Campus-Wide Guidelines and Procedures - COVID-19 Return to Campus Guidelines | University of the Sciences | Philadelphia, PA
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Return to Campus Update

Coronavirus (COVID-19): The latest updates about USciences return to campus: usciences.edu/coronavirus The full plan for a phased return of employees and students: usciences.edu/campusguidelines.

Campus-Wide Guidelines and Procedures - COVID-19 Return to Campus

Revocation of “Safer-at-Home” Restrictions

As of June 11, 2021, the City of Philadelphia is lifting all COVID-19 related restrictions.  This includes indoor and outdoor masking, social distancing, gathering and event restrictions, and capacity/occupancy restrictions in all businesses. While the mask mandate has been lifted, the Philadelphia Department of Health continues to strongly recommend that unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors and at any time when social distancing is difficult.  Masks are still required in prisons, hospitals, and on public transportation.

USciences is updating its COVID-19 guidance to align with these changes, and will lift all capacity and masking restrictions as of June 11, 2021.  

Changes in Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

The CDC recently issued updated guidance for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Per the CDC, people are considered “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19 if they are more than two weeks after they have received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or more than two weeks after they have received the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Per this interim guidance fully-vaccinated people can:

  • Resume domestic travel without testing before and after, and without self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure, if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if asymptomatic

In addition to the above, the CDC has provided new guidance on masking.  The City of Philadelphia has updated their guidance to align with this and the University will continue to follow our local recommendations.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

USciences, as a health and science-focused institution, strongly encourages our entire community to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, unless medical or religious contraindications are present.  The benefits of obtaining the vaccine are described at the CDC website.  Vaccines are now broadly available in our region, with City-sponsored vaccine clinics accepting both walk-in and scheduled appointments.  In addition, many pharmacies and physician offices in the region are now providing vaccinations.

All of the FDA-approved vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) are safe, well-tolerated, and effective at preventing serious disease and saving lives, and appear thus far to be highly protective - even against many of the new virus variants.  Getting vaccinated not only helps protect you against disease, but may also protect those around you, especially those who are at high risk for getting severe illness from COVID-19.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines can cause the disease; there is no live virus present in any of the current vaccines, so they cannot make you sick with COVID-19.  Similarly, the vaccines will not cause you to test positive for COVID-19 on a virus test.

Vaccines are one of the most important tools we have to stop the pandemic. We encourage you to ask questions of your healthcare provider or other informed, trusted sources.  SHAC clinicians are also available to answer questions that you may have.  Help us all fight COVID-19 together! 

Daily Health Checks

Faculty, staff, and students should check their temperatures at the beginning of each day, prior to arrival on campus or attend clinical experiences.  Those with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above or having symptoms associated with COVID-19 (fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chills, cough, unexplained loss of smell or taste, diarrhea, muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose or new sinus congestion, sore throat or headache) should not come to campus.  Residential students living on campus should remain in their rooms and non-residential students should remain at home until they speak with a Student Health and Counseling (“SHAC”) clinician to determine whether self-quarantine or isolation is indicated.   Individuals can also access the CDC Self Checker for additional guidance. 

COVID Reporting System

All unvaccinated students/employees who suspect that they have been exposed to COVID-19, anyone who is  symptomatic whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, and those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to complete the COVID-19 Screening Form even if not coming to campus regularly, and to follow the COVID-19 Protocols outlined below.  We ask that individuals take the time to thoroughly complete the form, which will be used for clinical follow-up and contact tracing efforts. 

After an individual submits the screening form, they will be contacted by a clinician from Student Health for further assessment and to establish a quarantine/isolation management plan, if appropriate. For forms submitted during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm),  a clinician will reach out within 24 hours. Forms submitted outside of normal business hours, including the weekend, will be addressed in a timely fashion.  

Students and employees are also encouraged to notify their primary care provider of their illness symptoms.

