UC Campus COVID-19 Testing, Tracing and Case Management Plan
COVID-19 has emerged as a global pandemic in the past several months.
Caused by a previously unknown coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, it is capable of spreading quickly through dense populations. The clinical effects range from asymptomatic infections, possibly with unknown long-term consequences, to severe multisystem organ failure and circulatory collapse. Its behavior is not well-understood, yet there are clear patterns emerging. This document is based on those clear patterns and expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and our own UC subject matter experts. It will be updated frequently as we learn more about best practices in preventing, detecting, and managing COVID-19.
Disease prevention remains the mainstay of the campus approach to COVID-19.
Just as important, stay home if you are ill (except to visit a health care professional).
Even with perfect adherence to these principles, the virus can escape through aerosol particles and inadvertent lapses, and can infect even the most careful among us, so we must be ready to respond to cases of COVID-19 on campus. This document summarizes the planned approach.
Testing, tracing and case management
The best tools for COVID-19 risk mitigation consist of our own personal and community practices: Required use of facial covering, physical distancing, personal hygiene, attention to sanitization, self-monitoring and appropriate self-care, which includes staying home if ill.
These steps will do much to prevent the spread of COVID-19, decreasing the likelihood that members of our community will become ill.
The university’s planning calls for diagnostic testing of symptomatic individuals and those who have had close exposure to infected individuals. This will be supplemented with a combination of both required and voluntary strategic surveillance testing (defined as testing that is not related to symptoms or suspected exposure) among students in order to help monitor trends and prevalence related to COVID-19.
Our testing and tracing efforts are under continuous review and modification based on the evolving scientific evidence and public health recommendations.
On-campus testing center
For symptomatic students and those who have had close exposure to infected individuals, one on-campus testing option is the Testing Center located at Commons Edge North, 55 W. Daniels Street. Students may call (513) 556-2564 for an appointment.
Also for symptomatic students and those who have had close exposure to infected individuals, University Health Services can arrange for testing at the UC Health Uptown Campus, 3120 Burnet Avenue (East Campus), which is by appointment only.
More options for testing, both on and off campus, are outlined below.
COVID-19 required surveillance testing
Since the spring term, the University of Cincinnati has used a combination of both required and voluntary strategic surveillance testing (defined as testing that is not related to symptoms or suspected exposure) among students in order to help monitor trends and prevalence related to COVID-19.
COVID-19 rates are rising in Hamilton County and Ohio, and the public health emergency continues. Because testing is a key strategy in control of transmission, along with all-important behavioral measures of social distancing, facial coverings, hand and surface hygiene and staying home when sick, our medical experts have recommended we institute required testing to ensure we have continued participation in our campus screening test program.
Starting the week of October 19, the university will expand its required strategic surveillance testing program among students as another means to monitor trends and promote good health. Getting tested for COVID-19 and becoming an active participant in public health efforts is an important way for members of our Bearcat community to work together. Testing paired with good health habits is an easy, quick and incredibly consequential way to make sure we're each doing our part to keep our community safer and healthier. It’s one way that all of us help to protect each of us.
Students will receive notice when they have been selected to participate in ongoing, weekly random surveillance testing. Participation in such testing will be required of students who fall into the following categories unless they meet the needed qualifications for a testing exemption.
Testing required for the following
- Residential students living in UC Housing
- Students attending face-to-face classes or hybrid classes on the Uptown Campus
- Students who work or conduct research on campus
And even though we’re moving to require testing as outlined above and below, voluntary participation in testing will still be an option for students who don't meet the above criteria or who are not selected for required testing in a given week.
And, testing for those exhibiting symptoms that may be related to COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the virus will still be available through University Health Services.
Why is UC expanding required strategic surveillance testing
The university’s student population is to be commended for participating in ongoing strategic surveillance testing and, importantly, for adapting and adhering to the vital personal and community behavioral practices that serve as the very best of tools for mitigating COVID-19 risk and spread.
The UC community of students, faculty and staff has been consistent in the required use of facial coverings, physical distancing, personal hygiene, attention to sanitization, self-monitoring and appropriate self-care, which includes staying home if ill.
Our overall planning is guided by recommendations of our medical experts with consideration of the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. And as has been stated many times, planning may evolve due to any number of factors, whether based on evolving science or proven effectiveness for a particular setting. Our testing and tracing efforts are under continuous review and modification based on the evolving scientific evidence and public health recommendations.
As such, the decision to expand the required component of strategic surveillance testing stems from several factors:
- We are entering flu and cold season, with more time spent indoors.
