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COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Evidence shows that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic).

Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) has developed the following guidance and resources for the UNC-Chapel Hill community as we return to campus.  The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving and EHS will update its guidance as new information becomes available. Please check back regularly for updates.

Due to the significant increase in the volume of calls to the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic, employees are to follow the current CDC guidance (as of January 9, 2022) denoted below. Please note that UEOHC staff will be prioritizing critical healthcare employees.

If you are not a healthcare employee, the UEOHC will not be contacting you directly and you should follow the guidance outlined below:

If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolate)

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

  • Stay home for five days.
    • Ending isolation if you HAD symptoms: If you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving.
    • Ending isolation if you did NOT have symptoms: End isolation after at least five full days after your positive test.
    • Ending isolation: If you were severely ill with COVID-19: Isolate for 10 days, consult your primary healthcare physician before ending isolation.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

You do not need a negative test to return to campus. Even though you are no longer infectious, you could still test positive for up to 90 days. Per CDC guidance, you should not retest for 90 days.

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (No Quarantine)

If you:

Have been boosted
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months
Confirmed COVID-19 (viral test) within the past 90 days

  • Watch for symptoms until 10 days after exposure.
  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test on day five, if possible, and only if you did not test positive in the last 90 days.

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

If you:

Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine over 2 months ago and are not boosted
Are unvaccinated

  • Stay home for five days. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
  • Watch for symptoms until 10 days after exposure.
  • Test on day five, if possible, and only if you did not test positive in the last 90 days.

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the authority to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) if the agency determines that employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards and determines an ETS is necessary to protect employees from such danger.

OSHA has determined that employee exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (virus causing COVID-19) presents a grave danger to workers in all healthcare settings in the U.S. and its territories where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present and has issued “Occupational Exposure to COVID-19; Emergency Temporary Standard.”

On July 14, 2021, the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) adopted verbatim the federal OSHA COVID-19 ETS for Healthcare. The ETS became effective in North Carolina on July 21, 2021.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to fulfill OSHA ETS for healthcare requirements, UNC-Chapel Hill has developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan to be used in addition to previously implemented policies, trainings, recordkeeping, and reporting procedures.


Wearing a mask is a key step in preventing people from getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks should be worn indoors and outdoors anytime you are not around people you live with. At UNC-Chapel Hill, wearing a mask is part of the 3Ws (wear, wait and wash).

According to the CDC, effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Cloth Masks

Cloth masks can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers, various types of cloth mask are available. Cloth masks should have:

  • Two or more layers of washable, breathable fabrics.
  • Nose wire for a snug fit. Make sure the mask is not loose and has no gaps.
  • Cloth thick enough to block light when held up to bright light sources.
  • Do not wear cloth masks with exhalation valves or vents.

For a better fit and protection, cloth masks can be worn over a disposable mask or combined with a fitter or brace.

Disposable/Surgical Masks

Disposable/Surgical masks are fluid-resistant, loose-fitting protection that provide a barrier between the mouth and nose for the wearer against potential contaminants in the environment.

  • Multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Nose wire

K95 Masks

K95 masks are filtering facepiece respirators commonly made in China that are like N95 masks used in the United States. Make sure K95s:

  • Meet the requirements set by the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • Make sure the K95 is not counterfeit (about 60% of K95s in the US are counterfeit and not approved for use, according to the CDC and NIOSH).
  • Do not wear more than one K95 at a time, and they should not be worn with facial hair.

N95 Masks for Healthcare Workers

N95 masks are tight-fitted filtering facepiece respirators with protection against airborne particles. The CDC recommends N95 respirators not be used for protection against COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings and should be reserved for healthcare workers. N95s come in different makes and models. N95 use should include:

  • A fit test, before use, to determine a proper fit.
  • Training on how to use N95 properly.
  • NIOSH-approved.
For maximum protection, wear the mask consistently and correctly, over your nose and mouth and secure under your chin. It is important to make sure when wearing the mask:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when wearing the mask.
  • Keep your mask clean and dry. Replace if it becomes wet or soiled.
  • If the mask is disposable, throw it away after one use.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before handling your mask.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily through the mask.

How to Store and Wash Your Mask

Store your clean dry mask in a breathable bag, such as a paper or mesh fabric bag, to keep it clean between uses. When reusing your mask, keep the same side facing out. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands when handling your mask.

Wet cloth masks should be stored in a sealed plastic bag until they can be washed.

How to Wash Your Mask

Be sure to keep your mask clean. Cloth masks can be washed using a washing machine or by hand with laundry detergent or soap. Make sure to completely dry your mask using a clothes dryer or through air drying by hanging or laying it flat.

CDC Guide to Masks
Mask Types
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Learn when and how you should wash your hands to stay healthy.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can. Apply enough product on hands to cover all surfaces. Rub hands together, until hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Use a disinfectant that is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be effective against COVID-19. Verify the disinfectant is on the EPA’s List N registry of disinfectants. Disinfectants are listed by both name and by EPA ID number. Your product may not be listed by name, but if the EPA number matches what is on the list, then this is a good disinfectant to use.

Common Disinfectants Approved for COVID-19

  • 10% bleach in water
  • 70% ethanol

Disinfectant Contact Time

Disinfectants require a specific contact time in order to work. The majority require that you spray until the surface is thoroughly wet, then wait 5-10 minutes before wiping. If your disinfectant doesn’t have the specific contact time instructions on the label, that information should be available online.

  • Do you have new muscle aches not related to another medical condition or another specific activity (e.g. due to physical exercise)?
  • Do you feel like you may have a temperature of greater than 100.0°F?
  • Do you have sore throat not related to another medical condition (e.g. allergies)?
  • Do you have a new or worsening cough that is not related to another medical condition?
  • Do you have shortness of breath that is not attributable to another medical condition?
  • Do you have recent (less than five days) loss of smell and taste?
  • Do you have new onset of vomiting or diarrhea not related to another medical condition?
  • Have you had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, immediately self-isolate and contact your primary care provider to arrange for medical evaluation and testing.