Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance from Louisiana Department of Health

This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available. Please check the following CDC website periodically for updated interim guidance:

Health officials are taking steps to prevent community spread of COVID-19 into U.S. communities. Institutions of higher education (IHE) can play an important role in this effort. Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, IHE should disseminate information about the disease and its potential transmission to their students, staff and faculty. IHE should prepare to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among their students, staff and faculty should local health officials identify such a need.

IHE should continue to collaborate, share information and review plans with local health officials to help protect their entire IHE community, including those who may be at risk for severe disease with COVID-19. IHE plans should be designed to minimize disruption to teaching and learning and protect students and staff from social stigma and discrimination.

Who is this guidance for?

This interim guidance is intended to help administrators of public and private institutions of higher education prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff and faculty. IHE include a diverse set of American colleges and universities: two- or four-year; public, private nonprofit or private for-profit; and comprehensive, research-focused or special mission. IHE administrators are individuals who make policies and procedures, set educational aims and standards, and direct programming of institutions of higher education. Administrators include a range of higher education leaders and managers, such as department chairs/heads, deans, presidents and provosts.

Why is this guidance being issued?

Information provided should help IHE and their partners understand how to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff. It also aims to help IHE react quickly should a case be identified. The guidance includes considerations to help administrators plan for the continuity of teaching, learning and research if there is community spread of COVID-19 and address concerns related to COVID-19 associated stigma.

What is the role of IHE in responding to COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) virus, and we are learning more about it every day. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. At this point, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes it. Stopping transmission (spread) of the virus through everyday practices is the best way to keep people healthy. Learn more about COVID-19.

IHE, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of disease. IHE’s efforts will help ensure students, staff and faculty have safe and healthy environments in which to learn and work. IHE welcome students, staff, faculty and visitors from throughout the community. All of these people may have close contact in IHE settings, often sharing spaces, equipment and supplies.

Some individuals are experiencing stigma and discrimination in the United States related to COVID-19. This includes people of Chinese and Asian descent, as well as some returning travelers and emergency responders who may have been exposed to the virus. It is important for IHE to provide accurate and timely information about COVID-19 to students, staff and faculty to minimize the potential for stigma on college and university campuses. It is also important to provide mental health support to promote resilience among those groups affected by stigma regarding COVID-19. CDC has information IHE can share to reduce COVID-19 associated fear and stigma.

Guidance for IHE that do not have COVID-19 identified in their community

To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for IHE to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, IHE should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. IHE want to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities.

IHE administrators nationwide can take steps now to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19:

  • Review, update and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departments, the IHE’s university system and other relevant partners. Focus on components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.
    • Ensure the plan is updated to include strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases. Effective strategies build on everyday policies and practices.
    • Ensure the plan emphasizes preventive actions for students and staff. Emphasize actions individuals can take including, staying home when sick, appropriately covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning frequently touched surfaces and washing hands often.
    • Ensure handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
    • Reference key resources while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP.
      • Multiple federal agencies have developed resources on school planning principles and a 6-step process for creating plans to build and continually foster safe and healthy school communities before, duringand afterpossible emergencies. IHE may find this guidance for developing high-quality emergency operations plans helpful.
      • Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center’s website contains free resources, trainings and TA for schools, including IHE, and their community partners, including many tools and resources on emergency planning and response to infectious disease outbreaks.
    • Develop information-sharing systems with partners.
      • Institutional information systems should be used for day-to-day reporting on information such as absenteeism or changes in student health center traffic to detect and respond to an outbreak.
      • Local health officials should be a key partner in information sharing.
    • Current Guidance for students/staff who recently returned from a place where COVID-19 is spreading (03/04/2020):
  • Monitor current travel advisories at COVID-19 Information for Travelers. This guidance changes almost daily, so our recommendations should always be cross-checked before implementing.
  • Current CDC guidance states that a traveler who returns from an area with a Level 3 travel advisory (currently China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) but is asymptomatic, should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. These individuals should not return to school or work for 14 days. They should monitor their health with twice daily temperature checks and monitor for respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath). If they develop fever (>101) or respiratory symptoms, they should immediately call their healthcare provider and report their recent travel.
  • The CDC is recommending that anyone returning from an area with a level 2 travel advisory (currently Japan) where COVID-19 is spreading locally, should monitor their health for 14 days after their return and follow guidance listed on the CDC website at: COVID-19 Information for Travelers. All returning travelers should also follow common sense practices:
        • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
        • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
        • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
        • Stay home if you do become sick.
        • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
        • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
        • After 14 days, all well returning travelers can return to normal activity.
  • Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
    • Review attendance and sick leave policies. Students, staff and faculty should not attend class or work when sick. Allow them to stay home to care for sick household members. Make accommodations (e.g., extended due dates, electronic submission of assignments), as possible, for individuals who may be temporarily unable to attend class due to restrictions placed on them related to possible exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff and faculty.
    • Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your institution and on your campus among students, staff and faculty. Consider identifying and implementing processes for faculty and IHE leadership to report noticeable changes in absenteeism, even if subjective, to a designated administrator.
    • Alert local health officials about large increases in student, staff and faculty absenteeism or substantial increases in student health center traffic due to respiratory illnesses (like the common cold or the “flu,” which have symptoms similar to symptoms of COVID-19).
    • Determine what level of absenteeism will disrupt continuity of teaching, learning, and research.
  • Establish procedures for students, staff, and faculty who are sick (with any illness) on campus.
    • Establish procedures to ensure students, staff and faculty who become sick (with any illness) on campus or arrive on campus sick are sent to their place of residence as soon as possible.
    • Keep sick individuals separate from well individuals until they can leave.
    • Sick residents of on-campus housing in communities with no identified COVID-19 and who are not believed to have been exposed to COVID-19 should avoid contact with well individuals while sick.
  • Ensure IHE health clinics prepare for COVID-19.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
    • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops) with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label.
    • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students, staff and faculty before each use.
  • Create plans to communicate accurate and timely information to the IHE community.
    • Include strategies for sharing information with staff, students and faculty without increasing fear and stigma. Keeping the community informed with accurate information can counter the spread of misinformation and reduce the potential for fear and stigma.
    • Include strategies to communicate steps being taken by the IHE to prepare and how additional information will be shared.
    • Include strategies to communicate changes to usual campus schedules or functions.
    • Include strategies to communicate information IHE community members can use to protect themselves from infectious disease, including COVID-19.
  • Review CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers.
    • Review this CDC guidance to identify any additional strategies the IHE can use, given its role as an employer.

