COVID-19 Prevention & Response Plan


August 25, 2020

Dear faculty and staff,

During listening sessions convened by President Bilger last week, we heard a number of questions about contact tracing. Specifically, we heard that faculty and staff want to better understand when and how they will be notified if a student tests positive for COVID-19.

We have clarified the information about case notifications and reporting protocol on Reed's COVID-19 prevention & response plan website. Please read this information carefully. Additionally, we take this opportunity to share the context for Reed's protocols regarding community notifications about COVID-19 cases.

Individual community members will be notified as a result of the contact tracing process, which involves determining who may have had close contact with the person who has tested positive. The CDC defines close contact as: "Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated." Per the CDC, contact tracing slows the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 by

  • letting people know that they may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19;
  • helping people who may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 get tested;
  • asking people to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or self-quarantine if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

The college is following CDC definitions for close contact and contact tracing. If the CDC were to change its definitions, or if colleges were directed to follow different definitions by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), or the Multnomah County Health Department, Reed would also shift with the public health guidance.

On this note, eleven days ago, the definition of close contact for higher education was discussed during a call with Oregon Health Authority's Dr. Dean Sidelinger. A question that many Reed community members have asked was raised: "Will every individual who was in a classroom with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 be notified?" Today, we received the following note from the HECC, which clarifies the answer to the question:

"Many of you participated in an August 14th call with the Oregon Health Authority's Dr. Dean Sidelinger in which he indicated that in the event that a student or instructor at your institution tests Covid-positive, everyone who had been in the same classroom during the period of possible infection would likely need to be quarantined. Upon follow-up, I am able to share that OHA's senior health advisors have agreed that higher education is different enough from K-12 that they won't recommend quarantine of an entire class/cohort by default. (In K-12 settings, many cohorts tend to spend more time together than a typical college class, and determining exposures among the younger ages may be difficult, hence the default cohort quarantine in K-12). There may still be situations where an entire college/university class is determined to be exposed, but it won't occur automatically. The Local Public Health Authority will work with the college or university to determine who was exposed and needs to quarantine." --Ben Cannon, Executive Director, HECC

The Multnomah County Health Department also recently clarified the recommendations for institutions of higher education regarding notifying the entire campus community of every new case. Multnomah County Health Department "does not recommend notifying the entire campus community every time there is a new case" because institutions of higher education "must balance sending information with causing panic."

We know that some feel that it is everyone's right to know specifics about COVID-19 cases on campus, especially when it comes to in-person classrooms. While we understand the desire for greater transparency, in keeping with Reed's current protocol, we are following expert public health recommendations that are put forth to prevent and slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and that align with important health privacy protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. At this time, Reed will not support a requirement or agreement made between professors and students or between coworkers about automatic reporting by an individual with a positive diagnosis. Such agreements are likely to feel coercive to students and supervisees and to violate privacy protections in place for all individuals regarding their personal health histories.

Reed will support rigorous contact tracing by working closely with the person who tested positive to identify community members who may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. When Reed learns of a COVID-19 case, the college will notify the Multnomah County Health Department and immediately begin its own work related to contact tracing, including identifying and notifying those who may have been exposed.

The Reed Health & Counseling Center (HCC) has been contacting and will continue to contact students who test positive for COVID-19, and Reed's human resources office will continue to contact faculty and staff who test positive. These same offices will notify all Reed community members who meet the definition of having had close contact with the person who tested positive. Those in close contact with a person who tests positive will be told to quarantine for 14 days from the last date of exposure to a known infected individual. In all cases, the person who tested positive will be asked to identify who they have had close contact with and will be strongly encouraged to share their diagnosis status with anyone they think would benefit from the information, particularly as these individuals will likely miss classes or work. With a student's permission, HCC staff will send a Health Status Update to student life staff about any student who will miss class or work and indicate the number of days the student is likely to be absent. Faculty or supervisors would also receive these Health Status Updates.

We understand this information is complex, can cause anxiety, and tends to raise a volume of questions that are challenging to answer in an email. Your questions are valid, and we care. We encourage you to raise your individual concerns to the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group and your manager and attend listening sessions, staff meetings, and faculty meetings where these types of concerns will continue to be addressed.


Mandy Heaton on behalf of the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group

Kathy Oleson, Dean of the Faculty & Professor of Psychology
Hugh Porter, Vice President for College Relations & Planning

Cindy Anderson, Interim Dean of Students
Lorraine Arvin, Vice President and Treasurer
Gary Granger, Director of Community Safety
Mandy Heaton, Executive Director of Communications & Public Affairs
Karnell McConnell-Black, Vice President for Student Life
Suzy Renn, Professor of Biology
Timmie Rochon, Medical Services Director
April Sams, Director of Risk Management & Environmental Health and Safety