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COVID-19 Institutions of Higher Education (IHE)


This guide seeks to provide information to help institutions of higher education (IHEs) through the re-opening of on-campus services during the advancing phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the primary goals of protecting public health, supporting the safety and well-being of staff, faculty, and students, and continuing the institution’s educational mission.


  • The situation will remain dynamic with a consideration of local case counts, state phase, and regulatory guidelines.
  • In current times, there is no ability to guarantee safety, but strategies exist to prevent spread, isolate cases, and mitigate risks.
  • Virtual education will continue to be a needed part of re-opening and limiting gathering size.
  • People at high-risk of adverse consequences from COVID infection and people needing to isolate and quarantine should have virtual participation options.
  • IHE’s will need to follow the Governor’s orders in re-opening plans.
  • IHE’s will implement and expand on policies and practices that promote employees and learners staying home if they become sick.

Content Reviewed and Updated: Jan. 21, 2021

Quick Links

MAHEC Training

Facilities Management and Environmental Controls

Vaccination and Institutions of Higher Education

On Arrival

Staff and Faculty
  • Conduct symptom checking and temperature checking in accordance with NC directives for employees. 
  • Encourage all employees to follow all best practices outlined above in the Education and Best Practices section including wearing a cloth face covering when they may be near (less than 6 feet from) other people.
  • Encourage self-quarantine or limited exposure to others for faculty and staff with exposure to someone with COVID-19 or entering from high prevalence areas or with known exposure. 
  • For any faculty or staff with symptoms or a positive test ensure easy and quick access to testing and instruct anyone with symptoms to isolate until test results are available and guidelines met to discontinue isolation.
  • Complete check-in process virtually in advance to the degree possible.
  • Include education in advance of arrival.
  • Add face covering and hand sanitizer to the list of student supplies to bring to campus.
  • Consider offering cloth face coverings (with school emblem) to students.
  • Consider any special needs or accommodations.
  • Stagger arrival times to prevent crowding.
  • Ensure intake procedures allow for physical distancing.
  • Enable and promote frequent use of hand washing and hand sanitizer (have sanitizer readily available). 
  • Conduct history and symptom checking and temperature screening for all students upon arrival to the campus.
  • Include education (as outlined above) in orientation activities. 

COVID-19 Screening and Testing

Screening asks questions about symptoms and exposure and may involve checking for physical changes that may indicate infection. Screening should be used on a regular basis.

Testing strategy is rapidly changing and available tests and test types change frequently. 

  • NCDHHS: Find My Testing Place
  • Molecular (PCR) tests represent if the person has a current COVID infection for the point of time when the sample was collected. These tests are most helpful for case finding and containment strategy but may not identify all cases in a community. 
  • Serologic testing (antibody tests) can show history of infection but may have false positive and false negative results. These tests are most helpful for general population prevalence evaluation.
  • Both testing strategies have limitations based on test performance characteristics and sample collection. Testing is one tool in the toolbox of preventing the spread of COVID in a community. 

Isolation and Quarantine

Quarantine: If you have might have been exposed.  

Isolation:  If you are sick.  

  • Immediately mask any sick student, faculty or staff member.  
  • Arrange for medical assessment for any student, faculty or staff with symptoms with rapid access to testing if appropriate.
  • If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is presumed positive by a medical professional due to symptoms, the student should be isolated away from others.
  • Work with identified local Health Departments and clinical agencies to develop a plan to evaluate, isolate, and contact trace suspected cases.
  • Establish means for regular checks and support for anyone in isolation or quarantine to monitor health and maintain connection.
  • Students, faculty or staff with COVID should remain in isolation until guidelines to discontinue isolation are met.
  • CDC: Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure

Continued Surveillance and Monitoring

  • Conduct symptom screening of students, faculty and staff in accordance with state guidance at minimum (current daily).
  • Student temperature check-points at strategic locations on campus and in dormitories. 
    • Establish a strategy to document and ideally show a visible sign that the individual has been screened that day.
    • Consider the use of new technology to connect entrance into facilities with negative symptom and temperature screening results.

General Health and Wellbeing

Education and Best Practices for Prevention of Spread of COVID

Protection of Populations Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19

  • Consider the unique needs of individuals at high-risk for severe disease and potential death from COVID-19.
  • Allow students, faculty and employees to self-identify as high-risk and implement accommodations to minimize their contact with other students, faculty, and staff such as virtual learning, virtual work, single room, more spacing.
  • Develop a list of resources and partnerships with local and regional agencies to support students, faculty and employees impacted negatively by accommodations made to minimize their contact, e.g., financial, economic, vocational, behavioral health, etc.


  • Identify a COVID health leader to ensure all faculty, staff and students are up-to-date on latest guidelines.
  • Stay in touch with the local health department and emergency management office.
  • Provide a transparent regular communication with COVID-19 updates to parents, students and staff.
  • Think about Health Information Privacy

Resources Used for Guide

Resources that have been reviewed in pulling together the above guidance.

IHE Specific Guidance:
Business Specific Guidance: