On-Campus COVID-19 Testing

An effective testing program is a crucial part of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in a community, and testing innovations developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are helping in-person activities to resume on campus.

If you have any questions about testing and test results, please send them to covidwellness@illinois.edu or call 217-333-1900.

On This Page

Getting Tested

Our on-campus testing sites administer innovative saliva-based tests, a process developed by the COVID-19 SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell team. Unlike conventional nasal testing, saliva samples are collected non-invasively.

More information on the science behind the Illinois saliva-based test is available below.

Eligibility

Presently, the test is only available to current students, faculty, staff and retirees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who have active NetIDs. 

Cost

The test is free.

Before getting tested

You should refrain from eating, drinking, tooth brushing, mouth washing, gum chewing, and tobacco use for at least one hour before submitting your saliva sample at the test location.

Make sure you bring your current iCard or have the Safer Illinois app downloaded.

While you line up outside the testing location, you should wear a face covering and practice social distancing.

The testing process

You will be asked to provide a saliva sample. The sample collection only takes a few minutes.

Step-by-step testing process
  • Have you had anything to eat, drink, smoke or chew in the last 60 minutes?
  • You will then swipe your i-card or show your Status Card QR code in the Safer Illinois app so we can locate your record.
  • Is the cell phone number listed correct? This number will be used if you test positive or for contact tracing. You must respond to calls to this number or risk disciplinary action.
  • Is the address listed correct?

You can choose to not answer the next two questions, in which case “unknown” will be selected. The Illinois Department of Public Health has requested we ask each person’s race who is tested on-campus. Providing this information is optional for each person who is tested.

  • Do you identify as Hispanic/Latino?
  • What race do you most identify with?

Individuals will verify that their name is correct on the test tube label. Next, you will move to a saliva station where you will take the lid off the test tube and dribble saliva into the tube until you have filled ¾ of the cone with saliva. Once complete, replace the lid and take the tube to the collection station.

At collection, you will hold up your test tube so staff can confirm that there is enough saliva in the tube. Staff will ask that you return to a test station if enough saliva is not in the tube.
Individuals will be asked the following questions at collection so staff know which tub to direct you to:

  • Do you have any COVID symptoms? Have you recently received an exposure notification? Do you have reason to believe you are at high risk for COVID?

You will be offered a copy of a COVID-19 Test Fact Sheet for Patients. If you do not want to take a physical copy, an online copy is available in PDF format.

Test Results

Getting your results

Typical test results are expected within 12 hours, but results could take up to 48 hours.

Faculty, staff and students will be emailed when their results are available in the McKinley Health Center Patient Portal. Results will also be available on the Safer Illinois app. (To receive your results in the Safer Illinois app, make sure the “Health Provider Test Results” is toggled on in the app settings.) 

If you have not used the McKinley Health Center Patient Portal before, you can check for results by logging in with your University of Illinois NetID and password and clicking on the Messages icon. You will need to use 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) to log in. Support information for getting 2FA set up is available online. If your test results are available, you will see a secure message for your Saliva COVID test results.

You can print your full COVID-19 test results in the MyMcKinley portal. Click the “Labs” tab in the menu and select your test result to print an official copy.

How results are processed and stored

On-campus COVID-19 test results are analyzed, exported, validated, and pushed for recording in Medicat, the secure electronic health record used by McKinley Health Center. From Medicat, the test results are reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health and Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which will contact individuals who test positive. Saliva samples are collected for COVID-19 testing only unless individuals have agreed to participate in a COVID-19 research study.

Questions about testing and results

The University of Illinois COVID Wellness Answer Center is available to answer questions about on-campus testing and results. 

Please contact the COVID Wellness Answer Center by email at covidwellness@illinois.edu or call 217-333-1900.



Testing Locations

On-campus testing

The university has a number of on-campus testing locations spread out across campus. Visit the On-Campus Testing Locations page to see the locations and hours.

UIC & UIS testing

Urbana students are not eligible to access the COVID-19 testing system at UIC and UIS during the winter break.

When classes resume for the Spring 2021 semester Jan. 25, Urbana students who participate in in-person instruction or internships in Chicago may be eligible for on-campus saliva testing at the Chicago campus. They will need to contact covidtesting@uic.edu to determine whether they are eligible. Faculty, staff, and graduate students from the Urbana campus who are based in Chicago for work and/or research activities will continue to be eligible for testing in the Spring 2021 semester.

Who should test

All university faculty, staff and students participating in any on-campus activities are required to participate in the on-campus COVID-19 testing program.

  • If you are working on-campus, attending in-person classes or participating in any on-campus activities, you will need to participate in the on-campus testing program.
  • All undergraduate students living on-campus or residing in Champaign, Urbana or Savoy must test, even if they are taking a fully online schedule.
  • All students, undergraduate and graduate, who live in University owned and private certified residence halls, including Orchard Downs, Ashton-Woods, Goodwin-Green and all Greek facilities, are required to participate in testing.

