Understanding Test Results

Color, the health technology company partnering with The Broad Insitute for Harvard's COVID-19 testing, will send you an email and text notification when your results are available.

Negative Test Results

If you test negative for COVID-19, no further action is needed. Continue to practice good hygiene, wear a face covering, practice physical distancing, and continue with your prescribed testing frequency. Read more tips on how to keep Harvard healthy.

Positive Test Results

If you receive a notification of a positive test, it's incredibly important to minimize your movement and exposure to others. HUHS will promptly contact you to discuss what it means to be positive and explain next steps, including a move to isolation and follow-up by a trained, HUHS contact tracer. If you don’t hear from HUHS and have an immediate question, please call them directly. As required by state law, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will also be notified of any positive test result.

After the initial conversation with you, HUHS will contact:

  • School emergency leads, including College housing (if applicable)
  • Campus Services, including emergency management, environmental health and safety, security, facilities management, and dining services

These two groups, in partnership with HUHS, will work together to mobilize local support. They will take great care to ensure your privacy while supporting your move to isolation and, if you're living on campus, caring for you during the isolation period.

See the Quarantine and Isolation page for more information on isolation protocols.

Unsatisfactory Sample

Occasionally, your result may be unsatisfactory. If you receive an unsatisfactory result, you will need to take another test as soon as possible. If your repeat test requires clinical observation, HUHS will let you know.

Here are some common ways samples are classified as unsatisfactory:

  • Tube cap popped off – always make sure your cap is pushed on securely before submitting. Loose caps are the biggest reason samples are discarded.
  • Failed to activate kit - always make sure you receive a message from Color that your kit was successfully activated. This is what links the sample to an individual. If a kit is not activated the sample will be discarded
  • Debris on swab – We recommend blowing your nose before collecting the sample; any solid debris on your swab will prevent the lab from processing your sample.
  • Kit activated, but sat for a long time – your sample needs to be placed in a collection bin as soon as possible. Samples not deposited in a bin within 24 hours from activation may be discarded by the lab

Please Respect Individuals' Privacy

Anonymity for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 remains paramount. Please respect their privacy— even if you believe you know who they are—so they can focus completely on their health. As a community, we must do everything we can to support these individuals and one another through this incredibly difficult time.