Testing, Tracing and Quarantine

As part of Ohio State’s plans to return to on-campus operations in autumn, the university is implementing a testing program based on recommendations from the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup and guidance from federal, state and local health authorities.

Broadly, Ohio State’s testing strategy will combine:

  • Surveillance testing to monitor COVID-19 in random samples of asymptomatic undergraduate students
  • Testing of symptomatic and exposed students, faculty and staff
  • Voluntary asymptomatic testing for faculty, staff, graduate students and professional students
  • Targeted testing should COVID-19 hotspots be identified
  • A tool that will enable the university to share aggregate information with the public in a way that protects individuals’ medical and educational privacy.​

Before autumn classes begin, a random sample of up to 6,500 undergraduate students will be identified for testing by Student Life Student Health Services. Students who test positive will be required to remain in isolation — at their homes if they have not yet moved into campus housing or, if they have, in on-campus isolation housing. Positive test results will be shared with the appropriate health authority and the university’s contact tracing team. Information about the contact tracing process will be shared in the near future.

The Office of Student Life will be contacting undergraduate students as they are selected for the surveillance testing program to provide details about the process.

The student sample testing results will be used to establish the baseline prevalence of positive cases on campus. This will be monitored and compared to results from ongoing student testing that will occur over the course of the semester. The prevalence data will inform any future actions necessary to help ensure the safety of the university community.

In addition to surveillance testing, students with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be referred to Student Life Student Health Services or an alternative health care provider for evaluation and testing. Faculty and staff members with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be referred for evaluation and testing through Wexner Medical Center testing facilities, their personal physicians or an alternative testing site. Again, positive test results will be forwarded to the appropriate health authority and referred for contact tracing through the university’s contact tracing team.

Asymptomatic faculty and staff, graduate students and professional students may opt in to voluntary testing at a Wexner Medical Center site. Finally, ongoing monitoring may identify hotspots where additional, targeted testing is warranted.

The university will cover the cost of asymptomatic testing.

While all elements of this testing strategy are important and the university does not anticipate having to limit testing at this time, should capacity become limited because of supply shortages, tests for symptomatic individuals will be prioritized. As always, the university will monitor closely and adapt our approach based on evolving information, guidance and scientific evidence.

Compliance with testing, isolation and quarantine procedures is expected as one of the conditions of returning to campus.

Symptoms of COVID-19

A daily health check is the most effective way to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which include the following:
  • A fever of 100.4°F or higher
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as dry cough or shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Chills 
  • Loss of taste or smell
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Keep in mind, many people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and are able to recover at home. More information about symptoms and exposure is available here.

The difference between quarantine and isolation

Students, faculty and staff who are exposed to or have a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be required to be in isolation or quarantine as appropriate until healthy.

  • Isolation separates and restricts the movement of those with a contagious disease from those who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of those who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Living spaces for isolation or quarantine are available for students residing in university housing who test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to a positive case as an option if students do not elect to or cannot return home to their permanent residence. Meals, medical attention and support for facilitating academic accommodations will be provided.


Please reference this website for the most up-to-date guidelines. The university’s COVID-19 Transition Task Force’s Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup will continue monitoring changing conditions and consult with local and state health authorities. Recommendations and requirements will be refined as needed.