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General Testing Information

Asymptomatic vs. Symptomatic Testing

On-campus testing is available for students, faculty, staff and visitors age 18 and older. Two types of testing dictate where you should go to be tested. It is important that you understand the difference between these:

Asymptomatic Testing: This is for individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms: You may hear this referred to as “Assurance, Recurring or Surveillance” testing.  

Symptomatic Testing: This is for individuals who do have COVID-19 symptoms (“symptomatic”) or who were identified as a close contact from contact tracing. You may hear this referred to as “Diagnostic Testing.”

Types of Tests and Collection

Regardless of whether your test is asymptomatic or symptomatic, Northwestern utilizes tests that provide high levels of accuracy, with very low levels of false positive or false negative results.

Depending on when and where you take your test, it may be provided by different laboratories. Northwestern has established partnerships with Northwestern Medicine, Abbott, Quidel, Tempus and Fulgent Genetics to support its COVID-19 tests.

All asymptomatic testing is done by a self-collected, simple nasal (anterior nasal) swab. Symptomatic and contact tracing testing is done with an NP (nasal pharyngeal) swab.

Testing if You Have Previously Tested Positive for COVID-19

If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you should not test again for the next 90 days, following guidance from the CDC. If you tested positive at Northwestern, you will be automatically removed from your testing protocol until your 90-day window ends. If you tested positive outside of Northwestern, you should Submit Your External Test Results so you can be removed from required testing for the appropriate period of time.

Consents and Privacy

Testing is a medical procedure, and Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine take your privacy seriously. When registering for your test, either onsite or online, you will be required to sign a Consent for Testing and Diagnosis and Informed Consent to Northwestern's COVID-19 Testing Program.

Please also review NMHC's Notice of Privacy Practices, as well as its independent lab's Privacy Policy and Notice of Privacy Practices.

Testing Reporting Requirements

Please note that during the testing registration process, we are required by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC to ask a series of sensitive questions. This includes, but is not limited to, asking about one’s race, ethnicity and sex assigned at birth. Please be aware this is not a Northwestern requirement but a public health requirement. Health and Human Services (HHS) has elaborated that in order to assure a rapid and thorough public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, comprehensive testing data is required. These data contribute to better understanding the disease and its trends so that mitigation efforts can be enhanced. Access to clear and accurate data is essential to communities and leadership to make data-driven decisions. Thank you for your partnership and understanding in this matter.