Preparedness Information for Colleges & Universities
Learn more about COVID19 response on local college campuses at the following links:
Who is this guidance for?
This interim guidance is intended to help administrators of public and private institutions of higher education (IHE) prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff, and faculty. IHE administrators are individuals who make policies and procedures, set educational aims and standards, and direct programming of institutions of higher education. Administrators include a range of higher education leaders and managers, such as department chairs/heads, deans, presidents, and provosts.
Why is this guidance being issued?
Information provided should help IHE and their partners understand how to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among students, faculty, and staff. It also aims to help IHE react quickly should a case be identified. The guidance includes considerations to help administrators plan for the continuity of teaching, learning, and research if there is community spread of COVID-19 and address concerns related to COVID-19 associated stigma.
What is the role of IHE in responding to COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) virus, and we are learning more about it every day. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. At this point, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes it. Stopping transmission (spread) of the virus through everyday practices is the best way to keep people healthy. Learn more about COVID-19
IHE, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of disease. IHE’s efforts will help ensure students, staff, and faculty have safe and healthy environments in which to learn and work. IHE welcome students, staff, faculty, and visitors from throughout the community. All of these people may have close contact in IHE settings, often sharing spaces, equipment, and supplies.
Some individuals are experiencing stigma and discrimination in the United States related to COVID-19. This includes people of Chinese and Asian descent, as well as some returning travelers and emergency responders who may have been exposed to the virus. It is important for IHE to provide accurate and timely information about COVID-19 to students, staff, and faculty to minimize the potential for stigma on college and university campuses. It is also important to provide mental health support to promote resilience among those groups affected by stigma regarding COVID-19. CDC has information
IHE can share to reduce COVID-19 associated fear and stigma.
TAB that says Additional Preparedness Information
To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for IHE to do now is plan and prepare
. As the global outbreak evolves, IHE should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. IHE want to be ready
in the event COVID-19 does appear in their communities.
IHE administrators nationwide can take steps now to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19:
- Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departments, the IHE’s university system, and other relevant partners. Focus on components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.
- Ensure the plan is updated to include strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases. Effective strategies build on everyday policies and practices.
- Ensure the plan emphasizes preventive actions for students and staff. Emphasize actions individuals can take including, staying home when sick, appropriately covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and washing hands often.
- Ensure handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Reference key resources while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP.
- Multiple federal agencies have developed resources on school planning principles and a 6-step process for creating plans to build and continually foster safe and healthy school communities before, during, and after possible emergencies. IHE may find this guidance for developing high-quality emergency operationsexternal icon plans helpful.
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center’s websiteexternal icon contains free resources, trainings, and TA for schools, including IHE, and their community partners, including many tools and resources on emergency planning and response to infectious disease outbreaks.
- Develop information-sharing systems with partners.
- Institutional information systems should be used for day-to-day reporting on information such as absenteeism or changes in student health center traffic to detect and respond to an outbreak.
- Local health officials should be a key partner in information sharing.
- Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
- Review attendance and sick leave policies. Students, staff, and faculty should not attend class or work when sick. Allow them to stay home to care for sick household members. Make accommodations (e.g., extended due dates, electronic submission of assignments), as possible, for individuals who may be temporarily unable to attend class due to restrictions placed on them related to possible exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff and faculty.
- Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your institution and on your campus among students, staff, and faculty. Consider identifying and implementing processes for faculty and IHE leadership to report noticeable changes in absenteeism, even if subjective, to a designated administrator.
- Alert local health officials about large increases in student, staff, and faculty absenteeism or substantial increases in student health center traffic due to respiratory illnesses (like the common cold or the “flu,” which have symptoms similar to symptoms of COVID-19).
- Determine what level of absenteeism will disrupt continuity of teaching, learning, and research.
- Establish procedures for students, staff, and faculty who are sick (with any illness) on campus.
- Establish procedures to ensure students, staff, and faculty who become sick (with any illness) on campus or arrive on campus sick are sent to their place of residence as soon as possible.
- Keep sick individuals separate from well individuals until they can leave.
- Sick residents of on-campus housing in communities with no identified COVID-19 and who are not believed to have been exposed to COVID-19 should avoid contact with well individuals while sick.
- Ensure IHE health clinics prepare for COVID-19.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops) with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students, staff, and faculty before each use.
- Create plans to communicate accurate and timely information to the IHE community.
- Include strategies for sharing information with staff, students, and faculty without increasing fear and stigma. Keeping the community informed with accurate information can counter the spread of misinformation and reduce the potential for fear and stigma.
- Include strategies to communicate steps being taken by the IHE to prepare and how additional information will be shared.
- Include strategies to communicate changes to usual campus schedules or functions.
- Include strategies to communicate information IHE community members can use to protect themselves from infectious disease, including COVID-19.