- Ongoing trends related to both the State of Ohio and the local region. Just this past Friday, October 9, Ohio reported more cases of coronavirus than ever before in a single day. Hamilton, Clermont and Butler counties remain at the red level on the Ohio Department of Health's public health advisory system.
- The need to maintain momentum and consistency. To date, the voluntary component of strategic surveillance testing has generally worked well on campus, with hundreds of students voluntarily participating in strategic surveillance testing during most weeks. But, with required testing, we can better ensure the overall consistency (and statistical validity) of week-over-week turnout over the long term.
- As we track national trends and consult our Academic Health Center epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, forecasts and analysis suggest participation in voluntary testing may be leveling off and becoming more uneven. Across the country, professionals who work on COVID-19 prevention and mitigation are hearing a new term: “testing fatigue.” Its meaning is self-explanatory, but the bottom line is that we need strategic surveillance testing to help prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus.
What to expect in the testing experience
- Students selected for required strategic surveillance testing will be notified via their university email, along with instructions for next steps.
- Strategic surveillance testing will be available on campus, but students may also fulfill the testing requirement via other, off-campus providers, such as private physicians, Kroger's Little Clinics or a variety of locales offered by the Hamilton County Health Department. See the Hamilton County Health Department's site for testing sites available in Hamilton County.
- For students opting to fulfill the testing requirement on campus, strategic surveillance testing will be provided weekly (on Tuesdays) by Wild Health Laboratory of Lexington, Kentucky, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at the TUC Cinema. This will be the testing location as of October 20. Their clinical professionals will collect a sample from a swab placed very gently in the lower part of the nose known as the nasal sample. It’s quick, easy and free (with no charge to students). The entire testing experience requires less than 5 minutes.
- Students may also choose to participate in strategic surveillance testing provided by Hamilton County Test and Protect, which will come to campus weekly (on Mondays, Oct. 19-Nov. 23, 1-6 p.m.) in the banquet room at Stratford unit No. 16, 2634 Stratford Avenue (west side of Clifton Avenue). This testing is open to all. Please note that Test and Protect will ask for insurance information; however, if a student’s insurance does not cover the test, there will be no charge to the student. Also note that, currently, Test and Protect performs nasopharyngeal sampling, which makes use of long-handled swabs.
- Please expect to social distance and wear a mask during testing, except while the test is actually being performed.
- Testing results are generally available within 72 hours of the test.
- Students participating in the required surveillance testing will receive a $5 credit on their Bearcat Card and will received a free KN-95 mask.
Unless a student receives an exemption from required testing, failure to respond and obtain a required test may result in loss of access to university spaces and services.
Exemptions from required strategic surveillance testing may be granted based on the following:
- A student is currently in quarantine or isolation.
- They have a disability that would preclude them from having the test done.
- They prefer to be tested by another source within a week, before or after, their assigned time. Note that UC will not reimburse for testing done at alternative facilities. Students must share the results with UC.
- They are currently sick and unable to get to the testing facility.
- They have a sincerely held religious belief.
- They have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
All individuals will be required to self-screen daily for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to campus and must stay out of class, work and on-campus activities if they have even mild symptoms. The UC COVID Check app provides a simple way to conduct that self assessment and report any symptoms to University Health Services. UC's COVID Check app is free and easy to use. It can be downloaded through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. A web-based REDCap survey is also available for those who prefer an alternative to the app.
They will receive timely instructions on next steps, including self-quarantine, testing, and how to make an appointment for medical care if needed.
UC will implement robust electronic contact tracing of all individuals on campus who test positive for COVID-19, including faculty, staff and students. This contact tracing related to positive tests or close contact exposures will be conducted by an interdisciplinary team of specially trained faculty, staff and students, led by public health professionals managing the health investigation and follow up.
Everyone is expected to participate. The university relies on each and every community member to do their part to help keep the campus safe and open for living, learning, and working. Students will be required to participate if they come to campus or live on campus.
Using up to date web-based technology and an app known as UC COVID Check, UC community members who are close contacts of individuals with confirmed COVID-19 will receive information by text and phone, with specific education and advice for their situations.
All UC community members who are close contacts of confirmed positive cases will be sent for COVID-19 testing.
The university will work closely with the local health departments on all contact tracing and will rely on their advice regarding best practices for quarantine and isolation.
Definitions: quarantine and isolation
Quarantine applies to someone who has had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, but who does not have any symptoms of infection. They need to be separated for a period of time to be observed for symptoms and to prevent accidentally infecting others. Quarantine lasts 14 days.
Isolation applies to someone who may be infected or has been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. They need to be isolated to prevent the spread of virus to the community while they are contagious. Isolation lasts 10 days in most instances.
Both are critically important to keeping the campus safer.
