COVID-19 Emergency Protocols

CONTACT US

SIT Study Abroad has a team of trained Student Affairs duty officers available 24 hours a day to respond to potential threats to student safety and manage emergency situations. 

Call: 802.258.3212

See also: SIT Policy on Programs and Travel in Elevated Risk Locations

SIT has implemented the following health and safety protocols with the goal of reducing COVID-19 infection. To achieve this goal, SIT adheres to both host country entry regulations and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations.

Note: if host country entry regulations are less than CDC regulations, SIT defers to CDC regulations.

BEFORE DEPARTURE TO HOST COUNTRY

As directed by the CDC, students must:

Unvaccinated students need to take a viral PCR test one-to-three days before departure. Students who test negative should present the test result to immigration officials [1]. Students who test positive may not travel. [2]

Fully vaccinated students do not need to obtain a viral PCR test before departure (unless required by the host country).

UPON ARRIVAL TO HOST COUNTRY

Unvaccinated students must quarantine for seven days upon arrival Fully vaccinated students do not need to quarantine upon arrival (unless required by the host country).

Unvaccinated and fully vaccinated students must obtain a viral PCR test three-to-five days after arrival.

BEFORE TRAVEL BACK TO THE US

Unvaccinated and fully vaccinated students returning to the United States must get a viral PCR test no more than three calendar days before departure (or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months).                          

Note: If a student tests positive, SIT will extend travel insurance coverage and assist the student in finding room and board accommodations during the isolation period. [4]

PROGRAM CHANGES

Out of an abundance of caution, SIT has suspended:

  • Homestays [5]
  • Independent Travel [6]
  • International Excursions [7]

COVID-19 PREVENTION

SIT mandates that vaccinated and unvaccinated students uphold these CDC regulations while in-transit and in-country:

  • Wear a Mask. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others [8]
  • Avoid Crowds. Stay at least six feet from others, whenever possible [9]
  • Maintain Hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water [10]

SYMPTOMATIC AND/OR POSITIVE TEST PROCEDURES

People with COVID-19 have experienced a wide range of symptoms—from mild symptoms to severe illness. Participants experiencing symptoms [11] should stay at home and contact their health care provider; participants with “emergency warning signs” [12] should get emergency medical care immediately.

Participants who are symptomatic or test positive need to:

  • Isolate. Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected.  Isolation includes: staying home [13] and separating yourself from other people [14].
  • Contact Trace. Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The CDC defines close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. [15]
  • Clean daily all “high-touch” surfaces in your sick room. [16]

Participants who are symptomatic or test positive may be around others after ten days since symptoms first appeared and 24 hours with no fever (without using fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.

Participants who are non-symptomatic and test positive—and continue to have no symptoms—can be around others after ten days have passed since the positive test.

Note: Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.

EXPOSED PARTICIPANT PROCEDURE

Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 must quarantine [17] unless:

  • They have been fully vaccinated within the last three months and show no symptoms of COVID-19; or
  • They have had COVID-19 within the previous three months, have recovered, and remain without COVID-19 symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath).

Quarantines may stop after day ten without testing or after day seven when receiving a negative test result (the test must occur on the fifth day of quarantine or later). After stopping a ten-day quarantine, one should watch for symptoms until two weeks after exposure. If symptoms are present, immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider.

VACCINATIONS

SIT is concerned with vaccine equity issues and will ameliorate these inequities wherever possible. With that in mind, SIT strongly encourages students to acquire a COVID-19 vaccination as it provides significant protection from infection and severe illness. Regardless of vaccination status, SIT expects all students to uphold these COVID-19 Risk Management Protocols and adhere to international travel regulations and local public health guidelines.

TRANSPORTATION

SIT supports the CDC’s recommendations to mitigate COVID-19 risk in transportation settings as possible, to include:

  • Wear masks, keep physical distance, avoid touching surfaces, and practice hand hygiene.
  • Refrain from eating or drinking.
  • With the driver, maintain physical distance and request ventilation improvements as needed.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Students should visit their state, territorial, tribal, or local health department’s website to look for the latest information on where to get a viral PCR test. Unvaccinated students should make sure that the viral PCR test results will be communicated prior to their departure but within the allocated window of time (generally 1-3 days). Note: The cost of the pre-departure viral PCR test is the unvaccinated student’s responsibility.
  2. Students must not travel while infectious with COVID-19 even if they don’t have symptoms. Students must stay home and isolate from others, delaying their travel plans until the end of the isolation period.
  3. Per the CDC: “quarantine requires remaining in a specific room separate from other non-exposed people in the home, and ideally with access to a separate bathroom”.
  4. Except for insurance coverage, students are responsible for the cost of room and board and other costs associated with an extended stay (for example airline ticket change fees, local transportation, etc.) beyond the program’s official end date.
  5. Homestays have always been an integral part of SIT programs. With the advent of COVID-19, homestays may present an elevated risk of exposure to both students and host families in some settings. As a result, SIT has suspended homestays. Exceptions will be made only in rare instances and by the SIT Risk Committee when COVID-19 case numbers in a particular location are deemed sufficiently low, the government has a strong contact tracing system in place, and there is availability of homestay opportunities that: a) can provide students with their own room; b) have no at-risk family members; and c) would potentially be able to serve as a quarantine location for students if required.
  6. SIT defines “Independent Travel” as travel that is independently organized by a student that: a) is unrelated to program activities; and b) involves an overnight stay. 
  7. SIT defines “International Excursion” as a student educational trip planned and led by SIT outside of the host country.
  8. SIT requires that participants wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. Masks help keep your respiratory droplets in the mask and other’s out. To be effective, masks must:
    Have layers. Choose either a cloth mask with multiple layers or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.  If you wear a gaiter, it must have two layers–or be folded to make two layers.

    Have layers. Choose either a cloth mask with multiple layers or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.  If you wear a gaiter, it must have two layers–or be folded to make two layers.
  9. Creating enough physical distance from others, in addition to wearing a mask, is very important in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  10. Washing one’s hands is easy and is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community. CDC recommends washing one’s hands before eating or preparing food and touching one’s face and after using the restroom, coughing or sneezing, leaving a public place, handling a mask, changing a diaper, caring for someone sick, and touching animals or pets. Follow these five steps every time: a) wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap; b) lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap—then lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails; c) scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds; d) rinse your hands well under clean, running water; e) dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them; f) if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  11. Symptoms include: Fever or chills; Cough; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Fatigue; Muscle or body aches; Headache; New loss of taste or smell; Sore throat; Congestion or runny nose; Nausea or vomiting; Diarrhea
  12. Emergency Warning Signs include: Trouble breathing; Persistent pain or pressure in the chest; New confusion; Inability to wake or stay awake; Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
  13. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas. Take care of yourself: get rest and stay hydrated; take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better. Stay in touch with your health care provider. Monitor your symptoms. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you of the emergency warning signs. Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  14. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a mask. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Clean your hands often. Avoid sharing personal household items. 
  15. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting one’s close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.
  16. High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Use household cleaners and disinfectants. Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas, but you should clean your bedroom and bathroom, if possible. If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and disposable gloves prior to cleaning and wait as long as possible after the person who is sick has used the bathroom before coming in to clean and use the bathroom.
  17. Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.