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 November 12, 2021. 

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 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 precedent. 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. MUSC has consistently encouraged vaccination in our community to prevent the spread of infection; 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.

An Executive Order issued September 9, 2021, by President Biden requires that MUSC, as a recipient of federal contracts, mandate vaccination for employees (even ones without clinical responsibilities) that fall within specific groups as specified in the Executive Order. This includes students who are MUSC employees.

MUSC HR, your supervisor, or your Dean will notify you if you are included in an employee group that must be vaccinated. Please note that as new federal contracts are received or more of our current contracts are amended by federal agencies to include this vaccine mandate, we will be reaching out to inform more employees that they now fall under this policy and are required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

For the first group who either has been or will be notified (in November 2021), you must be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or be approved for a medical or religious exemption before that date. You are considered "fully vaccinated" when it has been two weeks after the last dose of the vaccine.

What do I do if I am notified that I must get vaccinated or file for an exemption?

If you are fully vaccinated (all roles): There is no action you need to take at this time. MUSC has access to a statewide database that includes the names of all individuals who have received the vaccine in SC. Individuals who have been vaccinated outside of SC will have to upload proof of their vaccination at a later date with instructions to come.

If you are currently unvaccinated:

Students – If you are not on clinical rotations that require a COVID-19 vaccine and are not considered an employee of MUSC, you are not required to be vaccinated.

If you are a student and also considered an employee of MUSC, you may be required to become vaccinated if you are notified that you are a “covered” employee and you do not qualify for a medical or religious exemption. If you do not have an exemption on file and would like to submit one for consideration, please visit MUSC's internal COVID-19 Vaccine Policy page.

Faculty – If you have already filed a medical or other exemption in relation to the MUSC Health COVID-19 vaccination policy, you do not need to take any action at this time. If you do not have an exemption on file and would like to submit one for consideration, please visit MUSC's internal COVID-19 Vaccine Policy page.

If you do not qualify for a medical or other exemption and are notified that you are a “covered” employee impacted by a federal contract, you will be required to get vaccinated. Noncompliance with the mandate will be addressed in keeping with MUSC’s guidelines for disciplinary action.

Employees/Staff – If you have already filed a medical or religious exemption in relation to the MUSC Health COVID-19 vaccination policy, you do not need to take any action at this time. If you do not have an exemption on file and would like to submit one, please visit MUSC's internal COVID-19 Vaccine Policy page.

If you do not qualify for an exemption and are notified that you are a “covered” employee impacted by a federal contract, you will be required to get vaccinated. Noncompliance with the mandate will be addressed as needed in accordance with MUSC’s guidelines for disciplinary action.

For more information obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine, including scheduling, locations and more, please visit MUSC's COVID-19 information site.

B. Mask Requirements

  • As specified in the Executive Order, and as a recipient of federal contracts, MUSC must follow the official guidance issued by the CDC regarding mask requirements.
  • For fully vaccinated individuals the CDC currently state that in order to reduce the risk of being infected with COVID-19 and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of “substantial” or "high" transmission as defined below.
 

Low

Moderate

Substantial

High

New cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days*

<>

10-49.99%

50-99.99%

≥100%

Percentage of positive NAATs tests during the past 7 days**

<>

5-7.99%

8-9.99%

≥10.0%

  • For unvaccinated individuals, the CDC currently state “Everyone 2 years of age or older who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places.”

Note, even when the Charleston area is not designated as a high or substantial transmission area, different masking requirements apply to for healthcare facilities and employees, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Follow MUSC Health directives for masking in its facilities.

Until further notice, the following masking guidelines are in effect for the University:

  • Fully vaccinated MUSC students, staff, faculty and visitors on MUSC’s campus (indoors or outdoors) are not required to wear a mask at this time.
  • Unvaccinated MUSC students, staff, faculty and visitors on MUSC’s campus must wear a mask inside all campus buildings (classrooms, conference rooms, library, other shared spaces) unless you are alone in a private office. Masks may be removed outdoors if social distancing is practiced.
  • Masks are required on MUSC buses, regardless of vaccination status.
  • MUSC Health requires masks in all clinical and non-clinical areas of buildings operated by MUHA, regardless of vaccination status.
    Please note that these directives are subject to change based on the presence of COVID-19 in the Charleston area that once again places us in the substantial risk or high-risk categories.

C. Social Distancing

Social distancing helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. Where possible, and especially for unvaccinated individuals, maintaining a three-foot distance from others is recommended.

If you have had a high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you must practice social distancing at the appropriate level (which could include quarantine or isolation) as specified in Appendix 2.

D. Conference & Meeting Rooms

Meetings conducted in person should follow mask requirements and social distancing as much as possible. Meetings may also be conducted via digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, where appropriate.

E. Travel Restrictions

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

International Travel: Effective November 9, 2021, MUSC has adopted a less restrictive  stance on allowable university-related international travel that emphasizes a traveler's personal responsibility for understanding 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 Appendix 1). If you experience any signs of COVID-19 infection (e.g., runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, sudden loss of taste or smell), then you must remain at home in self-quarantine and must be tested for COVID-19. The tests offered by MUSC are the most reliable for accurately diagnosing COVID-19. Please contact MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be screened and tested. If you are a student having COVID-19 symptoms, you may also contact Student Health Services during weekday hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m.) at (843) 792-3664 to arrange for any necessary diagnostic testing.

