Photo of quad with blooming bushes

COVID-19 Operations

Beat the Delta Blues

Campus Alert Levels

What they are and how they affect campus

Green Alert: Minimal Level

Now that vaccines and effective treatments are approved and widely available, and there is a low incidence of the coronavirus, the university can lighten the prevention practices and return to more pre-COVID-19 operations. Faculty, staff, and students should continue to self-monitor for symptoms.

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Blue Alert: Low Level

University and Communities can operate more normally in high density environments. Institutions are open and protective measures are actively in place. The threat of outbreak remains, but the virus is lower and testing and contact tracing are robust to allow some policies to be relaxed. Vaccines are wildly available.

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Yellow Alert: Moderate Level

Institutions and communities are operating with moderate-low confirmed cases of COVID-19. Institutions are open though UofSC Aiken’s protective measures are actively in place. The underlying threat of outbreak remains, but prevalence of the virus is moderate to low and testing and contact tracing capacities are robust enough to serve the institution.

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Orange Alert: High Level

The university is open but may request that employees and students stay home for one or several days, or may put greater prevention steps in place which may include greater limitations on meeting sizes, increased PPE use, and elevated precautions. High risk individuals may be asked to restrict their presence on campus.

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Red Alert: Very High Level

Stay-at-home orders are in place, schools and non-essential businesses are closed and individuals are expected to practice self-isolation. OR the community and institution conditions make it imperative to shift to essential employees only on campus and shift to online/remote instruction.

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Alert Levels

To simplify the range of operational approaches, the university will utilize five COVID-19 Alert Levels to indicate the severity of COVID-19 transmission and implications for institutional operations. These Alert Levels were informed by guidance from the UofSC Aiken Taskforce on Health Subcommittee, PreventingEpidemics.org, the CDC, current science and data, and current guidelines from the SC Department of Administration. These alert levels are fluid and may change as necessary.

The university will apply a five-pronged approach to determine Alert Levels:

  • Follow state and local mandates, which supersede these Alert Levels.
  • Campus conditions based on reported and presumed cases.
  • Capacity of regional medical centers and hospitals.
  • Capacity of the institution to isolate and treat cases.
  • Most recent scientific data related to COVID-19.

It is critical to recognize that the state of COVID-19 transmission can vary significantly from community to community and from university to university.

Thus, the UofSC Aiken community is best served by checking the university’s COVID-19 website frequently for updates. The primary methods of communicating changes to Alert levels will be email, the UofSC Aiken website, and social media. Emergency message systems, such as Alertus, are also in place and deployed in the case of a change in Alert Levels. Still, individuals are responsible for signing up for the text message alerts. Visit usca.edu/help-desk/faculty-staff/emergency-facstaff for instructions.

Given what is known about this virus, the university will be prepared to move quickly between Alert Levels if the COVID-19 transmission rate changes at the university or in the community. The university will use data analysis and establish trigger points that would initiate a timely and structured response when the risks of COVID-19 change. If the university changes levels, we may alter or change the academic calendar, campus operations, and shift to contingency plans. Triggers for the university’s alert system are based on campus conditions, including the capacity to treat and isolate cases; and the greater community conditions, including the hospital capacity in this area. This alert system’s development assumes that faculty, staff, and students are being accountable and following the university and CDC guidelines.

Alert Levels are also contingent upon local, state or federal mandates.


Contact Tracing Procedures

How the university is keeping up with the virus

UofSC Aiken’s Student Health Center and the Student Counseling Center play pivotal roles in COVID-19 mitigation and treatment efforts, develop new services, and create flexible staffing solutions to optimize medical and mental health responses in the face uncertainty during this novel pandemic. In addition to the pandemic response, these areas will continue to provide patient-centered care for episodic and chronic illnesses, injuries, counseling, preventative care, and wellness services.

Internal and external surge capacities and staffing trends will be modeled by the Campus COVID-19 Co-Coordinators throughout the pandemic to ensure efficient and effective operations and recognize the imminent risk.

In compliance with CDC recommendations, telemedicine and telecounseling capabilities have undergone large-scale expansion. The use of telemedicine/counseling will be promoted for any appropriate conditions to minimize the unnecessary risk of infectious disease exposure to patients and staff. In addition, telemedicine will be utilized for initial contact and triage of patients with respiratory and other symptoms often associated with COVID-19 to determine patient care needs and the most appropriate method of care provision. This transition to virtual care will allow the centers to meet patient care demands while maintaining CDC guided physical distancing within reception areas, lobbies, treatment rooms, and ancillary departments.

Internal mitigation controls have been implemented to include emergency response, physical, environmental and infection control measures, surveillance, patient safety, and care coordination. The university’s Campus COVID-19 Coordinators will also provide leadership and oversight to contact tracing. University Housing and Residence Life and Student Affairs will provide management of isolation and quarantine facilities. University Housing and Residence Life is a critical and valuable partner in this effort.

