COVID-19 Testing Procedures

Oberlin’s layered health care strategy includes regular testing as a primary component. 

Our testing strategy is one of the most intensive aspects of our approach to a safe campus. This testing will be ongoing throughout the academic year so that we can monitor and respond to COVID-19. We have partnered with Tempus, a company from Chicago, and Mercy Health – Allen Hospital and its sister company Harness Health Partners out of Cincinnati. In addition, we offer antigen testing for Influenza A & B and COVID-19 for symptomatic individuals.

The college monitors for alternative PCR and antigen tests that are not only reliable but decrease the cost and provide a quicker turn-around time. The goal is to identify positive cases as soon as possible so isolation and quarantine can be initiated. We also hope to facilitate a return to a more typical campus experience.

The Tests

The PCR test is used for Oberlin’s monthly testing program. This molecular test detects genetic material of the COVID-19 virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Molecular tests are considered very accurate when properly performed by a health care professional.

Antigen tests are used for rapid testing. Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. Antigen tests are relatively inexpensive with most currently authorized tests returning results in approximately 15 minutes. Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 are generally less sensitive than real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) but provide valuable information which guides decisions for isolation. Learn more about antigen testing for SARS-CoV-2.

Process for Monthly Testing

We will test all of our faculty, staff, and students upon arrival at the start of the semester. Students will be tested when they arrive on campus in accordance with the schedule they receive from ResLife.

  • It will be important for you to arrive at your scheduled time to help us all maintain physical distancing.

  • Walk-in appointments will not be accommodated.

  • During the semester, we will test 25 percent of the entire campus population each week. This means that each person will be tested once a month.

  • To learn about the scheduling process, watch the video How to Schedule, Reschedule, or Cancel a COVID-19 Test Appointment with Oberlin College.

Testing now takes place at Hales Gym.

  • When you approach the entrance to the testing location, Mercy Health – Allen Hospital employees will take your temperature and ask you a series of questions required by the Centers for Disease Control.

  • If you have a fever, you will be asked to step aside for additional evaluation and may receive a separate, more rapid COVID test at Mercy. If you do not have a fever or other symptoms, you will enter the testing area.

  • After standing in a line organized at 6-foot intervals for distancing, you will register, complete a consent form and answer questions the Ohio Department of Health requires, and receive a labeled bag with the vial that will ultimately hold your sample. See the section on paperwork below for more details about the form.

  • You will be directed to another line, where you will wait for one of eight testing bays to become available. A health care professional will be there to take your sample, label it and place it in a bag.

  • You will then be able to leave the building, and the labeled bag with your sample will remain with the health care professional until it is shipped to Tempus that day.

Federal Express is picking up the Oberlin samples twice a day for shipment to Tempus in Chicago.

Reporting the test results requires a knowledge of federal privacy and health care law. We also have responsibility to Lorain County Public Health. Tempus will report results to Mercy Health – Allen Hospital, which will use email to notify individuals and the student health center of the test results.

In the event of a positive test:

  • Mercy Health – Allen Hospital is obligated to notify students of a positive result first. The hospital also will notify Lorain County Public Health. Tempus is required to notify a student’s home county health department.

  • Faculty and staff will be directed home and advised to consult their doctor.

  • Student Health Services will contact those students who test positive and help determine next steps. Depending upon the severity of symptoms, students could see a doctor or isolate in The Hotel at Oberlin, which will be dedicated to housing those who test positive.

  • The Oberlin contact tracing team, in collaboration with Lorain County Public Health, will begin contact tracing, determining who on campus may need to quarantine if their exposure to the COVID-19 positive person warrants such action.

The COVID-19 consent for testing and authorization/release form is required for taking the test. This type of form is a common requirement for medical appointments.

The form is brief and will not take long to complete. You can download the PDF file to read the entire form. There are several types of questions you’ll be asked to answer:

  • Your name and contact information

  • Your emergency contact information

  • Your consent to testing and information about privacy and who has access to information about your test results

On the back of the form, you’ll be asked a short list of health and demographic questions. These questions include:

  • Whether you have had a COVID-19 test before

  • Whether you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19

  • Whether you are pregnant

  • Whether you live in a congregate setting. Students please note that a college residence hall is not a congregate care setting. “Congregate care settings” are group housing situations that provide healthcare (e.g. a nursing home or a residential treatment program) and/or social services (such as a shelter for people who are homeless and/or leaving family violence or a “group home” for children in foster care who are not currently living with a foster parent). If you have lived in a congregate care setting at some point in 2020, please answer “yes” to this question.

  • Demographic information, including ethnicity/race, gender, and age.

You might wonder why you would be asked questions about your identity or about pregnancy when you are getting a nasal swab test to detect a virus. The demographic and pregnancy information helps public health officials and researchers learn more about the virus, its transmission, and its impact, which may vary for different age groups and identities.

Some of these questions ask you to describe yourself using a limited number of terms - for example, for gender you may indicate “male,” “female,” or “other.” While you may have experienced more options in college forms, the Ohio Department of Health determined what questions to ask and how they may be answered as part of their reporting process. You may find that your choice of answers may not map well onto how you understand yourself and your identities. We apologize for any frustration this may cause and ask that you consider providing as much information as possible, as this data helps health public health and medical professionals address health disparities.

Process for Symptomatic Testing

Students who experience flu or COVID-19 symptoms should contact Student Health (440-775-8180) or

  • Student Health will determine if testing is necessary and will make an appointment.
  • On weekends or in the evening, students should contact Mercy Allen Hospital.
  • Walk-in appointments will not be accepted at Hale’s Gym.


Questions? Email