COVID-19 Protocol For Students, Faculty, and Staff

  • Vaccinated students and employees who are exposed to COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic:
    • If no symptoms develop, testing and quarantine are not required for vaccinated individuals, but should continue with daily health checks/ monitoring.  Monitoring of symptoms should be continued for 14 days.
  • Unvaccinated students and employees who are exposed to COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic:
    • Complete the COVID-19 Screening form immediately and await a SHAC clinician to contact you for guided directives.
    • Notify your primary care provider of any symptoms.
    • Notify your supervisor/program chair immediately
    • Start the 14-day quarantine protocol and do not come to campus until cleared to do so by your PCP and a SHAC clinician.
    • Quarantine may be ended after 14 days providing you remain asymptomatic.  The student/employee in quarantine may return to campus once cleared by their primary care provider/SHAC clinician.
    • Note: If symptoms develop or one tests positive during the quarantine period, complete the COVID-19 Screening form immediately and see protocol below for symptomatic/positive test results. You will be advised to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test 5-7 days after the date of exposure to COVID-19. Rapid COVID-19 tests are not recommended. 
  • All students and  employees (regardless of vaccination status) who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus:
    • Complete the COVID-19 Screening form immediately and await a SHAC clinician to contact you for guided directives.
    • Notify your primary care provider of your symptoms
    • Notify your supervisor/program chair immediately.
    • Start 10-day isolation protocol and do not come to campus until cleared to do so by your PCP and a SHAC clinician.
    • Obtain a COVID-19 PCR test. Rapid tests are not recommended.
      • If the test is positive, isolation may be ended after 10 days if at least 24 hours have passed without a fever of 100.4 or greater (without use of fever-reducing medications), and other symptoms are improving. If severe illness occurs, isolation should continue until symptoms have improved and the individual is cleared by their primary care provider and a SHAC clinician to return to campus.
      • If the test is negative: individuals must continue to isolate for 10 days. Isolation may be ended after 10 days if at least 24 hours have passed without a fever of 100.4 or greater (without use of fever-reducing medications).
  • Students needing quarantine or isolation may do so either at home or at a designated area on campus.
  • Students residing on campus for quarantine or isolation who experience worsening symptoms will be sent to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for evaluation and treatment.

Annual influenza vaccines

  • Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to get a seasonal flu shot through the annual flu clinic sponsored by SHAC and the Office of Human Resources, or via their primary care provider.
  • Community members who are unable to participate in the on-campus clinic are strongly encouraged to obtain the vaccine through their primary care provider or other local option, unless there is a medical reason for vaccine avoidance.
  • Students in a clinical rotation will be required to provide documentation that they have received the current year’s influenza vaccine prior to beginning the course.  In addition, many clinical sites are also requiring students to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine(s) 2 weeks prior to starting their clinical rotation at their site. Please discuss this further with your program chair and clinical coordinators.

Contact Tracing and Testing

When SHAC  is notified of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case within the USciences community, the contact tracing team will identify any necessary interventions based on a number of factors, including vaccination status of potential contacts and duration and circumstances of contacts.  In appropriate cases, the individual will be asked to notify their close contacts of their possible exposure or positive symptoms and encourage them to seek guidance from their healthcare provider. If these contacts are USciences students or employees, SHAC will provide additional guidance and support while they self-monitor for symptoms or if they need to quarantine or isolate.  

Once SHAC has been alerted that a student or employee has been exposed (if unvaccinated), is symptomatic for COVID-19, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, a clinician will set up a TeleHealth appointment to assess the individual’s condition and symptoms, obtain a detailed history of the present illness, and complete a COVID-19 notification form. During this appointment, the individual will be asked to list all direct contacts over the past 2 weeks, provide their work/class schedule, and clinical rotation site/contacts (if applicable). The individual will be asked to notify their close contacts of their possible exposure or positive symptoms and will encourage those other individuals to seek guidance from their primary care provider. 

Any unvaccinated USciences individuals identified as having direct contact with a source patient is to notify SHAC immediately of their potential exposure in order to obtain testing, initiate COVID-19 contact oversight/management, begin self-monitoring for the next 2 weeks, and obtain necessary support while in quarantine on campus or at home.  A SHAC clinician will provide additional daily guidance and support to unvaccinated individuals in quarantine while they self-monitor for symptoms and await their testing results; and to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who have positive symptoms/positive COVID-19 test results while under care in isolation. Fully vaccinated individuals with direct contact with  a source patient do not need to quarantine, but should self-monitor for symptoms daily. 

When considering where to quarantine or isolate, students should review with the SHAC provider the potential exposure and risk to other members of a given housing unit or household, including the vaccination status of others.

