For Faculty: Positive COVID-19 Cases in the Classroom
Last updated: 8/10/22
What should/can I do as an instructor when a student informs me that they tested positive for COVID-19?
Instructors may be among the first a student notifies about having tested positive for COVID-19. While a student is in isolation, instructors should handle this illness “as usual” in the sense of demonstrating our best practices for showing compassion and finding flexibility in course assignments, etc. while the student is on an excused absence. One possible difference from non-COVID illness is that students in isolation may feel reasonably well (e.g., they can do coursework even though they cannot attend class), so finding alternative ways for them to stay caught up on class is desirable. For example, some instructors are offering temporary remote (Zoom) class attendance as a natural option, when appropriate. If instructors would like to consult with an Eberly colleague on other possible options/strategies, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should I take my class remote if there is a COVID-19 case?
It is likely NOT necessary for you to take your class remote if there is a COVID-19 case. You should discuss the matter with your department head, who may also include the dean of your college.
The university is undertaking multiple mitigation strategies for protecting COVID-19 spread, which includes recommending the instructor and students to wear facial coverings and prohibiting eating and drinking in classrooms, as well as upgraded ventilation systems and enhanced cleaning protocols. You should follow the processes set forth by Community Health and Well-Being and Facilities Management and Campus Services who will determine if you need to have a classroom, lab, studio or other learning space cleaned and disinfected.
How do contact tracing and space tracing work?
The university is no longer performing full contact tracing in routine COVID-19 cases. Persons with positive cases are required to report their positive results via the COVID-19 reporting system. The reporting system will guide you through a brief survey regarding symptoms and test date. Once you have submitted your survey answers, you will receive an email with individualized guidance regarding isolation dates, instructions for isolating, notification of close contacts, and the return to campus process. Information regarding spaces occupied while infectious will be solicited as needed to assess for cleaning and room closure needs.
Why wouldn’t faculty and students in the same classroom as someone who tested positive for COVID-19 count as “close contacts?”
Although students and faculty members may be sharing a classroom where there is a positive COVID-19 result or case, they are not necessarily considered to be “close contacts”. This is a result of the university’s mitigation strategy for preventing spread in classrooms.
If a student has a COVID-19 positive result, and is in isolation or quarantine, do I need to accommodate them, and how?
If a student has a positive COVID-19 test result and therefore must isolate or is in quarantine as a close contact, you are expected to provide reasonable accommodation from within the flexible practices you’ve used for other kinds of illnesses.
If the student feels well enough to follow along with the class, you might consider using Zoom, offering audio or video recordings of lectures, and/or sharing slides. You could choose to make materials available only to the affected student (and not the whole class). You may wish to have a Zoom meeting or call during office hours. You might wish to extend the deadline on assignments. We also recommend consulting with the Eberly Center; send email to email@example.com to schedule a consultation for additional approaches you could take.
If a faculty member does not feel they can accommodate a student who has been directed by the university to isolate or quarantine, they should discuss the matter with their department head/school head/unit lead, who may also wish to take up the concern with the dean of their college.
What do I do if a student contacts me to say they have COVID-19, or were in close contact with someone who does, but weren't tested through Tartan Testing or UHS?
If a student receives a positive test result, instruct them to report their positive results via the COVID-19 reporting system. The reporting system will guide them through a brief survey regarding symptoms and test date. Once they have submitted survey answers, they will receive an email with individualized guidance regarding isolation dates, instructions for isolating, notification of close contacts, and the return to campus process. Close contact status does not need to be reported at this time and individuals do not need to quarantine unless they are not up to date on vaccinations.
What support do students diagnosed with COVID-19 receive?
Students diagnosed with COVID-19 are offered clinical care coordination and emotional and academic support. They are provided with information about resources to reach out to should additional support be needed through Student Support Resources (SSR) or Housefellows (HF). Typically students are encouraged to notify their faculty, supervisors, advisors, and instructors themselves but SSR and HF's will assist them if needed. Students who are instructed to isolate do not need to seek accommodation from the Office of Disability Resources. Their outreach to you seeking short term accommodation is sufficient notification for faculty. Should a faculty member have reason to seek validation of the request, they may outreach to Student Support Resources at 412-268-2075 or via the CMU Cares Form.