IHE administrators can also support their IHE community by sharing COVID-19 informational resources with students, staff and faculty. Coordinate with local health officials to determine what type of information is best to share with the IHE community. Consider sharing the following fact sheets and information sources:

For guidance for students, staff or faculty who plan to travel, or have recently traveled, to areas with community spread of COVID-19, refer to CDC’s FAQ for travelers and COVID-19 travel website. For specific guidance on foreign exchange and study abroad programs, see CDC’s guidance on student foreign travel for IHE.

Guidance for IHE with identified cases of COVID-19 in their community

If local health officials report that there are cases of COVID-19 in the community, IHE need to take additional steps in response to prevent further spread of the disease. The first step for IHE in this situation is to talk with local health officials.

Determine if, when and for how long the IHE may need to suspend classes and postpone or cancel events and activities.

Temporarily suspending classes is a strategy to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19 in communities. When classes are suspended, IHE may stay open for staff or faculty (unless ill) while students temporarily stop attending in-person classes. Keeping the IHE facilities open a) allows faculty to develop and deliver lessons and materials electronically, thus maintaining continuity of teaching and learning; and b) allows other staff members to continue to provide services and help with additional response efforts.

IHE administrators should work in close collaboration with local health officials and the IHE’s university system to make class suspension and event and activity cancellation decisions. IHE are not expected to make decisions about suspending classes or canceling events on their own. IHE can seek specific guidance from local health officials to determine if, when and for how long to take these steps. Class suspension and event and activity (e.g., on-campus sporting, theater and music events) cancellation may be recommended for at least 14 days, or possibly longer if advised by local health officials. The nature of these actions (e.g., geographic scope, duration) may change as the local outbreak situation evolves.

If a student, staff or faculty member attended class or was active on campus prior to being confirmed as a COVID-19 case:

  • Local health officials may recommend temporary class suspension and event or activity cancellation. Individuals may be considered active on campus if they had attended class, work, work-study or some other type of gathering or event (e.g., student meetings, recreational activities) on campus. Local health officials’ recommendations for the scope (e.g., all campuses in a university system or only select campuses) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the impacted community.
  • IHE should work with the local health department and other relevant leadership to communicate the possible COVID-19 exposure. This communication to the IHE community should align with the communication plan in the IHE’s emergency operations plan. In such a circumstance, it is critical to maintain confidentiality of the student, staff member or faculty member as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
  • IHE administrators should seek guidance from local health officials to determine when students, staff and faculty should return to campus and what additional steps are needed for the IHE community. In addition, students, staff and faculty who are well but are taking care of or share a home with someone with a case of COVID-19 should follow instructions from local health officials to determine when to return to campus.