All unvaccinated individuals in quarantine and all other individuals in isolation are required to take their temperature twice per day, monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, and report these findings daily to the SHAC clinician throughout the quarantine and isolation period and until medically cleared.

The SHAC clinician will notify HR, the employee’s supervisor, and the designated faculty from the student’s specific college or health profession program once an individual  has been identified as being exposed,  symptomatic, or tested positive for COVID-19. It is the responsibility of the designated faculty person to notify the student’s  faculty, class members, and clinical preceptors (if indicated and if not vaccinated) that they may have been in contact with a person exposed to or symptomatic for COVID-19, and begin self-monitoring for symptoms over the following 2 weeks, continue wearing a mask, and follow strict social distancing practices.  

The University will maintain HIPAA compliance throughout these processes.

COVID-19 Testing 

SHAC clinicians will provide COVID-19 nasopharyngeal molecular testing for active infection for students only.  COVID-19 viral testing will be provided to students who have symptoms of the virus or those unvaccinated who have been directly exposed to a person with known COVID-19 or their secretions. Screening tests for COVID-19 for vaccinated and asymptomatic students are not currently available.  

Students and employees may also obtain testing for COVID-19 from their healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or via numerous testing sites located throughout the City of Philadelphia.  Other municipalities may offer free testing; individuals should review their local governmental websites for more information. Test results should be emailed to b.siebert@usciences.edu or students should upload their results to the student health portal..

A SHAC clinician is assigned to oversee all COVID-19 health care management for students. In addition to COVID-19 testing, patient care management via TeleHealth, and daily monitoring of students in quarantine and isolation until discharge. This clinician is responsible for contact tracing, maintaining contact tracing data, and notifying the PDPH of all positive COVID-19 cases utilizing the PDPH COVID-19 reporting forms. The designated SHAC clinician has completed the Johns Hopkins Coursera Course for COVID-19 Contract Tracing along with two other SHAC staff members and HR staff members who may be asked to assist in contract tracing/identification if needed. 

At this time, there are no specific recommendations for antibody testing for asymptomatic individuals.  More information is available from the CDC on serology testing.

All employees and students who test positive or are symptomatic for COVID-19 must be medically cleared by their healthcare provider and the Director of Student Health prior to returning to campus for work or classes/clinical. 

Please see the Residence Life section of this document for details pertaining to the COVID-19 process for testing, isolation/quarantine of residential students infected or exposed to COVID-19.

Healthy Hygiene Practices

All campus community members must practice frequent and thorough handwashing, including washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  When soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  Minimize touching of surfaces and objects that others may touch, including elevator buttons, door handles, sink handles.  Faucets should be turned off and on using available paper towels. Avoid sharing objects such as pens, utensils.

Consider using  a no-touch device such as the blunt end of a pen to operate elevator buttons, keypads, etc.

Hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout campus – at least one at every building entrance.

COVID Alert PA App

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has made available the COVID Alert PA mobile app, designed to help alert individuals who have come into close contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19.  More information on this app is available at the PA DOH website

USciences has added this app to its suite of applications on the USciences Mobile App, available for download at Google Play or the App Store. We encourage faculty, staff, and employees to review this information, download the app, and follow the instructions for use. Not only does the app provide alerts in case of exposure, but also provides additional resources regarding COVID-19, provides a daily check-in opportunity, and provides updates on cases by county, as well as trends in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for the Commonwealth.

Visitors 

Visitors to campus must comply with all campus guidelines.

Face Coverings/Masks

Face coverings/masks are required for unvaccinated individuals while indoors in all living/learning areas, and recommended when outdoors in crowded settings.

Masks and respirators with exhalation valves should not be used as a face covering as these allow unfiltered exhaust air to be released and are not protective to others.

Individuals who require face shields for their work should request these items through their department.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Frequently touched surfaces in public areas will be cleaned and disinfected by AFS/custodial services throughout the day, with a full cleaning of occupied spaces daily using approved EPA disinfectants. This list was distributed multiple times by the Task Force and remains available upon request.

High touch areas are to be disinfected at least five (5) times per shift and also after any increased activity in the area such as classes, labs, conferences, or events.

In addition to frequent disinfection, each area will be sprayed with an electrostatic sprayer containing PurTabs sanitizing tablets daily.

