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 August 4, 2021. 

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. University employees and students are required to follow these directives unless appropriate accommodations are made according to the guidance below. Students involved in clinical experiences at MUSC Health must follow the policies of the MUSC Health system. Students involved in clinical experiences elsewhere and faculty working in non-MUSC facilities must follow the policies of the host institution.

A. Vaccination

Currently authorized vaccines in the United States are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19. Additionally, a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.

Everyone age 16 and older is eligible for vaccination, and we strongly recommend vaccination to prevent infection and help everyone get back to normal.

For the purposes of this document, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19:

  • Two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer or Moderna) OR
  • Two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen)

How long vaccine protection lasts and how much vaccines protect against emerging variants are still under investigation. Until more is known, and vaccination coverage increases, some prevention measures will continue to be necessary, regardless of vaccination status.

B. Mask Requirements

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in South Carolina, and specifically in Charleston County, has risen dramatically and substantially and is projected to continue. Much of this increase can be attributed to the Delta variant of the virus which is significantly more transmissible than the original virus that sparked the pandemic. Vaccinated individuals are largely protected, although there are "breakthrough infections." These cases are usually mild, but recent data have demonstrated that vaccinated individuals can shed the COVID-19 virus from their nose and/or mouth and spread the disease to others. Unvaccinated individuals are at very high risk for infection by the Delta variant, and these infections can be severe and/or deadly. Therefore, we are updating the mask guidelines. 

  • MUHA requires masks in all clinical and non-clinical areas of buildings operated by MUHA regardless of vaccination status.
  • Masks are still required on MUSC buses, regardless of vaccination status.
  • On all university-owned property, masks are strongly recommended for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in the company of other people.

Masks should 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.

C. Social Distancing

Social distancing is not required for vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated individuals should maintain 3 feet of social distancing from others.

D. Conference & Meeting Rooms

Meetings conducted in person should follow mask and social distancing guidance specified above. If necessary, meetings may be conducted via digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

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-sponsored international travel remains prohibited (and likely will continue through the summer) with an exception process in place and a risk assessment by the International Travel Oversight Committee.

Find more information about travel, including relevant forms. (NetID required).

F. Self-Monitoring

All University personnel and students must self-monitor daily and get tested if symptoms arise (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 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 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), 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 2: 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 safety directives above.