Information Center

Surveillance COVID-19 Testing

Last Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 2:32 pm

As part of Lehigh’s health and safety plan, the university is requiring that individuals undergo COVID-19 testing. Lehigh contracted with Vault Health to handle our surveillance testing program.

To support the protection of all students and the larger Bethlehem community, surveillance testing is required of some graduate students and all undergraduate students living in Bethlehem, including those who elected “fully remote” status this spring. Most students (~100%) will be tested at least once every two weeks. Failure to comply with testing and contact tracing efforts will result in conduct violations.

Faculty and staff with a high level of engagement on campus will also be provided with regular testing. 

The cost of required surveillance testing is covered by the University and students will not be charged.

Please be advised: 

  • If you were not selected for testing, you should not take a surveillance test.
  • If you are required to isolate or quarantine, do not complete a surveillance test and remain in your residence. If you do not feel well, please do not take a test and contact the Health and Wellness Center if you are experiencing symptoms that you suspect may be COVID-related.
  • Students who tested positive for COVID-19 previously do not need to complete a pre-arrival or surveillance test if it has been within 12 weeks after you tested positive. If you tested positive through a source other than Lehigh, and have not notified the LU Health and Wellness Center (HWC), please indicate this by uploading your positive test results on the HWC patient portal with the required information, including your name, date of your test, the type of test (antibody tests are not accepted), and your results. Until this information is submitted, you will still be required to complete surveillance testing.
  • Students who have been identified as close contacts or who think they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should not take a surveillance test and should consult with the Health and Wellness Center. A separate testing area managed by the Health and Wellness Center has been set up for this purpose and you will receive directions from the Health and Wellness Center about the appropriate steps you should take. A negative test does not remove a person who is identified as a close contact from quarantine.
  • As a reminder, one can test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms. If you do test positive, you must isolate. Students will be instructed to isolate as per our isolation and quarantine protocol.
  • It’s important to remember that a negative test does not indicate that you are not infected or that you will not get infected in the coming days. It only indicates that you are not shedding detectable levels of the virus at the time that you took the test. Given the incubation time of the virus, tests will likely be negative for 2-3 days after the initial infection. Wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and practicing positive health behaviors are most critical.


Map of Testing Locations

Map of testing location
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View COVID-19 testing locations on the interactive campus map >

Contact info:

Frequently Asked Questions

Test Details

No. Vault’s SARS-CoV-2 test will only be performed in the laboratory after (1) a licensed test supervisor orders the test for an individual and (2) the sample collection is observed by a test supervisor (via Zoom-enabled video supervised testing for those taking the at-home test, and in person for those taking the test on campus). Once the sample has been received by and tested in the laboratory, the individual will receive results via electronic reporting.

If saliva is not collected under supervision from a test supervisor, the test results will be invalidated.

The RT-qPCR test is very sensitive for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, with 98% of tests providing either a positive or a negative result, and only 2% of tests providing an inconclusive result. The test can detect fewer than 10 copies of viral genes per milliliter of saliva, and can detect the presence of virus in the saliva within 2 days of infection and up to 28 days after infection.   Across all known gene sequences of SARS-CoV-2, the test detects the ones in the genes of interest approximately 100% of the time, making it highly sensitive and specific for those genes.  

Currently, the false positive and false negative rates for this specific test cannot be calculated, because the lab and Vault do not receive data on what happens to patients after they receive a test. Vault does not know if patients with a negative test go on to develop symptoms and subsequently receive a positive test result (false negative) or if an uninfected patient with a positive result then goes on to have another test that’s negative (false positive). However, emerging data about false negative rates of saliva-based COVID tests are showing that the false negative rate for saliva-based tests may be closer to 10%, which is significantly lower than those of nasopharyngeal swab-based tests, which are in the 25-35% range.

This RT-qPCR test detects specific genes from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. After individuals provide a sample of their saliva, the virus's genetic material is extracted from it and these specific genes are looked for in a laboratory.  If they are present, the test is considered positive.

Sample collection teams will staff specified outdoor tented locations on campus with proper social distancing and health protocols in place. Students should hold to their scheduled appointment to help minimize the number of students accessing the testing site at the same time. A Lehigh staff member will be on-site to ensure social distancing and check to make sure that you have an appointment before allowing you to take your test. Please have your Lehigh ID available at all times. After completing your test, you should immediately leave the area and avoid congregating in groups. Social distancing and the wearing of face coverings are required at all times.

Yes. This assay is intended for use under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization #200090 authorized on April 10, 2020. This is the only saliva test and saliva collection device that is FDA-authorized for at-home self-collection in the U.S. at this time.

Yes, RUCDR is a CLIA and CAP (College of American Pathologists)  accredited reference laboratory. The Vault/RUCDR test kit is a NAAT test (nucleic acid amplification test). The test is an RT PCR test and meets guidelines for most interstate and international travel, but please refer to the guidelines for entry to specific destinations.

