COVID-19 Exposure Scenarios and Guidance for Students and Employees

Revised October 15, 2020

The following guidance is for University of Oregon students, employees (faculty, OAs, classified staff, student employees), and other affiliated individuals who are accessing university property. It has been created using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Oregon Health Authority guidelines, in collaboration with Lane County Public Health.

For scenarios 1-5, be sure to take the following steps:

COVID-19 Exposure Scenarios and Guidance

Scenario What Should I Do? When can I return to campus?
  1. I have tested positive or am a presumptive positive case for COVID-19.

Stay home; do not come to campus

A local public health department will calculate the dates of your isolation, usually 10 days.

Return to campus will be determined by a local public health department.

Students may participate in UO classes remotely if you are able, until you are cleared to return to classroom learning.

  1. I have been notified by a local public health department that I am a close contact of a positive case.

Stay home; do not come to campus

A local public health department will calculate the dates of your quarantine, usually 14 days.

Return to campus will be determined by a local public health department.

Students may participate in UO classes remotely if you are able, until you are cleared to return to classroom learning.

  1. I have been in contact with a positive case (within 6 feet distance for 15 minutes or longer) but have not been contacted by a local public health department.

Stay home; do not come to campus

If you are a close contact, whether or not you have been notified by a local public health department, UO requires you to quarantine at home for 14 days after exposure to a case. We recommend that you reach out to the health department to confirm if you are a close contact or not.

Students may participate in UO classes remotely until the health department confirms if you are a close contact or not.

This depends on whether the public health department considers you to be a close contact. If so, see number 2. If not, based on guidance from local, state and federal health authorities, the university may direct individuals to quarantine. The university will defer to a local public health department and allow an employee to return to work if they determine the employee is not a close contact requiring quarantine.

  1. I do not have any symptoms but someone in my household has tested positive for COVID-19.

Stay home; do not come to campus

You would be considered a household contact by a local public health department.

Return to campus for work or in-person classes should be determined by a local public health department.

  1. I do not have any symptoms but someone I recently spent time with (at work, home, etc.) is now exhibiting symptoms of, or is being tested for, COVID-19.

Before coming to campus you should call your local public health department or your health care provider for guidance on whether or not you are considered a close contact.

Return to campus for work or in-person classes should be determined by a local public health department, in consultation with your health care provider.

  1. Someone I have been around was recently in contact with another person who is now exhibiting symptoms. The person I spent time with is not exhibiting symptoms and neither am I.

You may come to campus.

You should engage in physical distancing, carefully monitor your health, and notify your health care provider if you develop any symptoms.

Employees and students are reminded to follow the symptom self-check procedures.

Please note the following:

  1. If you are experiencing symptoms that are concerning to you, please consult your health care provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency call 911. 
  2. The university is committed to rapidly collecting close contact information from students and employees, which may help reduce transmission of COVID-19 among members of the university community. 
  3. Supervisors must complete the COVID-19 case and contact intake form as soon as they are informed of a case or contact. 
  4. If an employee is asked to isolate or quarantine at home and if the university previously authorized the employee to work remotely, and they are healthy enough to do so, then the employee may work from home during that time. The university also might authorize a work-from-home scenario if none is currently in place and is appropriate for the work being performed. 
  5. Individuals who have been determined to be a close contact to someone with COVID-19 cannot use a negative COVID-19 test to return to work before the 14-day quarantine is complete. 
  6. This document and UO’s associated guidance and direction implements Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and local public health department guidance. 
  7. Definitions and clarifications: 
    1. Confirmed Case — A “confirmed case” is defined by meeting confirmatory laboratory evidence for COVID-19.1
    2. Presumptive Case — A “presumptive case” is a person without a positive diagnostic test who have COVID-19-like symptoms and close contact with a laboratory confirmed case.2
    3. Close Contact — A “close contact” is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.3
    4. Isolation — The term “isolation” refers to separating an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 from others who are not infected. Its purpose is to slow the spread of the disease.4
    5. Quarantine — The term “quarantine” refers to separating an individual who may be exposed to a positive case from others who have not been exposed. Its purpose is to slow the spread of the disease by separating and restricting the movement of individuals who were exposed to minimize the exposure of others and to monitor if they become sick.5
    6. Local Health Department — The term “local public health department” refers to the health department of the employees’ county of residence.

Guidance for Instructors of In-Person Classes

It is essential that instructors of in-person classes actively prevent the spread of illness on campus by talking to your students about the importance of complying with safety protocols and social distancing in the classroom; modeling good behavior and offering positive reinforcement when students comply with the guidelines.

The more you can normalize and discuss these expectations with your students, the easier it will be for students to remember and comply with our safety expectations. Suggested syllabus language is also available from the Office of the Provost.

When a student notifies you that they are positive for COVID-19 or that they have been in contact with a person who is positive, please complete the COVID-19 case and contact intake form. Please have handy the student’s name, email address, UO ID number, and telephone number for them if possible, along with the location where your class meets.

