Reporting, Testing, Tracing & Safety FAQs

Answers to Common Questions on COVID-19 Reporting, Testing, Tracing and General Safety

Have a question on how reporting, testing, and tracing are conducted at Montclair State University? Find the answers here.

Health & Safety FAQs Faculty & Staff Procedures
Information Flow & ProtocolsCovid Dashboard FAQs

COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY FAQs

How can I get tested?

This spring, the University has expanded its testing program by adding rapid tests and expanded the number of people in high-contact groups that are tested routinely. As a result, many thousands more tests will be given every week. In addition, the University will offer testing on campus for any student or employee who wants to be tested. Currently available appointments are listed here.

Another option for the Montclair State community is to use is the Passaic County testing site on our campus. The site is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lot 60. (Visit the Passaic County Facebook page for updates.) If you do use this testing site, please use 147 Clove Road, Little Falls, NJ 07424 as your address, so that the University Health Center will receive a copy of your results.

In addition, many community locations offer testing, including pharmacies, urgent care centers and sites operated by county health departments. Remember, if you get tested, be sure to report it on Hawk Check.

How do I get vaccinated?

The University strongly urges all members of the Montclair State community to register on the NJ Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination website. The system will inform you when you are eligible to receive the vaccine, based on your age, medical history and other factors.

At present, the supply of vaccines is quite limited, though, so you should frequently check the websites for the many vaccination sites throughout the state to see if appointments are available.

For employees who live in New York, the state’s registration site (and a list of vaccination sites) can be found at the state’s COVID-19 website.

Here’s a tip: Essex County will vaccinate anyone who works in the county, regardless of where they live, including Montclair State employees. At present the county is only vaccinating people who are essential workers, 65 or over, or have certain medical conditions, per state guidelines. Check the Essex County COVID website for details on how to schedule an appointment. And check it often, as availability changes frequently.

Finally, The New York Times maintains a COVID-19 vaccination explainer with updated information for all 50 states.

Meanwhile, whether you are vaccinated or not, you must continue to wear your masks, keep a safe distance from others, stay home if you are sick, keep your hands clean, limit travel, and complete Hawk Check before visiting campus.

Once you have been vaccinated, please report it on Hawk Check.

What do I do if someone tells me they’ve tested positive for COVID-19?

  • If you are a student, and another student informs you they have tested positive for COVID, tell them to complete Hawk Check immediately. This applies whether you are on campus, or working or studying remotely. Completing Hawk Check enables our medical staff to step in to address the situation, including advising the person to enter isolation. For on-campus cases, our staff also reaches out to notify and advise their close contacts.
  • If you are a member of faculty or staff and someone from the University community shares with you that they have tested positive for COVID, please follow the steps outlined below in Faculty & Staff Procedures.

I tested positive for COVID-19. Do I need to tell the University?

Yes. If you get a positive test result, you should report it on Hawk Check, isolate yourself, and expect a phone call from our health care professionals. You are not required to inform your supervisor or co-workers that you have COVID. Your close contacts will be informed as part of the contact tracing process. Your supervisor will be informed by Benefits that you have been placed in isolation.

Do I need to keep wearing my mask once I’m vaccinated?

Keep wearing your masks even if you’re vaccinated – The CDC directs that you must continue to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 even after receiving two doses of a vaccine. According to the CDC, “While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.”

How Do I Tell the Difference Between Cold, Flu and COVID-19?

In short: It’s hard to tell the difference. So don’t mess around. Get tested.

“The average person will not be able to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19,” Professor of Biology Sandra Adams told NJ.com. “When you find the combination of fever, cough, fatigue, you won’t be able to determine whether that’s the flu or COVID. I’d say, get a test.” And don’t forget to do Hawk Check!

Adams added that testing is now more widely available than it was in the spring. Testing plays a key role in limiting the spread of the virus, and with more people inside during the colder months, it’s even more important. Anyone can be tested in New Jersey – no prescription is required. Find out how to get tested here.

The COVID Alert NJ smartphone app allows users to search for test sites by zip code. Find out more or download the app here.

What is the Difference between Isolation and Quarantine?

Both terms refer to staying away from others in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. However, quarantine keeps a person away from others in the community and isolation keeps people away from others they live with. People who are sick or who have tested positive are asked to isolate for a minimum of 10 days after becoming sick or after the date of a positive test. Depending on the circumstances, a healthcare provider may recommend a longer period. Those who have been exposed, but have not yet been diagnosed with COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms, should quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, starting from the date of exposure.

Isolation is for 10 days because the disease is already present in the body. Quarantine is 14 days because it takes up to 14 days for the virus to incubate in your body.

If you are directed to quarantine, you must do so for 14 days – no matter what. You cannot “test out.” Why? Per the New Jersey Department of Health, a negative test only shows you are not infected on the day of the test. You could still test positive or develop symptoms during your entire quarantine. That is why it is important to complete the entire 14 days. At the end of that period, if you have no symptoms, your quarantine is over.

