Health & Safety FAQs

Jump to:  Testing | Quarantine, Isolation & Return to Work | Contact Tracing | VACCINATion

Masking Requirements

What are the rules for wearing masks on campus?

Based on a review of the CDC's new three-level system, which revises guidance on indoor masking, the University masking policy is as follows:

  • Effective March 4, 2022, and until further notice, masking in indoor spaces is now optional with the following exceptions:
    • All visitors to University Health Services (UHS) must continue to wear a mask, according to its stated policies.
    • Faculty may require masks to be worn in their classes, laboratories, studios, and offices.
    • Staff members may require masks to be worn in their offices. 

Certain events or facilities may have additional masking rules. You should always have a mask with you. 

Will the University supply masks?

Yes. Employees may be provided with masks if they are unable to obtain their own.

What about face shields as an alternative to face masks?

Face shields may not be substituted for masks or cloth face coverings. Shields protect the eyes of the wearer from external spray, but do not effectively cover the nose and mouth. Face masks mainly protect others from the wearer, who might unknowingly be infected. The greater concern now is the virus being carried in the air from someone's mouth and nose, so a cloth face covering—if we all participate—will significantly decrease the spread of the virus. Anyone who chooses to wear a face shield must still wear a face covering or mask.



Will I be tested? If so, when?

In short—it's possible. As of July 30, 2021, the University discontinued COVID-19 screening test services for most employees, except in specific cases such as those below, or when an employee has been granted an accommodation for exemption from vaccination. 

If you work in an area that has an increased risk of secondary transmission, such as the University Child Care Center (UCCC) and University Health Service (UHS), you may test on a frequent, regular schedule. These tests are provided at no cost to you and testing schedules will be communicated to you by your supervisor. 

You also may be tested if the University reinstates screening testing of employees. In that case, you will be notified of any scheduled testing time by Human Resources via your Sewanee email. Your supervisor will also be made aware of your scheduled testing time and it is likely that they will communicate it to you as well.

Can I be tested at the Sewanee Molecular Diagnostics Lab (SMDL)?

Yes. As of Jan. 26, 2022, employees may get a COVID-19 test at the SMDL—under certain circumstances. To be eligible for a test, employees must:

  • have been exposed to a person(s) known to have COVID-19, or
  • need a negative test in order to travel.

Under the CARES Act, tests due to COVID-19 exposure should be covered by the employee’s insurance. Testing for travel (surveillance testing) is not covered by insurance. Employees must pay SMDL directly for the cost of those tests. Note that employee screening tests are not available at the SMDL; employee testing is available only for the reasons above.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should see a medical professional. Your healthcare provider can order a COVID-19 test. You may sign up for an appointment with the SMDL and the Sewanee lab can process the test. The cost of the test will be billed to insurance.

If you are symptomatic or concerned enough to be tested, please do not report to work until you have a negative test result. See the quarantine and isolation guidance for information about returning to work after a positive test. (Current CDC guidelines are here.)

Do I need an appointment with the Sewanee Molecular Diagnostics Lab?

Yes. You can sign up for a time slot here. Test results will be available in the afternoon for tests conducted that morning. 

Where do I go for my testing appointment?

If you scheduled through the SMDL sign-up form, just go to the lab in Spencer Hall, room 177. Someone from the lab will greet you, go over testing procedures, and answer any questions you may have. The lab will ask that you walk outside to remove your mask and collect your sample. 

How much does a test cost at the Sewanee lab? And how can I pay for it?  

The cost of the test is $65. Payment methods include check or credit card. The expense qualifies for reimbursement under the University’s flexible spending plan. Tests due to COVID-19 exposure should be covered by the employee’s insurance.

How will I receive my results?

You will receive your results in a password-protected email. If your healthcare provider ordered the test, he or she will also receive the results.

What kind of test will be used? 

Sewanee utilizes a self-administered anterior nasal swab test. The test is a nucleic acid assay, the most accurate form of testing.

how should i use outside TESTING resources?

Employees who have symptoms or think they have been exposed to COVID-19 should seek the care of a doctor and may also make use of the numerous local testing resources to ensure their ongoing health and safety. If you are symptomatic or concerned enough to be tested, please do not report to work. If you get tested for COVID-19 at a local provider (CVS, Walgreens, etc.), do not return to work while waiting for your result. If the result is negative, you can return to work. If it is positive, see below. Your safety is vital and so is the health of your colleagues who may become ill as a result of an exposure.

What if I take a test and my test is positive?

Positive test results are reported to the state, and the state may conduct contact tracing. Employees with a positive test result will be required to isolate for at least five days and should follow the current CDC guidelines about returning to work. Employees should consult current HR policies to determine applicable leave.  

Quarantine, Isolation, and Return to Work

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Isolation is used to separate someone with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 (both those who are sick with COVID-19 and those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected.


Per CDC guidelines, a vaccinated student or employee who has been in close contact (within six feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19 will NOT be asked to quarantine away from campus as long as they have no symptoms.

The CDC further recommends that fully vaccinated people who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested at least 5 days following the date of their exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 10 days or until they receive a negative test result. They should isolate if they test positive. 

Under what conditions might I need to quarantine?

You may be requested to quarantine if you are unvaccinated and have come into close contact with someone who has a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Although various agencies define “close contact” differently, the University currently defines it as follows:

  • Individuals who are known to have been in contact (within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19. 
  • Individuals who have participated in activities with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 and who had close contact (within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period). 
  • Individuals who reside with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19.

All quarantined individuals will need to test negative for COVID-19 and remain symptom-free for several days before returning to their usual campus activities.

How long does quarantine or isolation last?

