COVID Testing & Treatment

If you test positive for COVID ...

Report your positive COVID test result to receive 5-day isolation instructions and academic accommodations. Learn more about what to do if you test positive.

Concerned about symptoms?

If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155 (24/7). Severe symptoms include fever >102F, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe headache, severe sore throat, vomiting. In an emergency, call 911.

Need other support?

Refer to these resources if you need support or information related to housing, dining, academics, travel, getting a copy of your vaccination documentation, and more.

On this page:

When to get tested 

If you're experiencing symptoms

If you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, limit contact with others, wear a high-quality mask, and self-administer an antigen test as soon as possible (see where to get free antigen tests). 

PCR testing is available at Cornell Health for students who meet clinical testing criteria, as well as at Immediate Care and at local pharmacies. (Learn about testing for travel.)

If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155 (24/7). Severe symptoms include fever >102F, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe headache, severe sore throat, vomiting.) 

If you're concerned about exposure

If you learned you've been exposed to COVID, wear a mask around others while you self-monitor for the possible development of symptoms (you can develop COVID up to 10 days after you have been exposed). Get tested, and then test again at least 5 full days after your last exposure, even if you don’t develop symptoms. Refer to this exposure guidance from the CDC for more details. 

When returning to campus

Antigen testing is also strongly recommended for those returning to campus following breaks, and after international travel. Test upon arrival before beginning campus activities, and again three to five days after your arrival.

Antigen testing (self-tests)

Antigen tests can be self-administered and provide results within 15 minutes. Antigen testing is effective at detecting infection at high viral levels, when people are most infectious. Positive antigen test results are extremely accurate and do not need to be confirmed with a PCR test. A negative antigen test result does not rule out a COVID infection; if you have a negative antigen test and are concerned about your symptoms, consider contacting Cornell Health for evaluation (607-255-5155). 

Where to get free antigen tests on campus

Antigen test kits are available for free at Cornell Health:

Antigen tests are also sold at many retail locations. Most insurance plans cover antigen tests; limits apply, so check your insurance plan.

How to request bulk quantities of antigen tests (10-150)

Staff, faculty and student group organizers may request a bulk quantity (10-150) of antigen test kits by submitting this COVID Test Kit Request Form to the Cornell Health Pharmacy. 

(Note that bulk antigen kits may not be requested for or distributed to guests or visitors.)

Please allow 5 business days for requests to be filled. Test kits can be picked up at Cornell Health pharmacy (see pharmacy hours).

How to get free antigen tests from COVID.gov

Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order free at-⁠home tests (fall 2023). Learn how to order here.

PCR testing 

PCR tests are processed in a lab. Depending on where the test is done, results may take 1-2 days to be available. A positive PCR test shows that you have COVID-19 nucleic acids in your body, a sign of a current COVID-19 infection – or a recent infection (some people who contract COVID may receive a positive PCR test result for up to three months, long after they are contagious). 

How to get a PCR test

  • If clinically indicated: Cornell Health will continue to provide PCR testing for students who meet clinical testing criteria; please call us at 607-255-5155 for consultation and to schedule an appointment. 
  • Upon request: Additional PCR testing is available at Immediate Care and at local pharmacies.
  • Testing for travel: If you need COVID testing before international travel, Cayuga Health provides PCR testing and travel documents at Immediate Care. Some airports also offer on-site testing. (See more guidance for travel.)  

What to do if you test positive

Self-report your positive result

Report your positive COVID test result to receive isolation instructions and academic accommodations. Reporting positive test results also helps Cornell track the prevalence of the virus on campus.

Self-isolate for 5-10 days

Refer to our COVID Isolation webpage for details. 

Monitor your symptoms

Most COVID symptoms can be self-managed using non-prescription cough/cold/fever medication. If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155 (24/7). (Severe symptoms include fever >102F, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe headache, severe sore throat, vomiting.) 

COVID treatment

Most COVID symptoms can be self-managed using non-prescription cough/cold/fever medication available at any pharmacy, including the Cornell Health pharmacy. 
 
However, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID, including people who are unvaccinated and people with certain medical conditions. For these individuals, antiviral medications can be prescribed and should be started as soon possible after diagnosis to be effective. Our medical clinicians can help you determine whether you are eligible for treatment, and can prescribe antiviral medication (Paxlovid or Lagevrio), available through the Cornell Health pharmacy or another pharmacy of your choice.
 
Cost for antiviral medication: The COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023, which means that there may be changes to your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs for COVID medications. Please check with your insurance plan for coverage details (see Student Health Plan coverage information here). 

Resources for support

Refer to these resources if you need support or information related to your health, isolation, academics, or travel.

What to do if you test negative

Even if you test negative for COVID-19, your illness may still be contagious. If you attend class, work or social gatherings, wear a well-fitting mask until your symptoms have resolved. If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155 (24/7). (Severe symptoms include fever >102F, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe headache, severe sore throat, vomiting.)