USD, Department of Health partner to monitor COVID-19 cases on campus
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USD, Department of Health partner to monitor COVID-19 cases on campus

As of Oct. 20, the USD COVID-19 dashboard was reporting 41 active cases among students and faculty, with 174 individuals in quarantine or isolation. All statistics provided in the dashboard are self reported, and there are no requirements in place for USD students to report if they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.

Kevin O’Kelley, assistant Vice President for research compliance, said while there are no requirements from students to report COVID-19 exposures or cases, the Department of Health will inform the university if a student or faculty member tests positive, and students are still encouraged to report. 

When students get tested at student health, they are asked to sign a release allowing student health to inform the university if the student tests positive. Students, however, are not require to sign the release and will still be tested, O’Kelley said. 

“Signing the release at student health just saves us about half a day,” O’Kelley said. “The Department of Health is pretty good at telling us, but if you sign the release, then Stanford student health will tell us, in real time, where the Department of Health might be a day or two behind.”

USD is also fully HIPAA compliant, O’Kelley said. The HIPAA privacy rule when it comes to COVID-19 does allow for the sharing of an individuals test results in some circumstances. Of those circumstances, none of them relate to universities.  

Due to COVID-19 being a declared public health emergency, there are systems in place to do contract tracing, and that is why the Department of Health keeps track of positive cases, O’Kelley said.

“For us, they just tell us (USD) the student’s health status when they’re positive case so that we can provide them with accommodations,” O’Kelley said. “The reason we want to know is so we can make sure they if they’re in a residence hall … we put them in an isolation room. We also want to make sure they’re all taken care of as far as their education, make sure they have access to remote learning, and we want to make sure they’re okay emotionally as well.”

USD also doesn’t inform professors that a specific individual is out for a COVID-19 related issue. USD does, however, reach out to a student’s professors to say that a student will be out with a medical related situation.

USD officials have told professors to not give out medical advice to students, and instead refer them to student health, O’Kelley said.

“If I tell your professor that you’re out for 10 days for a medical reason, that’s all they can (and) should say,” O’Kelley said. “But here’s what happens. You will report to your professor, you can self report to your professor, you’re allowed to tell people. I’m not allowed to tell people your health status, but you can tell them, and that’s what happens 99% of the time.”

O’Kelley said almost all of the cases on campus in the last six weeks were self reported before the Department of Health contacted USD, and the ones that didn’t contact USD said they planned on doing so but forgot. 

If a student is uncomfortable sharing their positive test with faculty or other students, they are not required to self report their case, but the university will reach out once the Department of Health has notified them.

“I’ll reach out to them and make sure they’re okay, they’re in a good place,” O’Kelley said. “We don’t want students to go home and get their parents sick. We don’t want them to go to class and get their classmates sick. We want to take care of them.”