Update for Faculty and Staff on COVID-19, key terms defined

September 2, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we responded over the weekend to the positive COVID-19 cases on the 3rd and 4th floors of Martin Hall, we identified the need to define and further clarify several common practices and terms that are used as part of Baylor’s COVID-19 response – Self-Isolation, Self-Quarantine, Reside in Place, Close Contact and Contact Tracing. Additionally, we determined the campus community needed specific information regarding Self-Quarantine guidelines and Self-Isolation requirements, should students – or you – receive such instructions.

But before I delve into these details, please allow me to address several key points with regard to the data on Baylor’s dashboard, as well as the University’s current COVID-19 situation:

  • This is a marathon, not a sprint. We must practice resilience, discipline and stay the course. The University has a plan in place, and we are executing the plan. Baylor has conducted nearly 22,000 COVID-19 tests in the past month alone. The fact that our extensive testing plan has identified positive cases allows us to now respond to those findings – with speed and consistency.
  • The positivity rate currently reported on the dashboard is a clinical positivity rate based on testing symptomatic individuals. To obtain a true positivity rate, it is essential to have a random sample of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. COVID-19 surveillance testing of a random sample of Baylor faculty, staff, students and contractors began on Monday. We believe we should have a true positivity rate on Friday that will be reported on the dashboard.
  • Looking at the metrics on the Baylor dashboard must be done with context. For example, the 478 active cases reported on the dashboard yesterday (Sept. 1) represent about 2% of all students, faculty and staff, with nearly all cases being students. We are not aware of any cases occurring via classroom exposure. Also, note that when we receive positive test results, they are reported on the dashboard daily count based on the date the test was taken, not the date results were received. Thus, daily counts of cases change with updated test results.
  • Just as we have been reminding our students to practice preventive health measures on- and off-campus, we – as faculty and staff – all must do the same while on-campus and within our communities, whether that’s at church, running errands or socializing with family and friends.
  • President Livingstone and I expect that you may have additional questions specifically related to COVID-19. To keep the lines of communication open, we will stay on Zoom after the Faculty Forum on Thursday and the Staff Forum on Friday to address any further questions that you may have about Baylor’s COVID-19 response and mitigation strategy.

With this context, following is the description and clarification of several key concepts that incorporate Baylor’s COVID-19 response.

What is Self-Isolation? Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. The latest CDC guidelines require at least 10 days of self-isolation. (See requirements below.) Baylor currently has adequate isolation capacity for the University’s positive COVID-19 cases.

What is Self-Quarantine? Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. The latest CDC guidelines require at least 14 days of self-quarantine. (See guidelines below.) Contrary to what we’ve been hearing on-campus, you cannot “test your way out of Quarantine.” Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home and Self-Quarantine for 14 days.

Some faculty have shared concerns of a large percentage of their classes currently in Self-Quarantine. Let me remind you that we are dealing with college students who have extensive social contacts and interactions. As a result, it may appear to some faculty that COVID-19 has become a bigger issue than it really is due to students who have been asked to Self-Quarantine as a preventive measure. I do want to recognize the additional work that faculty are doing with technology and managing students as they go in and out of Self-Quarantine. I understand the difficulties of such challenges, and please know that we sincerely appreciate your efforts.

What is the difference between Self-Quarantine and the Reside-in-Place strategy in Martin Hall? The University instituted a four-day Reside-in-Place strategy beginning Saturday instead of an immediate full 14-day Self-Quarantine for Martin Hall. Because of the high probability of exposure of residents on the 3rd and 4th floors due to the patterns of communal living, this strategy allowed the University to respond quickly to this specific situation, complete extensive contact tracing over the four days and institute daily COVID-19 rapid testing and rigorous assessment of any viral symptoms to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Safety and wisdom directed that we restrict these residents’ movement for a four-day Reside-in-Place strategy – instead of a full Quarantine – until we can determine the close contacts and conduct additional testing. As the University monitors this specific situation, we are prepared to employ additional safety measures and strategies to minimize COVID-19 spread.

What is a Close Contact? A Close Contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes with or without a facemask. An infected (symptomatic or asymptomatic) person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person had any symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19. Please keep this is mind when you are working with students in small groups. It is important that you follow social distancing parameters.

What is Contact Tracing? Contact Tracing is a vital public health strategy used to find and follow up with people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (called a case). People who were around the case, potentially exposed to COVID-19, are called contacts. By tracing the contacts of COVID-19 cases, getting them into Self-Quarantine and testing them for infection, we can slow the spread of coronavirus.

We have a significant number of contact tracers leading our extensive efforts at Baylor. The lack of sufficient contact tracers was a key issue identified at other universities. These staff members begin tracing Baylor cases within 24 hours, helping us to quickly identify cases and respond to them appropriately. If an individual is not contacted by contact tracers, they are not considered a Close Contact and not subject to Self-Quarantine. Further, it is not the responsibility of the faculty member to determine Close Contacts or Self-Quarantine, but rather the University’s contact tracers.

The following decision tables will be helpful to understanding Self-Quarantine guidelines and Self-Isolation requirements at Baylor.

Self-Quarantine* Guidelines

Close contact such as a roommate or household member Other close contact as notified by a contact tracer
Required to Test? Yes Yes
(may test between 3 to 7 days)
Required to Quarantine? Yes
(even if you receive a negative test result)
Yes
(even if you receive a negative test result)
If you test positive? Begin 10-day self-isolation (See chart below for guidance) Begin 10-day self-isolation (See chart below for guidance)
Length of Quarantine 14 Days 14 Days
Face mask required? Yes
(infected person and all roommates must wear face masks in the room or apartment)
Yes
(infected person and all roommates must wear face masks in the room or apartment)

*If you live in a residence hall and were instructed to quarantine by a Baylor Contact Tracing staff member, notify your Community Leader to receive meal delivery and support services.

Self-Isolation Requirements

Condition Length of Isolation Criteria for Return to Class/Campus
Asymptomatic 10 Days No symptoms after sample collection
Symptomatic 10 Days At least 24 hours without a fever and no fever-reducing medications AND other symptoms have improved

One final note about faculty requirements: If a student is in Self-Isolation or Self-Quarantine, they will not be physically in class, and we need to be flexible with them regarding attendance. Most students are informing their professors if they are in Self-Quarantine or Self-Isolation, so you will know why the students are not physically in class and thusly attending class online. Otherwise, notification to a faculty member of a positive student will be through Contact Tracing – and ONLY in the event the faculty member is identified as a Close Contact. If a faculty member is not contacted by contact tracers, they are not considered a Close Contact and not subject to Self-Quarantine. This protocol is to protect the medical privacy of the student in accordance with federal guidelines. In addition, please note that students are subject to disciplinary action if they violate the University’s isolation/quarantine instructions. 

I echo the President’s statement last week that the semester is off to a good start. With that said, a healthy concern is helpful for all of us at this time as it serves as another reminder that each of us must do our part. Let’s continue to keep Family First and be even more vigilant in taking preventive actions – on-campus and off-campus – to keep our community safe and healthy this fall semester.

Sincerely,

Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.
Provost

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