Columbia testing program

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The Columbia University COVID-19 Testing Program was a program developed after the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. In the 2020-2021 school year, Roone Arledge Auditorium in the basement of Lerner was converted into a COVID testing site.

Students could schedule an appointment through the Columbia Health Portal, and complete a test on any weekday between 8am and 7pm. They were given a QR code that they could scan to get access to the testing center, and the entire process was streamlined so that it took only around five minutes from start to finish. Columbia testing was intended for asymptomatic students, and students needed to attest that they were asymptomatic prior to arrival on the Reopen CU App.

All Columbia affiliates planning to come to campus were required to get a Gateway test at the beginning of both the fall and spring semesters. From there, any student living in dorms was required to take twice-weekly tests, while off-campus students could participate in voluntary testing, with a maximum of one test per week. All affiliates accessing campus were also enrolled in "random sampling" testing, where Columbia would summon a random collection of individuals to get tested every week, thus getting a picture for the COVID statistics on campus as a whole. Testing for all Columbia affiliates was completely free.

Testing Method

Columbia testing sites used a nasal swab to detect the RNA of the virus, using the "PCR test". Per the name, a PCR machine was used to identify the virus in a sample. Students swabbed their own noses (each nostril) and placed the swab into a sterile container, which was then sent off to a lab to be analyzed. Students typically received results within 24 hours.