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vials for COVID-19 screening

COVID-19 Testing

To identify COVID-19 cases, UC Davis runs a free, rapid saliva testing program on campus

We are taking a unique, multi-disciplinary approach to screening and testing members of UC Davis and the Davis community for the coronavirus. Screening symptom-free students and employees has helped to identify COVID-19 and track cases on campus.

This COVID-19 testing uses saliva samples, is cost-free to UC Davis students and employees, and provides rapid results in 24-48 hours.

COVID-19 testing is available to all UC Davis students and employees. Routine testing is required to access any Davis campus facility, though students and employees who verify they are fully vaccinated are exempt from this requirement (occasional surveillance testing may be required, regardless of vaccination status).

Current campus testing guidance

Updated June 18: To be compliant with the UC Davis Screening and Testing program, all students and employees accessing university-controlled facilities (including UC Davis Health facilities) are required to get tested at least every four days. If you are fully vaccinated and have verified your vaccination information in Health-e-Messaging (and/or have documented vaccine information in your UC Davis Health employee record in Agility) then you are exempt from this COVID-19 testing requirement. This revision to the current weekly testing requirement is in alignment with CDC guidance that frequent COVID-19 testing contributes to low case rates in university and healthcare settings.

We encourage fully vaccinated people to continue to test on a routine basis voluntarily, as there are examples of vaccinated individuals contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19.

Everyone must continue to adhere to all UC Davis public health guidance

Questions and answers about testing

FAQs: We provide both Testing FAQs and Technical FAQs for employees and students about the testing process

Delayed test results: Most results are returned within 48 hours. If you have not received your test result after 48 hours, please log back into the Health-e-Messaging Portal and check “Lab Results.” A small number of results may take longer to be reported to the testing participant due to technical considerations. Please note a delay does not indicate a positive or negative result.

Student help with testing: If you do not find answers on this webpage or cannot find your test results, students can call (530) 752-6125 for more information.

Employee help with testing: If you have additional questions about testing or your test results, employees can email for assistance.


Requirements for campus COVID-19 testing

Asymptomatic only: This testing is only for students and employees who do not have symptoms. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, contact Student Health and Counseling Services (or your doctor or Occupational Health if you are a campus employee). You will be required to complete the Daily Symptom Survey before entering the testing facility on campus.

Requirements: All registered UC Davis students and all UC Davis employees (who receive paychecks through UCPath) are eligible for free saliva testing through the campus testing kiosks.

  • If you visit campus, you are required to get tested at least once every four days — unless you have verified that you are fully vaccinated.
  • If you are not vaccinated and visit campus less frequently, then please plan ahead and secure a testing appointment in advance, up to four days (96 hours) before your visit. You must complete your testing appointment before your visit to other campus facilities. (If you are testing the same day as your visit, you must take your Daily Symptom Survey before and after testing in order to access the testing facility and other campus facilities). Testing availability varies each week, and same-day appointments are not guaranteed. 

Find more information about requirements, compliance and consequences, see the UC Davis Interim Public Health Policy and the scope of the university’s COVID-19 testing program.


How the COVID-19 testing process works

To find out whether they have COVID-19, testing participants provide a saliva sample at a COVID-19 testing kiosk on campus. Testing is by appointment only. If you have problems logging in or making an appointment, contact


  • Please stay well hydrated and drink plenty of fluids 1 hour before your appointment.
  • Before arriving at the testing facility, you must complete the Daily Symptom Survey and be prepared to show your results for entry.
  • NEW: Be prepared to show your photo ID after you arrive at the testing kiosk.
  • In the 30 minutes before your test, do not eat, drink, chew gum, smoke or brush your teeth.
  • Everyone waiting in line at the kiosk will need to do their part to follow campus safety rules, including wearing a face covering and following physical distancing guidelines.

At the kiosk: You will be asked to sanitize your hands and provide your appointment QR code at a registration table, along with your photo ID and symptom survey results. You will receive a straw, a pipette bulb with purified water, and a vial with a barcode. Then you’ll follow this seven-step process, as seen in this video:

  1. Once asked, remove the cap from the vial and place it in the provided tray. Don’t lose the cap. 
  2. Tip the water from the pipette bulb into your mouth and gently swirl it around (do not gargle).
  3. Place the straw in the vial, but be careful not to push the straw so far that it creates a seal. 
  4. Place your lips on the straw and push saliva through the straw into the vial. 
  5. After filling the vial a little more than halfway, remove the straw and place it in the tray. 
  6. Securely place the cap back on the vial and place the vial into the container. 
  7. The attendant will take your sample. Sanitize your hands and exit.