High touch areas include but are not limited to:

  • Door knobs, pulls, handles
  • Handrails
  • Classroom Desks
  • Countertops
  • Sneeze-guards
  • Cafeteria Tables
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Flushers
  • Soap and hand sanitizer dispensers
  • Paper Towel dispensers
  • Restroom stalls
  • Water fountains
  • Elevator cars (inside) and lobbies (call buttons)
  • Vending machines
  • Study Room Tables
  • Keyboards/Mice

Throughout the day these areas will be sprayed with disinfectant, with product-specific wait times being observed, and wipe away excess. Gloves, masks, and eye protection should be worn changing as frequently as the task and conditions exist.

This task will be completed at least five times per shift (morning, mid-morning, before lunch, after lunch, and end of business), making sure that all high-touch areas have been disinfected. Microfiber cloths are to be used and a new cloth should be used for each new location.

When the University is notified of a presumed or positive test for COVID-19, areas where the individual may have been will be isolated and disinfected by custodial services using currently recommended deep cleaning protocols.  Access to the space will be limited until after such cleaning occurs.

No-touch trash receptacles will be utilized (open top and/or foot pedal).

Research laboratories should be cleaned regularly by laboratory staff (see Research Laboratory section). Floors will be cleaned, and trash removed as in past years by custodial services.

Water systems (e.g., drinking fountains, water bottle fill stations) will be cleaned, flushed and checked for safe operation prior to return to campus by facilities and custodial staff.

Never mix a product containing chlorine (such as bleach) with a product containing ammonia. The resulting release of gas can be dangerous.

General guidance for cleaning computers

  • Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, paper towels, or similar items.
  • Avoid excessive or vigorous wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Don't get moisture into any openings.
  • Don't use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don't spray cleaners directly onto the item; spray onto a cloth as recommended above
  • Other questions regarding cleaning of computer equipment should be directed to the Help Desk.

Reporting Unsafe Behavior

As an educational institution with a focus on science and healthcare, we expect that all members of the University community will abide by recommendations meant to promote and protect the health and welfare of others. However, individuals observing behavior inconsistent with the Return to Campus Guidelines have several options for reporting.

  • Employees may report violations of the guidelines either to a supervisor or to the Director of Human Resources (rroberts2@usciences.edu).
  • Student Violations
    • To report student misconduct, that is actively occurring, please contact the Department of Public Safety by calling 215-596-1117. Where appropriate, Public Safety may respond on-site and file an incident report with the Office of Student Conduct.
    • To report student misconduct that has previously occurred, please use the COVID Incident Reporting Form.

Anonymous reporting is also available for students, employees, or third parties through EthicsPoint via the web or toll-free telephone at 888-266-0218.

Campus Closure Triggers

The USciences COVID-19 Task Force has shared the Return to Campus guidance in order to reduce the risk of disease transmission within our community.  However, we recognize that these measures will not eliminate all risk. While the risk of campus closure appears to be significantly diminished from prior year, we recognize the need to continue to monitor the regional, national, and global situation as virus variants continue to emerge.

The University plans to operate fully on-ground in the coming year, but we recognize that circumstances beyond our control may change those plans.  Factors that may result in change in operations have been informed by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as discussions with the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the other institutions of higher education in the region.  

Ultimately, a combination of external and internal factors could result in reinstitution of campus restrictions, up to and including full cessation of on-campus activities. The below lists are not all inclusive and other factors may be considered, as appropriate. USciences will continue to make the best decisions possible for the health and safety of our entire University Community.

External factors

  • Governmental mandate for restricted or fully remote operations (including City of Philadelphia, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or federal mandate)
  • Increasing infection in local institutions of higher education – particularly those in University City and the City of Philadelphia
  • Reduced capacity (total beds, ICU beds, or ventilators) in local/regional hospitals
  • Emergence of vaccine-resistant virus variants locally

Internal factors

  • Absenteeism in staffing that may negatively impact the ability to maintain a safe and hygienic campus
  • Significant increases in positive tests (or percent positivity) on campus that overwhelm the University’s ability to isolate and contain
  • High absenteeism in SHAC medical staff preventing the ability to deliver routine care and COVID-19 care to students.

The COVID-19 Task Force will continue to track and monitor the above factors and others, and will continue to work closely with the City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Task Force on Institutions of Higher Education to assure clear communication not only across our own campus, but among the colleges and universities in our region.