Following COVID-19 exposure, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a 10–14-day quarantine for asymptomatic individuals and more recently a 7-day quarantine with a negative PCR test. A university-based prospective cohort study to determine if early polymerase chain reaction (PCR) negativity predicts day 14 negativity was performed. A total of 741 asymptomatic students in quarantine was screened and 101 enrolled. Nasopharyngeal swabs were tested on days 3 or 4, 5, 7, 10, and 14, and the proportion of concordant negative results for each day versus day 14 with a two-sided 95% exact binomial confidence interval was determined. Rates of concordant negative test results were as follows: day 5 vs. day 14 = 45/50 (90%, 95% CI: 78–97%); day 7 vs. day 14 = 47/52 (90%, 95% CI: 79–97%); day 10 vs. day 14 = 48/53 (91%, 95% CI:79–97%), with no evidence of different negative rates between earlier days and day 14 by McNemar’s test, p > 0.05. Overall, 14 of 90 (16%, 95% CI: 9–25%) tested positive while in quarantine, with seven initial positive tests on day 3 or 4, 5 on day 5, 2 on day 7, and none on day 10 or 14. Based on concordance rates between day 7 and 14, we anticipate that 90% (range: 79–97%) of individuals who are negative on day 7 will remain negative on day 14, providing the first direct evidence that exposed asymptomatic students ages 18–44 years in a university setting are at low risk if released from quarantine at 7 days if they have a negative PCR test prior to release. In addition, the 16% positive rate supports the ongoing need to quarantine close contacts of COVID-19 cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • COVID-19
  • PCR
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • pandemic
  • quarantine
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Infectious Diseases


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