COVID-19 Risk Management 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

INTRODUCTION

SIT has implemented the following health and safety protocols with the goal of reducing COVID-19 infection and the translocation of the virus from one location to another.

To achieve this goal, SIT adheres to both host country entry regulations and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations (if host country entry regulations are less than CDC regulations, SIT defers to CDC regulations).

PROGRAM CHANGES

Out of an abundance of caution, SIT has suspended these program elements until further notice:

  • Homestays (1)
  • Independent Travel (2)
  • International Excursions (3)

Beginning in fall 2021, SIT requires the COVID-19 vaccination for students enrolling in SIT programs.

Students may request an exemption by submitting an Immunization Exemption Form to the Office of Student Health, Safety & Wellbeing. Exemptions include:

  • Medical (provide a letter of support from your health care provider)
  • Religious (provide a statement describing a sincerely held religious belief)
  • Accessibility (provide a statement describing the inaccessibility of vaccinations in your location/home country)

In recognition that vaccines may not be available in many global locations for the fall 2021 semester, SIT strongly encourages—but is not requiring at this time—the COVID-19 vaccination for program faculty and staff.

PREVENTION

SIT requires that vaccinated & 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 (4)
  • Maintain Physical Distance. Stay at least six feet from others, whenever possible (5)
  • Practice Good Hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water (6)

BEFORE DEPARTURE TO HOST COUNTRY

Unvaccinated students must take a viral PCR test one-to-three days before departure.

  • Students who test negative should present the test result to airport officials (7);
  • Students who test positive may not travel. (8)

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 after travel for seven days with a negative test or 10 days without a test. (9)   

Vaccinated students do not need to quarantine upon arrival (unless required by the host country).

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

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

PROCEDURE FOR SYMPTOMATIC AND/OR POSITIVE TEST

COVID-19 patients have experienced a wide range of symptoms—ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Those experiencing “emergency warning signs” (10) should get emergency medical care immediately. Those experiencing symptoms (11) should contact their health care provider and:

  • Isolate. Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected.  Isolation includes: staying home (12) and separating yourself from other people. (13)
  • 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. (14)
  • Clean daily all “high-touch” surfaces in your sick room. (15)

Participants who are symptomatic or test positive may be around others:

  • After ten days since symptoms first appeared, AND
  • After 24 hours with no fever (without using fever-reducing medications), AND
  • After 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.

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.

PROCEDURE FOR EXPOSED PARTICIPANTS

Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 must quarantine (16) unless they meet one of the following criteria:

  • They have been fully vaccinated within the last three months and show no symptoms of COVID-19
  • They have had the COVID-19 illness within the previous three months, have recovered and remain without COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath)

Quarantines may stop:

  • After day ten without testing, OR
  • After day seven when receiving a negative test result (test must occur on the fifth day of quarantine or later)

After stopping a ten-day quarantine, you should:

  • Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure
  • If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider
  • Wear a mask, stay at least six feet from others, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

BEFORE TRAVEL BACK TO THE UNITED STATES.

Unvaccinated & 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). (17)

Footnotes

  1. 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 until further notice. Exceptions will be considered by the SIT Risk Committee in rare instances when: a) COVID-19 case numbers in a particular location are deemed sufficiently low; b) the government has a strong contact tracing system in place; c) homestay layouts include single rooms (and ideally bath, too) that can serve as a quarantine location for students if required; and d) there are no medically “at risk” family members in the homestay.
  2. 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. 
  3. SIT defines “International Excursion” as a student educational trip planned and led by SIT outside of the host country.
  4. CDC and SIT requires that all participants wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. Until more is known, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and stay six feet apart from other people in other settings, like when they are in public or visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households. Masks must: a) have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric (gaiters must have two layers, or be folded to make two layers); b) completely cover one’s nose and mouth; c) fit snugly against the sides of one’s face and not have gaps; d) have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. Do not use these types of masks: a) fabric that makes it had to breathe (e.g. vinyl); b) masks with exhalation valves or vents (these masks allow virus particles to escape); c) masks that are intended for healthcare workers (e.g. N95 respirators); d) scarves, ski masks and balaclavas; e) face shields (evaluation is ongoing but effectiveness is unknown at this time).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Unvaccinated 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, making sure that the results will be communicated prior to their departure but within the allocated window of time prior to departure (generally 1-3 days). Note: The cost of the pre-departure viral PCR test is the unvaccinated student’s responsibility.
  8. Students who test positive for COVID-19 must not travel while infectious–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.
  9. As described by 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”.
  10. 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.
  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. 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. Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  13. 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. 
  14. 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.
  15. 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 if possible after the person who is sick has used the bathroom before coming in to clean and use the bathroom.
  16. 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.
  17. If a student tests positive, SIT will assist the student in finding room and board and will extend travel insurance coverage during the isolation period. Students will be 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.