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be asked to be in isolation for a designated amount of time, depending on when your symptoms, if any, began. If you have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, you may be asked to quarantine for up to 10 days from the time of your last exposure. If you are sick and awaiting test results, you may be asked to quarantine until the results are received. Your doctor will determine when you can come back to work, and you must provide documentation to HR.

If I've been quarantined or tested positive for COVID-19, when can I return to work?

You may return to work after your physician has released you from isolation or quarantine and you have provided documentation to HR.

If I've had COVID-19, Will I be required to test negative for COVID-19 in order to return to work?

No; people with COVID-19 may have positive test results for weeks after they recover but are not contagious after they meet their physician's symptom criteria.

Contact Tracing and Notification

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing traces and monitors the close contacts of infected people, and notifies those contacts of their exposure.  

How will contact tracing happen at the University?

The University must notify the Tennessee Department of Health when anyone tests positive as a result of a test from the Sewanee lab (SMDL). The Tennessee Department of Health is responsible for any contact tracing efforts. To support the Department’s efforts, employees must be responsible for knowing and tracking their encounters each day with others (write them down and record the date). When an employee receives a positive diagnosis, they must review the list of contacts during the two days prior to experiencing symptoms and notify those individuals that they have been exposed. The University may ask for this list of names to verify that contact has been made with each close contact who resides in the Sewanee community—students or employees.

When reviewing my contacts, to whom might the term "individuals that may have been exposed" apply?

Generally, exposures include:

  • Anyone who was in close contact with you, meaning they were less than 6 feet away from you, for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, without a face covering.
  • Anyone in direct contact with secretions from a person with COVID-19 (e.g. being sneezed or coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.)
  • Anyone who traveled with you in a vehicle unmasked.
  • Anyone who lives with you.
Who will contact me if I've been exposed?

In case of exposure to someone with COVID-19, you may be notified by the Tennessee Department of Health.

What happens next?

You will be asked to quarantine and work remotely, if possible, until your quarantine timeframe is over. Those employees who are unable to perform the essential functions of their position working remotely should consult current HR policies to determine applicable leave.

Will I know if someone on campus (student or employee) tests positive for COVID-19?

Yes. You can review aggregate test results by viewing the University's weekly COVID-19 Dashboard

How will I know if I've been exposed to the virus?

In case of exposure to someone with COVID-19, you may be notified by the Tennessee Department of Health.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Why is the University now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees?

The University has been strongly encouraging every student and employee to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since vaccines became widely available. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. under an emergency use authorization are safe and effective. However, the University believed it was appropriate to wait for full FDA approval of at least one of the vaccines before establishing a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated. 

Students and employees can protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. The vaccines are highly effective and, according to the CDC, the risk of “breakthrough infection” among fully vaccinated individuals is very low and the symptoms are less severe among those fully vaccinated individuals who do contract COVID-19.

Who is required to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

All students and employees (faculty, staff, full-time, part-time, temporary, remote, on campus, etc.) are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, unless they are granted an accommodation for exemption for documented medical or religious reasons.

If only one vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, will the other available vaccines be acceptable?

Yes. All vaccines that have full approval or emergency authorization from the FDA are and will continue to be acceptable. These currently include the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

There is a significant amount of information available on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Here are links to some of this information: 

Do I need to be vaccinated if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes. Even if you have already had COVID-19, you must still be vaccinated. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

How do I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccinations are free, whether you have health insurance or not, and vaccination locations can be found using VaccineFinder. In addition, the University is hosting several on-campus vaccination clinics in September and October.

How do I report compliance with the requirement?

Once you are fully vaccinated (having received the full series of shots required by your vaccine’s manufacturer), you must attest that you are in compliance with the requirement by visiting If you need assistance completing this portion of the requirement, please contact the Office of Human Resources.

Once I Report my compliance with the vaccination requirement, how is that data used?

Aggregate vaccination data is used to update the University's COVID-19 dashboard each week to reflect recent testing and vaccination data for the academic year, with the goal of providing accurate information both internally and externally. Employee vaccination records are also monitored by University Health Services and the Office of Human Resources to assist in determining health and safety protocols. 

How do I apply for an accommodation for exemption?

If you need an exemption from this policy due to a medical reason or because of a sincerely held religious belief, you may submit a request for medical or religious accommodation by contacting the Office of Human Resources at

Am I permitted to ask others if they have been vaccinated?

Generally, you should not ask students, employees, or visitors if they have been vaccinated. However, supervisors may need to inquire about or be made aware of your vaccination status on a need-to-know basis to ensure health and safety standards are enforced, that accommodations are met, and to facilitate work arrangements in the event of an exposure. Supervisors are not permitted to ask any follow-up questions concerning your vaccination status, and should only discuss your confidential medical information with you and in a setting that maintains the confidentiality of this information.

When I am vaccinated, what will the health and safety protocols on campus be for me?

You should continue to follow all applicable University health and safety protocols. Changes to these protocols are announced as needed and can be found here.

What will happen if I do not COMPLY WITH The Vaccination Requirement?

If you do not comply with the vaccination requirement, your employment will be terminated in accordance with disciplinary procedures for your position.

If I work remotely, do I need to meet the requirement?

Yes. This requirement applies regardless of whether you are working on campus or remotely now or in the future.

Can I work from home if I choose not to get vaccinated?

This requirement applies regardless of whether you are working on campus or remotely now or in the future. If you choose not to get vaccinated and are not granted an accommodation for exemption, you will not be allowed to continue to work either remotely or on campus.

Will new employees need to meet the requirement before starting?

Yes. New employees must meet the vaccination requirement before the start of employment.

If I have been granted an accommodation for exemption, how will periodic testing work?

Periodic testing will be communicated to you via your University email account from the Office of Human Resources, including frequency, scheduling, and location. This testing will be provided at no cost to you.