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COVID-19 Testing at W&M

COVID-19 Testing: If you are a student who has been identified as a COVID-19 close contact, visit ReportCOVID.wm.edu for a case manager who will help you obtain COVID-19 testing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, visit If You're Feeling Ill for more information.

To safeguard the health of students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community, William & Mary has developed a robust COVID-19 testing protocol. Depending on the public health landscape and conditions on campus, the program may deploy a combination of pre-arrival testing, prevalence and census testing, voluntary asymptomatic testing, wastewater testing and end-of-semester testing.

A single-column table with text content detailing the different COVID-19 testing protocols for W&M
On-Campus Census Testing

When the public health landscape or campus conditions require it, William & Mary performs census testing of the entire on-campus student population. Census testing consists of free, on-site census COVID-19 testing for students local to Williamsburg and those taking classes on campus.

When activated, census testing is required for:

  • All residential students
  • Students taking blended or in-person courses
  • Students who live within 30 miles of campus (with limited exceptions for students enrolled in certain graduate programs)
  • Students with a W&M meal plan
Vaccination Exemption: Consistent with the CDC’s guidelines for fully vaccinated people, William & Mary is exempting fully vaccinated faculty, staff and students from participation in prevalence and census testing and quarantine. Visit the W&M COVID-19 vaccination page for more information.

Depending on the student's circumstances or the testing coordination team’s protocols, students will receive directions for obtaining and submitting census tests by email from the Healthy Together logistics team. 

Prevalence Testing

William & Mary's prevalence testing program weekly selects a number of students, faculty, staff and contractors to take COVID-19 tests so that the university can rapidly assess potential community spread. W&M tests at least 5% of its student population and 2% of its employees periodically. These tests are administered at no cost to the individuals.

Vaccination Exemption: Consistent with the CDC’s guidelines for fully vaccinated people, William & Mary is exempting fully vaccinated faculty, staff and students from participation in prevalence and census testing and quarantine. Visit the W&M COVID-19 vaccination page for more information.

Individuals selected for prevalance tests are notified by email and provided instructions. To prepare, all faculty, staff and students must be registered with Kallaco Health & Technology.

If required to attend an in-person COVID-19 testing appointment, students should try to schedule it around class schedules. If a conflict cannot be avoided, they are excused from class. Employees should arrange an appropriate test time with their supervisors. If sick or symptomatic when selected for testing, students should contact the Student Health Center and faculty and staff contact a healthcare provider. Do not make a prevalence testing appointment. You will be automatically included in the next week's round of prevalence testing.

Participating in appropriate COVID-19 testing is a condition to which we have agreed in order to work and study in person at William & Mary under the Healthy Together Community Commitment. The information it provides allows W&M to better support campus health, and for individuals to better support the health of students, colleagues and others within our community. It is mandatory. We hope that all community members will participate willingly, but need to advise that failure to follow testing instructions may result in disciplinary action.

Testing Exemptions for Recent Positives

Tests can continue to detect viral material in those who have previously tested positive after they are no longer infectious. Following CDC guidelines, W&M exempts students, employees and dining workers from pre-arrival and prevalence testing for a period of 90 days after the date a positive test was administered, upon documentation of the result. To provide documentation of the prior positive test result, please visit the Kallaco portal “Records” menu and follow the prompts to “Upload Record.”

Faculty, staff and students who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are exempted from prevalence testing. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated by the CDC if there has been at least two weeks since their final dose in a one- or two-shot vaccination sequence.

Types of Tests

William & Mary’s COVID-19 testing programs rely on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that detect coronavirus in the body. PCR tests are currently the “gold standard” of coronavirus tests available, with a much lower rate of false positives and false negatives than other types of tests. They are relied on in identifying and diagnosing active positive cases of COVID-19. William & Mary provides these test for free to students, faculty and staff.

Rapid antigen tests have a higher false-negative rate, meaning that they have a greater chance of missing a positive case than does a PCR test. These types of tests detect the presence of molecules on the surface of the virus. While a positive rapid antigen result is sufficient for a diagnosis of COVID-19 in a symptomatic patient, a negative result using this test in symptomatic patients should be followed up with a confirmatory PCR.

William & Mary does use some rapid tests at the Student Health Center and in the Athletics population, which must test much more frequently to comply with league standards, as well as the university’s requirements. The rapid tests supplement the use of the PCR test. A rapid test that produces a positive result in this asymptomatic population is also confirmed with a PCR test.

Antibody testing looks for the presence of antibodies that the body has made in response to a viral infection. This test can be used to see if a person has had COVID-19 in the past. Antibodies protect the individual from future infection with the same virus. Short-lived antibodies, known as immunoglobulin G, or IgG, develop within 24 hours of an infection and generally fade over several days. These are replaced by what are known as immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, which may last for months, or longer. Experts do not currently know how long the protective IgM antibodies remain after a person is infected with COVID-19.

William & Mary has also deployed wastewater testing, which is not used to diagnose individuals. Instead, this test detects the presence of coronavirus in an area’s wastewater and helps direct the university’s prevalence test program. If an area of campus tests positive for COVID-19 through wastewater testing, the university’s testing group would follow up by examining the results of prior prevalence testing and positive cases, identifying the most likely source and testing more individuals in that area by PCR test.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration has published guides on types of approved COVID-19 tests currently available.