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COVID-19 Testing at W&M

Tested positive for COVID-19 or are a close contact? W&M students, faculty and staff should complete the form at ReportCOVID.wm.edu for a case manager to help navigate isolation and procure a COVID-19 test at the right time. If you already have an independent test result, upload it in the Records section of Kallaco.

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
Symptomatic or Close-Contact Testing for Students

Students with emergency symptoms of COVID-19 should call 911 immediately. These include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake and/or pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

Students who have tested positive with a non-William & Mary COVID-19 test should visit ReportCOVID.wm.edu to be assigned a case manager to help navigate isolation. 

Students who have non-emergency symptoms of COVID-19 should test as soon as possible. During the week, they should contact the Student Health Center online or by phone at (757) 221-4386, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. After-hours, students may obtain COVID-19 tests from many local pharmacies or through M.D. Express at (757) 564-3627, 120 Monticello Ave., open daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m. or Velocity Urgent Care at (757) 772-6124, 4374 New Town Ave., open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Students with no symptoms, but who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, should also test within an appropriate time frame. Visit ReportCOVID.wm.edu for a case manager to help arrange testing. Students should test roughly five days after the last exposure to the positive person.

Pre-Arrival Student Testing

The Public Health Advisory Team has developed a pre-arrival COVID-19 testing plan for the Spring 2022 semester:

  • All students living in campus housing, who plan to attend in-person instruction or use university facilities, will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. Students in non-university housing who plan to participate in activities on campus will also need to test negative.
  • W&M will provide each student a free COVID-19 PCR saliva test, mailed in advance of returning. It’s important to note that the COVID-19 testing group will contact students by email to coordinate test confirmation and shipments based on students’ anticipated arrival dates.
  • These are the tests required for move-in and in-person instruction; W&M does not plan to accept outside test results due to the variability and efficacy of COVID-19 tests nationally and difficulties in streamlining testing results and reporting requirements from multiple sources.
  • Students will be notified by the William & Mary testing program when it is time to confirm the shipping address for the test kit. Tests will be sent based on a schedule of the student's anticipated return date. For example, some graduate programs begin before the undergraduate schedule. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires COVID-19 laboratories to provide certain medical information on individuals taking tests. Neither Kallaco nor William & Mary access or retain this data.
  • International students will be notified by email about specific testing requirements.
  • If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 within the 90 days prior to return, the should visit ReportCOVID.wm.edu to alert the university and upload a test result to Kallaco.
On-Campus Census Testing

When the public health landscape or campus conditions require it, William & Mary may perform 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

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

When deployed, William & Mary's prevalence testing program weekly selects a number of W&M community members to take COVID-19 tests so that the university can rapidly assess potential community spread. These tests are administered at no cost to the individuals. Individuals selected for prevalence tests are notified by email and provided instructions.

Participating in appropriate COVID-19 testing at William & Mary is mandatory for students. We hope that all community members will participate willingly, but need to advise that failure to follow testing instructions may result in disciplinary action.

Wastewater Testing

William & Mary may also deploy wastewater testing for COVID-19. This testing divides campus residential facilities into zones that capture the majority of residence halls and add capacity to detect COVID-19 trends on campus. This type of population-level testing allows the university to monitor broad patterns on campus. Wastewater testing is not diagnostic for individuals.

Results from wastewater testing are analyzed by William & Mary’s Public Health Advisory Team, which includes medical staff as well as faculty with expertise in public health and epidemiology. Both prevalence testing and wastewater testing work in conjunction with other protocols, such as contact tracing and individual testing, to provide a micro- to macro-level understanding of COVID-19 at William & Mary and to help mitigate spread.

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.”

Types of Tests

William & Mary’s COVID-19 testing programs largely 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 tests 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, primarily in the Student Health Center and in the Athletics population. The rapid tests supplement the use of the PCR test. A rapid test that produces a positive result in this asymptomatic population may be 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 can help direct the university’s prevalence test program and mitigation measures. 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.