What happens when someone tests positive for COVID-19

When a test comes back positive, you will be contacted by the campus contact tracing team with information about isolation, care and any further testing if needed. The confidentiality of individuals with positive results will be protected, and their name and COVID-19 status will not be shared with close contacts.

As campus screening increases the number of students and other campus affiliates who are tested, expectations are that more existing and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 will become visible. In preparation for this eventuality, the campus has set aside quarantine and isolation facilities. UC Davis also has worked with local housing complex owners to assist them in establishing quarantine and isolation spaces within their properties.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the FAQs about UC Davis COVID-19 testing that we have received from employees and students. We will add more questions and answers over time. You may also watch our video demonstrating the testing process.  

  • Who is able to take the test? What about contractors, visiting scholars, emeritus faculty members, temporary affiliates, vendors, visitors or others who come to campus?
  • All registered UC Davis students and all UC Davis employees are eligible for testing at the ARC kiosk. The requirement for employees specifically applies to employees who have UCPath identification numbers. This means emeritus faculty members are eligible because they have UCPath ID numbers — but not temporary affiliates, who usually do not.

    For others who are not eligible for campus testing — such as visitors, vendors and contractors — we encourage that they make use of additional testing kiosks through Healthy Davis Together that will serve those who live or work in Davis.

    Household members of UC Davis employees are now also eligible to get tested at Healthy Davis Together testing kiosks, whether or not they live or work in Davis themselves. Family members of UC Davis employees are also eligible for testing at UC Davis Health testing locations in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville. To set up appointments, register through the UC Davis Family Testing initiative (use code: UCDHFamilies). See “Can my family members get tested” below for addresses and current testing days.

    Here is another resource to find testing nearby. (Updated April 7)
  • Can my family members get tested with me?
  • Family members of UC Davis employees are eligible for asymptomatic testing.

    In Davis: Register for appointments through Healthy Davis Together (use code: Davis when signing up)
    > UC Davis Mondavi Center (free parking available)
    > Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School
    > Davis High School
    > Harper Junior High
    > Emerson Junior High

    In Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove or Folsom: Register for appointments through the UC Davis Family Testing initiative (use code: UCDHFamilies when signing up).

    > Sacramento: Daily
    Betty Irene Moore Hall
    2570 48th St.

    > Roseville: Saturdays
    UC Davis Health Clinic
    1620 E Roseville Parkway

    > Elk Grove: Sundays
    UC Davis Health Clinic
    8110 Laguna Blvd

    > Folsom: Mondays
    UC Davis Health Specialty Clinic Parking Lot
    1370 Prairie City Road

    Please note that UC Davis employees should continue to make appointments for testing through the Health-e-Messaging portal, in order to meet requirements for accessing campus facilities. Health-e-Messaging does include appointments for employees at the Roseville, Elk Grove and Folsom locations.

  • Are UC Davis Health employees eligible to get tested? Do they need to get tested to access university facilities?
  • Employees and students at UC Davis Health are eligible to get tested at the Davis campus testing kiosks, on the Sacramento campus at Betty Irene Moore Hall, or at the clinic locations in Elk Grove, Roseville or Folsom. If they are accessing facilities on the Davis campus or in Yolo County, then they are also required to get tested to access those facilities. UC Davis Health facilities in Sacramento county and other locations do not require testing for access as part of this testing program. (Updated Feb. 16)
  • What if I can’t log into the Health e-Messaging Portal?
  • Only currently registered students and UC Davis employees who have UCPath identification numbers should be able to log into the Health e-Messaging Portal. If you are able to login, but cannot schedule an appointment, then please contact so Student Health staff members can troubleshoot your account. Student Health staff members are working to fix any login issues, and they appreciate your help in prioritizing which accounts need to be updated.
  • How often do I need to get tested?
  • Employees and students who visit campus facilities are required to get tested every four days — unless they have verified that they are fully vaccinated.

    If you are not vaccinated and visit campus less frequently, then please plan ahead and secure a testing appointment in advance, up to four days (96 hours) before your visit. You must complete your testing appointment before your visit to other campus facilities.

    If you are testing the same day as your visit, you must take your Daily Symptom Survey before getting tested to access the testing kiosk and again after testing in order to access other campus facilities.

