Clarification on Quarantines

From: Interim Provost Richard Gillman
To: Students, Faculty, and Staff
Posted: August 20, 2020 at 9 a.m.

Dear Colleagues,

In response to many questions that have arisen over the last several days, I am writing this (lengthy) email to address issues around the topic of quarantines.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), exposure occurs when someone is within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 continuous minutes, within the 48 hours prior to the infected person showing symptoms or testing positive. Exposure does not imply infection!  Because a student (or instructor) may be exposed in many different environments, the fact that a student is exposed does not imply that an instructor or other students in a class are exposed or infected. The Porter County contact tracers identify individuals as exposed based on their direct contact with infected individuals, not based on others who may simply have been exposed; it is not a two-step process.

Because of the nature of COVID-19, exposed, non-infected students will be quarantined throughout the semester and it is likely that different students will be popping in and out of class all semester. If a single student, or two, reports to an instructor that they have been exposed and quarantined, there is no action for the instructor to take unless informed by a contact tracer.  If the instructor is exposed, the course must go online for the quarantine period. If a significant portion of a class is exposed and hence quarantined, it makes sense for it to shift online for the quarantine period. 

To minimize broad exposure in class, wear masks, and maintain the six foot distancing between students. Use the disinfectant spray after each class; we will continue and refine this process.

Infected individuals – those who are an active, confirmed case – are isolated, not quarantined.

The Incident Command Team is tracking the number of active confirmed cases and this number will be updated on a regular basis and shared on the Looking Forward website. It is also tracking other metrics to monitor the health and safety of the campus community, which will be used by the administration to make informed and timely decisions. 

Because of the ISDH required quarantine period by students exposed to COVID-19, faculty should consider quarantine as an excused absence from class. These students can, and should, continue to engage in their academic work remotely. While exposed students in quarantine are not necessarily ill, this practice parallels what we might do for students with other extended illnesses. And keep in mind that quarantining due to exposure—as distinct from testing positive for COVID-19 and being isolated—is a wise precaution to promote the safety of other students and our faculty.  

When an infected student is isolated, whether they can continue to work remotely or must do catch up work depends on how ill they are.