Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
January 04, 2021

Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program: January Update

Dear Members of the Pittsburgh Campus Community,

I am pleased to provide additional information about the Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program, which President Jahanian announced in December. The Tartan Testing Program uses a new, regulated on-campus laboratory to better support our strategy to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Leveraging our signature scientific and research expertise, including the use of robotic technology, CMU has developed the high-volume Tartan COVID-19 Testing Laboratory that increases our asymptomatic testing capacity by a factor of 10. For the spring semester, we expect to offer weekly tests to all Pittsburgh-based students, faculty and staff, providing timely test results in approximately 24-48 hours. CMU is providing Tartan Testing at no cost to invited participants.

Tartan Testing employs a COVID-19 asymptomatic test based on the SalivaDirect open-access protocol developed by the Yale School of Public Health. This test uses saliva samples to detect the presence of RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of COVID-19, and is simpler to administer than nasal swab testing methods while providing comparable accuracy.

We anticipate that Tartan Testing will be at full capacity by early February, and throughout the spring semester, all faculty, staff and students planning to be on campus are expected to complete one asymptomatic test each week through the Tartan Testing Program.

This week, CMU will begin rolling out our Tartan Testing Program by offering asymptomatic COVID-19 tests to a limited number of the faculty, staff and students who are required to be on campus to perform their work. (Those invited to participate in Tartan Testing this week will receive a separate email with detailed directions for their participation.)

Each week throughout the month of January, we will increase the number of CMU faculty, staff and students who are invited to participate in Tartan Testing. All students who plan to engage in campus activities are expected to be tested through the Tartan Testing program before on-campus instruction resumes on February 8. Additional information will be shared with the CMU community as we proceed with the Tartan Testing Program’s rollout.  

We are also working with certain affiliated service providers on campus, such as our dining and custodial vendors, to provide Tartan Testing to these contracted employees who provide essential support to the CMU community. We are currently working with the leadership of these groups to determine the details of the testing process for these community members, and communications to these groups will be forthcoming.

It is important to note that Tartan Testing is only for asymptomatic individuals. If you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 14 days: students should stay home and contact University Health Services (UHS) at 412-268-2157 for further instructions; faculty and staff should stay home and consult their health care provider and notify Community Health and Wellbeing.

Tartan Testing is the latest element of CMU’s ongoing strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Information from asymptomatic testing empowers individuals to modify their behavior as appropriate, and, in aggregate, informs the posture of services on the Pittsburgh campus. It is important to remember that any test only provides a snapshot of the moment at which the test is taken, so it is critical that we remain committed to our COVID mitigation behaviors. Please continue to complete the daily self-assessment, maintain physical distance from others, wear a facial covering and wash your hands.

In closing, let me echo President Jahanian’s gratitude for all those who are contributing to Tartan Testing. In addition to having members from the CMU research community providing their scientific expertise, a broad team of colleagues from Campus Design and Facilities Development, Computing Services, Enterprise Risk Management, Legal, Marketing and Communications, the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Student Affairs and University Health Services have been integral to making COVID-19 testing available to the larger CMU community.

For the most up-to-date information about Tartan Testing and CMU’s COVID-19 strategy, please see our COVID-19 website.


J. Michael McQuade
Vice President for Research
Carnegie Mellon University