Contact Tracing, Isolation and Quarantine

Contact tracing

When someone tests positive for the virus, it is critical that the university trace the contacts they have had with others to limit the spread of the virus. This page describes the process by which all students and all non-medical center employees (faculty and staff) will receive guidance related to COVID-19 symptoms, exposure and contact tracing. Wexner Medical Center faculty and staff should follow the guidance provided by the Wexner Medical Center.

How contact tracing works

Contact tracers are trained based on the best science about risks of transmission in different scenarios. Your cooperation with the work of the contact tracing team ensures that we’re acting Together As Buckeyes to protect not only our own health, but the health of our community and our ability to remain on campus.

After someone tests positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer:

  • Interviews the infected person to obtain detailed information about who they’ve spent time with, for how long and under what circumstances.
  • Contacts others who have potentially been exposed to the virus due to close contact with the infected individual.
  • Offers guidance to these close contacts about their potential risk of infection and how to avoid further exposing their friends, family and others.
  • Protects each person’s privacy. When a person shares the names of friends, family members and other contacts with a contact tracer, these details will not be made public. The contact tracer also does not tell close contacts the name of the person who tested positive.

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed

Students

  • Contact your local primary care provider (PCP) for a health assessment and direction.
  • If you do not have a local PCP, please schedule a telehealth appointment with Ohio State Student Health Services (SHS) with via My BuckMD and select COVID Symptoms as appointment reason.
  • If an Ohio State contact tracer determines that you have been exposed as a close contact to someone who is infected with COVID-19, you will be contacted by the team and advised about quarantine and testing.

Employees (faculty and staff)

  • Contact your primary care provider (PCP) for health assessment and direction.
  • If you do not have a PCP, contact The Ohio State University COVID Call Center at 614-293-4000 to assess the need for testing and to arrange a COVID-19 test if indicated.
  • If your PCP advises that you should have a COVID-19 test, contact The Ohio State University COVID Call Center at 614-293-4000 to arrange a COVID-19 test.
  • If an Ohio State contact tracer determines that you have been exposed as a close contact to someone who is infected with COVID-19, you will be contacted by the team and advised about quarantine and testing.

 

What to do if COVID-19 testing is recommended

In all cases (for students, faculty and staff alike), if a health care provider or contact tracer recommends that you be tested for COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself; work from home, if you are able to work; and not participate in on-campus activities until your test results are back.

  • If COVID-19 results are negative and you are informed that you need to quarantine, you must remain fully quarantined from other individuals for 14 days.
  • If COVID-19 results are negative and you are informed that you do not need to quarantine, you may return to campus when you are fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours.
  • If COVID-19 results are positive, see the guidance below. 

If COVID-19 testing is not recommended, you should follow the regular leave policy until you are fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours. Details on leave are available here: https://hr.osu.edu/coronavirus/leave.

What happens when an individual tests positive for COVID-19

If you are tested at an Ohio State site (either Student Health Services or a Wexner Medical Center swab station), you will be notified by phone or secure message via BuckMD about the positive result and will be provided initial guidance for the management of your illness.

More information about positive test results is available here: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/features/coronavirus/patient-care/covid-19-testing/positive-test

Students

  • If you test positive via Student Health Services (SHS), you will be notified by secure message and by phone. A health care professional will connect with you to provide guidance.
    • If you are tested at another Ohio State site and test positive, SHS will be directly notified of the result and the actions above will begin.
    • If you are tested outside of Ohio State and test positive, notify SHS by secure message via My BuckMD, sl-covid19.shs@osu.edu or 614-292-4321
      • Please upload your test results via My BuckMD under Health Records – COVID-19 Documents.
  • You should notify faculty members/instructors/supervisors as soon as you can if you are ill with COVID-19 or having symptoms, or are otherwise unable to attend in-person classes/work to arrange for accommodations and plans for making up work.
    • You are not required to tell any faculty members/instructors that you have COVID-19 if you have tested positive, unless they are your supervisor.
  • Upon a positive test result of a student, Student Health Services will:
    • Notify the student support team. A team member will contact you to offer additional resources (support connecting with instructors, mental health resources, isolation housing information, etc.).
    • Contact the Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team (CICTT), which will perform contact tracing. This includes obtaining a history of exposures within 48 hours prior to developing symptoms and a determination of other individuals who need to quarantine.
    • Protect your privacy. Your identity will not be shared with those who the CICTT determines are close contacts and need to quarantine.
  • The Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team will collaborate with your local health department to share any pertinent contact tracing information for those outside the university community.
  • If you have a Primary Care Provider (PCP), that provider will have the primary role in advising you on your medical condition. If you do not have a PCP, Student Health Services will have the primary role in advising you on your medical condition.
  • Employees (faculty and staff) of the university who learn of a possible or positive COVID-19 test result for a student are not authorized to share the student's health information. This is a violation of their privacy, and this information is protected by HIPAA and other laws. Please work with SHS and the CICTT to provide the appropriate follow up.

