Clarifications regarding COVID-19 testing guidance

by Reopening Operations Committee,

The Reopening Operations Committee has received some questions from Willamette community members about the changes to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Testing Guidance highlighted in a recent New York Times article. The article highlights the changes to the CDC guidance to include the recommendation that testing of asymptomatic people was not necessary, even if they were exposed to the virus.  

All clinics, hospitals, labs, and providers, including Bishop Wellness Center regularly receive the same testing guidance from the Oregon Health Authority: “COVID-19 Testing Guidance for Healthcare Providers,” last updated on Aug. 14. For our context, OHA recommends that testing of people without symptoms is limited to close contacts of confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases. Bishop Wellness Center will continue to follow this guidance from the OHA. We are not aware of changes to this state guidance at this time. 

We’ve also had some questions about why specific classes are not notified of a positive case.

As you know, Willamette has implemented several mitigation strategies in accordance with state guidelines to minimize virus transmission (e.g., mandatory use of masks, 6 feet of distance, box fans with filters in classrooms). In the event of a positive case, only those identified as “close contacts” (defined as less than six feet for more than 15 minutes) need to quarantine. Those who are identified as close contacts will be notified by a university official or a local county contract tracer. Because others would not be required to quarantine if 6 feet of distance is maintained, coupled with the need to protect individuals’ private medical information, others in the class will not be notified when a person in the class tests positive.

Importantly, it's the privacy laws that prohibit us from fuller disclosure, rather than Willamette deciding not to disclose more detailed information about who has tested positive. If students and faculty maintain the necessary 6 feet of distance in classrooms, they are not "close contacts," will not need to quarantine, and will not be notified. This protocol was verified in a recent conference call with OHA, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and Oregon Health Officer and State Epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger.  

Willamette has broadly notified our community of all confirmed positive cases and shares that information on the Willamette website.  


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