Gateway Testing for Students

All students traveling to the Durham area for the fall semester were asked to observe 14 days of quarantine and obtain COVID-19 tests if possible in their areas, prior to arrival.

All students who will be living on campus or who plan to be on campus for approved academic purposes were then required to undergo testing for COVID-19 upon their arrival to campus. 

Students moving into Duke campus housing were tested immediately upon arrival to campus. All undergraduates living on and off campus were tested before they began fall classes on August 17. Graduate and professional students were tested from Monday, August 17 and Tuesday, September 1.

Post-Arrival Sequester Period

After students went through the check-in and testing process at Penn Pavilion and moved into their housing, students were required to sequester in their residence hall or off-campus home until results of their arrival tests are available (this will likely take 24-48 hours). Results were communicated through Duke MyChart. While waiting for test results, students were expected to limit any unnecessary movement and activity outside of their room. 

During this sequester period, students living on campus were permitted to retrieve food from Duke Dining locations, run essential errands, and spend time outdoors in a manner that does not increase the potential spread of COVID-19, but had to avoid other students/staff during this time.

Non-symptomatic students living off-campus were to make appropriate arrangements for food and necessary supplies during the sequestering period.

Surveillance Testing During the Semester

Duke will conduct regular surveillance testing of students and other campus community members who do not have any symptoms to assist in the early detection and response for potential COVID-19 cases on campus.

Testing will begin the week of Aug. 17 for half of the undergraduate students residing on campus and be expanded in subsequent weeks to include all on- and off-campus students, undergraduate, graduate and professionals. The self-administered process should take about 5 minutes, and collection sites will be established in multiple locations on East and West campuses for convenience.

Below are the steps for the screening process:

Step 1: Select participants will receive an email with details to conduct a surveillance test on specific days.

Step 2: On the day for their test, participants should visit one of community screening collection sites on the campus where they reside or work.

Step 3: Participants should arrive at the test site with their DukeCard ID or phone with the SymMon app (be sure you have version 1.6 or later). You will use your SymMon app to scan your test kit or a  site coordinator will scan your DukeCard ID and provide you with a test kit.

Step 4: Testing will be self-administered and should only take about 5 minutes to complete.

Testing will involve inserting a cotton swab into each nasal passage and rotating it against the inner nasal lining in a circle three times. The swab does not need to be inserted far – just enough so the cotton tip is no longer visible.

The swab is then placed into a collection tube with a bar code, which will be placed in a bag and then deposited into a cooler at the collection site.

That’s it.

Pooled testing of samples will be conducted by the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. Results from tests typically take about 48 hours. You will only be contacted if the results are positive for COVID-19, at which point you will receive further medical guidance and support.

Surveillance Test Sites

Week of Sept. 28, 2020: Testing sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with exceptions noted below:

East Campus

West Campus

Medical Center Campus

Interprofessional Education and Care Building: Physical Therapy Clinic

Mobile Test Site

West Village: 605 W. Main St.: building courtyard
(Wed.-Thurs.: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)


Students are required to complete surveillance testing on days in which they are requested to do so. Students not completing this requirement will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and have their DukeCard access suspended until testing has been completed.

Testing data is updated hourly. Once a student’s test has been registered, his or her DukeCard access will be restored.

Contacts for Student Questions

Undergraduates: Undergraduates with questions should email

Graduate & Professional Students: If you have received this message and you are not in Durham this semester, please contact your program (see list of names/emails below) and ask to be removed from the surveillance testing process.

If you are out of town temporarily, but will be returning to Durham in the near future, please contact your program and provide your return date.

If you fail to report for testing on your scheduled date, your DukeCard will remain inactive (with the exception of SOM and SON students) until you are tested, and your name will be reported to your program leadership. You do not need to contact Keep Learning about testing on the following day, rather you can simply show up one of the testing sites.

