Stanford to end Color COVID-19 testing program, still provide rapid tests

March 9, 2023, 12:50 a.m.

Stanford will end the Color COVID-19 testing program, but will continue to provide free rapid antigen tests, according to an email sent to the Stanford community on Wednesday by James Jacobs, the Executive Director of Vaden Health Services and Chair of the Stanford University Public Health Steering Committee and Rich Wittman, the Medical Director of the Stanford University Occupational Health Center.

For faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, Color testing will end on March 24, at the end of the winter quarter. For students, Color testing will end on June 18, at the end of the spring quarter. The University currently has an overall COVID-19 positive test rate of 0.83% per day and 9.68% per week.

The Color COVID-19 testing program enabled members of the Stanford community to use free PCR tests at designated pick-up and drop-off sites. Under the new system, both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will not be required to test.  This change in policy comes as the university prepares for the conclusion of the winter quarter and the start of the spring quarter in April.

Stanford officials continue to monitor the rates of COVID-19 on campus to inform the testing program. According to the email, the University collects data about COVID-19 prevalence through wastewater analysis collected from more than 150 buildings on campus.

Although the Color testing program will terminate, the Occupational Health Center and Vaden Health Services can order COVID-19 PCR testing in certain circumstances, according to the email. Additionally, rapid antigen tests, which provide COVID-19 test results to users in 15 minutes, will remain available at designated pick-up sites.

“Rapid testing remains a reliable way to detect individuals who are infectious with COVID, and it has been our primary method for identifying cases on campus since these tests became widely accessible,” Vaden Health Services Executive Director James Jacobs and Occupational Health Center Medical Director Rich Wittman wrote in the email to the community.

Some students say that they worry that this targeted approach may be misleading to those who are not required to undergo routine testing, and believe that testing should continue for all individuals to keep campus safe.

“My biggest concern with this change in policy is that students and faculty will be lulled further into a false sense of security when COVID is still an issue that is still impacting people on and off campus,” Kim Ngo ’26 said. “I personally feel like it would be safer to keep the current policy of required testing [regardless of vaccination status] until the end of the year since testing is not a difficult task and is worth the small effort it takes to prevent spreading COVID.”

Other students argue that the new policy is a reasonable approach to testing and that it strikes a balance between safety and individual freedom.

“It doesn’t change the existing policy that much because before the new policy most people won’t do routine testing unless they have symptoms,” said Yifei Cheng ’26. “It’s not a big change.”

Gracie Sandman is a writer for The Daily. Contact her at news ‘at’

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