FAQ for Instructors Positive Cases, Contact Tracing and In-Person Classes

Last updated September 3, 2021 

Please see the Carolina Together website and specifically Carolina Together Campus Messages  for the latest information about testing, contact tracing, vaccination attestations and guidance regarding in-person classes for Fall 2021.

Guidance for Positive Cases (Testing, Contact Tracing, Quarantine/Isolation)

Q: How will I know if a student in my class tests positive for COVID-19?  

A:  Instructors will only be contacted about a positive case if student self-discloses in order to receive accommodations for make-up work due to absence, or if the student identifies you as a close contact per the CDC definition. If identified, you will be informed as part of the Employee Health contact tracing process. 

Q: Will I learn the names of students in my class who test positive?  

A:  Students are not required to disclose to their professors if they have tested positive for COVID-19 because this is confidential health information. If they do share, you should always keep that information private and be discreetYou are bound by state and federal laws from sharing this information widely (i.e., please refrain from posting this information on social media).

Students who test positive for COVID-19 should alert you of their absences and coordinate with you to make accommodations for make-up work. In addition, they must isolate and will receive a University Approved Absence. You do not need to wait for verification of a UAA if a student is in isolation or medically ordered quarantine. Please continue to exercise compassion and flexibility in all cases.

Q: What should I do if a student in my class notifies me that they have tested positive for COVID-19?

A:Remind the student that if they test positive, they must isolate until they meet criteria for ending isolation, as directed by the contact tracers (i.e., 10 days from onset of symptoms or day of positive test, as well as no fever or symptoms for 24 hours). Note that one cannot test out of isolation. A negative result does not override the positive result. 

Beyond encouraging the student to self-report, you should help them maintain access to instruction while isolated. 

 Students and post-docs living off or on campus who test positive for COVID-19 somewhere besides Campus Health should message a nurse through the patient portal or call Campus Health at 919-966-2281 as soon as possible after receiving the result. 

 Q: If I learn that a student in my class has tested positive, should I notify all class members? 

A: No. Only Campus Health should communicate with students who test positive and with students who should be tested because of a possible exposure. Your communication with students should focus solely on supporting their learning needs, especially if they must be absent from your class.

Q: How might I be asked to participate in the contact tracing process?  

A: The Campus Health contact tracing team may contact you for information to help them in the contact tracing process.

There are several ways that you may be able to assist. First, you may consider asking students to sit in the same seats for the semester and develop a seating chart for your class. Second, encourage your students to develop their own lists of close contacts by introducing themselves to those sitting in their immediate vicinity; these lists may potentially prove helpful to the contact tracing team. Third, consider sign-in sheets for each class session to have documentation of who is actually coming to class each day. Have these documents ready in case the contact tracing team notifies you for contact tracing in your classroom. These measures may allow for more precise quarantine instructions rather than broad messages to an entire class.

Once this information is gathered, the contact tracing team will combine it with other information obtained through interviews. The team will then communicate requirements to any close contacts that are identified. When necessary, Campus Health may send out a broad message recommending testing and further actions. It may take several hours to a few days to complete the process, based on the number of positive cases.

Q: What is the definition of a “close contact” for purposes of contact tracing?  

A: The CDC guidance for defining “close contact” includes individuals who were within 6 feet of a positive individual for 15 minutes or more, including individuals who were wearing face masks or have been vaccinated. Both of these criteria (distance of less than 6 feet and contact >15 minutes) must be met for the contact to be defined as a close contact.

Regardless of vaccination status, students identified as a close contact should continue to wear a mask at all times indoors and when in groups outdoors. This flow chart provides guidance when there’s a possible COVID-19 exposure.

Q: If a student’s classmate tests positive and is a close contact (they were identified in the tracing process as within 6 feet of a positive individual for 15 minutes or more, including individuals who were wearing face masks or have been vaccinated), will Campus Health notify them of the possible exposure?

A: Yes, if the contact tracing team can determine the identities of those classmates.

Q: What if a student who has tested positive tells me that they have not yet been contacted by Campus Health for contact tracing? 

