Colleges and Universities FAQs

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  • Is an antigen or antibody test for COVID-19 sufficient proof of a negative COVID-19 diagnosis?

    Antibody testing is not adequate for anything. Antigen testing is not preferred and PCR testing is recommended. The reasoning behind this is that antigen testing is not always accurate or specific per the County of San Diego’s Epidemiology Branch. In addition, antigen testing cannot tell you are negative and it is not as sensitive as PCR and prone to false positives.

    In a symptomatic individual (a person who is experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, then that individual would be considered preliminary positive for COVID-19 and the antigen test would be sufficient proof of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

    However, in an asymptomatic individual (a person who is not experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, then that individual would NOT be considered preliminary positive for COVID-19 and the antigen test would not be sufficient proof of a positive COVID-19 test.  In this scenario, the individual would then need to follow up with a PCR test to make sure of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

    An antigen test is less specific/accurate and only valid per our Epidemiology Department if a person is symptomatic, not asymptomatic. It is preferred and recommended to test for COVID-19 using a PCR test. 

    In a symptomatic individual (a person who is experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, then that individual would be considered preliminary positive for COVID-19 and the antigen test would be sufficient proof of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

    However, in an asymptomatic individual (a person who is not experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, then that individual would NOT be considered preliminary positive for COVID-19 and the antigen test would not be sufficient proof of a positive COVID-19 test.  In this scenario, the individual would then need to follow up with a PCR test to make sure of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

    An antigen test is less specific/accurate and only valid per our Epidemiology Department if a person is symptomatic, not asymptomatic. It is preferred and recommended to test for COVID-19 using a PCR test. 

  • Where can school employees get a COVID-19 test?

    Employees can first talk to their school if they are offering testing or their healthcare provider. Testing is available at over 20 County-coordinated sites and can be viewed at the County of San Diego Testing Website. All are open to school personnel and youth over the age of 12. Specific testing information is available at 2-1-1 San Diego.

  • What responsibilities do schools have related to COVID-19?

    IHE administrators can help protect students, faculty, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19, by encouraging vaccinations and using CDC’s Guidance for IHEs. IHEs can help increase vaccine uptake among students, faculty, and staff by providing information about COVID-19 vaccination, promoting vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices that make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible.

    IHEs where all students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated prior to the start of the semester can return to full capacity in-person learning, without requiring or recommending masking or physical distancing for people who are fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.

    IHEs where not everyone is fully vaccinated will have a mixed population of both people who are fully vaccinated and people who are not fully vaccinated on campus which requires decision making to protect the people who are not fully vaccinated.

  • What occurs if a college student tests positive?

    People with positive results should isolate at home, in a campus-sponsored isolation room/floor/building, or if in a healthcare setting, be placed in an area with appropriate precautions. They should remain in isolation until they have met the criteria established by CDC for discontinuing home isolation or for discontinuing precautions in a healthcare setting. Positive test results should be promptly reported to public health authorities to allow for case investigation and contact tracing.

     

  • Is there anything we can do for each other when we're feeling overwhelmed ourselves and people are turning to us for mental health and wellness?

    Seek help when needed. If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to your counselor, doctor, or faith leader, or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

    Visit the County Behavioral Health Services website, which includes resources for managing your mental health and coping during COVID-19.  The County of San Diego also provides resources for maintaining your mental health and wellness, which can be found here. In addition, our County of San Diego partner, Each Mind Matters, has mental health resources and tips for self-care during COVID-19, which can be found here.

    The County of San Diego initiated the LiveWell@Home website, which contains age-based resources designed to encourage fitness and social connection during these trying times.  2-1-1 is also a source of information about local mental health and wellness resources.

  • If a person tests positive for COVID-19 at a college campus, is there an epidemiological investigation being conducted to notify others, or people who they were in the same room with/campus with? What is the Public Health’s response in handling a reported COIVD-19 case and their contacts?

    Currently, the San Diego County Epidemiology and Immunization Branch continues to investigate reported COVID-19 cases and their contacts. Information on reporting a suspected or laboratory-confirmed case is available at the County of San Diego reporting page. The San Diego County Epidemiology and Immunization Branch has a template for schools when someone is positive and they provide that to the school, if and when a positive case is determined.