Employees (faculty and staff)

  • You must report a positive COVID-19 test result to your supervisor.
  • If you are tested outside of Ohio State and test positive, you must notify Employee Health Services (EHS) by calling 614-366-3689. 
    • If you are tested at an Ohio State site, the Ohio State contact tracing team and Columbus Public Health will be notified of the positive result.
  • The university Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team (CICTT) will contact you as they perform case investigation and contact tracing.
  • If you learn of a COVID-19 positive or possible COVID-19 positive employee in your unit, do not share the employee's health information. This is a violation of their privacy, and this information is protected by HIPAA and other laws. Please work with EHS and the CICTT to provide the appropriate follow up.

 

More information

To learn more about the contact tracing process, see the frequently asked questions below.

Download the contact tracing process as a PDF.

The difference between quarantine and isolation

Students, faculty and staff who are exposed to or have a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be required to be in isolation or quarantine as appropriate until healthy.

Isolation separates and restricts the movement of those with a contagious disease from those who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of those who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Living spaces for isolation or quarantine are available for students residing in university housing who test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to a positive case as an option if students do not elect to or cannot return home to their permanent residence. Meals, medical attention and support for facilitating academic accommodations will be provided.

Accountability measures

Accountability measures are in place for those who do not complete the training and sign the pledge, or choose not to abide by required health and safety guidelines. These accountability measures may range from additional training and informal coaching to formal disciplinary action based on existing structures for students, faculty and staff.

Frequently asked questions

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How long does isolation and quarantine last? And when does the clock start?

For those who test positive for COVID-19, the 10 days of isolation starts the day after the positive test sample was taken. The clock starts the day after the test. Then the isolation period lasts for 10 complete days. In most cases, the person can expect to leave isolation after that 10-day period is complete.

For those who were in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, the 14 days of quarantine starts the day after the close contact occurred. The clock starts the day after the contact. The quarantine period lasts for 14 complete days. In most cases, the person can expect to leave quarantine after that 14-day period is complete.

In cases where a person is experiencing symptoms related to COVID at the end of isolation or quarantine, the time may be extended.

How will I receive information about being released from isolation or quarantine?

The Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team will email or call you shortly before your expected date of release to ask about any symptoms. Please reply to this email promptly. The day before your isolation or quarantine period ends, we will email you release documentation. If you are an on-campus resident in isolation or quarantine housing, you will be able to leave the isolation or quarantine housing at 7:30 a.m. on your day of release.

If the contact tracing team at Ohio State and your local health department instruct you on different isolation or quarantine periods, you must adhere to the longer time period to remain compliant with Ohio State’s protocols and directives, which are guided by public health science and designed to protect the campus and the community.

I know I’m not allowed to go to the dining hall or leave my room while in isolation/quarantine. How will I get food?

After you arrive at your room, dining services will be in touch within two hours to arrange food delivery directly to you in your isolation/quarantine room.

I received a positive test result but have not been relocated to isolated housing yet. What’s happening?

Depending on when your test results come in — they may arrive around the clock — you might have to isolate for a time in your current residence before receiving further direction. During this time, you must take safety measures including wearing a mask properly and making sure anybody who lives with you is masked and maintaining physical distancing of at least 6 feet. If you have to use a shared bathroom or leave the room for food and water during this waiting period, wear a mask, stay physically distant from others and return immediately to your room.

