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Can I work on campus if I’ve been exposed?

Key terms used on this page

Moderate-Severe SymptomsOne or more of the following: Fever (> 100 F) OR Persistent cough (dry or wet) OR Wheezing or trouble breathing OR Moderate muscle aches OR Physician diagnosis of likely COVID.

Mild SymptomsSudden change in smell or taste OR Two or more of the following: Feverish or chills, without fever OR Sore throat OR Mild cough OR Chest pain OR Headache OR Mild fatigue and muscle ache OR Nausea or diarrhea.

Minimal Symptoms: Those not meeting the descriptions of moderate-severe or mild symptoms above, or symptoms related to other known medical conditions.

Can I work on campus if I have had close contact with someone who tests positive?

NO, you must remain quarantined until 14 days after the last exposure and until you are cleared for return by the HealthCheck Medical Support Team.

Conditions that constitute close contact include:

  • Being within 6 feet of an individual for more than 15 minutes within 48 hours of when they got sick
  • Living together in a household with someone who is sick with COVID
  • If you have had direct exposure to the individual’s secretions without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), e.g., sharing the same drink

Important:  If you had meaningful contact with a positive case that falls just short of the close contact definition, you should self-monitor your symptoms for 14 days, including twice-daily temperature checks. As necessary, the HealthCheck Medical Support Team will contact you with guidance on precautionary COVID testing and/or possible self-isolation.

Can I work on campus if I have had household contact with someone who has moderate-severe symptoms?

NO, you must remain quarantined until cleared by the HealthCheck Medical Support Team:

Household contact includes someone you live with including roommate, significant other, or intimate partner (includes kissing).

Moderate-severe symptoms include any one or more of the following:

  1. Fever (> 100 F)
  2. Persistent cough (dry or wet)
  3. Wheezing or trouble breathing
  4. Sudden loss of taste or smell
  5. Moderate muscle aches
  6. Physician diagnosis of likely COVID

Can I work on campus if I have had incidental contact with someone who tests positive?

Yes, you may continue to work on campus if your contact with a positive case was incidental (i.e., passing in a hallway) and not considered close contact (more than 15 minutes at less than 6 feet distancing).  

Important:  If you had more meaningful contact with a positive case that falls just short of the close contact definition, you should self-monitor your symptoms for 14 days, including twice-daily temperature checks. As necessary, the HealthCheck Medical Support Team will contact you with guidance on precautionary COVID testing and/or possible self-isolation. This guidance is summarized in the following table:

Click on the above image to download the PDF.

Can I work on campus if I have had high-risk close contact with someone who tests positive?

Conditions that constitute High-risk close contact include:

  • If you have had direct, frequent contact to an individual while not wearing appropriate protection, such as mask (within 6 feet for >15-30 minutes in a row within 24 hours of when they got sick)
  • If you have had direct exposure to the individual’s secretions without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), e.g., sharing the same drink

NO, you must remain self-isolated until 14 days after the last exposure.

Can I work on campus if I have had low-risk close contact with someone who tests positive?

Low-risk close contact: someone who does not meet the above categories (household contact, high-risk close contact).

Includes:

  • someone who walked by or were around, but more than 6 feet away
  • someone in the same room for more than 15-30 minutes, but more than 6 feet away

Yes, you can work, as long as you do NOT have symptoms AND you were not a close contact.  

You should self-monitor your symptoms for 14 days, including twice-daily temperature checks.

This guidance is summarized in the following table:

Can I work on campus based on exposure?
Click on the above image to download the PDF

How does Stanford determine whom to isolate and test after a potential workplace exposure to COVID?

When the Medical Support Team receives notification of a positive case through a HealthCheck submission or email/phone call, they speak to the positive individual to obtain additional case details. This can include where and when they worked on-site, other personnel they may have worked with closely, and how long these interactions lasted. A similar discussion and process is conducted by/with the local HR team and/or Principal Investigator (PI) to gain a better understanding of possible close contacts.  This would include individuals who were in contact with the positive case in the 48 hours before symptom onset.

The CDC defines a close contact as “anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.”  People identified as close contacts will be quarantined for 14 days, and this will remain the case even if they test negative on an initial COVID test. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting ~48 hours (or 2 days) before the person had any symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Medical Support Team builds a margin of error into this close contact determination and does not strictly limit this assessment to the 6 foot, 15 minute guideline, instead casting a wider net around any positive index case. Those who have meaningful interactions with the positive case that fall short of this definition will still be tested and likely restricted from on-site work until their negative test result returns, if not for the full 14 days, thus building in an additional margin of safety.  The reasons for this are:

  1. Time and distance estimates are difficult to make or recollect especially under stress;
  2. There may be gaps in PPE use and social distancing efforts that are difficult to capture during initial discussions;
  3. Strictly adhering to this close-contact definition without considering the exposure environment, ventilation, and total density of exposure can lead to missing others at risk (e.g., 8 feet apart in a small room for 2 hours).

Those who are not identified by the medical support team, but think they may be close contacts should reach out to their HR representative and/or the Medical Support Team for consultation.  Employees and postdocs who are concerned about their risk but were not knowingly involved in an exposure situation may utilize the self-swab COVID testing kits available through the employee surveillance program with Color, or contact their HR representative as well.  Those who are not eligible to use the kits may schedule a test at the Occupational Health Center.  Vaden Health Center will manage the case response process for students.

I was near someone who was positive. On what day(s) should I be tested?

Asymptomatic individuals who meet the definition of a potential close contact of a positive case will be offered testing.  The timing of this testing depends on a number of factors, including whether or not the had symptoms and the number of days that have passed since the initial exposure. Some individuals may undergo repeat or follow up testing prior to return to work on-site, with general guidelines for asymptomatic close contacts as outlined below:

Days since first exposure to potentially infectious person:

  • Unknown
    • Initial test needed
    • Follow up test at day 7 (unless case later develops symptoms to clarify timeline to different day)
  • 1-3 Days
    • Initial test may be needed, depends on circumstances, may test initially if higher possibility that case is not the primary, there is a high amount of co-mingling, spotty mask use, or extremely close and prolonged contact; else defer to day 4-7
    • Follow up test at day 12-14
  • 4 Days
    • Initial test, delay until day 5
    • Follow up test at day 12-14
  • 5-6 Days
    • Initial test needed
    • Follow up test at day 12-14
  • 7 Days
    • Initial test needed
    • Follow up test is risk dependent
  • 8-14 Days
    • Initial test needed
    • Follow up test not needed

How will people know if someone who works near them tests positive?

There are five main notifications that occur when someone tests positive in the work area:

  1. Close contact notification: Those who have been identified by the index case, the Medical Support Team, or the involved HR representatives/PI during the contact investigation as a potential close contact will be contacted by the Medical Support Team or the PI/HR representative. The contact tracing team will let you know that you may have been exposed to someone who was COVID-positive during a specified time period, but not how or to whom, and the steps you may need to take, including remaining off-site and obtaining testing.
  2. Building notification: Building occupants are being provided email notification of any local positive case that has been identified without naming the individual. This is conducted in coordination between EH&S and local Facilities Management and HR.
  3. HealthCheck notification:  The Medical Support Team adjusts the HealthCheck clearance to restrict those who are deemed close contacts and need to be temporarily restricted from working or coming on-site. 
  4. Index case notification: The County of Santa Clara encourages any positive individual to notify everyone who they had close contact with from 48 hours before their symptoms began until self-isolation began. If you are COVID positive and need help in notifying your non-Stanford (personal) close contacts without revealing your identity to them, you can contact Santa Clara County directly at 408-970-2870
  5. CA COVID Team follow-up: The County of Santa Clara COVID Support Team may reach out to close contacts of cases under their purview. This page describes the process in more detail, and their guidance will supersede that of the SU Medical Support Team if more restrictive. If the CA COVID team permits your return to work and your HealthCheck remains red, or restricted, please contact the Medical Support Team at SU Occupational Health or Vaden Health Services.

How do privacy regulations affect positive test results, both for those who are tested and for Stanford’s ability to share information?

Consistent with privacy regulations, the university may use and disclose health information about individuals in connection with public health activities and to prevent serious threats to health and safety.  In connection with COVID-19 testing, we may share name, university ID, dates of sample collection and return, and test result with Environmental Health & Safety and limited other university offices to protect the university community and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 (such as for exposure notification, cleaning and isolation). In addition, we must report positive test results to public health authorities, consistent with applicable laws and guidance.  

When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, we also attempt to notify her or his close contacts of the potential exposure. We do not disclose to the close contact the identity of the individual who tested positive. At times this can complicate the exposure assessment; and we err on the side of nondisclosure of details, in the interests of privacy. Exposure assessment teams at Occupational Health at SU and SHC, Vaden, and Human Resources work in close alignment to share only information that is appropriate under federal, state, and local regulations, ordinances, and guidance. 

What should people  do if they think they might have been exposed but haven’t been contacted?

Those who believe they are close contacts but who have not heard from the Medical Support Team should ensure their HealthCheck has been completed, contact their HR, and reach out directly to the respective contact tracing teams:

  1. SU Occupational Health: stanfordohc@stanford.edu (for faculty and staff and postdocs), or 650-725-5308
  2. Vaden Health Services (for students)
  3. Hospital Occupational Health (for SHC exposures involving patient-facing employees): 650-497-9595

How long will someone who is COVID-positive be restricted from coming on-site?

The timing for return of a COVID-positive individual is case-by-case, and depends on a number of factors, including their personal circumstances. A negative COVID test result is NOT required to return to work.

Anyone who lives or works in a high-risk, congregate setting and students living in dormitories should remain in isolation until 14 days since symptoms first appeared AND 7 days with no fever AND respiratory symptoms have improved. This 14/7 rule applies to those who live or work in congregate living / dormitories, including food service and custodial workers, as well as animal care technicians and others in more dense work environments.  

This determination will be case-by-case, with those not meeting the criteria above potentially cleared using the 10/3 paradigm, or 10 days after symptom onset, if no fever for 3 days and improved respiratory symptoms.

Asymptomatic positives (those who never had symptoms) may return on-site 10 days after their first positive test date, after clearance by the Medical Support Team.

I am a close contact of a positive case. When can I return to work?

A true close contact who meets the 15 minute, 6 foot description is required to remain off-site for 14 days after the last known contact with the positive case. In most circumstances, the close contact will be tested near the end of this quarantine period prior to return to campus.

Those who do not meet the close contact definition but who may have had meaningful interactions with the index case will still be tested and likely restricted from on-site work until their negative test result returns, if not for the full 14 days.

If someone at your home tests positive, such as a family member, you will need to remain off-site for 14 days since your last contact with them during an infectious period. In most cases, this will necessitate remaining off-site for 10 days since their positive test or symptom onset PLUS another 14 days. If other family members live in the home with you, they will all need to test negative at ~day 24, for if someone else at home tests positive, the clock will need to restart.