Viral Testing

About Viral Testing

Each Harvard affiliate’s testing requirements will vary based on whether you live on campus, work in residential housing, work elsewhere on campus, or have a regular presence (4 hours or more per week) on campus. Our testing plan is subject to modification if the public health situation indicates changes in community risk.

HUHS does not determine who is eligible for testing and cannot update the University’s eligibility file. If you have been authorized to be on campus and believe you should be eligible for testing but do not appear eligible with Color, please contact your local administrator. Persons who desire testing but are not eligible for the campus testing program can seek testing resources in the community.

Test kits are not being distributed by HUHS to the campus community, but are distributed by individual schools and units, so please connect with your local administrator about how to receive your test kit. 

Testing policies and frequencies can be found here.

Testing Results

After completing your test, you will receive an email from Color at the email address you provided on the testing registration form within 2 days. 

If you test positive, a medical professional from HUHS will contact you and discuss next steps and ask questions about recent, close contacts. As required by state law, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will also be notified of any positive test result.

If you test negative, you will need to continue to follow any applicable federal, state, or local orders related to COVID-19. You will also be expected to adhere to any University policy or process to protect the health and safety of our community. 

Find more information on Testing & Tracing on the Harvard University COVID-19 - Keeping Harvard Healthy Website

Frequently Asked Questions

I'm living on campus. How often should I get tested?

Anyone living in undergraduate on-campus housing is required to undergo observed testing two times a week. See the list of on-campus houses and residences to confirm your on-campus building. Then review the Testing & Tracing page to learn how and where to get tested and what to do to prepare for your test.

Please note that Harvard University Housing properties are considered off-campus housing.

I'm living off campus but working, researching, or otherwise authorized to be on campus. How often should I get tested?

All workers, faculty, academic personnel, staff, and students with a regular campus presence of 4 hours or greater per week who are not living in undergraduate housing should get tested on a weekly basis. See the Testing & Tracing page to learn how and where to get tested and what to do to prepare for your test.

Where and how can I get tested?

See the Testing & Tracing page to learn where and how to get tested and what to do to prepare for your test.

I'm living off campus. Can I get tested?

Harvard is only providing regular screening testing for students and personnel who are living in on-campus housing, who are authorized to be on campus for work or in-person academics, or who are authorized to have a regular on-campus presence.

Students and personnel who live near campus but do not fall into one of the above categories will not be provided with regular screening testing.

However, if Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) is your healthcare provider and you present at the HUHS clinic with symptoms or you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, you may be tested through HUHS.

If HUHS is not your healthcare provider, contact your primary care physician to discuss your testing options.

I'm having an issue using the color site. How can I get help?

See the Color support FAQs to get answers to your questions or learn how to contact Color or HUIT for assistance.

What is HUCL?

HUCL is the new Harvard University Clinical Lab, that will process COVID samples for the University beginning the summer of 2021. Previously, all COVID samples were being sent to the Broad Institute for processing.

Why are we creating HUCL?

HUCL will allow the University to expand testing capacity to larger numbers of community members.

What is changing?

All of the steps of the COVID testing will remain the same from a participant's perspective. The biggest change for COVID testing participants is in the test kits and nasal collection process. The new testing kits include a new tube and swab that are smaller than the kits our community members have been using up to now. And the process of collecting a sample is slightly different, as described in the updated self-paced training module

Side by side comparison of COVID testing tubesSide by side comparison of COVID testing swabs

COVID testing instructions

I'm not sure which testing kits I received. How can I tell the difference between the new kits and the old ones?

The new HUCL kits look similar to the previous kits, but contain a much smaller tube about 2” tall and the diameter of a pencil. The Broad tubes are much taller (3-4”) and wider. The Broad kits contain a cotton swab whereas the HUCL kits contain a small plastic swab with a ridged tip.

Side by side comparison of COVID testing tubesSide by side comparison of COVID testing swabs

Will I still use Color to receive my test results?

Yes, you will continue to use your existing Color account to activate a test kit, receive notifications and receive test results.  None of these processes will change.

Will there be different drop-off bins and locations for these new kits?

No, the current drop-off bins and locations will remain the same. You may drop off either the old or the new kits in any bin during the transition period.

When will this change take place?

Schools and units will transition to HUCL over the summer of 2021. You will receive notification from your School or unit when you are being transitioned over to the new kits. Check back here for dates when your school and unit will transition.

What happens to the old swab kits I have. Can I still use them?

Yes, you can still use the old test kits. Do not throw away your old test kits and please use the remaining supply that you have first, before you begin using the new test kits. During the transition period, we will accept either the old or the new kits.

What can I do to prepare for the transition?

Please only take the number of kits you need to test for the week. Please use your remaining old Broad test kits first, before you begin using your new test kits. We have a sufficient supply of testing kits and will not run out of testing supplies.

What if someone needs help in another language?

Please contact HUHS at (617) 495-5711 and follow the prompts for the COVID line (press * key).

Color instructions are available in SpanishPortugueseHaitian Creole, and Simplified Chinese

What if I have other questions?

Please contact HUHS at (617) 495-5711 and follow the prompts for the COVID line (press * key). Check back here as well, as we will be updating this area with additional information as new questions arise.