I tested positive, but later tested negative. Why do I have to stay in isolation?

For the safety of the Buckeye community, and the broader community, we are following scientific recommendations and erring on the side of caution. Available evidence suggests that those with mild to moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms emerge. For those without symptoms, people remain infectious no longer than 10 days after the day the test sample was collected. By requiring all people with a positive COVID-19 test to stay in isolation for 10 days, this increases the chances we will limit infections and be able to stay on campus. We are not currently recommending re-testing for anyone who has had a positive test.

If I just had a positive test, can I get retested?

If you have a COVID-19 diagnosis and are in isolation for 10 days, retesting is not recommended within three months after the date of test or date of symptom onset for the initial COVID-19 infection. In other words, once you have a positive test, we will stop testing you for 90 days.

If I’m a student, will I be tested while in quarantine?

If you are quarantining in the quarantine residence hall or off campus, you should go to Student Health Services to have a test within a day of starting quarantine. Please wear a mask properly over nose, mouth and chin, and maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet and enter the testing queue. The testing hours are Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you live far from campus and returning for this test is not convenient, this is not required. 

Close contacts should use the following steps to get tested soon after starting quarantining.

  • Schedule via My BuckMD or by calling 614-292-4321
  • Select appointment reason: Covid - Voluntary
  • This will schedule the student for an assigned testing time
  • Students do not need to enter the facility upon arrival. Instead, follow the Scarlet signs/Red Tents.
  • Testing hours at Wilce Student Health Center are Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Appointments are preferred but limited walk-ups are also available. 

You should not attend your regularly scheduled testing with Vault.

I’ve been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and told I have to quarantine – even though I’ve been tested recently and was not positive for the virus. Why do I have to quarantine?

A close contact of an infected person could be carrying the virus for some time before a test would come back positive. Contact tracing is based on proven public health science and shows that limiting the personal interactions of close contacts protects the community by stopping more infections. At Ohio State, it means giving us our best opportunity to keep infection rates from going up and being able to stay together on campus.

My roommate has tested positive for COVID-19 but has not yet been relocated to isolation housing. What should I do? What should I expect?

Remain in your residence hall room as much as possible and avoid unnecessary contact with others. Wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from your roommate and others. The university is making every effort to assist with next steps quickly. If you have to use a shared bathroom or leave the room for food and water during this waiting period, wear a mask, stay physically distant from others and return immediately to your room. Students who want to self-report exposure to someone with COVID-19, please contact the Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team at 614-688-CASE or ContactTracing@osu.edu.

Somebody who has COVID-19 identified me as a close contact, but I don’t think that I am. I know that you have to maintain that student’s privacy, but why can’t I get more information about what this person said in case it’s not correct?

The contact tracing team follows strict scientific guidance as they interview infected students and their potential contacts. They work hard to ensure that close contacts are accurately identified. It’s possible that the contact you think may have misreported isn’t the actual reason you’ve been identified as at-risk. For example, you may be aware of a friend who has COVID-19 who you only waved to from across High Street. But you might be completely unaware of another potential exposure because you don’t know that another friend has tested positive.

Remember to always take these precautions:

  • Wear a mask properly, over your nose and mouth, while in public, including outdoors
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance for any extended contact

What are my responsibilities as a supervisor if an employee notifies me of possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection?

  • Instruct the employee to not come to work or campus except to receive health care and to follow the steps outlined in the appropriate scenario described on the Contact Tracing, Isolation and Quarantine page.
  • Make arrangements for the employee to telework or for the employee’s duties to be covered as needed.
  • Ensure the employee is aware of their leave options and has submitted the appropriate leave request.
  • Do not notify other team members or others in your college or unit. Maintain the employee’s medical privacy. Assessing possible exposures and notifying those who are at potential risk is the responsibility of the public health contact tracing team.
  • Notify your college or unit HR business partner.

