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Testing and Safety Protocols for Everyone

Information for the University community

Updated January 8, 2021

Find answers to common questions about reporting COVID-19 symptoms, testing, health monitoring, social distancing, and wearing face masks.

Reporting COVID-19 symptoms or exposure

The University adheres to the Monroe County Health Department’s definition of exposure. Exposure to COVID-19 occurs when both:

  • an uninfected person is exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 for 15 or more continuous minutes and is within six feet of the infected person throughout this time, and
  • either person is not wearing a face mask/face covering. Only if both individuals are properly masked is it not an exposure.

Understanding how exposure to COVID-19 happens helps us understand why it is so important to follow three key health principles: masking/face coverings, physical distancing (staying more than six feet apart), and hand hygiene.

Testing and health monitoring

All University faculty, staff, and students must complete the Dr. Chat Bot daily health screening if they will be on University campuses, including the University Medical Center, or at any University owned or leased facility. The screening is also available through the UR Mobile app.

  • Medical Center faculty and staff: Click here to complete your daily health screening. For help with Dr. Chat Bot please call (585) 275-3200 or email
  • Non–Medical Center faculty and staffClick here to complete your daily health screening. For help with Dr. Chat Bot please call (585) 275-2000 or email
  • Students attending classes on campus for Spring 2021 must complete the Dr. Chat Bot screening every day. Daily reminders are sent by email.

Updated 1/8 All faculty, postdoctoral appointees, trainees, or staff members should call their primary care provider (PCP) if they are symptomatic. If an employee does not have a PCP, they can call (888) 928-0011 for guidance.

Information about testing and quarantine for faculty and staff returning from travel–personal or business-related–can be found here.

All non–Medical Center employees should contact University Health Service at (585) 275-2662 about a positive test. Medical Center employees should contact Employee Health at (585) 275- 6065. A phone interview will follow all reports to determine with whom an employee was in contact in order for health officials to proceed with contact tracing.

Faculty, staff, and postdocs who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate at home. Employees must get clearance from University Health Service or Employee Health before returning to work if they received a positive COVID-19 test result; they are waiting for a COVID-19 test result; they were told by their PCP that they may have COVID-19 based on their symptoms, even if not tested; or they share a residence with an individual who has been told by their PCP that they have or may have COVID-19 either by testing or symptoms alone.

Under quarantine and isolation, employees are covered under the COVID addendum to Policy 324: Reassignment/Absence to Prevent Contagion. If they remain out of work with COVID-19 longer than 14 days, they will be covered under Sick Leave and Short-Term Disability and Family Medical Leave or Worker’s Compensation if they were exposed while working.

Updated 1/8 UHS will continue to conduct surveillance testing to monitor the health of our campus community. Starting this spring we will be using rapid tests and will administer several hundred tests per week for undergraduate and graduate students living on and off campus.

The purpose of this program is to help identify an outbreak of COVID-19 about a week sooner than we would by only relying on the Dr. Chat Bot symptom survey. This is being done out of an abundance of caution.

Students selected for testing are notified by email and students must comply with this request, with the only exceptions being for students who are not currently in Rochester or who are 100 percent online with their classes and not on campus for the fall semester. For questions about surveillance testing, write to

Updated 1/8 The University employs both rapid tests and the COVID-RT-PCR viral tests—a nasal swab test. Testing is required for every undergraduate student living on campus upon arrival (costs are paid by the University). All graduate students residing in University Housing will have access to a test, but it is not required for move-in. The same is true for all incoming undergraduates and graduate students living in off-campus housing.

The University will also conduct stringent symptom monitoring and surveillance by requiring all students, faculty, and staff on campus for the fall semester to complete a daily COVID-19 symptom screening process, i.e., Dr. Chat Bot.

Starting this spring, the University will administer several hundred rapid tests per week for undergraduate and graduate students living on and off campus. The purpose is to help identify an outbreak about a week sooner than we would by only relying on the Dr. Chat Bot symptom survey. Any student who tests positive will be sent to University Health Service for a follow-up PCR nasal test and will need to relocate to quarantine housing until a negative test is secured or until 10 days of quarantine are complete.