Employees and students who are in isolation or quarantine may not return to the campus until authorized by healthcare providers in the University Health Center or Occupational Health.

How Can I Stay Safe Indoors?

In a nutshell: Social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene and symptom checking.

Montclair State follows strict, science-based safety protocols to reduce the risk of spread on our campus–including requiring people to wear masks indoors and keep 6 feet or more apart, cleaning and sanitizing shared spaces and providing cleaning materials for personal spaces, implementing testing and contact tracing protocols, installing social distancing signage, erecting barriers, improving air filtration and ventilation, and reducing room occupancy and class sizes. You should also follow these precautions when you’re off campus.

Practice social distancing by always maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, wherever practicable. Avoid large gatherings where others may not be wearing masks or keeping their distance. The CDC advises Americans to avoid non-essential holiday travel and to congregate only with members of their immediate household.

Wear multi-layer cloth face coverings at all times on campus in all interior public and shared spaces, including classrooms, libraries, laboratories, elevators, hallways, restrooms and – notably – non-private work spaces, including cubicles and workstations in open areas (btw, this is required). If you’re unable to wear a face covering due to a disability, request an accommodation through the Director of Employee Benefits (benefits@montclair.edu).

Wash your hands well with soap and water or by applying hand sanitizer frequently and after touching items or surfaces such as door handles, tables, desktops, shared workstations or microphones, or electronic registers/screens.

Do Hawk Check every day, whether you are coming to campus or not. Hawk Check will let you know if you should come in or stay home. It alerts our healthcare providers, who will call to check on you and provide advice and support. Also do Hawk Check if you are sick, have come in contact with someone who is sick, or just returned from another country or from a state that is on the New Jersey travel advisory list, even if you were not planning to come to the campus that day.

Stay home when you are sick. Whether it is COVID, the flu or just a cold – the best thing to do is stay home, get medical treatment if needed, and avoid other people.

Should I double up my mask?

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that adding a snug-fitting cloth mask over a surgical mask will help eliminate gaps that permit passage of respiratory droplets as well as add some recommended extra layers. However, it is acceptable to continue to wear a single mask if you are more comfortable with that option. Whether you double up or not, the most important take-away from the CDC report is to wear a mask that fits. Your mask should fit snugly and should cover your nose and fit under your chin.

Remember that all students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors must wear non-valved, multi-layer, tightly woven cloth face coverings that go over your nose and under your chin at all times in all interior public and shared work spaces, including classrooms and common areas, and outside when it is not possible to keep 6 feet apart from other people. Masks that fulfill CDC guidelines can be purchased in person or online at the Montclair State bookstore.

Keep your mask clean – The CDC recommends that reusable masks should be washed regularly (you can use your normal laundry detergent). Always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask.

Keep wearing your masks even if you’re vaccinated – The CDC directs that you must continue to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 even after receiving two doses of a vaccine. According to the CDC, “While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.”

Why am I doing Hawk Check if I’m not back on campus yet?

The University requires every member of the Montclair State community to do Hawk Check, our daily COVID screening, every day. You must do it 7 days a week – even when you’re working or learning remotely.

Why? There are two primary reasons: First, Hawk Check is how our health care professionals find out about COVID among our campus community, providing the information that enables them to take necessary actions. It allows them to reach out, offer advice and support, and remind people who may have been exposed or infected not to come to campus – a key step in helping keep the virus off of our campus. Second, doing Hawk Check helps to focus people’s attention, reminding them about potential risk factors and asking them to think about whether they have symptoms.

Doing Hawk Check only takes a minute. It is a quick and easy contribution that each of us can make to the overall health and safety of our University community.

Faculty & Staff Procedures

What should a faculty member do if a student reports that he or she has tested positive for COVID, or has been exposed to COVID?

  • Tell the student to stay home (or remain in their residence hall room) or if on campus, to return home or to their room, and do Hawk Check immediately. Doing Hawk Check will alert the University Health Center (UHC), who will follow up with the student to gather information.
  • As a back-up, faculty members should also send a message to coronavirus@montclair.edu. Administrators who monitor that account will alert the University Health Center.
  • If the student is positive for COVID, contact tracers will identify his or her close contacts and reach out to them. If necessary, they will place the close contacts in quarantine as a precaution.
  • Faculty members will be notified by the Dean of Students Office when a student in one of their classes has been placed in isolation (if sick) or quarantined (as a precautionary measure), so that they can make appropriate accommodations for that student.
  • To protect the privacy of the student, faculty members should not share the information with colleagues, students or other people. Everyone who needs to know will be informed individually by a contact tracer.

What should a supervisor do if an employee reports they have tested positive for COVID?