What happens if you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

If you have close contact (as determined by your health care provider or a contact tracer) with an individual with COVID-19, you will quarantine for 14 days from your last exposure to the positive individual regardless of whether you have symptoms.

  • During this 14-day period, you will be asked to stay home, not participate in on-campus activities, separate yourself from others and monitor your health. You will be excluded from on-site work, school or other on-campus activities.
  • A negative COVID test during this 14-day quarantine does not “clear you” from the risk of becoming sick with COVID-19 based on the virus’s incubation period. 

 
If you have close contact and have symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the guidance for What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed.

If you have close contact as determined by a contact tracer, whether or not you have symptoms, you will have a free COVID-19 test, which you will arrange by calling The Ohio State University COVID Call Center (for faculty and staff) or Student Health Services (for students).

If you have questions or concerns about an interaction with a known COVID-19 positive individual and you are unsure if it was a close contact, please contact your health care provider to assess your risk.

What information will the contact tracing team be able to access?

Contact tracers are permitted to access information only for use in the university’s pandemic response. The contact tracing team will use individuals’ symptom information from the Daily Health Check and general location information to contact individuals to schedule testing, learn whether others may have been infected and monitor the spread of COVID-19.  

Some examples of general location information include:

  • Student and instructor class roster, residence hall address and office address
  • System logs, like door swipes with an individual's BuckID and OSU Wireless access

 
The Responsible Use of Computing and Network Resources Policy explains the collection, use and sharing of data from information systems. Members of the university community consent to this policy when setting up their name.# and when they use Ohio State information systems, like OSU Wireless or university laptops or PCs.

Visit the web privacy statement to learn more or email privacy@osu.edu with questions about privacy at Ohio State.

What is considered an exposure to COVID-19?

An exposure is when you have come in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. A contact tracer will advise you on whether you have been exposed and next steps. Close contact exposure with an individual with COVID-19 includes:

  • Contact for at least 15 minutes at a distance of less than 6 feet from a person with COVID-19
  • Providing care at home to a person with COVID-19 without personal protective gear
  • Direct physical/intimate contact with a person with COVID-19 (touching, hugging, kissing)
  • Sharing of eating or drinking cups and utensils with a person with COVID-19

 
To count as close contact, the exposure must occur in either the 48 hours prior to or the 10 days after the other person has developed COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.

Types of contact NOT currently considered an “exposure” to an individual with COVID-19 include:

  • Sitting for 30-60 minutes in the same classroom, lecture hall or dining area as a COVID-19 positive individual at a distance of 6 feet or more 
  • Standing in line to order coffee behind an individual with COVID-19 for three minutes at a distance of 6 feet or more 
  • Studying on the same floor in the library with an individual with COVID-19 at a distance of 6 feet or more 
  • Walking past an individual with COVID-19 in the hallway of your residence hall or on the Oval

What kind of cleaning will take place if someone gets COVID-19?

The university’s approach to keeping shared spaces clean during the pandemic is based on scientific guidance to reduce the risks of exposure. Those measures will typically be adequate when someone tests positive. For example, classrooms will be cleaned and disinfected nightly. In some cases, such as those where an infected individual has an office with a door, it will make the most sense to not enter the space and suspend cleaning for an appropriate amount of time.

In residence halls where students share a room, someone with COVID-19 would be moved to isolation and the other student would be moved to quarantine for 14 days.

What will happen if someone in my class gets COVID-19?

The risk of exposure will be minimized if individuals follow the university’s health and safety requirements, including wearing face masks and remaining at least 6 feet apart.

Contact tracers would reach out to students and faculty in the class only if they have had close contact with the infected person — by spending at least 15 minutes together, at a distance of less than 6 feet.

To protect medical privacy, the university would not broadly notify the class of an illness — COVID-19 or otherwise — unless the contact tracing process determined that it was required to protect public health.

The risk of exposure will be minimized if individuals follow the university’s health and safety requirements, including wearing face masks and remaining at least 6 feet apart.

Contact tracers would reach out to students and faculty in the class only if they have had close contact with the infected person — by spending at least 15 minutes together, at a distance of less than 6 feet.

