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Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Guidance for Colleges and Universities

As colleges and universities in the District reopen their campuses, the following measures should be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among students and staff. Furthermore, the below questions should be addressed in each institution’s reopening plans For additional information, see

Prevention Measures

*Guidelines below are subject to change according to the latest District Government safety provisions.

Colleges and universities in the District should ensure the following provisions are followed:

  • No more than 10 people clustered or grouped indoors,
  • No more than 50 people clustered or grouped outdoors,
  • Six feet spacing between individuals for academic and non-academic activities,
  • Universal non-medical face coverings (face mask) for all students and staff during in-person academic or non-academic activities, especially when social distancing is difficult
    • Exceptions should be made for those with medical contraindications to face coverings.
  • High-Risk Individuals should be advised by a medical professional before engaging in in-person campus activities. This includes individuals 65 years of age and older, as well as those with the following conditions:
    • Moderate to severe asthma,
    • Severe obesity (>40 Body Mass Index),
    • Diabetes,
    • Immunocompromised conditions,
    • Chronic Kidney Disease,
    • Liver Disease, and/or
    • Serious heart conditions.
  • All facilities should be regularly cleaned according to District and CDC guidance.
  • Schools that are reopening after a prolonged facility shutdown should ensure all ventilation and water systems and features are safe to use, per CDC guidance.
  • Regular (multiple times a week to daily) symptom screening should occur for all students and staff. This can be done through questionnaires. If objective measurements are taken (i.e. thermometer for temperature), then appropriate protocols with personal protective equipment and trained staff should be utilized. Specific symptoms to screen for include:
    • Fever (subjective or with a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
    • Cough
    • Nasal congestion or runny nose
    • Sore throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Muscle Pain
    • Poor appetite
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Or any other symptom of not feeling well.
  • Students and staff who are returning from domestic or international travel should have a health screen (symptoms or test-based) and closely monitored for the development of symptoms. This is in addition to following any CDC and District of Columbia travel advisories.

Prevention-Related Questions

The following questions should be addressed within a college or university’s reopening plans:

  • How are the above prevention measures going to be implemented in the vast array of environments students and faculty are in throughout their time on campus?
    • Specific environments include classes, dormitories, dining halls, social-focused (i.e. fraternities and sororities), research spaces, etc.
    • If all preventative measures cannot be accommodated in a specific environment (i.e. social distancing in dormitories), then what actions are your institution taking to minimize risk?
  • What is the process to screen and monitor students who have recently had domestic or international travel?

Containment and Mitigation Measures

District colleges and universities should ensure the following provisions are followed:
  • Students and staff who have either tested positive, have results pending, or are showing symptoms  for COVID-19 should be immediately isolated while ensuring their medical, social, and academic needs are met.
  • Any student or staff member who has symptoms or has had close contact with an exposure should be able to get tested, preferably through college health services or their primary healthcare provider. DC Health public testing sites are also available.
  • The District of Columbia Department of Health will contact trace every positive case of a DC resident. Colleges and universities should coordinate and communicate closely with DC Health when there is a positive case in order to quarantine close contacts and ensure follow up care.
  • Colleges and universities should identify a clear communication plan internally and to DC Health for reporting of positive cases between the institution and DC Health. DC Health will report positive cases to the University when campus exposures are involved. Universities should be able to quickly provide lists of people at any in-person activities.
  • Colleges and university should have a clear plan for reporting all data collected with respect to COVID-19 exposure investigation to DC Health.

Containment and Mitigation-Related Questions

The following questions should be addressed within a college or university’s reopening plans:
  • What is your process and plan for isolating potential positive cases?
  • Detail your institution’s health services capacity to test those who might need it and to medically care for those who are showing mild to moderate symptoms.
  • In the event of a return of significant community transmission of COVID-19, what is your plan to draw down in-person campus activities?
  • Detail the communication structure with DC Health, including medical points of contact, to coordinate contact trace, isolation, and care provisions for potential cases.