September 21, 2023

What Happens When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID?

The university typically becomes aware of a COVID-positive employee either from positive results of a voluntary on-campus test or a self-report from the employee. We realize it can be unnerving to receive a COVID diagnosis and employee outreach is conducted promptly and with concern for the employee’s overall wellbeing. The notification of an employee with COVID puts in motion the process described below.

  • Counsel: The employee is informed that they must not come to campus for a specific period of time, typically 10-14 days depending on various factors, and they are put in touch with Human Resources to discuss available resources and leave options.
  • Contact Tracing: In addition to the contact tracing conducted by the Virginia Department of Health, UMW conducts its own internal contact tracing as described below.  A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period within two days before symptoms appeared or two days before a positive test. With the MMDC protocols in place, an employee should have few, if any, close contacts at work. Physical barriers in the workspace, such as plexiglass are also a mitigating factor when determining close contact.

o   The employee is contacted by one of three designated UMW employees, all of whom have received training in the contact tracing process and ensure appropriate confidentiality is maintained throughout the process.

o   Individuals who the employee identifies as an on-campus close contact are notified and must quarantine for 14 days. These employees are informed that they’ve been identified as a close contact, but are not given the name of the employee who tested positive.

  • Communication:  The UMW community is kept informed of aggregated positive cases via the COVID-19 Dashboard. The University has a responsibility to protect its employees’ privacy. It does not inform other members of the university community of specific positive cases unless contact tracing efforts indicate that they are a close contact, which should rarely happen if employees are following MMDC protocols.
  • Cleaning: The cleaning supplies used by Facilities, and those provided to each department, have been approved for use against the coronavirus. The Building Attendants follow a regular daily cleaning schedule, and the protocols currently in place for individual cleaning should continue to be followed.  It is no longer a recommended practice to close office buildings for specialized, third party cleaning when an employee tests positive.
  • Compliance: Health and safety are a community effort. Employees who are not following MMDC protocols should be gently reminded about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and eating with others. If a gentle reminder does not elicit an appropriate response, employees should inform their supervisor or submit their concern through the Report a COVID Concern link on the UMW COVID-19 website.

Beth Williams
Executive Director for Human Resources
University of Mary Washington
540 654-1294