    When diagnosed or identified through laboratory or clinical criteria, COVID-19 cases are required to be reported, by health care providers and laboratories, to state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health departments. Healthcare providers from a variety of clinical settings, including school-based clinics and community-based settings, also complete case reports on symptomatic patients diagnosed with COVID-19.  Health departments have primary responsibility for case investigation and contact tracing. Case investigation and contact tracing are core disease control measures that have been employed by STLT health department personnel for decades, and an important part of the COVID-19 response.

    As part of the risk assessment and public health management of persons with potential COVID-19, public health personnel will typically conduct interviews and assess these individuals for fever or other symptoms of COVID-19, as well as provide next steps and initiate the follow up with any contacts deemed to be appropriate.

    It is not the responsibility of the school to notify staff, students, or families. 

  • We would like to start rapid testing on campus. Do you have any experience or recommendations regarding the specific products?

    You will need to assess the capacity of the lab on campus. Please refer to the FDA FAQs for rapid testing. County Health cannot make recommendations or endorsements of specific testing products. Please refer to the Laboratory Field Services (LFS) website for state licensing and certification guidelines.

  • After June 15th, what happens to Colleges, Universities, Trade, and Vocational Schools, and will new guidance be issued by the California Department of Public Health?

    On June 15, 2021 California opened fully.  As we move to reopening, the state will be sunsetting “industry guidance” and instead be operating by a set of generally accepted practices and protocols for all, largely based on whether or not individuals are vaccinated.  More information about these protocols can be found at Beyond the Blueprint Framework for Industry and Business Sectors.  This document also contains information regarding for any venues (including food and retail) on campus, as well as sporting events and large indoor/outdoor live performances that may be considered Mega Events.

    All colleges, universities, trade and vocational schools will be authorized to be back in session this fall in full-time, in-person instruction. Like all enterprises, higher education will be expected to comply with Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) as well as any relevant state and local public health guidelines and restrictions.  Colleges and universities can further plan for the fall by following current CDC Recommendations for Colleges, Universities, and Higher Learning, including Guidance for Shared or Congregate Housing.

    California continues to strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for all residents, including eligible students, faculty, and staff.  Campuses should consider maintaining regular testing protocols for those individuals who are not vaccinated.

     After June 15 no physical distancing will be required between students. This allows for full classroom capacity and full occupancy in the residence halls.  Other mechanisms, such as masks, vaccines, ventilation – should be looked to for ongoing safety measures.

     The NCAA Resocialization of College Sports provides good information for resuming sports practice and competition, including determination of risk levels and prevention, mitigation and treatment of COVID-19 for student-athletes.

  • Do I still need to wear a mask? What about if I am vaccinated?

    Masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals, except in the following settings where masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

    Additionally, masks are required **  for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).

    For additional information, individuals should refer to CDC Recommendations for Safer Activities (see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions for more information). 

    **Guidance for Businesses, Venue Operators or Hosts 

    In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

    • Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
    • Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask. 
    • Require all patrons to wear masks.

    No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

    Exemptions to masks requirements

    The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

    • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
    • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
    • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
    • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

     

  • Can libraries and salons open fully on June 15th, do we need to wear a facial covering, and is there still requirements for physical distancing?

    Libraires and salons may fully be open and operating as of June 15th, 2021. Face coverings indoors for youth (older than 2 yrs.) are still required regardless of vaccination status unless exempt, however physical distancing is no longer required. See more at these links: Guidance for face coverings & California is Open – What does this Mean

  • Who should get tested for current infection?
    • People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Most people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
      • Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.
      • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
    • People who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure, such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.

    CDC recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection. If you get tested because you have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus, you should stay away from others pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

  • The guidance on international travel was updated on June 14, 2021. What does it say?

    All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

    Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

    For more information or to see the list of travel recommendations by destination, please visit the page for specific destinations.

 

For additional questions and resources, please email: COVID-Education@sdcounty.ca.gov