SchoolCompliance ContactsEmails
Fuqua Anita Tappanita.tapp@duke
The Graduate SchoolHelene

FAQs: Surveillance Testing During Semester

Because many individuals who are infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, one of the best ways to identify potential cases is to conduct surveillance testing on a regular basis. This testing will help Duke medical experts identify and respond to positive cases in the Duke community. Taking these steps will help limit the spread of COVID-19 so that campus activities can continue.

At the test site, individuals will be provided with a cotton swab, a collection tube, and a plastic bag. Participants will take the insert the cotton swab into each nasal passage and rotate it against the inner nasal lining three times. The swab does not need to be inserted far – just enough so the cotton tip is no longer visible. The swab is then inserted into a collection tube, placed in the plastic bag and deposited into cooler on-site for processing at the lab.

The testing process should only take about 5 minutes to complete.

Results from surveillance test may take 36-48 hours, and you will only be contacted if the results are positive for COVID-19, at which point you will receive further medical guidance and support.

The frequency of testing may vary for different groups on campus. Testing of students will begin on a weekly basis but may be done twice weekly later in the semester. Faculty and staff with more on-campus exposure may also be tested once a week during the semester.

The initial focus for surveillance testing will be undergraduate students living on campus. Half of these students will be screened during the first week, and the other half will be screened the following week. Testing will expand afterward to include off-campus students, faculty who teach courses on-site and staff with more exposure to students on campus.

Testing will also depend on the results of test data over time. Broader testing of specific groups may be necessary if positive cases are found to cluster in specific geographic areas of campus.

Yes, as part of The Duke Compact, members of the Duke community are required to participate in this safety initiative as a means of helping to monitor the potential spread of COVID-19 and respond quickly to positive cases.

Completing regular surveillance testing is required as part of your responsibility as a member of the Duke community. Failing to complete testing may jeopardize your status as a student or employee.

You should make every effort to complete the surveillance test on your appointed day. If you have a conflict, please email

Yes, once you receive notification regarding what day you are scheduled for testing, you should choose one of several sites near your residence hall or work location.

All you need to bring with you to the testing site is your DukeCard ID and your mobile phone with the SymMon app (be sure you have version 1.6 or later).

If you have ANY symptoms related to COVID-19 on the day you are scheduled for an surveillance test, you should not go for testing. Instead, contact the Duke COVID-19 Hotline at 919-385-0429 and wait for guidance from medical staff.

YES. While the frequency of testing may vary for different student groups, it is not unusual for students to be asked to complete more than one surveillance test in a seven-day period. Only students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months or who are currently in quarantine or isolation should not report for surveillance testing. If you qualify for one of those categories, please contact to ask for assistance.

Our team is working with the leadership of each school to ensure that students in low-residency programs have testing protocols that work for them. For example, Global Executive MBA and Weekend Executive MBA students will only be tested while completing an in-person component of their program. Students in these programs may disregard the notice to participate in surveillance testing this week.

We have set up testing sites in the Washington Duke Inn and JB Duke Hotel, which will be more convenient for students driving to campus for surveillance testing. Students going for testing should park at the Washington Duke Hotel near the left-hand side of the building and enter through the conference center rather than the main lobby.

Surveillance testing is required on the scheduled day and typically takes just 5 minutes to complete.

Testing for Symptomatic or Exposed Individuals During the Semester

Any student, faculty, or staff member who becomes symptomatic or is referred by either Employee Health or Student Health will be tested at one of five local testing sites, two of which are located on Duke’s campus.

Isolation for COVID-Positive Students

Students who test positive will be placed in isolation on campus.

  • Isolation is for students who have already been diagnosed positive with COVID-19.
  • Isolated students will be under the care of Duke clinicians during an isolation window.
  • A Duke clinician will determine when a student’s isolation period is complete. The average time spent in isolation is 14 days.
  • For students in Duke-provided housing, isolated students will be moved to East House, Jarvis, or The Lodge near Duke Hospital.
  • If isolated, students should not leave their assigned rooms other than to take strolls outside to get air. Meals will be delivered. 

Contact tracing will be used to identify other potential positive cases.