Updates to COVID-19 Testing Recommendations

From: VP Rick AmRhein
To: Students, Faculty, and Staff
Posted: September 24, 2020 at 3:46 p.m.

During the past week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its guidance on testing. The CDC now recommends that individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19 be tested, even if they are asymptomatic. The CDC, however, does not recommend when to be tested. The COVID-19 virus has an incubation period of up to 5 days, during which a person may test negative, while actually being positive. Even at 5 days, there is a 50% chance that a person with the virus will still test negative. After discussions with the Porter County Health Department, we strongly recommend that students, faculty, and staff who have been in close contact with a positive case be tested on day 7 after the contact as advised by a contact tracer. All individuals in this situation must complete the quarantine period regardless of test results as instructed by the Porter County Health Department. As always, anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact the Student Health Center (students) or Human Resources (faculty and staff). 

If a student wishes to be tested on day 7, they should contact the Student Health Center at 219.464.5060. Faculty and Staff who wish to be tested should contact their primary medical provider.

Active Cases and the Dashboard

Some questions have come in regarding the amount of time that an active case remains on the COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard only reports positive cases. Any individual, with or without symptoms, who tests positive for the virus is counted as a new case and an active case on the day we receive the test result. If an individual is asymptomatic, but has tested positive, their case will come off of the dashboard after 10 days. If an individual is symptomatic, cases will be removed once they have met CDC criteria for symptom-based recovery, which is defined as:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, AND
  • At least 24 hours have passed since no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND
  • Symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved.

Symptomatic individuals become a case as soon as they report symptoms, but don’t become active cases until they have tested positive. So, someone may report symptoms, test a number of days later, and get the results a couple of days after that, which is then the day it is reported as an active and new case. This can be more than a week after the very first symptom presents itself, so in this situation (assuming the individual doesn’t continue to have symptoms) a case could become inactive just a few days after becoming active.

On-Campus Impact

There has also been some confusion about what “on-campus impact” means in the definition of an active case. On-campus impact would be cases that occurred/developed, or the individual was infectious, while physically on-campus (therefore, potentially exposing and impacting the campus community). Examples would be an individual who was on-campus during their infectious period and could have potentially exposed others on campus. 

Off-Campus Impact would be cases that occurred/developed, or the individual was infectious, while physically off-campus. They were not physically on campus, therefore, were no threat to the community via exposure. An example of this would be a 100% online student or a faculty or staff person who is working remotely. They would not have an “on-campus” impact since they were never on-campus during their infectious period. 

All COVID-19 positive cases, regardless of whether the campus community member is on or off campus, are reported on the campus dashboard.