Updated Guidance on Self-Isolation

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Updated Guidance on Self-Isolation


University Health Services




March 20, 2020

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With health care guidance evolving and measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 dominating headlines, some in the Brown community have asked about when to self-isolate, seek medical care or seek a COVID-19 test. We are writing to share updated recommendations, based on new guidance this week from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), which has reported that testing is currently limited to high-risk populations.

Because the most common symptoms for COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, body aches) are common also to colds and influenza, it can be difficult to distinguish COVID-19 from other illnesses in the absence of a test. RIDOH advises that anyone with any of these symptoms should self-isolate from the onset of symptoms until:

-- they have no fever for at least 72 hours without use of fever-reducing medication;

-- other symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath, are improving ;

-- and at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

This is updated from previous guidance on when to self-isolate, which had been recommended only for individuals with specific combinations of symptoms and/or travel histories.

Given the constraints being experienced by RIDOH around available COVID-19 tests — and because available data indicate that the majority of people with COVID-19 can recover at home with only mild symptoms — RIDOH has focused its coronavirus testing on three high-risk populations only: hospitalized patients, health care workers and nursing home residents.

For anyone who experiences symptoms they cannot manage on their own, current RIDOH guidance is to contact a health care provider by telephone. Faculty and staff should contact their primary health care provider. Students should call Health Services (401-863-3953), which has implemented a robust phone triage system and, aligned with that RIDOH guidance, will use that to consult with students in lieu of in-person visits. Students who have severe shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, inability to eat or drink, extreme dizziness, or other symptoms indicating the need for emergency care should contact the Department of Public Safety (401-863-4111) on campus or call 911 off campus.

As a reminder, here are the key steps to take when you need to self-isolate:

-- Stay home. Don't attend work, school, events, social gatherings or public areas.

-- Limit contact with others, as much as possible, including those in your home or residence. Try to keep a distance of about 6 feet. Avoid any visitors.

-- Self-monitor for fever by checking your temperature at least twice daily. Contact a health care provider if you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough or trouble breathing.

-- If you need to seek medical care, call ahead to describe your symptoms.

-- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. If you don’t have access to soap and water use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.

-- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Never cough in the direction of someone else.

-- Avoid sharing household items. Do not share drinking glasses, towels, eating utensils, bedding or any other items.

-- Keep your surroundings clean. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like tabletops, tablets, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, etc.

-- Avoid using public transportation, taxis, or ride-sharing.
Campus Life will assist directly any student who remains on campus and is advised by Health Services or another health care provider of the need to relocate to a self-contained unit to self-isolate. Close contacts of individuals who are relocated for self-isolation should continue to practice social distancing unless advised otherwise by a health care provider.

Finally, all members of the Brown community are advised to have the following items on hand out on an abundance of caution: a digital thermometer; hand sanitizer; disinfecting wipes for hard surface cleaning; water bottle; over-the-counter medications (ibuprofen or tylenol, decongestants, expectorants); and any prescription medications.

Additional information on Self Care is available on Brown’s COVID-19 website: https://covid.brown.edu/self-care.

Adam Pallant, MD, PhD
Clinical Director, Brown Health Services

Vanessa Britto, MD, MSc, FACP
Associate Vice President for Campus Life, Executive Director, Health and Wellness


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