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 March 29, 2021.

These updated guidelines to the University Directives were modified or added to comply with the requirements of the new City of Charleston ordinance. MUSC faculty, staff and students working, studying, or visiting outside the Charleston County area are asked to check the ordinances and local requirements for those specific areas.

We must all do our parts to protect our personal health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others, at work or university and elsewhere. MUSC has approached the return to campus thoughtfully, considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other state and federal guidelines, consulting with our own infectious disease experts, and reviewing information provided by various organizations making recommendations for higher education. Importantly, however, the guidance and thoughts have evolved, and will continue to evolve, as scientific research advances and we learn more about the community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in higher education and academic medical center settings. MUSC’s approach is likely to change based on several factors, including the prevalence of community transmission in the Charleston area. Up-to-date directives will be available on the intranet. University employees and students are required or mandated to follow these directives at all times when at work or university unless appropriate accommodations are made according to the guidance below. Please note that students involved in clinical experiences and faculty working in non-MUSC facilities must follow the policies of the host institution. MUSC clinical faculty must follow these guidelines when conducting university business in non-clinical buildings.

A. Wearing a Mask

As of July 1, 2020, all university employees and students are required to wear a mask while in buildings open to the public, including university buildings, which includes both classrooms and conference rooms. Wearing a mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected, especially if you are asymptomatic. Also note, wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing. Masks are being procured centrally and will be distributed based on need. University employees and students may also wear their own masks or cloth face coverings, provided they cover the nose and mouth fully. Bandanas and neck gaiters are not approved masks due to scientific evidence showing they are ineffective as protective measures It is the responsibility of supervisors or program faculty to ensure that masks do not display images that are inappropriate. When in the workplace or university, masks or cloth face coverings:

  • Must be worn when in a vehicle with another individual and when using drive-through services. 
  • Must be worn outdoors where maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet is not possible.
  • Must be worn by university employees when conducting business at the worksites of other entities.
  • May be removed if the employee or student is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition (see below) or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others.
  • May be removed while eating or drinking during breaks and lunch periods; however, at those times, social distancing should be practiced. 
  • May be removed when driving alone or when isolated in an enclosed office or room with the door closed such as a library study room. 

Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Make sure the mask fits snugly around the mouth and nose; if the mask has a metal wire, it should fit snuggly to the bridge of the nose.

Avoid touching the mask while wearing; cloth masks should be washed at least three times a week unless visibly soiled or heavily contaminated with oral secretions which require daily washing.

A mask should not be worn if it is damp or when wet from saliva or mucus or when visibly soiled.

Disposable face masks should be discarded daily or more frequently if soiled.

Remove the mask from behind or by the ear loops, being careful not to touch the front. Store cloth masks mask in a clean baggie or container for transport.
Immediately wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or disinfect hands with sanitizer after removing the mask.

Individuals who cannot wear masks for medical reasons must provide written documentation from their providers; in this case, employees should be referred to Human Resources and students should be referred to the director of Equity, EEO and University Accessibility Services.

B. Gloves

For most university employees and students, gloves should not be used for general protective use for the following reasons:

Touching your face with contaminated hands, whether gloved or not, poses a significant risk of infection.

Gloves often create a false sense of security for the individuals wearing them; people are more likely to touch contaminated surfaces because they feel protected from the virus.

When wearing gloves, people are less inclined to wash their hands, even though hand washing is the No. 1 defense against any virus.

If you are asked to wear gloves for a specific activity, follow proper procedures to remove and dispose of gloves (Appendix 1)

C. Social Distancing Between Floors

Employees and students who are physically able are encouraged to use the stairwells. If they must use the elevator, no more than three individuals should be in an elevator at one time. This may vary depending on the size of the elevator and you are encouraged to use your discretion to maintain social distancing. When using the elevator, individuals must wear a mask and avoid touching the elevator buttons with exposed hand or fingers, if possible (e.g. use your elbow). Wash hands or use hand sanitizer upon departing the elevator.

D. Conference & Meeting Rooms

Meetings may be conducted in person if mask guidelines and social distancing measures are followed, or conducted via digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. In meeting or conference rooms, departments should remove or rearrange chairs and tables and/or add visual cue marks to support social distancing practices between employees. Wipe all surfaces after using in common areas.

E. General Employee & Student Responsibilities

Employees are strongly encouraged to disinfect their own work spaces at least daily, giving special attention to frequently touched surfaces, such as computer keyboards, phones, door handles and desktops. Students are required to clean their study areas immediately after each use. Disinfectant wipes are available from Central Supply for this purpose. We are working to procure disinfectant wipes for use. For electronics, if using a spray disinfectant, it should be applied to a paper towel or cloth prior to use. Employees and students should be reminded to avoid touching their faces and to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol several times during their work or study hours to reduce the risk of potential person-to-person infections.

F. Restrooms

Guidelines for restroom breaks include the following:

If maximum capacity for the restroom is posted, adhere to the capacity set.

Occupy alternate urinals and restroom stalls to maintain separation of 6 feet.

Do not congregate in the restroom. Be courteous and aware of others’ needs to use the restroom.