If you are an employee or graduate student who is not planning to come to campus you will not be required to be tested. But any employee or student coming to campus for any length of time must be tested in accordance with current campus requirements.

Students enrolled in fully online programs, regardless of location, are excused from testing. Example of fully online programs include the iMBA or the Online Master of Computer Science degree. View the full list here. But any employee or student coming to campus for any length of time must be tested in accordance with current campus requirements.

Testing frequency and schedules

The university is helping students, faculty and staff create a testing schedule that specifies which days to get tested. You can visit any of the on-campus COVID-19 testing locations to participate in the testing program. The Safer Illinois app will tell you when you are due for your next test.

Please note that if you are an undergraduate or graduate student coming to campus for the first time this Spring 2021 semester, it is required that you receive two negative on-campus test results, no sooner than three days apart. A student’s Safer Illinois app and Boarding Pass will show “Building Access Denied” until they receive their second negative result.

  • For Undergraduate Students:
    • Undergraduate students should test on a twice-per-week test schedule. You can choose Monday-Thursday, Tuesday-Friday, or Wednesday-Saturday/Sunday schedules.
    • Undergraduate students must still show a Wellness Support Associate their Safer Illinois app or Boarding Pass at building entrances.
    • Some undergraduate students may be directly contacted and asked to test more frequently if we believe you might have a higher risk of recent exposure.
  • For Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students:
    • All faculty, staff and graduate students should test on a twice-per-week test schedule. Continue testing at this frequency until notified otherwise.
    • If at all possible, please test on Wednesday and Saturday (ideally) or Wednesday and Sunday if possible. Please also test in the morning/early in the day if possible. This will help even the number of tests to be processed each day and will mean shorter lines and faster results for everyone.
    • Faculty, staff and graduate students must still show a Wellness Support Associate their Safer Illinois app or Boarding Pass at building entrances. Ensure you test and receive negative results at least every four days to maintain building access.

On-campus testing accommodations

Curbside COVID-19 on-campus testing accommodations at State Farm Center may be available for faculty and staff who request an accommodation and are approved on the basis of disability or chronic underlying health condition that precludes them from utilizing the walk-up testing sites. If you are a faculty or staff member please request your accommodation through the ADA Division of the Office for Access and Equity. Students, please contact your Access Specialist at DRES or if you are not registered but have a qualifying condition as mentioned above, please submit a request for an accommodation through DRES.   

Alternative COVID-19 testing option for individuals observing Ramadan 

Individuals fasting during Ramadan who may be concerned about producing a saliva sample for COVID-19 testing can request a nasal swab test to satisfy testing requirements. This option will be available between April 12 and May 12, 2021. Learn more here.

Off-campus tests

To participate in on-campus activities, you must participate in the on-campus testing program. If you do get a positive COVID-19 result from an off-campus testing location, you are required to notify the Champaign Urbana Public Health District. A person who tests outside of the on-campus testing should report any positive result to the Champaign Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) and give CUPHD permission to notify the university.

Student COVID-19 testing exemption

The university has a process for undergraduate students who are living locally (Urbana, Champaign and Savoy) and who are NOT coming to campus during the Spring 2021 semester to apply for an exemption from the COVID-19 testing requirement. Exemptions will be granted rarely and only to students who can demonstrate that participating in the testing program is significantly challenging to them.

Effective Friday, January 15, students who wish to apply for an exemption should submit their information at go.illinois.edu/CovidExemption.
Only students who are living locally and NOT coming to campus are eligible to request an exemption. Students who were granted an exemption from testing in the Fall 2020 semester will need to reapply for a spring 2021 exemption at go.illinois.edu/CovidExemption.


On-campus testing data

Data about the on-campus testing program, including number of daily tests performed and positivity rates, are available online.

View the On-Campus Testing Data.

The University of Illinois saliva test

Our on-campus testing sites administer a saliva-based test, a process developed by the COVID-19 SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell team. Unlike conventional nasal testing, saliva samples are collected non-invasively, without healthcare workers and with minimal use of PPE. 

The University of Illinois System received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the innovative saliva-based COVID-19 test.

The lab processing the samples is certified under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) to perform high complexity testing. 

Background

Our test asks individuals to provide a saliva sample because research tells us that saliva is the primary way COVID-19 is spread. More information about the research related to this test method is available.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is performing its new rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 test on all students, faculty and staff.

Compared to the nasal test, the saliva-based test is fast, free of supply chain bottlenecks, and cost-effective, because saliva tests do not require nasal swabs, etc. 

Compared to other saliva tests, our saliva test skips RNA isolation (a cumbersome process), which allows quicker results.

Our studies to date show that our saliva-based test provides results that are comparable to other COVID-19 viral test methods.