The Student Health Center or the Campus COVID-19 Coordinators will advise campus community members of the need to quarantine or isolate if they are suspected of a COVID-19 infection. Individuals will be cleared from isolation or quarantine based on current best practices. Student Health Services, DHEC, COVID Coordinators, University Housing and Residence Life, or a medical provider will provide information about how to comply with the quarantine successfully. Students living in campus-associate housing who have tested positive or are assumed positive for COVID-19 may be required to relocate to an identified isolation space on campus to limit the spread of the virus within the residential community.


Quarantine or Isolation

How to respond to possible exposure

guidance on covid 19 1

The on-campus quarantine space will be an alternate short-term living location for on-campus students—not a medical facility, and medical care will not be provided.

The Student Health Center does not operate an inpatient medical facility or provide 24/7 coverage. Students will be educated regarding after-hours care options and are encouraged to seek care should conditions change outside of the student health center’s hours of operation. The Aiken Regional Medical Centers are located directly across University Parkway from UofSC Aiken. In an emergency, the university police can assist with arranging or providing transportation as the individual situation warrants.

Students experiencing worsening symptoms while in isolation may be referred to urgent care facilities or the emergency department for consideration of hospitalization.

Green Alert: Minimal Level

Now that vaccines and effective treatments are approved and widely available, and there is a low incidence of the coronavirus, the university can lighten the prevention practices and return to more pre-COVID-19 operations. Faculty, staff, and students should continue to self-monitor for symptoms.

It is recognized that the other variants are highly contagious, and the COVID vaccine is strongly recommended for everyone.

Triggers

  • A reliable vaccine or highly effective treatment is approved and widely available.
  • Herd immunity is significantly increased due to natural antibodies, vaccines or treatments that increase immunity.
  • Spread of virus is low on campus and in the community.
  • Positive cases are extremely low (0-3% of total UofSC Aiken population—excludes online programs) and regional medical facilities are operating below capacity.

Institutional Operations

  • As long as approved, highly effective vaccines or treatments are widely available, most prevention practice mandates can be eased. Masks are optional, but recommended for those not vaccinated or with compromised immunity.*
  • Masks are also recommended indoors whenever social distancing is not possible.*
  • Classrooms at full capacity.
  • Shared office spaces allowed.
  • Dining and residential activities resume. Campus residences will continue to have rooms available for students needing on-campus isolation.
  • Athletic practice and competition schedules resume, with changes possible as per recommendations by NCAA.
  • Meetings may resume in person; TEAMS meetings will continue to be available.
  • Hygienic cleaning and sanitation efforts by housekeeping staff will return to pre-covid levels. Cleaning supplies will remain available in classrooms.
  • University will continue to do contract tracing and report cases to DHEC. All faculty, staff, and students who test positive should report it to the COVID Coordinators.
  • Those with positive tests must isolate a minimum of 10 days with symptoms improving and no fever for at least 24 hours.
  • Those who have not been vaccinated and have been in direct contact with someone who tested positive will self-quarantine for 7 or 10 days, depending on results of a day 5 COVID-19 test. Those individuals are expected to wear a face covering when in the company of others.
  • Those who have been vaccinated and exposed to someone with COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure.

*Masks may be required in indoor spaces for extra protection if local, state, or national conditions warrant, even if campus numbers and conditions are in this level.

Blue Alert: Low Level

University and Communities can operate more normally in high density environments.

Institutions are open and protective measures are actively in place. The threat of outbreak remains, but the virus is lower and testing and contact tracing are robust to allow some policies to be relaxed. Vaccines are wildly available.

The university can provide:

  • testing for all students and employees who have been exposed or are asymptomatic.
  • testing for all student athletes and students living in dorms, as needed.
  • adequate isolation for students living on campus who are positive, and for those who are positive and symptomatic.

Triggers

Positive cases are very low (<3-5% of total UofSC Aiken population--excludes online programs: Palmetto College, RN to BSN, and MBA) and regional medical facilities are operating below capacity.

Institutional Operations

  • Take everyday precautions outlined by the university and by CDC.
  • Continue classes as planned: face to face, blended/hybrid, and online/remote.
  • Those with positive tests must isolate a minimum of 10 days with no increase in symptoms or fever during the last three days.
  • Those in contact with someone who tested positive will self-quarantine for 7 or 10 days, depending on results of a day 5 COVID-19 test. Those individuals are expected to wear a face-covering when in the company of others.
  • Facility restrictions in place for promoting social distancing, hygiene, and wearing masks.
  • Shared offices allowed appropriate distancing and other measures.
  • Physical distancing, face covering, and frequent hand washing may be required.
  • Mandatory testing of symptomatic individuals in housing and student-athletes.