To protect medical privacy, the university would not broadly notify the class of an illness — COVID-19 or otherwise — unless the contact tracing process determined that it was required to protect public health.

The risk of exposure will be minimized if individuals follow the university’s health and safety requirements, including wearing face masks and remaining at least 6 feet apart.

Contact tracers would reach out to students and faculty in the class only if they have had close contact with the infected person — by spending at least 15 minutes together, at a distance of less than 6 feet.

To protect medical privacy, the university would not broadly notify the class of an illness — COVID-19 or otherwise — unless the contact tracing process determined that it was required to protect public health.

Who should I tell if I learn that someone has contracted COVID-19?

  • If you have or suspect you have COVID-19 and are a member of the faculty or staff, you should tell your supervisor and follow appropriate protocol.
  • If you are a supervisor and an employee reports an infection to you, you should contact your Human Resources business partner. Do not notify any other employees, maintaining the individual’s medical privacy.
  • If you have or suspect you have COVID-19 and are a student, you should immediately contact Student Health Services at sl-covid19.shs@osu.edu.
  • Students are not required to report the specific reason for their illness, including COVID-19 infection, to their instructors.
  • Faculty, staff and students who are made aware of or suspect that someone else has COVID-19 should not share that information with others, with the exception of supervisors reporting to Human Resources.
  • If you have or suspect you have COVID-19 and are a member of the faculty or staff, you should tell your supervisor and follow appropriate protocol.
  • If you are a supervisor and an employee reports an infection to you, you should contact your Human Resources business partner. Do not notify any other employees, maintaining the individual’s medical privacy.
  • If you have or suspect you have COVID-19 and are a student, you should immediately contact Student Health Services at sl-covid19.shs@osu.edu.
  • Students are not required to report the specific reason for their illness, including COVID-19 infection, to their instructors.
  • Faculty, staff and students who are made aware of or suspect that someone else has COVID-19 should not share that information with others, with the exception of supervisors reporting to Human Resources.

Who will be informed about COVID-19 cases?

Contact tracers will quickly notify students, staff and faculty who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 based on scientific guidelines defining risk of exposure. However, the university will not send general notifications to colleges, classes or the general public about individual cases, and we will not release names of individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19. (The Wexner Medical Center does notify departments as part of its clinical operations.)

Why are on-campus residents who tested positive and close contacts who might not even have COVID-19 staying on different floors in the same buildings? Is it safe?

The university quarantine and isolation space provides individual, separately ventilated rooms for all on-campus residents who must relocate due to infection or potential exposure. These rooms afford our students private space and eliminate close contact that could lead to infection. The approaches for providing food, cleaning and offering other support are the same for both groups.

Why do students who have had a positive COVID-19 test have to stay in isolation for 10 days after the test sample was collected, but students who are in quarantine – and might not even be infected – have to stay by themselves for 14 days?

By the time a person receives a positive COVID-19 test result, we know — based on the most recent scientific evidence — that several days have passed since the initial infection, and in most cases they’re not likely to spread the virus to others after a 10-day isolation period.

The reason that close contacts of infected students are required to quarantine is because their exposure may result in them developing an infection. Close contacts of infected people are required to quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to the infected person –  because that is the timeframe when the infection would appear and when the close contact could unknowingly spread COVID-19 to fellow students, faculty, staff and others in the community.

Will I be informed if my co-worker gets sick?

Not necessarily. Co-workers will be notified only if they have been identified as someone at risk based on scientific standards for determining potential exposure. Close, prolonged contact without proper public health precautions (physical distancing, wearing of face masks) increases the risk of infection. Working in the same building with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive does not, in and of itself, put an individual at risk.

Will my residence hall close down if someone gets COVID-19?

One case in a building will not mean that the residence hall closes. Those with symptoms and known infections will be immediately separated from others to reduce the risk of the spread of illness. If hotspots emerge, the university has a variety of options to reduce the spread of COVID-19 before closing the entire building.


Please reference this website for the most up-to-date guidelines. The university’s COVID-19 Transition Task Force’s Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup will continue monitoring changing conditions and consult with local and state health authorities. Recommendations and requirements will be refined as needed.