Frequently Asked Questions

On-Campus Testing Program

If I am a student required to participate in the On-Campus Testing Program, what should I do if I miss a testing day? (Example: You forget to test. You were unable to test. You needed to be out of town for a period of time.)

If you forget a testing day, you should be tested as soon as possible.

If you will be away from campus for less than a week, test the day before you leave. Then, if you receive a noncompliance email from the Office for Student Conflict Resolution, please indicate the reason for missing a test. If you will be away from campus for more than a week, update your Student Location address in Student Self-Service. Remember to update this address again when you return to campus. You should resume testing as soon as you return.

What if I miss class because I missed my scheduled test date?

This would be considered an absence and our regular academic policies and practices would apply. Your course syllabus will explain how absences are addressed. In addition to the possible academic penalties, failure to complete your required testing could also result in action through the student discipline process.

I am an undergraduate student living in Champaign, Urbana or Savoy. I take all online courses and work remotely. Do I still need to participate in the on-campus testing program?

Yes. All undergraduate students living on-campus or residing in Champaign, Urbana or Savoy will need to participate in on-campus testing, even if they are taking a fully online schedule.

Students enrolled in fully online programs, regardless of location, are excused from testing. Example of fully online programs include the iMBA or the Online Master of Computer Science degree. View the full list here.

But please be advised that, even if you are in a fully online program, if you are coming to campus for any reason, you should be participating in on-campus COVID-19 testing.

I am a student taking all online courses and living OUTSIDE of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy. Do I need to request an exemption from on-campus testing?

No, students living outside of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy who are taking all online courses do not need to fill out an exemption form. Please make sure your address information is updated in Self Service.

I live in Chicago/Indianapolis/St. Louis/Springfield, and I am coming to campus once per week for class. What am I supposed to do to be in compliance with the COVID-19 testing requirements?

In order to be in compliance with the mandatory COVID-19 testing program required of all undergraduate students with on-campus classes, you must be testing on-campus twice per week. You must be tested on-campus two to four days before your scheduled class. You must also be tested on-campus on the day of your on-campus class.

I am a student, faculty or staff member at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Can I get tested at the University of Illinois Chicago or University of Illinois Springfield?

The testing capacity at UIC and UIS was not designed to accommodate Urbana-based students, and our students are not eligible to access the COVID-19 testing system at UIC during the winter break.

When classes resume for the Spring 2021 semester Jan. 25, Urbana students who participate in in-person instruction or internships in Chicago may be eligible for on-campus saliva testing at the Chicago campus. They will need to contact covidtesting@uic.edu to determine whether they are eligible. Faculty, staff and graduate students from the Urbana campus who are based in Chicago for work and/or research activities will continue to be eligible for testing in the Spring 2021 semester.  

I live in University Housing. Will I be able to enter my residence hall if I miss one of my tests?

Yes. But that is the only building you will be able to enter until you have checked in at a testing site and until you have received a negative test result. If you have a current University Housing contract, you will always be able to enter your residence hall.

I am a professional student. How frequently should I be testing?

For testing purposes, professional students are included as graduate students. For more information, see details about who should test.

The Saliva Test

My test results came back “invalid.” What does that mean?

Invalid results typically occur when non-optimal saliva samples are submitted. Before your next test, please be sure to refrain from eating, drinking, tooth brushing, mouth washing, or tobacco use for at least 1 hour prior to submitting your saliva sample. For best results, it is recommended to hydrate during the morning and get tested in the afternoon.

Does the saliva test detect new variants of COVID-19?

Yes. The saliva test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign detects the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including new variants that have been identified to date.

I am unable to take the saliva test for medical reasons, and/or have received multiple inconclusive results. What should I do?

Faculty and staff can apply through the ADA Division for the nasal alternative testing. Students who have an accommodation through the Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES) office can reach out to DRES and request and receive permission to switch to the nasal test.

Students with less than five consecutive unsuccessful attempts at saliva collection may complete Student Nasal Testing Alternative Form in the MyMcKinley portal for consideration for participation in the Nasal Testing Program. Students with more than five consecutive unsuccessful attempts DO NOT need to complete this form, simply call 217-244-5661 to schedule your nasal testing appointment.

Why am I being asked for my race at the testing sites?

The Illinois Department of Public Health has requested we ask each person’s race who is tested on-campus. Providing this information is optional for each person who is tested.

How can I print an official copy of my COVID-19 test results?

Go to your MyMcKinley portal. Click the “Labs” tab in the menu and select your test result to print an official copy.

Will the answers to my testing scheduling survey be used for research purposes?

When you receive your testing scheduling survey, you will also be asked if you will share your answers with a group of researchers working with the SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell team. Sharing your information confidentially will assist our study on COVID-19 risk, spread and management. If you do not wish to consent to participate in the research component, your survey response will be used only to set your testing schedule.


Additional Resources


On-Campus COVID-19 Testing Updates