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 or e-mail at COVIDWATCH@musc.edu to allow for prompt contract tracing. You are also required to inform your supervisor or program director 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. (See Appendix 1 for return to work or learning guidelines.)

G. Exposure Notifications

If you have been notified that you have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, please follow the directives in Appendix 2.

Appendix 1: Testing and Reporting

All university personnel and students must self-monitor daily.

If you experience any signs of COVID-19 infection (e.g., runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, sudden loss of taste or smell), you must quarantine and be tested for COVID-19. This applies regardless of your vaccination or natural immunity status.

It is highly recommended that you use the MUSC Virtual Urgent Care telehealth platform (musc.care) to be evaluated for COVID-19 testing. If you are a student, you may also call Student Health Services to request a testing appointment. 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 or e-mail covidwatch@musc.edu 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 you test positive, you must isolate as explained in the table in Appendix 2

If your test is negative but you still have symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, you may end your quarantine when you feel able to do so, ensuring that you wear your mask at all times. The exception to this is if you have received a notification of high-risk exposure, in which case you must follow the instructions in Appendix 2, despite your negative test result. We recommend you get checked by your physician if symptoms are significant and/or persistent to determine if there is another probable cause.

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

The CDC and other federal and state entities have recommended different quarantine-related guidelines following exposure to COVID-19 for health care personnel and essential personnel versus others depending on risk levels and circumstances. The guidance from the CDC also differs for individuals who have been vaccinated and those who have natural immunity compared to those without such protection. Please review the guidance carefully to determine the appropriate steps based on the exposure risk level and your COVID-19 history.

High-Risk Exposure versus Low-Risk Exposure

High-risk exposure is defined as close contact (less than six feet) for at least 15 minutes with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, or skin-to-skin contact such as hugging, high fives etc. If you have been contacted by a contact tracer, it is highly likely you have had a high-risk exposure.

Low-risk exposure is any exposure that does not meet the criteria of high-risk exposure. Low-risk exposure would include being in the same building, lab, classroom or space occupied by an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 but not within 6 feet of that individual for greater or equal to 15 minutes. It would also include short encounters in hallways, elevators etc.

Regardless of the level of risk exposure, you must monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow all safety measures, including proper masking and regular hand washing.

Low-risk exposure with no symptoms: There is no need for quarantine. If you experience any symptoms, you must begin quarantine and be tested for COVID-19.

For high-risk exposures, consider which of these applies to you:

  • If you have had a high-risk exposure and previously had COVID-19:

Quarantine is not necessary if you meet ALL of these criteria:

  1. You have had COVID-19 within the previous 90 days AND
  2. A valid test was used to confirm diagnosis AND
  3. You have recovered and remain without any new symptoms.

 

  • If you have had a high-risk exposure and have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

Quarantine is not necessary if you meet both of these criteria:

  1. Greater than or equal to two weeks elapsed between when you received the second dose in a two-dose series or one dose of a single-dose vaccine and were notified of the exposure AND
  2. You have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 high-risk exposure.

 

  • If you have had a high-risk exposure and you have clinical responsibilities:

All clinical faculty and MUSC Health employees MUST follow the MUSC Health Guidelines.

Students on clinical rotation or internship must follow the exposure guidelines at their clinical sites and must notify their clinical coordinators of the high-risk exposure. This allows for monitoring the exposure, providing support if the student tests positive, and providing support for managing clinical requirements if quarantine is necessary.

 

  • All other university staff, faculty, and students not meeting the criteria above:

Report the exposure to your supervisor, program director, or instructor so they will be aware of your absence. Self-monitor for symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and/or sudden loss of taste or smell, and follow the instructions in the table below to determine required course of action.

 

If you DON'T have any symptoms of COVID-19 *
Symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, sudden loss of taste or smell.

Did You Get Tested? (Should be more than or equal to 5 days from last exposure)

COVID-19 Test Results

Required Length of Quarantine (Continue monitoring symptoms until 14 days after last exposure)

 

No

N/A

10 days after last exposure

 

Yes

Negative

7 days after last exposure

 

Yes

Pending

Until negative result is received (and at least 7 days) or for full 10 days after last exposure

 

Yes

Positive

10 days from date of positive COVID-19 test

* Be aware that many insurance plans do not cover COVID-19 testing in the absence of symptoms, and the cost of testing may be charged to you.

If you DO have symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, sudden loss of taste or smell.

Did You Get Tested? (Should be more than or equal to 5 days from last exposure)

COVID-19 Test Results

Required Length of Quarantine (Continue monitoring symptoms until 14 days after last exposure)

 

No

Contact MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be tested; if you are a student, you may choose to contact Student Health Services. 

Quarantine until you receive test results, then follow guidance below.

 

Yes

Negative

If you are unvaccinated, 7 days after last exposure
If you are vaccinated, no quarantine is needed.

 

Yes

Positive

Satisfy all conditions below:

  1. Resolution of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication

  2. Non-fever symptoms minimal or improving

  3. 10 days from symptom onset

Report positive COVID-19 test result

Recommendation: The tests that MUSC uses are the most reliable for accurately diagnosing COVID19. Visit MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be tested. If you are a student, you may choose to contact Student Health Services at 792-3664 or by using Lifenet.