This is critical information that enables the case management team—made up of staff from the Corona Corps, University Health Services, environmental health and safety and human resources—to conduct a case-by-case review, carefully assessing and responding to each situation regarding possible contacts and classroom/facilities cleaning needs. Please know that if the university believes that you need to take any action as a result of the situation in your classroom, a member of the case management team will follow up with you and provide you with clear directions. 

A note about confidentiality: While a student’s health status is important information, it is also private information and should only be shared on a need-to-know basis. Please do not share information about a student’s health, including their diagnosis, with others unless directed to do so by the case management team.

Also, Lane County Public Health plays an important role in the contact tracing process and may contact you with guidance or questions. If you are directed to quarantine or isolate by Lane County Public Health or your medical provider, please notify your own supervisor and/or complete an COVID-19 case and contact intake form on your own behalf.

Instructors of in-person classes are likely to encounter one of three scenarios:

A student notifies you that they are positive for COVID-19

In general, when a student who has been attending in-person classes tests positive, we do not need to quarantine the class as long as members of the class, including the instructor, have been following the university’s regulations for face coverings and maintaining physical distance during the class’s meeting time.

The classrooms in use have been selected for their adequate ventilation and seating layouts have been modified so that students and the instructor are able to maintain at least six feet of distance between individuals. The classrooms also receive daily deep cleaning and if additional cleaning of the classroom is warranted, that will be prioritized and assigned to facilities staff.

Students and employees are expected to stay home when sick and to check themselves for symptoms before coming to campus each day.

Complete these steps for this scenario:

  • Complete the COVID-19 case and contact intake form. The case management team will respond by email or phone within one day, prioritizing as necessary depending on the situation.
  • Unless otherwise notified, you may continue teaching the class in person.
  • Be flexible with regard to assignments for the affected student who may be experiencing symptoms and who is likely to be in isolation for at least 10 days.
  • Observe the affected student’s privacy by not sharing their diagnosis or other health information with other students in the class.
  • You may issue a communication to all of your students reminding them that it is essential that everyone in class is vigilantly following expectations for face coverings—including not eating or drinking in the classroom, distancing, daily symptom self-checks, and staying home when unwell.
  • If you (the instructor) have been in close contact with this student, please follow instructions for scenario No. 3.

As mentioned previously, the university will do a case-by-case review of each situation to ensure that appropriate protocols are followed. Please know that if the university believes that you need to take any action as a result of the situation in your classroom, someone from the case management team will follow up with you and provide you with clear directions. 

A student notifies you that they have been exposed to someone positive for COVID-19

It’s important to remember that the local public health department determines if a person who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 is considered a contact. A contact is someone who has been within six feet of the positive person for 15 minutes or longer during the period of infectiousness, which is considered to begin two days before the onset of symptoms or two days before an asymptomatic person tests positive (whichever is earlier). To be conservative, this definition applies regardless of whether or not the parties are wearing face coverings.

A contact is directed to quarantine for a period of time, meaning they are not to go to work or class in person.

A person who has, or believes they have, been exposed to a positive case but has not yet been contacted by their local public health department may self-quarantine until released by the local public health department. They may proactively reach out to their local public health department for this assessment.

Complete these steps for this scenario:

  • Complete the COVID-19 case and contact intake form. The case management team will respond by email or phone within one day, prioritizing as necessary depending on the situation.
  • You may continue teaching the class in person.
  • Be flexible with regard to assignments for the affected student, who may be out for a protracted period of time. A student who has been notified by the health department that they are a contact is expected to quarantine for a period of 14 days after their last exposure to the positive person.
  • Observe the affected student’s privacy by not sharing their status with other students in the class.
  • You may issue a communication to all of your students reminding them that it is essential that everyone in class is following expectations for face coverings—including not eating or drinking in the classroom, distancing, daily symptom self-checks, staying home when unwell, good hand hygiene, face covering usage, etc.

A student is exhibiting visible symptoms of illness, such as repeated coughing or sneezing

While it is not unusual for a person to occasionally cough or sneeze, a person who is repeatedly coughing, sneezing or exhibiting other signs of illness should stay home and not come to campus for work or class.

You MAY complete these steps for this scenario:

  • Advise a student who is visibly exhibiting symptoms of illness to go home until they are symptom free.
    • Remind the student to conduct a daily symptom self-check before coming to campus.
    • Remind the student they may contact University Health Services or a regular healthcare provider to have their symptoms assessed or for treatment.
  • Issue a communication to all of your students reminding them that it is essential that everyone in class is following expectations for daily symptom self-checks and staying home when unwell.
  • Role model this behavior by not teaching in person when you have symptoms of illness.

Be prepared for your own and your students’ potential absences related to COVID-19 by building flexibility into your syllabus and assignments.


1 CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/contact-tracing.html, Accessed August 23, 2020

2 HHS: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/public-health-and-safety/what-is-the-difference-between-isolation-and-quarantine/index.html, Accessed August 23, 2020

3 CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/contact-tracing.html, Accessed August 23, 2020

4 HHS: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/public-health-and-safety/what-is-the-difference-between-isolation-and-quarantine/index.html, Accessed August 23, 2020

5 Ibid.