Symptomatic (sick) students
Sick students must report their symptoms via UC's COVID Check App or via an alternative web-based survey. The App and survey are free and easy to use. It can be downloaded through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The web-based REDCap survey is also available.
The UC COVID Check app provides a simple way to conduct a daily self assessment and report any symptoms to University Health Services
Sick students may call UHS for care at (513) 556-2564. If they have symptoms suspicious for COVID-19, they will be triaged by a nurse prior to scheduling to ascertain student safety. Those with severe symptoms such as significant trouble breathing, passing out or confusion will be directed to the Emergency Department for immediate care. Public safety and EMS will be notified to transport the patient via 911.
Testing can be ordered and completed at the Testing Center. All sick students must immediately self-isolate and follow the directives.
If instructed to quarantine or isolate, it's recommended that students in University Housing return to their permanent homes to do so. If that is not possible due to extenuating circumstances, UHS, Student Affairs and UC Housing will work with that student to provide appropriate accommodations for the quarantine or isolation period. They may continue their classes remotely. Meals will be delivered by Food Services (meal plan required). UC Housing may not be available for all quarantined or isolated students.
ISOLATION GENERALLY LASTS 10 DAYS. University Health Services will provide specific guidance on a case-by-case basis.
Off-campus students will be instructed in how to best self-isolate in their living situations, generally requiring a separate sleeping space and, preferably, a private bathroom. If there is no option for private bath, the room must be thoroughly disinfected after each use by the sick individual.
Individuals with typical COVID symptoms and negative tests will require evaluation by a clinician to determine how long they should remain in isolation once their symptoms resolve.
Current guidelines suggest that it may be safe to discontinue isolation if symptoms have resolved for at least 72 hours, if it is less than 10 days from onset. University Health Services will provide specific guidance on a case-by-case basis.
There is no requirement for a negative test before isolation is discontinued. The Centers for Disease Control has determined, based on multiple scientific studies, that the vast majority of individuals are no longer infectious after 10 days. There are rare exceptions to this, which will be picked up by UHS and explained on a case-by-case basis.
All close contacts of confirmed cases will be required to quarantine for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus. They will be referred for immediate testing, to determine if there is a cluster of cases around the positive individual.
QUARANTINE FOR 14 DAYS IS REQUIRED EVEN IF THE TEST IS NEGATIVE. This is because the exposed student could have a very low level of virus present at the time of the test, which is below the test’s ability to detect and could become positive over the course of the incubation period.
If instructed to quarantine or isolate, it's recommended that students in University Housing return to their permanent homes to do so. Limited on-campus accommodations are available by a waiver process through University Housing if a student is unable to go home for the 14-day period or if there are other extenuating circumstances. UHS, Student Affairs and UC Housing will work with that student to provide appropriate accommodations for the quarantine or isolation period. UC Housing may not be available for all quarantined or isolated students.
Even when residential students are in quarantine or isolation at their permanent homes, they will undergo active daily monitoring and will not be permitted to return to their usual residence hall until cleared to do so.
Off-campus students will be instructed in how to best quarantine in their living situations, generally requiring a separate sleeping space and, preferably, a private bathroom. If there is no option for private bath, the room must be thoroughly disinfected after each use by the COVID-positive individual.
Exposed and/or asymptomatic students who test positive
Some students who have no symptoms of COVID -19 may test positive as a result of a contact tracing. Others may be asked to have a test for another purpose and discover they are positive.
ISOLATION IS REQUIRED FOR 10 DAYS IN THIS CASE. This is because the Centers for Disease Control has determined, based on multiple scientific studies, that the vast majority of individuals are no longer infectious after 10 days.
If isolation is recommended, it is preferred that students in University Housing isolate on campus in special accommodations provided for this purpose. If a student opts to go to their permanent home to isolate, they will be given CDC resources explaining how to do this as safely as possible.
Off-campus students will be instructed in how to best self-isolate in their living situation, generally requiring a separate sleeping space and, preferably, a private bathroom. If there is no option for a private bath, the room must be thoroughly disinfected after each use by the COVID positive individual.
The university is committed to meeting the best interest of students while prioritizing their health and safety. In accordance with the Faculty Senate Resolution on Class Attendance and Participation during COVID-19, faculty are encouraged to be flexible with attendance policies and other aspects of supporting academic progress – particularly for students in isolation and quarantine.
Faculty are encouraged to think beyond traditional definitions of attendance and support and provide students with opportunities to make up missed work or do commensurate work. This will allow for a positive student learning experience and a commitment to delivering exemplary instruction. An incomplete grade may be awarded in the event of a student illness, which will provide an opportunity for a student to work with faculty to complete coursework after the semester concludes.