COVID-19 Student-Instructor Potential Exposure Response

In California, authority for contact tracing is delegated to public health departments. For this reason, Cal Poly focuses on exposure investigations as, technically, the University is not authorized to conduct contact tracing. The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has endorsed the following approach to exposure investigation.

When a Student Receives a COVID-19 Positive Result from an On-Campus Testing Facility

  1. Campus Health and Wellbeing (CHW) interviews the COVID-19 positive student and completes the Course/Job Report by interviewing the student and asking questions related to potential risks to campus (e.g., does the student attend in-person classes and is the student an on-campus employee). In-person course information is gathered, including instructor names, the date the student last attended classes, and on-campus student-employment information if applicable.
  2. CHW advises the student to notify close contacts about their positive test, including their professors and classmates. Therefore, instructors often will first learn about their student's positive test prior to being contacted by Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).
  3. CHW forwards information to the COVID-19 Coordinator in EHS, who conducts employee exposure investigations
    1. The following information is forwarded: name, date of birth, positive test date, date any COVID-19 symptoms began, in-person course name(s) and section number(s), date last attended course(s), instructor name(s) for in-person courses attended during the infectious period, job location if the student works on campus and last date worked.
  4. Employee Exposure Investigation and Notification
    1. The EHS COVID-19 Coordinator emails the course instructor and asks the instructor to complete a Microsoft Form to help the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator determine which path to take when gathering additional information and providing appropriate instructions.
    2. The form includes questions on the following:
      1. The classroom learning environment (e.g., classroom design and learning activities that may have resulted in close contact).
      2. Whether there were other employees (including staff and/or student employees) in the learning environment when the infectious student was present.
        1. If yes, the instructor will be asked to provide the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator with the names and contact information of those employees to facilitate the investigation process with them as well.
      3. Employee vaccination status.
        1. If the instructor is vaccinated, the employee is advised to monitor symptoms; if symptoms arise, then employee is advised to self-quarantine, contact department head/chair for accommodations during self-quarantine, and get tested and wait for result before returning to campus
        2. If the instructor is unvaccinated, the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator determines the degree of close contact with COVID-19-positive student. A close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
        3. The instructor would then be advised to work with their department head/chair on accommodations during quarantine. Note that a negative COVID-19 test result would not clear an instructor to return to campus early. The instructor who is advised to quarantine should abide by the 10-day period, even if asymptomatic.
  5. General Notification
    1. The EHS COVID-19 Coordinator sends a notice of potential exposure to the employee(s) identified as being in the learning environment while the infectious student was present and copies the employee's department head/chair, Human Resources, and the employee's union representatives within 24 hours.

When a Student Notifies an Instructor of COVID-19-Positive Result before the Instructor is Contacted by the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator

  1. The instructor should ask if the COVID-19-positive student was tested on or off campus.
    1. If the test was conducted on campus, then steps above are followed and the instructor should expect contact from the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator
    2. If off campus, then the instructor should do the following:
      1. Advise the student to upload the positive test result in the Daily Symptom Screener system. Note: If a student completes the Daily Symptom Screener in the morning, before they receive a positive test result, they will have to wait until the next day to upload the positive test result, and that positive test result will generate a red campus pass. It will also trigger CHW to contact the student for intake and subsequently trigger the employee exposure investigation process as outlined above.
      2. Advise the student to notify others with whom the student has been in close contact. The instructor might work with the student to identify classmates with whom the positive student closely worked and/ or near whom the student sat.
      3. Consider sending a general message to their class listserv to announce the potential exposure without providing the specific name of the student. Please see below for an email template for a general message announcing potential exposure.
      4. Instructors should instruct a positive student as they would for other absences due to illness and can encourage the student to work with the Disability Resource Center to begin the academic accommodation process for general accommodations.
      5. Send an email to with the student's name and date they reported they were positive to ensure the student's case is recorded and responded to effectively.

Template for General Message to The Class Listserv to Announce Potential Exposure

Dear Students:

I am writing today to notify you of a COVID-19 positive case present in our classroom on [date]. Please be sure to monitor your health carefully for the next 14 days. You can find guidance on what to do if COVID-19-like symptoms arise on the Student Quarantine and Isolation Guide webpage. If you do develop symptoms, please stay home, and contact me so I am aware of the reason for your absence. You might also consider getting a COVID-19 test. If you are asymptomatic, you can get tested in 221; if you are symptomatic, you can schedule a COVID-19 test through Campus Health and Wellbeing. Information on testing is available on the COVID-19 Testing webpage.

When a Student Notifies an Instructor of COVID-19-like Symptoms

  1. The instructor should ask the student if they logged their symptoms in the Daily Symptom Screener; if they respond no, then advise them to do so immediately.
  2. The instructor should encourage the student to do the following:
    1. Monitor their health.
    2. Stay home.
    3. Schedule a symptomatic COVID test with CHW.
    4. Review information on the Student Quarantine and Isolation Guide webpage.
  3. The instructor should ask the student if they are aware of a potential COVID-19 exposure.
    1. If yes, have the student contact the Isolation and Quarantine Support Team (IQST): or 805-242-3204. The IQST will work with the student and CHW to determine course of action (e.g., if testing, isolation, or quarantine is indicated). (Note: The instructor should not ask the student their vaccination status; the IQST will manage that).

When a Student Displays COVID-19-Like Symptoms in the Classroom

  1. Check the student's campus pass.
    1. If the student's pass is green, trust that the student is monitoring symptoms and may instead be suffering from allergies or a non-COVID-19 illness.
    2. If the student's pass is not green, ask the student to leave the classroom and contact IQST ( or 805-242-3204).
  2. Remind the student to continue monitoring symptoms and follow the information on the Student Quarantine and Isolation Guide webpage.

General Suggestions

  • While the EHS COVID-19 Coordinator will help the faculty member determine the need for quarantine during the investigation process, department heads/chairs might want to develop their own steps for helping faculty manage a quarantine/isolation resultant from exposure or positive test result.
  • The campus, colleges, departments, and faculty/staff might consider fostering a culture in which a positive is not a negative to encourage reporting of positive test results.