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Testing & Tracing

School-based testing

Will students and teachers be tested randomly throughout the school year? How will this work?

Since Dec. 7, 2020, schools that reopened have weekly random testing on site. The NYC Test and Trace Corps works with the DOE to collect specimens on site in each school each week. Specimen collection is conducted or supervised by appropriate personnel.

The DOE's testing partners test a randomly selected group of staff and students at each school each week. 3K, Pre-K and kindergarten students are not tested. The exact number of children and staff to be tested depends on the size of the school population. The test is easy, quick, and safe. Instead of the "long swab" that goes in the back of the nose, this test is a short, small swab (like a Q-Tip) that goes just in the front of the nose.

You can see current borough and citywide data on school testing at the DOE website.

How many people in a school building will be tested?

As of Dec. 7, 2020, when schools begin to reopen, the number of people to be tested will depend on the size of the school, but will consist of 20% of a school’s in-person population, students and staff included.

Are students in District 75 tested for COVID-19?

All students in District 75 are required to submit one of the following three forms: a form consenting to be tested, a medical exemption, or a disability-based exemption. Students with a disability-based exemption will need to be tested outside of school.

I was recently tested for COVID-19 as part of the DOE’s random testing program. How and when will I receive my results, and what will happen if I test positive?

You will be contacted by phone or email with your test results at the phone number or email address provided by the DOE to the testing providers. If you test negative, you will receive an email with your test results.

If you test positive:

  • The testing provider will contact you by phone between the hours of 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.
  • You will also receive a call from NYC Test & Trace Corps, who will make you aware of additional resources and recommendations to guide you on next steps, including what you may need to safely stay at home.
  • You will also receive an email with your test results.

If you do not receive your results after 3 days, contact the testing vendor who visited your school:

Are UFT members required to participate in COVID-19 testing at their school buildings? What are the consequences if they decline to participate?

Staff in all UFT titles will be required to participate in the Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools program. They are also required to sign the testing consent form. If a UFT-represented employee is selected for random testing and refuses, that employee will go on unpaid leave until the person takes the test. Employees represented by the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators and school safety agents are also required to participate in the Random Sample Survey of COVID-19 in Schools program. Other school staff will be asked and are expected to participate.

If I have a remote assignment but do not have a medical accommodation, do I have to submit the consent form for in-school COVID-19 testing?

You don't have to fill out the testing consent form unless you are called to your school for an in-person assignment.

What is the legality of being mandated to get tested for COVID-19?

An employer may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before initially permitting them to enter the workplace and/or periodically to determine if their presence in the workplace poses a direct threat to others. You can read more about the legality of testing at the EEOC's COVID-19 page.

Are students required to participate in COVID-19 testing at school buildings? What are the consequences if they decline to participate?

Yes. Schools will obtain written parental /guardian consent for students to be tested in school from every possible student/parent at the beginning of the school year and continuously throughout the school year, including consent to have results shared with the appropriate city agencies. Parents will be informed that if a parent/guardian refuses to provide consent for a student who has been selected randomly for testing, the student will be moved to the remote learning cohort.

What if a student does not return their consent form for testing?

As of schools' reopening beginning Dec. 7, 2020, all students in grade 1 or higher must submit a consent form signed by a parent or guardian granting permission to be tested by the first day each child returns to the school building. Principals have been instructed that students without a consent form in hand or submitted online will not be allowed to resume in-person learning. The parent or guardian will be called, and the student will be moved to fully remote instruction if consent is not immediately granted. The only exception will be students who are medically exempt and students with disabilities who are granted an exception because they cannot be safely tested at school. 

If I am selected for random testing at my school, can I have the test done with my private doctor instead? Can a student selected for random testing have the virus test done by a private doctor?

No, those tests will not count as a part of the random testing program. If you are selected as part of the random sample at your school, you must take the test at school. The only exception is for students with a documented disability who also have an approved testing exemption on file and must be tested outside of school. The test used is the less intrusive "short swab" that only goes in the front of the nose.

I am concerned that Fulgent Genetics, one of the vendors contracted by the DOE to conduct random testing at schools, will share my personal information or DNA without my consent. Will my privacy be protected?

All companies under contract with the DOE to conduct school-based random testing — Fulgent, BioReference Laboratories and Somos Healthcare — have promised that any protected information or specimen collected will be used for the sole purpose of COVID-19 testing. These testing vendors will only report test results to the patients (or, if a minor, the parent or guardian), the ordering physician and public health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control, the state Department of Health, the city Department of Health and New York City Health and Hospitals’ NYC Test + Trace program as required or permitted by law. The vendors will not use any subcontractors for testing. To learn more about these privacy and data security commitments, read the vendor agreements on the UFT website. 

Positive cases

What steps will be taken if a member of a school community tests positive for COVID-19?

Students or staff found to have the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, will be quarantined for 10 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to school immediately to determine potential contacts.

Must students and staff notify the DOE if they have tested positive for COVID-19, even if they have taken a test independently and not through the city?

Students and staff are required to report any positive test result, either taken independently or through this random COVID-19 testing program, to the DOE and must consent to have their results shared with city health agencies.

What happens if I receive a "red light" result from the new DOE Health Screening app?