    Please note that testing availability will vary each week and same-day testing appointments are not guaranteed.
  • UPDATED: I don’t go to campus often. Can I get tested on the same day I visit campus? Do I need my test results before I can come to campus?
  • You do not need the test result before your visit, but you must complete a testing appointment before you will be able to access a university facility. The testing appointment must be either on the same day of your visit or up to four days in advance of your visit. Please note that testing availability will vary each week and same-day testing appointments are not guaranteed, so we encourage you to plan ahead as much as possible. (Updated June 18, 2021)
  • UPDATED: As an employee, do I need to come in before the start of my shift to get tested?
  • Employees can get tested during work hours, as you will be afforded paid release time for testing. To accommodate a range of work schedules, the testing kiosk has extended hours on Wednesdays, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Testing any time during a shift, including near the end of a shift, are also acceptable options as long as you are testing frequently enough to be able to pass the Daily Symptom Survey. Please consult with your supervisor for scheduling. (Updated June 18, 2021)
  • What locations are included in the testing requirement?
  • University facilities on the Davis campus or in Yolo county are included in this requirement, per the COVID-19 Screening and Testing Scope.
  • It’s been 2 days since I was tested, but no results yet. Are my results missing? How can I find out my results?
  • We continue to experience some delays in notifying participants of their test results. If you have not received your test result after 48 hours, please log back into the Health-e-Messaging Portal and check “Lab Results.” A small number of results may take up to 5 days before they are reported to the testing participant. This can be caused by a combination of timing between worker shifts, machine errors, retesting samples and other troubleshooting that takes extra time to resolve. Please note this delay does not indicate a positive or negative result. We are making strides to reduce the frequency of these delays and seeking ways to notify participants if their results are among those taking longer to process. We apologize for the delays and ask for your patience in the meantime, thank you. (New as of Dec. 11)

  • Do students or employees need insurance to take this test?
  • This test is free for all eligible students and employees. No insurance needed.
  • I don’t have a parking pass. Can I park for free while I get tested?
  • There is free 1-hour parking in Lot 25 by the ARC for all testing participants.
  • What happens if an employee tests positive?
  • If an employee tests positive, they will be called by Occupational Health (students with positive results will be called by Student Health and Counseling Services) and provided with information about next steps. This will include notifying the employee of their positive results, instructing them on public health-mandated isolation, and encouraging medical care with their medical provider.

    Positive results will be delivered securely to trained case investigators at Student Health and Counseling Services (under physician supervision) who will also inquire about their recent activities and close contacts on campus as part of the contact tracing process. The confidentiality of individuals with positive results will be protected consistent with the law and public health orders.

    With respect to paid leaves entitled to employees who test positive or are under a quarantine or isolation order, please refer to the COVID-19 related Leaves and Job Protection Guidance for Policy-Covered and Represented Staff Employees (PDF) which continues to be updated.

    Occupational Health will also determine when an employee is able to return to work after testing positive for COVID-19. 
  • I’m concerned about getting tested indoors. Isn’t ventilation important?
  • In anticipation of winter weather, the testing kiosk has moved indoors to the four-court gym, also called Room 125, at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Because this move would mean inviting groups of people indoors, a multidisciplinary team evaluated multiple indoor locations on campus to find a space that was large enough and had adequate ventilation controls to mitigate potential viral risks related to airflow. This room in the ARC is one of the most voluminous on campus, has the ability to be fully ventilated with 100 percent outside air, and has a MERV 13 filter, which has a very high efficiency of removing coronavirus particulates from the air if temperatures outside drop too much for outside air ventilation. The team also performed smoke tests to check the circulation within the space, and made necessary upgrades to the HVAC system before confirming this indoor location for the testing kiosk.
  • I’m concerned about getting exposed to the virus during the testing process. How is this process designed to keep me safe?
  • Having an appointment helps keep the testing process moving quickly. The whole process usually takes 15 minutes or less.

    Students with symptoms can get COVID-19 testing at Student Health after a telehealth appointment with a Student Health provider. Testing participants at the ARC kiosk must pass the Daily Symptom Survey, so they do not have symptoms and have not recently been a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Everyone must show that they’ve passed the Daily Symptom Survey before they can get tested. 

    While waiting, you are required to maintain physical distancing and wear a face covering. Inside the ARC testing kiosk area, we are requiring that participants maintain extra physical distancing of 10 feet while they are indoors. You must sanitize your hands before and after the sample process.

