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Testing & Tracing

Regular COVID-19 testing is a key part of Harvard’s collective efforts to track the presence of the virus in our community, reduce the risk of transmission, and ensure that the safety protocols we’ve established are meeting their intended goals. The University’s testing plan is subject to modification based on community risk and the broader public health environment.

All Harvard affiliates with any on-campus presence are required to test at their assigned cadence. Testing cadences are determined by several factors, including your vaccination status, whether you live on or off campus, and infection rates in the local community.

If you’re away from campus for the winter recess, you can disregard your Color notifications and resume testing upon your return. If you are currently outside of the Boston/Cambridge area, get tested prior to your return travel to ensure you are not putting others at risk of infection while in transit. See the cadences below for your return.

Questions? Your local testing coordinator is your primary point of contact for logistics around accessing testing. If you have clinical or policy questions about testing, you should contact Harvard University Health Services at healthservices@huhs.harvard.edu.

To request a testing accommodation, employees should contact disabilityresources@harvard.edu or your local HR; students should contact your School’s local student disability coordinator.

View the University dashboard for the latest data on positive cases, total tests, and vaccination rates

How do I set up my Color account and get tested?

Harvard has partnered with Color, a health testing company, to administer the University’s testing procedures. These include providing testing kits, sending test reminders, and delivering test results to individuals.

All testing is done through unobserved self-swabs.

1. Once you’re notified that you’re eligible for our testing program, you should create your Color account using your Harvard email address. For technical questions about creating your Color account, email support@color.com.

2. If you have trouble establishing your account, review the Color End User Support FAQ. If your question is not answered there, or if you have other questions about your testing eligibility, contact your School or Unit’s local testing coordinator.

3. To learn more about the steps for self-testing, see the training module “How do I self-swab?” linked below.

Picture of a covid-19 test kit including a swab, vial, and instructions sealed in a bag

Where do I pick up my test kits?

You may have access to a local supply of test kits in your department, unit, or residence.

Staff, faculty, and researchers: check with your supervisor.

Students: check with your tutor/proctor/resident advisor, or unit or property manager.

You can also check with your School or Unit’s local testing coordinator for test kit pick-up locations.

See kit pick up information by School or UnitOpens new window

illustration of hand holding vial

How do I self-swab?

Watch the self-paced training module to learn every step of the process—from creating your Color account to completing the self-swab.

Watch the training

How often do I test?

If you’re away from campus for the winter recess, you can disregard your Color notifications and resume testing when you return. If you are currently outside of the Boston/Cambridge area, get tested prior to your return travel to ensure you are not putting others at risk of infection while in transit.

  • Upon return to campus for the spring semester, all students should test 3 times your first week back (ideally on day 1, day 4 or 5, and day 7 or 8); then follow your Color notifications.
  • Faculty, staff, and researchers, if you have been away from campus, you are required to submit a test immediately upon your return to campus.

See the general cadences and return cadences listed in the table below. As we track positive cases, we may adjust testing cadences for various populations in our community. For example, some Schools and Units may be asked to test more often as needed; additionally, some groups have received HUHS approval for a specific higher risk activity, and part of that agreement may include additional testing. If so, you should test at the higher cadence as advised by HUHS. If you will be away from campus for an extended period of time, contact your testing coordinator to be moved to a different testing group.


Testing cadences

Anyone living in on-campus undergraduate housing (vaccinated)

Test three times per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Anyone living in on-campus undergraduate housing (unvaccinated)

Test three times per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Undergraduates living off-campus (vaccinated)

Test once per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Undergraduates living off-campus (unvaccinated)

Test twice per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Graduate students (vaccinated)

Test once per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Graduate students (unvaccinated)

Test twice per week. Upon your return to campus for the spring semester, test three times your first week back and then follow your Color notifications.

Faculty, staff, and researchers with a regular on-campus presence (vaccinated)

Test once per week. If you've been away from campus, test your first day back, then follow your Color notifications.

Faculty, staff, and researchers with a regular on-campus presence (unvaccinated)

Test twice per week. If you've been away from campus, test your first day back, then follow your Color notifications.

Faculty, staff, and researchers with an infrequent on-campus presence less than once per week (vaccinated)

Test once per week during the weeks you are on-campus; do not come to campus solely to drop a test.

Faculty, staff, and researchers with an infrequent on-campus presence less than once per week (unvaccinated)

Test twice per week during the weeks you are on-campus; do not come to campus solely to drop a test.

View the testing calendar for collection dates and times

Google map of test sample drop-off bin

Drop-off bins

Drop-off bins are available at multiple locations across campus to collect unobserved test samples. View the map and click or tap into each location to see last pick-up times. Test kits must only be returned to the designated drop boxes by the individual who tested; they should not be passed onto others or aggregated for group drop-offs.

Find a drop-off bin

Picture of a covid-19 test kit including a swab, vial, and instructions sealed in a bag

COVID-19 Testing and Tracing

Test Methodology

Harvard’s testing program utilizes reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests analyzed by the Harvard University Clinical Laboratory and the Broad Institute’s Clinical Research Sequencing Platform.

If you need to show proof of a negative PCR test (e.g. to fulfill a travel requirement), you can download your complete clinical report from the results page in your Color account.

A swab and a tube

COVID-19 Testing and Tracing

Data collection and privacy

Learn what data will be collected, how data will be used, and what the University is doing to protect your privacy.

Learn about privacy protection

Harvard test

How else can I get tested?

If you’re not eligible to participate in Harvard’s testing program, other local testing options include the Stop the Spread program (free to Massachusetts residents), the Cambridge Public Health Department program (free to people who live or work in Cambridge), and Boston COVID-19 testing sites. Check with your local health department or your primary care physician to learn about other options.

If you’re traveling internationally, carefully research your destinations’ requirements for entry (e.g. testing, vaccination, quarantine, etc.)—which are changing on short notice. You also need to research the availability and cost of testing in your destination to ensure you can comply with U.S. re-entry requirements.

Note that most insurance plans only cover testing if you have symptoms or known exposure to an infected person.

What should I do if I test positive outside of Harvard’s testing program?

Report your positive result through Crimson Clear and isolate as soon as possible. If your positive result was on an outside antigen or PCR test, you should begin isolation even before the HUHS Contact Tracing team emails you.

HUHS Testing, Exposure, Isolation, & Quarantine FAQs