Updated Sept. 14, 2021
We understand that many teaching faculty members are concerned about what will happen if a student in one of their classes is diagnosed with Covid-19. The Institute’s procedures, key decision points, and communication process to handle such an event are outlined below.
Before a case occurs
While faculty will not be directly involved in contact tracing, information about class attendance and seating may be used in contact tracing efforts if a student tests positive for Covid-19.
Due to privacy concerns, please do not take photos of the class to record attendance.
When a student tests positive for Covid-19
Contact tracing at Georgia Tech is a collaborative effort between Stamps Health Services, Georgia Tech Housing, the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), and numerous Georgia Tech staff and faculty volunteers who have been trained to be part of the contact tracing (CT) team. When a student tests positive for Covid-19, the contact tracer notifies Georgia Tech Housing if the student lives in campus housing. They also contact ODOS if the student consents to do so. The contact tracing team interviews the student to identify anyone who had close contact with them during the infectious period. People who meet the CDC’s definition of close contact are those who were within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more cumulatively within 24 hours within the infectious period, which begins two days before symptom onset, regardless of whether the case or the contact was wearing a face covering. The student is asked to isolate, either on or off campus.
As of Sept. 3, 2021, the contact tracing protocol has been updated. If the student indicates that they attended one or more classes during the infectious period, the student is alerted that faculty are not all automatically notified. Students are asked, based on the definition of “close contact,” whether any faculty or teaching assistants should be notified. It is important to note that contact tracing is designed to balance two goals: to gather information that could help others in the community make informed decisions about their own health, and to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the person who is providing information about contacts. While students are encouraged to share as much information as they are able, the student elects what to disclose. It’s also important to remember that contact tracing is not error-free. For example, the individual being interviewed may not accurately recall all the contacts during the relevant time period. In classroom settings, the contact tracing team will determine exposure risks on a case-by-case basis and continue to focus on notifying those identified as a close contact.
- The Dean of Students office is notified only if the student gives consent for notification.
- If the student requests, the Office of the Dean of Students will notify the instructors of all remote, hybrid, and residential courses the student is taking that the student has a medical condition and will be absent from class. Faculty should excuse the absence, make allowances for late work, and maintain the student’s privacy, and they are not to assume the nature of the student’s illness or initiate contact tracing themselves. There may be situations when the student directly notifies the instructor that they have tested positive. This information should not be divulged to anyone else. See additional guidance below.
- If the student is taking any in-person course sections, the CT team will contact those instructors to request any class attendance information that may be useful in contact tracing if that information is needed to identify close contacts.
Note: In some cases, you may hear from the student that they have tested positive before ODOS has a chance to make a notification. If this happens, take the following actions while ODOS and the CT team work:
If the student received the test from a non-Georgia Tech facility, advise them to notify Stamps Health Services of the positive result here: c.gatech.edu/covid19reporting.
Faculty may not notify the entire class of a student's health information, even without naming the student, as it may present a possible violation of the student's privacy rights.
Please encourage students to participate in on-campus asymptomatic testing weekly.
The classroom will be cleaned according to Georgia Tech’s health and safety protocols.
Accommodating students who are ill, have tested positive, or need to quarantine:
Instructors should accommodate students who need to quarantine due to Covid-19 — or students who test negative for Covid-19 but have symptoms similar to it, or who have any other illness and choose to stay home in the interest of protecting others — as they normally would have accommodated ill students before the pandemic. Students who are experiencing longer-term symptoms or illness due to an active Covid-19 infection should be referred to the Office of Disability Services to determine if temporary academic accommodations may be warranted.