  • Wear a face covering at all times, other than when you are taking your test.
  • Arrive at the assigned location at the scheduled appointment time with a smartphone or device. A smart device is required to log in or to register a new account. Please note: There will be a limited number of iPads available for those without mobile phones with internet access.
  • It is very important that you arrive at the tent at your scheduled dates and times. The testing process should take approximately 15 minutes per person. You may be asked to stand in a socially distanced queue to wait for your appointment inside the tent. Please follow all directional instructions and maintain 6’ of distance from others at all times. 
  • A Lehigh staff member will be on site to ensure social distancing and check to make sure that you have an appointment before allowing you to take your test. Please have your Lehigh ID available at all times.
  • Drink plenty of water so you are hydrated, which is key to producing enough saliva to successfully complete the test, but make sure to fast for 30 minutes before the test (NO food or drink, including water, and no smoking). 
  • Using a smartphone or device, scan the provided QR code to visit Vault’s web-app for registration and questions regarding COVID-19 exposure/symptoms. Students who have taken the Vault at-home test will already have set up an account and should bring their login information.
  • Enter the serial number on the Saliva Collection Device when prompted by the web-app.
  • Provide a saliva sample under Vault Health test supervision.
  • Vault will return test results to all applicable parties electronically within 48-72 hours from the sample’s arrival at the lab.
  • After completing your test, you should immediately leave the area and avoid congregating in groups. Social distancing and the wearing of face coverings are required at all times.

No, this is not a test for COVID-19 antibodies, which are produced by those who have had the disease and have recovered.

Surveillance Testing

If you are awaiting a surveillance test result and are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine. If you took a test because you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or were specifically directed by the Health and Wellness Center to quarantine or isolate, you must do so until you receive your test result. 

For positive results, yesStudents should upload a copy of the report of their POSITIVE test results on the Health and Wellness Center patient portal. Faculty and staff should follow the process established through Lehigh's occupational health provider. Students should contact the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center at 610-758-3870 for additional guidance about isolation and next steps to be cleared for arrival. It is likely that individuals will also hear from their local public health entity.

For negative results, no. You do not need to upload your negative test results. Remember that the results only indicate that the coronavirus was not detected on the day you took the test. You must continue to keep vigilant: wear a cloth face covering, maintain proper social distancing, wash your hands frequently, self-monitor symptoms (complete the self-screening tool if coming to campus) and absolutely stay-at-home if you don’t feel well or have other symptoms.

No, a negative test does not eliminate the requirement to quarantine upon return to campus. If you suspect any exposure to COVID during your travel, contact the Health and Wellness Center upon your return.

All students, faculty and staff have the option of ordering a COVID-19 test directly from Vault Health. However, Lehigh will only be supporting the costs of tests for those who are required to be tested. The cost for ordering an individual test is $150. If you are paying for your own test, please note that the university will not receive your results. Students must contact the Health and Wellness Center if you receive a positive result. 

Yes. Students who are identified as being required to take these tests are not required to pay. The costs will be covered by the university. 

If you receive a positive test result, you should immediately isolate in your residence and contact the Health and Wellness Center at 610-758-3870 to let them know you tested positive. You will not be permitted to access campus. 

If you receive your result when the Health & Wellness Center is closed, you should call the main number 610-758-3870 to get in touch with the clinician-on-call. When you call this line after hours, you will get in touch with our answering service. Please provide them with your name and phone number and you will receive a call back from our clinician-on-call. This will put you in touch with a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician who works at the Health & Wellness Center.

Review our isolation and quarantine protocol for instructions about what to expect should you test positive as an on-campus or off-campus student. 

Students living on campus are relocated to on-campus isolation housing and provided with meals for the duration of the isolation period. A recommended list of what to pack is included at the bottom of this page under “Additional Resources.” Students living off campus are required to self-isolate in their off-campus residence. In limited cases, the HWC may arrange for a student living off campus to isolate in on-campus housing. All students who test positive are contacted by the Bethlehem Health Bureau, who manages contact tracing and notification and follows up with the student, along with the HWC, through recovery.

The extended plan for surveillance testing of student-athletes will align with the University plan for all students. Lehigh Athletics will implement departmental testing procedures prior to the start of any intercollegiate athletic competitions in accordance with NCAA guidelines. Testing strategies are contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies, laboratory capacity, efficient turnaround time, and convenient access to testing.

Vault can usually guarantee results in two to three days (if the saliva sample is provided as soon as the kit is received and the sample is shipped back immediately).

Health & Safety

Individuals can be exempt from testing for 12 weeks after a positive PCR test. If you have had a PCR test that documents COVID-19, you can provide the test result to the Health and Wellness Center via the HWC portal and send a secure message to the HWC via the portal to be exempted from testing. If your only documentation of COVID is an antibody test, you must still take a surveillance test.