COVID-19 Case Response

Updated 10/14/2021

The Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S), in coordination with local and state public health agencies, responds to cases of COVID-19 in the UW community and acts to prevent further transmission.

The public health response activities include a case interview, risk assessment, guidance for self-isolation, notifications, and contact tracing.

The University’s response protocol described below follows the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, and local public health guidance for community-related exposure.

UW Medicine responds to COVID-19 cases involving personnel at the University medical centers.

Reporting requirements

University personnel, students and units are required to report the following to the COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team, regardless of vaccination status:

  • COVID-19 positive test result; includes all personnel and students who test positive for COVID-19, and those whose healthcare provider has suspected COVID-19 infection (whether or not they are experiencing symptoms)
  • Close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19

Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a person for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period (even if both people were wearing face coverings), living with or caring for a person who has COVID-19, or having direct contact with infectious secretions (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, or sharing utensils). 

Contact the COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team in the UW Environmental Health & Safety Department at covidehc@uw.edu or 206.616.3344 to report COVID-19 illness or close contact exposure.

All reports of positive test results among UW personnel and students to the COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team are reported on the University’s COVID-19 Case Tracking Dashboard page. The identity and personal information of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 is protected and not released to the public.

View the COVID-19 Public Health Requirements and Guidance Flowchart for information on when to report COVID-19 illness and close contact exposure, when to get tested for COVID-19, and when to stay home.

UW medical center personnel should contact their respective employee health services group.

Case follow-up

When the University is notified of UW personnel or a student with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, we take the following steps to protect the health and safety of the campus community.  

We strive to contact COVID-19 positive individuals within 24 hours of notification to the COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team. We gather information from the COVID-19 positive individual to help us understand the period of transmission and who may have been at risk for exposure. The information gathered may include, but is not limited to:

contact tracing infographic
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • Health status and date of onset of symptoms (or, if asymptomatic, test date)
  • UW locations where the individual spent at least 10 minutes while potentially infectious, up to 48 hours before symptoms began (or, if asymptomatic, during the 48 hours before date of test and any time after being tested); locations are assessed for the need for additional cleaning and disinfection in accordance with the UW COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol.
  • Activities conducted while infectious
  • Face coverings and personal protective equipment worn
  • Names of UW close contacts and others who may have been around the individual while infected (see the contact tracing section for details)

A COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team member provides the individual with:

COVID-19 positive individuals stay home and away from other people:

  • For at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • For at least 24 hours with no fever, without fever-reducing medication and
  • Until their symptoms have improved

People with certain medical conditions may need to stay home longer than 10 days and should talk to a health care provider for more information.

Students living in University residence halls who test positive receive assistance to facilitate self-isolation from the COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team and logistical support from their campus housing provider.

A COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team member follows up with COVID-19 positive individuals during the self-isolation period to assess symptoms and provide additional public health guidance.

Read the University's Quarantine and Isolation Guidance  and view the COVID-19 Public Health Requirements and Guidance Flowchart for more information on when to report COVID-19 illness and close contact exposure, when to get tested for COVID-19, and when to stay home.

Visit the CDC Contact Tracing Steps page for more information about what you can expect to happen if you have tested positive for COVID-19.

University units are asked to refrain from requesting or requiring a doctor’s note, a negative test result or positive antibody test following COVID-19 infection per state and local public health guidelines.

What's the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Contact tracing

The COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team notifies UW community members who may have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual while they were infectious.

When following up with close contacts, we may indicate when and where the contact may have occurred; however, we will not disclose the identity of the COVID-19 positive individual.


CDC Contact Tracing Steps Infographic

Close contacts receive public health recommendations that include:

We follow up during the quarantine period to assess symptoms and provide additional public health guidance as needed. Read the University's Quarantine and Isolation Guidance and the COVID-19 Public Health Requirements and Guidance Flowchart for more information.

If you had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, regardless of your vaccination status, stay home and contact us at covidehc@uw.edu or 206.616.3344.

View the CDC Contact Tracing Steps infographic for more information about what you can expect if you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. 

Notifications and privacy

workplace or classroom notification is sent if the COVID-19 positive individual spent at least 10 minutes at a University location starting from 48 hours before symptoms began (or 48 hours before their test date, if asymptomatic) through the period of time they were able to transmit the virus to other people.

Individuals and groups who receive notification of potential exposure to COVID-19 are provided with information about the actions taken by the University to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and recommendations for steps for individuals to take as a precaution.

The identity of individuals who are suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19 and their close contacts is protected and disclosed only on a need-to-know basis to those involved in the public health response, which may include UW Human Resources and unit leadership.