Updated University Directives for MUSC Faculty, Staff & Students for Staying Safe

Note: This document was first posted July 1, 2020. It continues to be updated as new information or guidelines are available. Last updated January 18, 2022. 

We must all take steps to protect ourselves from contracting or spreading COVID-19, as well as promote the health and safety of our campus and outside communities. With that purpose in mind, all University employees and students are required to follow these directives unless specific exceptions/accommodations have been authorized.

Students involved in clinical experiences or other learning activities at MUSC Health must also follow the policies of the MUSC Health system; in the unlikely event of conflicting information, the MUSC Health system policy takes precedence. Students involved in clinical experiences elsewhere and faculty working in non-MUSC facilities must also follow the policies of the host institution/practice.

A. Vaccination

Vaccines in the United States are highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 and protecting individuals from the severe effects of COVID-19 and hospitalization if they are infected. Everyone age 5 and older is eligible for vaccination. If it has been several months since you completed your vaccination, a booster dose is highly recommended. The CDC provides guidance on when you should receive a booster shot based on what kind of vaccine you received.

MUSC has consistently encouraged vaccination and booster doses in our community to prevent the spread of infection. For more information about obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, including scheduling, locations and more, please visit MUSC's COVID-19 vaccination and booster information site.

Mandated vaccines for MUSC Health members: Mandated vaccines for MUSC Health members: MUSC Health has long required vaccination or approved exemptions for all care team members for the protection of patients, their families and our MUSC Health employees. MUSC Health also requires that all care team members (including students with clinical experiences or other learning activities in MUSC Health facilities) receive a booster dose or have an approved exemption on file. Please refer to the MUSC Health guidance on this requirement for more details.

Mandated vaccines for other MUSC employees: An Executive Order issued by President Biden required “covered” workers at MUSC to be vaccinated (“covered” was determined by one’s involvement with federal contracts). On Dec 7, 2021, a federal judge issued an injunction that blocks that Executive Order. Therefore, the requirement for covered workers at MUSC to be vaccinated is on hold until further notice. This does not affect the vaccine requirements and policies for MUSC Health employees and students with clinical rotations– that requirement remains in place.

We will keep you apprised of any changes as this issue progresses through the courts. If you submitted a request for religious or medical exemption from the vaccine when the Executive Order was in place, those requests will continue to be processed internally, so there is minimal delay in our ability to respond to additional directives.

Omicron variant: The omicron variant has become the most common variant of COVID-19. It is highly transmissible, making vaccinations and booster shots even more important. Learn more about the Omicron variant on the CDC website.

B. Masks

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the Charleston area now puts us in a higher risk category for transmission, as defined by the CDC. To mitigate the risk to the university, and to allow us to continue to offer classes in person uninterrupted, the university is re-instating a mask requirement, effective Dec. 30, 2021.

All students, staff, faculty and the public are required to wear masks at all times indoors in public university space where others are present. This includes shared spaces, classrooms, laboratories, meeting rooms etc. When outdoors, it is highly recommended that individuals wear masks when in close proximity to others and that individuals practice social distancing and not gather in groups.

It is important that the mask fit well around the nose and mouth. Cloth masks are not recommended unless they are covering a surgical mask underneath.

These mask requirements apply regardless of one's vaccination or booster status.

We will continue to monitor prevalence rates on campus and in the area, and the university’s mask requirements will be lifted when the risk of COVID-19 transmission is reduced.

C. Social Distancing and Social Events

Social distancing helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. Where possible, and especially for unvaccinated individuals, maintaining a six-foot distance from others is recommended, along with wearing a mask when in the presence of others.

During times of high positive case rates, academic or social events on campus that include food may have modified guidelines to ensure social distancing is practiced. As of Dec. 30, all MUSC-sponsored events that require the removal of masks to eat in the proximity of others are cancelled until further notice. Boxed lunches that can be taken away to eat privately are still allowed.

D. Conference & Meeting Rooms

Meetings conducted in person should follow mask requirements and social distancing. During times of high positive case rates, it is recommended that meetings be conducted via digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom as much as possible.

E. Travel Restrictions

Domestic Travel: University-sponsored domestic travel is permitted with approval from the supervisor, program director and/or department chair.

International Travel: University-related international travel is also permitted, though it is the traveler's personal responsibility to understand complex border restrictions, entry requirements, and public health concerns. There are different rules for different travelers regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. MUSC designation and U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory and CDC Travel Health Notices for the destination determine which rules apply.

To determine MUSC traveler requirements, consult the pandemic travel policy page.