Yellow Alert: Moderate Level

Institutions and communities are operating with moderate-low confirmed cases of COVID-19. Institutions are open though UofSC Aiken’s protective measures are actively in place. The underlying threat of outbreak remains, but prevalence of the virus is moderate to low and testing and contact tracing capacities are robust enough to serve the institution.

  • The university and geographic area are able to provide testing to students, faculty, and staff who have been exposed and/or who are symptomatic.
  • The university is able to provide testing for all student athletes weekly, and provide testing on demand for faculty, staff, and students.
  • The university is able to provide adequate isolation for students living on campus that have tested positive.

Triggers

The number of positive cases is increasing, but less than 9% of campus population is positive or presumed positive (5-9% positive)

Institutional Operations

  • Instruction is a mix of in-person and remote instruction with online options for in-person classes (blended) where practical.
  • Some students and faculty will not be able to return to campus, and accommodations should be put in place to enable continued academic progress and employment.
  • Easing of facility restrictions, rigorous cleaning and PPE protocols.
  • Low-density instruction maintaining appropriate distancing.
  • Continue limiting access to specialized facilities (labs, studios, practice rooms) and limit the number of individuals simultaneously using wellness center, bookstore, Gaming Room, offices, The Station, Starbucks, and Dining Hall.
  • Provide take away dining and in-person dining options with appropriate distancing.
  • Shared offices allowed with necessary distancing and other measures.
  • Deployment of enforced PPE use, screening, contact tracing, and/or selective quarantining/self-isolation.
  • Athletic schedules reviewed and caution taken. Increase the testing of athletes if possible.
  • Masks worn by students in a class, faculty are wearing masks or shields in class. The staff wears masks except in private offices.
  • Continue to encourage teleconferencing instead of face-to-face meetings.

Orange Alert: High Level

The university is open but may request that employees and students stay home for one or several days, or may put greater prevention steps in place which may include greater limitations on meeting sizes, increased PPE use, and elevated precautions. High risk individuals may be asked to restrict their presence on campus.

Triggers

  • The university is at capacity for being able to provide adequate isolation for students living on campus who are testing positive.
  • COVID-19 infection in the student population becomes more severe (more cases of COVID-19 risks, pneumonia, respiratory and renal distress).
  • The number of positive cases is increasing, but fewer than 14% of campus population (excludes online programs: Palmetto College, RN to BSN, and MBA) is positive or presumed positive (10-14% positive).
  • The university is unable to access, analyze and track data effectively enough to inform key decisions.
  • Month over month increase in confirmed cases across all sectors of the university.

Institutional Operations

  • Instruction is primarily remote, though, with permission of the dean, faculty may continue to deliver material in empty classrooms equipped with cameras.
  • Departments need to deploy contingency plans to provide instruction if faculty become ill.
  • In-person instruction is limited to clinical/practicum and research activities that are difficult to conduct remotely. These classes may not include more than ten students, including the instructor (<10). Permission is needed from the Provost for any form of in-person instruction.
  • Enforced PPE use, screening, contact tracing, and/or selective quarantining/self-isolation is deployed.
  • Dining services shift exclusively to go options. No meals served in the dining halls.
  • Limited access to facilities, including the use of shifts for employees on campus.
  • No shared offices for faculty/staff/graduate students or anywhere a minimum of six feet between desks is not possible.
  • All meetings shift to electronic conferencing; TEAMS is preferred.
  • Visitors not allowed in residence halls.
  • Athletics will modify schedules and practices.
  • Masks or face coverings required in all areas of campus, except personal offices.

Red Alert: Very High Level

Stay-at-home orders are in place, schools and non-essential businesses are closed and individuals are expected to practice self-isolation. OR the community and institution conditions make it imperative to shift to essential employees only on campus and shift to online/remote instruction.

Triggers

  • The university cannot provide adequate testing, contact tracing, or care for students who have known exposures and/or who are symptomatic.
  • The university cannot provide adequate isolation for students living on campus who are positive and symptomatic.
  • ≥15% of the university population (excludes online programs: Palmetto College, RN to BSN, and MBA) is positive or presumed positive.
  • Regional medical centers and hospitals are at or beyond capacity to provide medical assistance to the community.
  • Month to month increase across all university sectors.

Institutional Operations

  • The university’s essential personnel are on campus. All other employees are working from home and practicing self-isolation. Some essential personnel may be working in shifts.
  • Access to campus (including buildings) is restricted.
  • Telework is the preferred choice for as many employees as possible under state/local/university mandates. Leave and Furloughs may be deployed for those who cannot work from home.
  • All business meetings are held electronically through video conferencing sites; TEAMS is preferred.
  • Instruction, advising, and student learning support are provided remotely.
  • Housing and in-person academic programs are predominately closed and canceled. Students who cannot return home or have special conditions may petition to remain in university housing.
  • All dining services are highly restricted and only “Take-Away” options for remaining residents.
  • Athletics suspended.