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Guidance for Department Heads: Faculty with COVID-19 Positive/Symptomatic Students

Updated September 25, 2020

Upon notice of an undergraduate or graduate student who has tested positive for COVID-19 and the submission of a report through the university’s case management system, the Dean of Students Office will generate an automated notification letter which will be sent to the faculty of an in-person class/lab who reports the disclosure. The faculty member will then have the option to forward the DOS notification to the students registered for that section.

It will be the responsibility of the faculty member to immediately inform the department head of the situation upon receipt of the notification. The name of the student will not be cited in the notification letter, but it is likely that the student will self-identify to faculty members to arrange for alternate options for instruction during the required isolation period. Faculty also should be prepared to support students in any class who need to quarantine as a result of possible exposure.

Per FERPA, The faculty member CANNOT disclose the identity or condition of the student who has tested positive. (See FERPA communication guidelines).

If you have any additional questions, please email the Dean of Students Office at dean.students@vt.edu.

Although there is not official documentation required by the university for releasing students to return to classroom/lab settings following isolation or quarantine, they should be advised to follow all VDH/CDC protocols and return only when they have been told by their healthcare provider that it is safe to do so.

Any student with questions about when they can return, and cannot get answers from their initial health care provider, should contact the Dean of Students Office and/or Schiffert Health Center for support. VDH has also provided a helpful resource for when it is safe to end isolation/quarantine.

If you have any additional questions, please email the Dean of Students Office at dean.students@vt.edu.

The Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities deploys cleaning and disinfecting practices in accordance with CDC, ISSA (the cleaning industry’s global professional organization), and Virginia Tech Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) guidelines.

Nightly, classrooms and lecture areas are deep cleaned and disinfected using EPA registered chemicals. Surfaces are wiped and left wet for effective dwell time. Electrostatic sprayers and misting machines may be used to improve productivity and coverage. Department heads who have questions or special cleaning needs should contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (Zachary Adams: 540-231-5985, adamsz@vt.edu or Lance Franklin: 540-231-9044, lance3@vt.edu).

The Dean of Students Office has created a new reporting form that can be used by department heads and others to submit information for those students who have disclosed they have tested positive for COVID-19 and/or students who they suspect have been exposed to COVID-19. The information shared through this form is directly uploaded to the university’s case management system so affected persons can be notified and advised accordingly. Students should be encouraged to contact the Dean of Students Office if they have questions or concerns.

  • The department head and the faculty should not share any information regarding the identity or status of the student who has tested positive with any other students, faculty, or staff. Department heads should always work closely and directly with the Dean of Students (DOS) Office on all student health and safety matters.
  • Department heads who learn from one of their faculty that a student in their class/lab has tested positive for COVID-19 should immediately notify the Dean of Students Office, Byron Hughes. The student should be directed to contact the Dean of Students, as they are the institution’s coordinating unit and contact for case management, to ensure the university is informed/aware and can coordinate with the Virginia Department of Health on contact-tracing and case management.
  • Department heads should also notify the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (Zachary Adams at 540-231-5985 or Lance Franklin at 540-231-9044) of the contaminated classroom/lab space to request cleaning and sanitizing.
  • EHS and the department head should stay in regular contact to know when the classroom/lab space has been disinfected and it is safe for students and faculty to return to in-person instruction.
  • Department heads should work with faculty if there is a need to make short-term or long-term changes to course modality. If a change is necessary, faculty will need to communicate as early as possible with students to ensure course assignments can be completed without delay.
  • Additional guidance and actions to take for those who test positive, have come in close contact, or share a work area/equipment is in COVID-19 Instructions for Supervisors.
  • Department heads should tell faculty to direct the student to the Schiffert Health Center. The student should first call Schiffert at 540-231-6444 for initial screening and to make an appointment. 
  • Alternatively, students should be told they can also call the LewisGale Hospital Montgomery Emergency Department at 540-951-1111 or their doctor's office. 
  • Students who have paid the university health fee will not be charged for the testing at Schiffert. See Schiffert’s FAQs for more
  • Students with more specific questions should contact the Dean of Students office.
  •  As a best practice, department heads should suggest to faculty that they start each class or session in the lab with the question “Have you filled out the Hokie Health survey today?” Reinforcing the importance of maintaining awareness of their own health and whether they are exhibiting symptoms will help to encourage students to stay home if they are beginning to show symptoms of the virus.
  • Given that COVID-19 symptoms overlap in part with symptoms of other conditions such as the seasonal flu or allergies (e.g., coughing, sneezing, etc.), department heads should encourage their faculty to approach a student who seems ill with caution, and concern and compassion.
  • Students who exhibit symptom or signs of COVID-19 should be strongly encouraged to stay home and seek medical assistance at Schiffert Health Center.