Fall 2020 COVID-19 Testing

As at all times, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope everyone in our community is staying safe and well.

With your help, we can help limit the spread of the disease by following campus, local, state and federal guidelines for COVID-19. This includes maintaining at least six feet of distance from people you don’t live with, wearing face coverings, and getting tested for the virus if you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

A negative test tells you only that you are not likely infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 at the time your sample was collected. A negative result should not be used in place of public health practices such as wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distance, frequent hand washing and limiting your interactions with others.

Schedule your free COVID-19 test. Help stop the spread.

What kinds of tests are available?

PCR-based tests

RT-PCR, or real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, is the technique considered the gold standard diagnostic test for viruses like the one that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV2. It looks for the presence of genetic material of the virus.

  • Nasal swab – UW–Madison offers this testing through the on-campus WVDL-WSLH COVID-19 Laboratory, or WWCL. It relies on samples collected from the nasal passages, one of the areas where virus may be found in individuals infected with the virus, even if they do not have symptoms. Results from WWCL’s nasal swab testing are generally available within 24 hours. UW–Madison students and employees can make appointments here: myuhs.uhs.wisc.edu/login_dualauthentication.aspx 
  • Saliva (Shield) – Beginning in the spring semester, UW–Madison will also offer saliva-based PCR testing in partnership with Shield T3, a subsidiary of the University of Illinois System. This approach looks for the presence of the SARS-CoV2 virus in saliva, even in people who do not have symptoms. Results from saliva testing are often returned within hours.

Rapid Antigen tests

Rapid antigen tests look for the presence of particular signatures of viruses like SARS-CoV2 and results are often available within 15 minutes of sample collection. These tests catch the majority of COVID-19 infections. Through UW System and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UW–Madison is offering a rapid antigen test called BinaxNow. Some BinaxNow tests will need to be confirmed with a PCR test. BinaxNow testing is also available to the non-UW–Madison community.

Other kinds of tests

Note that UW–Madison does not offer antibody tests. These tests may tell you whether you were likely to have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in the past but they are not a reliable way to detect whether someone is currently infectious.


UW–Madison will begin offering free COVID-19 testing to members of the Madison community, ages five years and older. Rapid antigen testing from Abbott BinaxNOW delivers same-day results in as little as 15 minutes. Tests will be available by appointment only at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Drive-up testing is not an option at this site.

What to expect at your appointment:

  1. Check in with registration
  2. Perform rapid test as instructed
  3. Stay in designated waiting area (~15 minutes)
  4. Check your email for a notification and log in to your account for results (if you have no email access, staff will alert you of results)
  5. Follow instructions for next steps (to go home or to stay for a confirmatory test)

For questions about your upcoming appointment or lab results, visit www.doineedacovid19test.com or call eTrueNorth Customer Support at 1-800-635-8611. You may also find additional answers to your questions in the BinaxNow testing FAQs.


Register and schedule appointments for:


    • December 20-22 8:30am-7:30pm
    • December 23 8:30am-4:30pm
    • Closed from 12/24 – 1/3
    • January 4-7 8:30am-6:30pm

Location & Parking

Nielsen Tennis Stadium
1000 Highland Ave Madison, WI