To the extent possible, do not touch doorknobs, faucets, paper towel dispensers, etc., with clean bare hands.

G. Break Rooms

Employee or student breaks and meal periods should be staggered when operationally feasible to limit the number of employees/students in communal spaces at one time. If you are eating in your work environment (break room, office, etc.) maintain 6 feet of distance between you and others. Only remove your mask or face covering in order to eat, then put it back on. Departments should remove or rearrange chairs and tables or add visual cue marks in employee break rooms and student lounges to support social distancing practices between employees. Individuals must wipe all surfaces, including tables, refrigerator handles, the coffee machine, etc. in common areas after using them.

H. Social Distancing

Individuals should always strive to maintain 6 feet from all other individuals. If a classroom, conference room or other space has either a capacity limit or identified seating to maintain the 6-foot distance, then these must be adhered to. 

I. Self-Monitoring

All University personnel and students must self-monitor daily and get tested if symptoms arise (Appendix 2). 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 nasopharyngeal (nasal) PCR test offered by MUSC is the most reliable form of test for asymptomatic individuals. Contact MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be screened and tested. If you get tested on the MUSC care site, 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. 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 2 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 2 for return to work or learning guidelines.)

J. 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 3.

Appendix 1: How to Remove Gloves to Protect Yourself

  1. Grasp the outside of one glove at the wrist. Do not touch your bare skin. Peel the glove away from your body, pulling it inside out.
  2. Hold the glove you just removed in your other gloved hand.
  3. Peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist.
  4. Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second.
  5. Dispose of the gloves safely.
  6. Do not reuse the gloves.
  7. Clean your hands immediately after removing gloves.

Appendix 2: 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), then you must remain at home in self-quarantine and must be tested for COVID-19. This requirement applies even if these symptoms occur in concert with receiving the vaccine.

It is highly recommended that you use the MUSC Virtual Urgent Care telehealth platform (musc.care) to be screened for testing. If you get tested on the MUSC cares site, 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 remain out of all work or learning environments as follows:

  • If you are asymptomatic: You may return 10 days from date of positive test results.
  • If you have symptoms: You may return when at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, and you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medication and other COVID-19 symptoms are improving. 
  • If you test negative but remain symptomatic, you may return to work when you feel able to do so ensuring that you wear your mask at all times (and provided you have not received a notification of high-risk exposure, see below). We recommend you get checked by your physician if symptoms are significant and persistent to determine if there is another probable cause.

Appendix 3: MUSC University Directives Regarding COVID Exposure for Faculty, Staff & Students

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. This is to ensure adequate manpower for essential functions. Please review the below to determine the appropriate steps based on your exposure risk level and COVID-19 history. 

Note: 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.

All persons, regardless of level of risk exposure or quarantine processes followed, must continue to follow all safety measures to protect themselves and others, including proper masking, regular hand washing and social distancing. Upon any exposure, you must monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If you experience any symptoms, you must begin isolation and be tested for COVID-19.

  • High-risk exposure, have had COVID-19
    Quarantine is not necessary for any MUSC personnel or student if:
    • You have had COVID-19 within the previous 90 days AND
    • A valid test was used to confirm diagnosis AND
    • You have recovered and remain without any new symptoms.
  • High-risk exposure, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19
    Quarantine is not necessary for any MUSC personnel or student if:
    • 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
    • You have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 high-risk exposure.

If you were a participant in a clinical vaccine trial, have had your records unblinded and received the placebo, you do not meet these criteria.

  • All other high-risk exposures
    All clinical faculty and university staff or faculty considered essential as determined by their department chair or supervisor must follow the MUSC Health Guidelines (PDF, login required) if notified of an exposure to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19.

    All students on clinical rotations, internships or experiences will follow the exposure guidelines at their clinical sites if notified of an exposure to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 and must notify their clinical coordinators. 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 must report the exposure to their supervisor, program director or instructor so they will be aware of your absence. You must 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. If you experience any of these, you must be tested for COVID-19. You must also follow the guidance in the table below:

Symptom Status

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)

Asymptomatic

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

Symptomatic

No

Contact MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be tested

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

 

Yes

Negative

7 days after last exposure

 

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: MUSC’S Nasopharyngeal (Nasal) PCR Test is the most reliable test for asymptomatic testing and is free for all MUSC employees and students. Visit MUSC Virtual Urgent Care (musc.care) to be tested.

Note: COVID PCR testing is not recommended for individuals who were COVID PCR(+) or MUSC COVID Antibody(+) in the preceding 180 days. Begin isolation and email covidwatch@musc.edu if this applies to you for further instructions on return to work or campus clearance.

Level 2 Low Risk or Casual Exposure

Low risk exposure is defined as all other contact that does not meet the criteria for high risk exposure. For example, this 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.

Required Actions

There is no need for isolation or quarantine unless specified in the section above. Please continue to follow all other directives including wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance from others where feasible.

Self-monitor for symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, subjective fevers, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, sudden loss of taste or smell).

If you experience any of these, you must be tested for COVID-19. (See Appendix 2).