A: Encourage the student to contact Campus Health at 919-966-2281 with any questions or concerns. 

Q: If a student tests positive, reports a positive test or is identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, will they be required to isolate or quarantine? If so, for how long? 

A: Students – vaccinated or unvaccinated – who test positive or report a positive test will be required to stay in isolation for 10 days. Unvaccinated students who have been identified through the contact tracing process as a close contact of a student who tested positive will be placed in quarantine. Vaccinated students do not have to quarantine but should get tested within 3-5 days after contact.

Regardless of vaccination status, students identified as a close contact should continue to wear a mask at all times indoors and when in groups outdoors. This flow chart provides guidance when there’s a possible COVID-19 exposure.

Q: If a student has been in isolation or quarantine, am I permitted to require them to show me proof of a negative test before letting them return to my class? 

A: No. Based on CDC guidance, we do not require proof of a negative test after isolation. Individuals may still test positive for 90 days, yet not be infectious to others.

Q: What will happen if a student does not comply with required testing or isolation/quarantine procedures? 

A: Students who do not comply with required testing, isolation or quarantine procedures may be referred to the Student Conduct via the COVID-19 Administrative Process. Student Conduct staff review these cases and take action promptly. A description of potential actions, up to and including disenrollment from the university, are listed on the Student Conduct webpage and are applied depending on the severity of the infraction.

Q: Is weekend testing available to students on campus? If so, where?  

A: Currently, Campus Health is open on weekends 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for same-day care, including COVID-19 testing and treatment for students experiencing symptoms (check Campus Health hours regularly for any changes to the schedule). Students will not incur the typical $50 weekend fee if they come to Campus Health during the weekend for COVID-19 related testing and treatment. If a student is experiencing severe symptoms requiring emergency care, they should go immediately to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. Remember that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should avoid close contact with others, wear a face mask and practice strict hand hygiene while awaiting testing and test results.

Managing In-Person Classes

Q: Can I choose to change instruction for my class from in-person to remote for the entire semester? 

A: This fall, Carolina has returned to an in-person, residential learning experience. Instructors cannot change a class’s mode of instruction for the entire semester from in-person to remote without formal accommodation through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC). Requests to temporarily move a class online must be approved by your department chair and the dean.

Q: I know masks are required in all indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, labs and other instructional spaces. What should I do if a student shows up not wearing a mask? 

A: First, as a precaution, make sure your course syllabus includes the university’s mask guidelines as outlined in the Carolina Together Community Standards. If a student declines to wear a mask or refuses to wear it correctly (e.g., continuously lowers it when talking), you may use this script to address the situation. It includes how to address the student, along with the rest of the class, and post-class action steps.

Student mask distribution stations are located in select buildings throughout campus. For station locations see maps.UNC.edu under the Carolina Together tab.

Q: If a student in my class tests positive, do I need to move my course online temporarily?  

A: No, it’s not necessary.

Q: How do I manage absences and maintain continuity for my in-person class and my students? 

A: Student and instructor absences related to illness or required due to quarantine and isolation may be common throughout the semester. We suggest you use pedagogical strategies that will maintain active in-person instruction, while accommodating these absences. Options include offering class recordings or using Zoom to allow students who are in isolation or quarantine to participate in class sessions. We strongly encourage you to exercise compassion and flexibility in all cases.

Q: If I test positive or am required to quarantine because of an exposure, what should I do? 

A: First, notify your department chair and/or dean of your absence. If you tested positive but were not tested on campus, please report your result to the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic. In the case of a positive test, the contact tracing team will ask you to identify any close contacts. If you are being asked to quarantine because of an exposure, you will be advised of the duration and when to get tested.

Q: What if a child or a dependent adult in my care gets COVID-19 and I must stay home to care for them? 

A: As COVID-19 continues to change our daily situations, you may need to be prepared to teach remotely for a short period of time. Depending on how you are feeling, you may also arrange for a colleague or TA to cover one or more class meetings or find another approach. Requests to temporarily move a class online must be approved by your department chair and the dean.

Q: Are there resources available to help me teach this semester? 

A: Yes.