If classes are suspended, IHE can consider the following steps:

  • Temporarily cancel extracurricular group activities and large events.
    • Cancel or postpone events such as club meetings, performances, social events, athletic team practices and sporting events.
  • Discourage students, staff and faculty from gathering or socializing anywhere.
    • Discourage gatherings at places like at a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant or a local coffee shop.
  • Ensure continuity of education and research.
    • Review continuity plans, including plans for the continuity of teaching, learning and research. Implement e-learning plans and distance learning options as feasible and appropriate.
    • Ensure continuity plans address how to temporarily postpone, limit or adapt research-related activities (e.g., study recruitment or participation, access to labs) in a manner that protects the safety of researchers, participants, facilities, and equipment.
    • Consider the following approaches:
      • Use of existing infrastructure and services (e.g., Blackboard, Skype, Zoom) to support efficient transition of classes from in-person to distance-based formats. This may include using strategies such as faculty check-ins, recorded class meetings or lectures, and live class meetings.
      • Other student support services such as online library services, print materials available online, phone- or internet-based counseling support, or study groups enabled through digital media.
    • IHE will need to determine, in consultation with their university system:
      • How to convert face-to-face lessons into online lessons and how to train faculty to do so.
      • How to triage technical issues if faced with limited IT support and staff
      • How to deal with the potential lack of students’ access to computers and the Internet at home or in temporary housing.
    • Ensure continuity of safe housing.
      • Work in close collaboration with local health officials to make all decisions related to on-campus housing.
      • If cases of COVID-19 have not been identified among residents of on-campus community housing, students may be allowed to remain in on-campus housing. In this situation, educate housing residents on the precautions they should take to help protect themselves when there is community spread of COVID-19. Residents should follow any more specific recommendations provided by local health officials.
      • If cases of COVID-19 have been identified among residents of on-campus community housing, work with local health officials to take additional precautions. Individuals with COVID-19 may need to be moved to temporary housing locations. These individuals will need to self-isolate and monitor for worsening symptoms according to the guidance of local health officials. Close contacts of the individuals with COVID-19 may also need temporary housing so that they can self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms. Consult with local health officials to determine when, how, and where to move ill residents. Information on providing home care to individuals with COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization is available on CDC’s website.
      • Residents identified with COVID-19 or identified as contacts of individuals with COVID-19 should not necessarily be sent to their permanent homes off-campus. Sending sick residents to their permanent homes could be unfeasible, pose logistical challenges or pose risk of transmission to others either on the way to the home or once there. IHEs should work with local health officials to determine appropriate housing for the period in which they need to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms or worsening symptoms.
      • Remember to consider all types of IHE-affiliated housing when making response plans. Distinct housing types (e.g., residence halls, apartments, fraternity and sorority houses) and situations (e.g., housing owned and run by the IHE, housing on the IHE campus but not run by the IHE) may require tailored approaches.
      • Ensure any staff remaining to support students in on-campus housing receive necessary training to protect themselves and residents from spread of COVID-19. Staff should also be trained on how to respond if a resident becomes ill.
    • Ensure continuity of meal programs.
      • Consult with local health officials to determine strategies for modifying food service offerings to the IHE community.
      • Consider ways to distribute food to students, particularly those who may remain on campus, while classes or other events and activities are dismissed.
      • If there is community spread of COVID-19, design strategies to avoid food distribution in settings where people might gather in a group or crowd. Consider options such as “grab-and-go” bagged lunches or meal delivery.
      • Consider if and how existing dining services should be scaled back or adapted. For example, an IHE may close some of or all its cafeterias/cafes to discourage students, staff and faculty from gathering in group settings.
      • If on-campus housing residents have been relocated to temporary alternative housing, consider how meals can be provided to these students. Work with local health officials to determine strategies for providing meals to residents with COVID-19 or who are being monitored because of contact with persons with COVID-19.
      • Ensure any staff remaining on campus to support food services receive necessary training to protect themselves and those they serve from spread of COVID-19.
    • Consider if and when to stop, scale back or modify other support services on campus.
      • Consider alternatives for providing students with essential medical and social services. Identify ways to ensure these services are provided while classes are dismissed or students are in temporary housing.
      • Identify other types of services provided to students, staff and faculty (e.g., library services, cleaning services). Consider ways to adapt these to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission while maintaining services deemed necessary.
      • Help counter stigma and promote resilience on campus.
      • Share facts about COVID-19 through trusted dissemination channels to counter the spread of misinformation and mitigate fear.
    • Speak out against negative behaviors, including negative statements on social media about groups of people.
    • Develop plans to support students, staff and faculty who may feel overwhelmed by COVID-19 and associated events on campus.
      • Ensure continuity of mental health services, such as offering remote counseling. Encourage students to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) if they are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety or feeling like wanting to harm themselves or others.

Guidance for student foreign travel for IHE

This guidance is for Institutes of Higher Education with students participating in foreign exchange or study abroad programs.

Consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs.

Given the global outbreak of COVID-19, IHE should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs. IHE should consider asking current program participants to return to their home country. Those overseeing student foreign exchange programs should be aware that students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad.

IHEs should consider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States. IHEs should work with state and local public health officials to determine the best approach for when and how (e.g., chartered transportation for countries or areas assessed as high-risk for exposure) their study abroad students might return. All plans for returning study abroad students should be designed to protect participants from stigma and discrimination.

The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission, IHEs should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures. IHEs that continue to maintain programs abroad should monitor for additional information.