All DOE staff, visitors and families seeking to enter a DOE building must complete a health screening before entering. This health screening must be completed on each day of arrival, and results will reset daily at midnight. Upon entering the building, you will be asked to provide the results of your screening either by showing your phone or a printout of the results. If an individual answers one or more of the health screening questions on the app that causes a red icon and text, that person may not enter the building. Instead, they should save the screenshot with their results and go home.

What will happen if positive cases are discovered within a school building? 

If a single case of COVID-19 is discovered within a classroom, the room will be cleaned and closed for 24 hours. All students in the class and staff deemed to have had close contact will be quarantined for 10 days, in accordance with updated CDC guidelines. If two or more or more linked cases in a classroom or classrooms are found, the rooms are cleaned and closed for 24 hours. All students in the class and staff deemed to have had close contact are quarantined for 10 days. Please note that affected classrooms may open after cleaning to accommodate another cohort during this quarantine period.

Covid Situation Protocol
  Conclusion of Investigation During Investigation Post Investigation
A. 1 confirmed case Close Classroom Classroom remains closed for 10 days; students and staff in close contact with positive case self-quarantine for 10 days.
B. At least 2 cases linked together in school, same classroom Close Classroom Classroom remains closed for 10 days; students and staff in close contact with positive cases self-quarantine for 10 days
C At least 2 cases linked together in school, different classrooms Close school Classrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined, additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school (e.g., the locker room);
D. At least 2 cases linked together by circumstances outside of school (i.e., acquired infection by different setting and source) Close school School opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 10 days
E. At least 2 cases not linked but exposure confirmed for each one outside of school setting Close school School opens post investigation, classrooms remain closed for 10 days
F. Link unable to be determined Close school Close school for 10 days

Why are there different COVID-19 positivity rates each reported by New York State and New York City?

The city and state calculate some testing data differently, such as when tests are tabulated, what types of tests are reported and how positive and negative results are calculated in overall totals. See the chart below for more detailed information on how each health department reports their COVID-19 testing data.

  New York City New York State
When positive case is counted On the day the test is taken On the day test result is received
Type of tests counted Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests Antigen AND PCR Tests
Negative Tests Counts only ONE negative test if a person tests negative multiple times in a 7 day period Counts ALL negative tests if a person tests negative multiple times in a 7 day period
Positive Tests Counts ALL positive tests if a person tests positive multiple times in a 7 day period Counts only ONE positive test if a person tests positive multiple times in a 7 day period

New York State COVID-19 testing data and New York City positivity rates can be found online and are updated daily. 

Which positivity rate should I care about?

The state infection rate for New York City is the only number that matters in any decisions involving schools. 

Does a positive test result for a school employee or student need to be confirmed by the city's Department of Health before contact tracing begins?

Under the UFT's Sept. 1 safety agreement with City Hall, the city Department of Health does not have to confirm a positive case in a school. If a UFT member receives a positive test result, you should send an email to your principal and your chapter leader with written documentation from your doctor or a copy of the lab result. After someone self-reports with this written documentation, that constitutes a confirmed case and contact tracing should begin immediately according to our agreement.

School closures

What benchmarks will be used to decide to close school buildings if COVID-19 cases are discovered?

If two or more cases of COVID-19 are discovered in a school, and those cases are not linked, the building will be closed for 10 days, the school will go remote, and the testing and tracing process begins. See the chart above for more protocols for closing schools. 

Visit the UFT's school COVID response databasefor the most up-to-date information on classroom and school closures and the most recent state infection rate for New York City. 

Testing data

Where can I find out which schools in the city have reported positive cases of COVID-19? 

The Department of Education launched an online map on Oct. 1 that shows which buildings have active confirmed cases of COVID-19 and which require either temporary classroom or full-building closures. The DOE will be updating the map daily.

How can I see COVID-19 testing data related to my school?

The New York State Department of Health has created a COVID-19 Report Card for every school district in the state. The site tracks positive cases of students and staff by school and district and is updated every 24 hours. To access this information, go to and click on “Public Schools” to enter your school or district. 

COVID-19 tests

Is COVID-19 testing free of charge for students and staff members?

Yes. New York City is making COVID-19 testing readily available for all its residents, including children, at over 200 locations across all five boroughs free of charge. It will be a nasal swab test (but not deep down your nasal cavity) and results will be returned in 48 hours. 

Will I be charged a copay by my medical insurance provider if I get a COVID-19 test on my own? 

The New York State Department of Financial Services extended its emergency regulation requiring insurers to waive in-network cost-sharing and copayments for COVID-19 diagnosis and testing until at least Jan. 8, 2021. 

Are COVID-19 test results confidential?

Test results are confidential. If you test positive, you'll receive a call from a tracer from the NYC Test & Trace Corps who will:

  • Determine if you need more medical attention
  • Help you arrange to isolate at home or at a free hotel
  • Create a list of everyone you have had contact with since shortly before the onset of symptoms

The information the NYC Test & Trace Corps receives through contact tracing is also confidential and protected under the New York City Health Code.

Where can students and teachers get a COVID-19 test?

The UFT and the DOE encourages all students and school-based staff to get tested at regular intervals throughout the pandemic. New York City will prioritize testing for public school students and staff and promises to provide rapid communication of test results at 22 city-run testing locations. All these sites are walk-in only. The DOE website lists the locations and operation hours for the sites giving priority to DOE employees. All DOE employees should bring an ID and proof of their DOE employment status with them to get tested.