COVID Testing FAQ

General FAQ

What if I have tested positive for COVID-19?

Follow the instructions on this handout for individuals who have tested positive.

What if I tested negative for COVID-19? Am I safe?

First question to ask is which type of test?

  • Antigen tests, which account for almost all “rapid” (same day) tests, are in general more likely to provide you with a false-negative result.  Depending on the brand, sensitivity is estimated at 30-85% -- the lowest in people without symptoms.

  • PCR (DNA) tests are much more reliable, however, they still are not 100% sensitive, meaning in someone with symptoms typical for COVID, a single negative test result does not put you in the clear.  

Second question is: are you unvaccinated and have you engaged in any risky activities within the 2 weeks before the test?

  • The incubation period for COVID-19 is generally considered to be up to 14 days (although longer has occasionally been detected).  If you test too soon, you may be falsely reassured.  In general: you should not rely on any test collected within 5 days of an exposure, and even if you wait until 7 days after an exposure, you will still miss an infection (and still be infectious) 1% of the time. 

Who is required to get tested?

Testing requirements and recommendations are listed at the bottom of the surveillance testing page.

Where can I get tested?

For required testing - a list of testing locations and their hours of operations are listed on the surveillance testing page.

Can I get my required testing somewhere else?

In order to have a green testing badge, which clears you for the testing requirements to be on campus, you must get tested through University Health Services.

Does it hurt to get tested? 

The testing conducted is a self-administered nasal swab. It won't hurt, but it might be slightly uncomfortable. The test is different from the nasopharyngeal swab, which must be performed by a health care professional and can be painful. See the self-swab instructional PDF and self-swab video for a preview of what to expect.

Does testing collect DNA? 

As is the case for any diagnostic test, patient samples include cells containing patient DNA as part of the respiratory fluids or mucus where SARS-CoV-2 may be present. However, the Innovative Genomics Institute diagnostic laboratory only tests these samples for the presence of two viral genes to provide a diagnostic result, and a single human RNA target, to ensure sufficient sample was provided. There is no sequence analysis performed on these samples during the diagnostic test.

To help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, leftover SARS-CoV-2-positive samples are de-identified and sent for viral sequencing as part of an international effort to track mutations and spread of the virus. Importantly, this project uses a technique that targets the viral genome, not the human genome, and no human genome sequences are processed or stored.

Do I need an appointment to get tested?

Yes, surveillance testing appointments are required for all locations and can be booked through eTang.

How long does it take to get tested?

Testing time is about 20 minutes from check-in to test completion. In rare instances, lines have formed at the testing site (for example the first day of testing after winter curtailment last week) but this is not the norm.  Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the busiest days at the testing sites, so if you do weekly testing, picking a date later in the week might be better.

How will the testing requirements be enforced?

If you need to enter a university building, you should be prepared to show a green testing badge or green campus access badge (located on the Berkeley Mobile App)

Are participants in youth programs required to be tested?

Children participants in the early childhood program and other youth programs are exempt from the testing requirement. UC Berkeley-affiliated parents of participants are strongly encouraged to get tested but are not required to do so, unless they meet a separate requirement for mandatory testing. Teachers and other staff in these programs are included in the mandate.

Testing Sites & Locations FAQ

Are the testing sites indoors or outdoors?

Currently, our symptomatic testing is outdoors and we have asymptomatic testing sites set-up indoors and a drive-thru option. 

Why can't the all testing centers be outdoors?

An outdoor set-up with electronics and biological materials is not safe in inclement weather including rain and wind.  

How are the indoor testing centers set up to be safe?

UHS also works closely with UC Berkeley Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) to ensure that each testing site is set-up to meet and exceed public health standards and requirements, including but not limited to ensuring that the space aligns with current density and distancing requirements, adequate ventilation, and disinfection.

The testing site is set-up with the proper distancing guidelines in place throughout. This includes the check-in line, registration table, and testing areas. The site has been measured and marked accordingly and those coming for testing are directed on where to stand. In addition, plastic barriers between each testing station, further spreading out the testing spots, extra fans for additional ventilation, and monitoring how many people are indoors at a time.  

Masks are worn by those getting tested and those working at the testing site. When the person getting tested is getting the self-swabbing instructions from staff, they are instructed to leave their mask on until the moment they need to temporarily remove their mask for the self-swabbing part.  

While there may at times be lines (which look long due to the distancing), the line moves extremely quickly and per our measurements, most people get through the entire process within 15-20 min, of which less than 3 minutes are without a mask during the swab. 

We also have separate testing site for those who have symptoms, are ill, or who have been in contact with someone who tested positive as a way to separate out symptomatic and asymptomatic groups. 

It is UHS practice to regularly monitor and evaluate our services. We meet regularly to review the operations of the testing sites.

Costs FAQ

Does it cost money to get tested?

  • No, surveillance testing is free to all students, staff, and faculty regardless of insurance.
  • For those tested for medical reasons, there is still no out-of-pocket expense as insurance is mandated to cover these costs. 

Will I get paid for the time spent getting tested?

If you are required to get tested because you work at the university, the time spent getting tested should be considered time worked. If you are required to get tested because you live in campus housing, you will not be compensated.

Will I get paid for the time spent traveling to and from the testing location?

If you are required to get tested, the time spent traveling from your usual work location to the testing site should be considered time worked. If you are starting or ending your shift at the testing location, you will not be paid for the time spent traveling to or from your home.

Badge FAQ

This portion of the FAQ addresses the color-coded Badge System on eTang Portal Home Page

How do I access my testing badge?

You access the testing badge by logging in to the eTang Portal. From your mobile device, browse to etang.berkeley.edu and sign in using your CalNet ID. You will see a “show badge” button on the home page.

Badge button on eTang for COVID Surveillance Testing

What if I don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to use my personal device to display my badge?

The health ambassadors who will be checking compliance will have devices available for you to use to access your badge. If you would like to check the status of your badge, you can do so using any computer.

What if I only occasionally come to campus?

The requirement is to have a green badge to enter university buildings. You are not required to be current with your testing regimen when you will not be on campus. You may get tested immediately prior to being on campus. Please allow up to 45 minutes for your badge to turn green from the time you check in to your testing appointment.

If I work at a remote campus site and get tested in the community, do I need to report my results to UHS?

Yes, it is important that UHS Occupational Health be notified of any potential exposure. If you are tested in the community and receive a positive test result, please call the UHS confidential line at (510) 642-2000 press the COVID Response option to report your result.

Is this a violation of patient privacy?

No, a green badge indicates that you are compliant with the testing requirement. You are not required to show any other color of badge and should not be on campus if you have been placed in quarantine or isolation, except in designated facilities.