Friday, September 4, 2020

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

Over the past several days, you may have noticed an increase in the numbers of students in quarantine, while noticing just a modest jump in positive cases. We want to take the opportunity to explain exactly what this means.

First, it is important to define quarantine versus isolation.

  • Quarantine keeps someone who was exposed to COVID-19 away from those who have not been exposed. Quarantine lasts for 14 days from the time of last exposure.

  • Isolation separates those infected with and testing positive for COVID-19 from people without COVID-19, even in their own home. Isolation separates people for the duration of infectiousness, which is two days before onset and at least 10 days after onset. Isolation can end when symptoms are improving and after the absence of a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

This week, the Wilkes-Barre Health Dept. in cooperation with the University’s COVID-19 Task Force, have asked a number of students and faculty members to quarantine after possible exposure in two pharmacy labs. This action was taken out of an abundance of caution, to help reduce the numbers of students in any given space and therefore, reduce the spread of the virus.

It is important to note that someone who is asked to quarantine is not presumed to be sick. They were simply in contact with a positive case for an extended period of time and should be separated until the possibility of an infection has passed, generally 14 days.

Because of this, it is not necessary to test every student in quarantine, particularly if they are not exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Any student who begins to experience symptoms will be evaluated and tested through Health and Wellness Services. If they test positive, they will be placed into isolation which, as noted above, keeps them away from everyone else including those in their own home. The University has dedicated spaces for these students, or they may return to their permanent off-campus home. 

The amount of time required in quarantine and isolation is different, so the University or Wilkes-Barre Health Department contact tracers will ensure you know exactly what is expected of you should you be impacted (see CDC guidance on quarantine vs. isolation). Health and Wellness Services must officially clear all students before they are to return to face-to-face classes and activities on campus.

We understand the anxiety this causes, but please know that we have a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases on campus. We have prepared for this very scenario, and our classes are designed to easily pivot from face-to-face to online, either on a case-by-case basis or more widespread as the situation requires. Should a temporary move to remote instruction occur, students will be contacted by their dean or faculty members. And should a student be required to go into quarantine and isolation, and be well enough to continue classes, arrangements will be made for remote instruction.


Diane O’Brien, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner
Wilkes University
Director of Health and Wellness Services