  • Tell the employee to do Hawk Check immediately, and to either stay home, or if on the campus, to return home. This will alert Occupational Health (Occ Health), who will follow up with the employee.
  • Contact tracers will identify the employee’s close contacts and reach out to them. If necessary they will place the close contacts in quarantine as a precaution.
  • To protect the privacy of the individual, do not share the information with colleagues, students or other people. Everyone who needs to know will be informed individually by a contact tracer.
  • Supervisors will be informed by Human Resources if one of their employees is in quarantine or isolation.
  • This applies to all employees, including students.

Faculty and staff will find more answers to common questions at the Human Resources Employee Restart FAQs page.

Information Flow & Protocols

What is the information flow when a positive or exposure case is reported to the UHC or to Occ Health?

  • A healthcare professional contacts the individual to gather information and provide advice. This initiates the contact-tracing process. The healthcare professional will also periodically check in with the individual over the next several days.
  • Occupational Health (employees) or the University Health Center (students) contacts those individuals that have been identified as close contacts and instructs them on quarantine requirements.
  • Occupational Health communicates with HR/Benefits based on the  employee’s response to HawkCheck. HR/Benefits will then handle details about pay, benefits, sick leave, and return to work.
  • HR/Benefits contacts the employee and his/her supervisor upon notification by Occupational Health and conducts a follow up five days after notification to check in and explain ‘return to work’ process
  • HR/Benefits informs Occupational Health when an employee is cleared to return to work.
  • The University Health Center coordinates with the Dean of Students Office, which informs faculty members when a student in one of their courses has been placed in isolation or quarantine.

Remember: Faculty members and supervisors should not share information about COVID exposures or diagnoses with their students, colleagues or other people. Doing so could violate the privacy of the individual. Everyone who needs to know will be individually informed by contact tracers.

How does the University learn when someone has tested positive for COVID?

  • From tests that the University administers in our surveillance testing program or in the University Health Center.
  • From the local health departments, who share information with the University Health Center on everyone who tests positive and has provided a campus address to the testing lab.
  • From self-reports provided via Hawk Check or through other means.
  • From case investigation and contact tracing.

What happens when the University learns that someone has tested positive for COVID?

The University Health Center or Occupational Health contacts the individual to gather information and to initiate isolation (for someone who is sick) or quarantine (for someone who may have been exposed but is not sick). The time parameters are:

  • Isolation is for a minimum of 10 days, depending on factors such as symptoms and test date.
  • Quarantine is for a minimum of 14 days, starting from the date of exposure.
  • Release from quarantine and isolation will be determined by the University Health Center or Occupational Health.

Contact tracers will ask the infected person for a list of all iIndividuals who they may have been in close contact with, and will follow up with those people and will use additional interviewing and electronic data as required. If the facts indicate that the person was in close contact, defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period, then that person will be instructed to enter a 14-day quarantine as a precaution.

  • Those individuals determined to not be at risk will not have to quarantine

Contact tracers do not share information with people who do not need to know it.

Clinicians in UHC or Occ Health will make recommendations for follow up testing when appropriate.

What kinds of information may be shared, and by whom?

  • Faculty and supervisors will be informed when a student or direct report has been placed in quarantine or isolation, but they must not share that information with students, colleagues or other people.
  • Official notification of quarantine and the dates for quarantine will be established only by the clinicians in the University Health Center or Occupational Health.
  • Students or employees cannot determine those dates independently.

Faculty and staff are requested not to send notifications to classes or individual students, or work groups or individual employees, about the need to be tested, or to enter or leave quarantine or isolation. All such communication will be sent from the University Health Center or Occupational Health. This rule exists to assure that accurate information is provided to those who need it, in a timely way and to assure that false, incomplete or misleading information does not circulate and cause unnecessary anxiety or pose a risk to the privacy of individuals.

COVID-19 Dashboard FAQs

What cases get reported on the University’s dashboard and why?

The COVID Dashboard reports cases on campus, the number of people currently in isolation and the number recovered and cleared to return campus during the current semester, as well as the number of tests administered by the University, and the number and rate of positive results.

To be reportable, a case on campus must meet two criteria:

  • The infection has been confirmed by a positive test result.
  • The person was known to have been on campus during the period when he or she may have been able to spread the virus to others.

Does the University report on its dashboard every case of COVID among students, faculty or staff that it is aware of?

  • No.It only reports cases in which the infected person is known to have been on campus during the time when he or she may have spread the virus to others.
  • The purpose of sharing this information is to give a clear and accurate picture of the current presence of the virus on campus.

The University reports the number of people in isolation, but not in quarantine. Why?

  • Clinicians place someone in quarantine as a precautionary measure when the person has potentially been exposed to the virus but does not have symptoms or is waiting for test results. Quarantine prevents this person from spreading the virus to others unknowingly if they are asymptomatic or do not yet have a confirmed diagnosis.
  • The number in quarantine is not an indicator of the extent of the virus on campus. The number of people currently in isolation, however, is an indicator of the level of the virus on campus, and that is why the University publishes this number on its dashboard.

Find more answers to health-related questions on the University Health Center’s COVID-19 FAQs page.