F. Self-Monitoring and Testing

Regardless of vaccination status, all University personnel and students must self-monitor daily and get tested if symptoms arise (see Appendices 1 and 2). If you experience any signs of COVID-19 infection (the most common are headache, cough, sinus congestion, body aches, sore throat, chills and fever; other symptoms may include runny nose, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or sudden loss of taste or smell), then you must remain at home in self-quarantine and must be tested for COVID-19.

If you get tested at an MUSC location, please identify yourself as a health care worker regardless of whether you are a student, faculty, or staff to be prioritized to get the earliest appointment and to get your test results faster.

If you are not having any COVID-19 symptoms but wish to be screened for travel precautions, post-exposure testing, etc. please be aware that insurance may not completely cover the cost of testing.

All individuals who test positive are also required to self-report via redcap to allow for prompt contact tracing. You are also required to inform your supervisor (or for students, inform your program director or faculty advisor) immediately and follow the guidance in Appendix 1 regarding return to work. Self-reporting not only stops the spread of COVID-19 but allows for us to share supportive services with you. Further, know that your privacy is important to us, and we will only share what is minimally necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

G. Exposure Notifications

If you have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, follow the directives in Appendix 2. You may be notified of this exposure by a contact tracing team member, or the individual who has tested positive may inform you of their test status.

Appendix 1: Testing and Reporting

All university personnel and students must self-monitor daily.

If you experience any signs of COVID-19 infection (the most common are headache, cough, sinus congestion, body aches, sore throat, chills and fever; other symptoms may include runny nose, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or sudden loss of taste or smell), you must quarantine and be tested for COVID-19. This applies regardless of your vaccination status, booster status or natural immunity status.

When you get tested at MUSC, please identify yourself as a health care worker regardless of whether you are a student, faculty or staff. You will be prioritized to get your results faster and it will assist with contact tracing.

All individuals who test positive are also required to self-report via Redcap to allow for prompt contact tracing. Self-reporting not only stops the spread of COVID-19 but allows for us to share supportive services with you. Further, know that your privacy is important to us and we will only share what is minimally necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

If your test is negative, you must satisfy both of these conditions before returning to work/school:

  1. Resolution of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication AND
  2. Non-fever symptoms are minimal or improving.

Continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask. We recommend you get checked by your physician if symptoms are significant and/or persistent to determine if there is another probable cause.

If your test is positive, you must isolate and follow instructions in Appendix 2.

Appendix 2: What To Do If You Have Been Exposed To COVID-19

The CDC and other federal and state entities recommend different quarantine-related guidelines following exposure to COVID-19 for health care personnel and essential personnel versus others.

If you are an MUSC Care Team Member, a student on clinical rotation or other learning experience in MUSC Health, or other essential personnel at MUSC Health, follow the guidelines for MUSC Health.

All other university members (staff, students, and faculty):

Exposed but no symptoms:

  • No quarantine required, but you must wear a mask around others at all times (off-campus and on-campus) for 10 days post-exposure.
  • You do not need to be tested for COVID-19, but you are eligible for testing if desired. DHEC guidance suggests testing of asymptomatic individuals should be done not before 5 days following the first date of exposure. A negative test does not mean new symptoms can be ignored. If your test is pending, you may continue to attend work/school, but you must wear a mask around others at all times for 10 days post-exposure.

Exposed and new symptoms develop:

  • Notify your supervisor (for students, notify your program director/faculty advisor). If you are home, stay home. If you are at work/school, leave immediately.
  • Find a testing location and schedule a test.

If you test positive for COVID-19:

  • You must stay home and isolate for at least 5 days, even if you are asymptomatic. Day 0 is the day you received a positive test result if you are asymptomatic; if you have symptoms, day 0 is the day your symptoms onset.
  • Using the counting approach above, you can end isolation on day 5 only if you have been fever-free for 48 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved.
  • If your fever and/or significant symptoms persist past day 5, you may end isolation whenever you are fever-free and your symptoms are resolved for at least 48 hours.
  • In all cases above, you must continue to wear a mask at all times around others (off-campus and on-campus) for 5 additional days. To minimize the risk of infecting others who are at risk (e.g., older adults and individuals who are immunocompromised), avoid interacting with them until after at least 10 days.

Note that wearing a mask while on MUSC's campus is currently required for everyone at all times when indoors in the presence of others.

If you test negative for COVID-19, you must satisfy both conditions below before returning to work/school:

  1. Resolution of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication AND
  2. Non-fever symptoms are minimal or improving.