    The testing kiosk workers also wear gloves and sanitize their hands often when handling any of the testing materials, including the pipette bulb and straw. All the equipment used to cut and fill the bulbs/straws are new or sanitized each day, and the water is from sealed water bottles used only for that purpose. Workers all wear gloves in the spit station area and sanitize their station and hands after every client.
  • Can I get tested elsewhere?
  • Employees and students can get PCR testing (saliva or nasal swab) for COVID-19 from other medical providers to meet the requirement of weekly testing to access campus facilities. If you were to pursue this option, then you would need to respond to the questions added to the Daily Symptom Survey about COVID-19 testing based on the date you were last tested. In the future, we expect to move testing compliance into the Student Health appointment system. At that time, we anticipate there would likely be a way to upload results from third-party PCR testing, so you would want to keep records of your tests for if/when monitoring and compliance changes in order to meet campus requirements. An antigen test is not accepted to meet this requirement. (Updated Dec. 7)
  • How do I seek a medical accommodation for this testing requirement?
  • Employees seeking a medical accommodation to assist with testing should first contact their supervisor, who can begin a conversation with Disability Management Services so that the parties can engage in the interactive process.
  • Can I use this test to meet travel requirements?
  • UC Davis is currently discouraging non-essential travel, in accordance with CDC, state and Yolo County guidelines. Campus testing is a RT-qPCR test used to detect whether someone is currently infected with the coronavirus, even though they do not have symptoms. Samples are processed in a CLIA-certified lab on campus, and results are available via the Student Health e-Messaging portal. Travelers are responsible for determining whether this test meets their needs regarding flight or entry requirements. You may also consider using this tool to find more testing options nearby.
  • UPDATED: How will employee compliance with this testing requirement be monitored and managed?
  • Compliance is monitored through the Daily Symptom Survey. Employees who are denied facility entry are directed to immediately contact their supervisors. Supervisors should:

    1. Reiterate the COVID-19 testing requirement;

    2. Ask the employee why they are noncompliant;

    3. Direct the employee to take immediate action to test or get vaccinated, and avoid a violation of UC Davis Policy and Procedure Manual (PPM) Chapter 290-01 Interim Public Health Policy. Employees are allowed to return to campus upon receiving a COVID-19 test. (Updated June 18)

  • What if I have a question about testing that is not already answered?
  • If you cannot find an answer to your question about testing on the Campus Ready website:

    Student help with testing: If you do not find answers on this webpage or cannot find your test results, students can call (530) 752-6125 for more information.

    Employee help with testing: If you have additional questions about testing or your test results, employees can email for assistance.

Technical FAQs about the UC Davis rapid saliva test

The saliva test used at UC Davis is a rapid test that detects whether someone is currently infected with the coronavirus. This is a laboratory developed test that uses a high throughput, real time, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) protocol run on machines repurposed from the agricultural genetics industry. The saliva samples are processed at the UC Davis Genome Center, which is a CLIA-certified extension of the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services CLIA license. Read more about what's behind the UC Davis COVID-19 saliva testing process.

  • How does this test work? 
  • This protocol tests for the presence of two viral genes, N1 and N2, in a saliva sample to identify if someone is acutely infected with COVID-19. The test uses a protocol adapted from CDC-designed assays specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to detect the virus in saliva samples. SARS-CoV-2 RNA is generally detectable in saliva specimens during the acute phase of infection. Detection of the viral genes leads to a positive result.
  • How accurate is it? What about false positives or false negatives? How sensitive and specific is this test?
  • All tests have a trade-off between the likelihood of false negatives and the likelihood of false positives, which is measured by a test’s sensitivity and specificity.

    Sensitivity can be considered in two ways. The limit of detection can be determined by analyzing contrived samples containing known amounts of deactivated virus added in. This test’s lower limit of detection was determined to be 15 copies per microliter (µL) of saliva.  This represents a low level of virus that is comparable to other tests authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Such low levels have been shown to be rarely infectious in cell culture studies. 

    The second way to measure sensitivity is to compare it to clinical samples that have been declared positive or negative by an independent lab. On this basis, this test’s sensitivity is currently calculated at 84–88%, which is considered adequately sensitive. This means the test will positively identify 84–88% of those who are actually infected with COVID-19. It will, however, reliably detect people with high viral counts, who are the most likely to be infectious. 

    Another way of looking at this test’s sensitivity is that about 12–16% of people who are actually infected will receive a “false negative” result from this test because they have low levels of virus. This could be because they are in the short period during early stages of infection when the viral load is just beginning to increase or in the longer period of recovery after the infectious period.

    The test uses the same PCR primers as previously validated for numerous FDA approved tests, and it is therefore considered highly specific for SARS-CoV-2. Consequently, a positive result is therefore diagnostic of COVID-19. False positives are highly unlikely. 

