campus testing of unvaccinated individuals — employees and students — is paused effective April 4, 2022.

Testing for Spring Semester Arrival

Although the omicron variant of COVID-19 is so far causing less severe illness, especially for people who are vaccinated and boosted, it is highly contagious. As a result, our testing expectations for coming to campus have changed.

If at any time before arrival you are having symptoms or recently tested positive and are still in your isolation period, you should postpone your move-in. This allows you to recover at your current location.

Testing Prior to Arrival

UW–Madison is now expecting all students who have not had a positive PCR test in the last 90 days to get tested before coming to campus.

Fully Vaccinated
(Completed first vaccine series)

Take an antigen test at home before returning to campus, as close as possible to your departure time. Do not submit pre-arrival antigen test results, positive or negative, to UHS or Housing.

  • If your test is negative and you have no symptoms, come to campus as planned.
  • If you test positive, delay your travel to campus and isolate at home.
  • If your antigen test is negative but you are having symptoms, postpone your return to campus, isolate at home, and take another test to confirm your result. (Use a PCR test immediately if available; otherwise use an antigen test 24 hours after your first test.)
    • If the second test is negative, return as planned.
    • If the second test is positive, do not return to Madison or campusfollow these instructions for isolation.

Not Fully Vaccinated
(Have not completed first vaccine series)

  • Take a PCR test at home less than 5 days prior to your planned arrival, as previously communicated.
  • Submit these test results in MyUHS regardless of the outcome.
  • Take an antigen test at home before returning to campus, as close as possible to your departure time. Do not submit pre-arrival antigen test results, positive or negative, to UHS or Housing.
  • If you test positive or are having symptoms, delay your travel to campus and isolate at home.

If you are unable to get a test at your current location before traveling to Madison, get tested as soon as possible upon returning to Madison.

Test Upon Arrival:

University Housing staff have placed an antigen test on each student’s residence hall desk. All residents should take this test upon arrival to your room, unless they have had a positive PCR test in the last 90 days. This allows us to act on any positive results as soon as possible during move-in.

  • If you test negative with this antigen rapid test, do not submit test results.
  • If you test positive with this antigen rapid test, submit your result to Housing, not UHS, and prepare to move into isolation housing when we send you instructions.

Submit A Positive Antigen Test Result

After Move-In:

If you are not fully vaccinated, schedule your first PCR test on campus as soon as possible after move-in, and continue scheduling your required weekly PCR tests through MyUHS (unless you have had a positive test in the last 90 days and have it in your UHS records).

Throughout the semester, any resident who is having symptoms should get tested as soon as possible.

Antigen Testing

Throughout the semester, you may choose to take an at-home antigen rapid test if you are having symptoms or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive. Please note that antigen tests, while useful for a quick diagnosis, do not take the place of required weekly PCR tests for residents who are not fully vaccinated, and MyUHS will not accept antigen test results. However, a positive antigen test will result in moving to isolation housing, regardless of your vaccination status.

Positive Antigen Test Results

If you get a positive antigen test result (not PCR test) at any point during the semester, submit your positive result to Housing, not UHS, and prepare to move into isolation housing when we send you instructions.

Submit A Positive Antigen Test Result

Next steps will depend on the timing when you submit your result:

  • Weekdays 8 am to 7 pm or Weekends 10 am to 7 pm: Residents will be expected to pack and move immediately as transportation can only be provided until 8 PM.
  • Any Day After 7 pm: You will stay in your current room and must limit your movements to essential activities only (including use of bathroom, obtaining food pick-up, medical appts, etc.) until you can be moved the following day. You cannot go to class or any other facility on campus unless for essential activities. Please limit your activity outside of your room and avoid contact with others until you are relocated. You must also follow all public health guidelines, including use of face coverings, physical distancing, and hand washing.

Weekly PCR Testing

Testing Instructions

UW-Madison is offering a free PCR nasal swab test for COVID-19. For details on testing locations, preparing for your test, what to expect, and getting test results, visit the COVID-19 testing page.

Residents who are not fully vaccinated must take a weekly (Monday – Thursday) PCR test.

If you and your roommate are both not fully vaccinated, we recommended that both of you test on the same day each week.

Missed Tests

Residents who do not stay current with required testing will receive follow-up from Residence Life staff and can face disciplinary action, including removal from Housing.

If you have already or plan to leave your residence hall for a period of three days or longer and will be unable to be tested during that time, log in to My UW Housing and click the link under “Temporary Vacate Room” so that we can adjust your testing requirement for that time period.

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After Receiving Your Results

  • Negative: continue to get tested weekly and monitor for symptoms
  • Positive: you will be required to move to isolation housing on campus. If Housing-designated isolation spaces become full, residents may need to isolate at their permanent home or find their own space off-campus — they may not return to their residence hall or participate in any in-person UW-Madison activities until they are cleared by Housing staff.
      • You will receive an email and a follow-up call from staff with details on your isolation accommodations — staff can also help answer any questions you have
      • Bring supplies you’ll need for at least the next 10 days

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Students Who Previously Tested Positive

If you tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered, you may be exempt from quarantine, isolation, or future testing for 90 days after your positive test. If you have a prior positive PCR test from off-campus, you can upload it via the MyUHS app.

Students will not be exempted from isolation or future testing based solely on a self-report of a positive test or COVID-19 illness. It is common to continue to test positive for a period of time after recovering from COVID-19, so submit documentation as soon as possible to ensure that your proof of a prior positive result is reviewed.

If you test positive and your prior result has not been submitted and reviewed, you will be required to go to isolation until your results are received and reviewed.

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