In addition to testing, one of the key strategies in reducing potential infection rates is to identify the possibility of infection as soon as possible. Dr. Chat Bot enables the University to track people with COVID-19 symptoms, while helping individuals take the necessary measures if they are showing symptoms, regardless of whether they eventually test positive for COVID-19.

The University will conduct viral testing of symptomatic individuals. If an individual tests positive, the University will manage contact tracing to locate individuals who may have come in contact with the infected individual. The University has reserved quarantine (possible exposure) and isolation (confirmed positive test) space housing on campus.

The University’s COVID-19 dashboard is updated Monday through Friday with the latest data, including confirmed cases. This will provide a consistent snapshot of the status of COVID-19 throughout all of our campuses.

Face masks and safety guidelines

Face masks are only effective for protection if they are handled, worn, stored and disposed of properly. The University’s Newscenter article includes the following information provided by medical experts.

Face Mask Dos and Don’ts

  • Do practice proper hand hygiene. Before and after handling the mask (to put on, adjust, or take off), either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to reduce cross-contamination risk.
  • Do mark the outside of the mask in some way so you can easily identify which side is the outside of the mask, and handle it accordingly. Some individuals mark the outside with their initials in permanent ink.
  • Do keep a paper bag handy for storing the mask every time you take it off; an open plastic Ziploc-style baggie is an alternative if a paper bag is not available. Always store a mask in a clean place. Never store it in a purse or pocket.
  • Don’t touch the outside of your mask while it is on your face.
  • Don’t pull your mask below your chin while you are wearing it. Leaving the mask dangling or improperly fitted to your face creates opportunities for cross-contamination.

Helping kids wear masks:

The Medical Center has created a Toolkit for helping children wear masks during the pandemic. In addition, University of Rochester pediatrician Elizabeth Murray shares ways to help young students to be safe and wear a mask at school in this Facebook video.

Students, faculty, and staff should wear a face mask or face covering everywhere they can—inside and outside—to protect themselves and others around them from infection.

Indoors, face masks/face coverings must be worn any time there is more than one person in a given space—including times of brief interaction. Exceptions to wearing a face mask/face covering include eating or drinking, working alone in an office, or (for students) being in their residence hall room alone or with their living unit/“family unit.”

On-campus living units have maximums of:

  • one person in a single room;
  • two people in a double room;
  • one, two, three, or four people in an apartment; or
  • four or six people in a suite. 

All students in a shared house must wear a mask at all times except when in their own room or in a bathroom.

Outdoors, face masks or coverings must be worn when six feet of separation is not feasible, and students must carry a face mask/face covering with them at all times in case others approach to within six feet of them.

If everyone is properly wearing a mask, individuals can be together around an outdoor table or outside in a group and be closer than 6 feet together. But everyone in the group has to be masked—if one person is not, the 6 feet of separation is required.

For campus spaces outside of the Medical Center, a face mask or a “hands free” face covering, such as a bandana or neck gaiter, are permitted. However, face masks with valves or vents are not permitted because they do not prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

NEW 12/28 At the beginning of the academic year, one cloth face mask with the University logo was distributed to every non-Medical Center staff member, as well as students and faculty.

The cloth face masks distributed by the University to non–Medical Center students, faculty and staff should be washed weekly at a minimum, and immediately if they get wet or visibly dirty. They can be hand-washed or tossed in the washing machine and dryer at high temperatures (recommended). If your University-provided face mask becomes wet or dirty while at work, please see your manager for a replacement mask.

Face mask cleaning protocols for Medical Center employees are available on the URMC Redesigned Portal (NetID and password required), including guidelines on how, where, and when to wear a mask. In a related 3-minute video, associate hospital epidemiologist Brenda Tesini answers questions about the Medical Center’s masking guidelines.

The University is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other leading health care organizations in putting in place mandatory mask-wearing, hand-hygiene, and social-distancing protocols, and increasing cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

In general, students should first report their concerns to deans, RAs, or their advisors; staff should report to supervisors; and faculty should report to chairs or deans. However, you can also use the COVID-19 Concern Report to file a concern.

Examples of what to report may include concerns about gatherings, lack of mask wearing or social distancing, or any other issue that presents a risk to individual or communal health.

In addition to visiting this website, information is available through the University email newsletter @Rochester, a daily newsletter with news and announcements from and about the University. Subscribe here.

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