  • Is this test FDA approved? 
  • No, this test is not currently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. This is a laboratory-developed test. The FDA is not currently required to review laboratory-developed tests and until recently has declined to review new requests for emergency use authorizations (EUAs). There is signage to this effect at the testing kiosk. The guidance on EUAs has recently changed and therefore we will be submitting an EUA to the FDA.
  • How was this test validated?
  • To validate the test, the campus testing protocol was compared to a validated saliva-based test from Arizona State University. ASU provided 50 positive and 50 negative samples; the FDA recommends at least 30 of each. The UC Davis test achieved high concordance up to the limit of detection. The test’s limit of detection was determined by testing contrived samples containing known amounts of deactivated virus. The lab director for Student Health and Counseling Services approved the validation of this UC Davis rapid saliva test based on the validation data as recommended by FDA.
  • What genes does the test target? What about the endogenous control?
  • The test targets the N1 and N2 gene of SARS-CoV-2 using primers approved by the FDA. Human RNaseP is used as the endogenous control as approved by FDA.  
  • What is the cycle threshold for this testing process?
  • The cycle threshold (Ct) values will vary by test and machine. The Ct value for our limit of detection as defined by the FDA is 32. However, the test can detect the virus at higher Ct values (lower viral loads). The cut-off for calling a positive is the FDA recommended value of <40. However, we rarely obtain Ct values greater than 35.
  • UPDATED: Are samples genotyped and sequenced?
  • All samples that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 are now genotyped to monitor for currently known variants of concern using assays for at least seven diagnostic, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Most positive samples are also later sequenced to confirm results and reveal the presence of any novel changes to the viral genome. Data on COVID-19 variants are available on the Health Davis Together website. (Updated July 16, 2021)

  • Are samples batch tested?
  • Samples are tested in batches of up to 760 as individual samples. Samples are not pooled. The machine is sufficiently high throughput that pooling is not necessary or desirable. Pooling would increase the complexity of the workflow and slow the return of results by at least a day.
  • I’m concerned about privacy. Who will have access to our results?
  • Saliva samples delivered to the Genome Center do not have any identifiable information associated with them. The Genome Center receives a sample in a bar-coded tube and reports a result for that barcode to the Student Health and Counseling Services database.

    From the database, employees from Student Health and Occupational Health — all of whom are trained to maintain HIPAA compliance — connect the result to the individual tested.

    If you test positive, you will receive a call from a campus medical provider with information about your results and next steps. You will also be contacted by the campus contact tracing team. The confidentiality of individuals with positive results will be protected, and their name and COVID-19 status will not be shared with close contacts.

    Positive test results are also reported to the Yolo County Public Health Department, in accordance with CDC guidance, state and county requirements and as mandated by law.

  • What will happen to my saliva sample? Are the samples being used for research?
  • All saliva samples are stored in a cold room for at least a few days in case a sample needs to be rerun.

    All positive samples are then stored frozen in a freezer, for use in quality control and protocol improvement. A few negative samples will be kept as controls.

    Currently the saliva samples are not being used for research. If in the future the Genomics Lab team is interested in pursuing research using saliva samples from this testing process, then they will guided by the Institutional Review Board process, and a consent form for optional research will be made available for testing participants to decide if they want to consent to participating in the research or not.

  • Why does campus allow an employee or student to access facilities on the same day they get tested, before they have received a negative test result?
  • Our goal is to test asymptomatic members of our campus community frequently, in order to quickly identify individuals who may be contagious and to monitor the infection rates of our community. Participating in this routine testing program is valuable for our community, and we aim to make this process as easy and convenient as possible.

    Routine testing is a public health program aimed to reduce risk, but it does not guarantee that anyone accessing campus facilities is negative for the coronavirus. 

    It is important to understand the limitations of a negative test result. Even with rapid, regular testing, someone can get infected and become contagious in between their weekly tests. Through multiple layers of public health precautions and responses, we are doing our best to reduce the number of people who are accessing campus while they are at risk of being infectious and to mitigate potential spread. 

    We encourage everyone to act as if those around them are potentially positive for the virus.

Testing rollout: From student move-in, to Davis community

Students living on campus with Student Housing and Dining Services were first required to get tested for COVID-19 before moving into their residences in September. Student residents can expect to continue to be tested on at least a weekly basis.

During the initial pilot phase, the saliva screening process was backed up with a more traditional, certified testing process using nasal swabs. As part of the pilot phase, UC Davis students residing at The Green and in Sorority and Fraternity residences were also eligible to begin testing, as were student firefighters and EMTs living on campus. First responder and frontline health employees on the UC Davis campus were also invited to participate in testing during the pilot phase. After the saliva test was validated, additional groups of students and employees were invited to begin participating in the testing program (see the scope of the COVID-19 testing and screening program for more details).

Weekly testing is now available for all UC Davis students and employees. The UC Davis COVID-19 Dashboard provides weekly updates on the number of tests and positive results. Work is ongoing to open additional saliva-based testing kiosks as part of the Healthy Davis Together initiative to serve the needs of Davis residents and workers.


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