COVID-19 Risk Management Protocols

CONTACT US

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

Call: 802.258.3366

INTRODUCTION

SIT has implemented the following health and safety protocols with the goal of reducing COVID-19 infection and the spread of the virus from one location to another. To achieve this goal, SIT adheres to host country entry regulations and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations. If host country entry regulations are more relaxed than CDC regulations, SIT defers to CDC regulations.

PROGRAM UPDATES

Responding to the dynamic risk horizon caused by COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, SIT continues to evaluate and amend many program elements to mitigate risk. These include:

1. Homestays

Homestays have always been an integral part the SIT experience. However, due to the elevated health risk posed by COVID-19, they were suspended in most SIT locations during the pandemic. We are optimistic that homestays will resume in more areas as vaccination rates continue to increase globally. Homestays are permitted with the following conditions:

  • Key COVID-19 indicators are not at elevated levels (e.g. case numbers, vaccination rate, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity)
  • Students participating in homestays are fully vaccinated.
  • To the extent possible, students will only be placed only in homestays where all eligible family members, as defined by host country law, are fully vaccinated. (Please note that homestay families may have children that are not eligible yet for vaccination.)

In countries where vaccines are not yet readily available but COVID-19 risk is low (based on key COVID-19 indicators being tracked), homestays with unvaccinated family members may be permitted.

Students will be informed about the vaccination status of their homestay family prior to placement.  In certain countries where SIT operates, there may be legal limitations to our ability to verify vaccination status.) If there are any unvaccinated family members who are eligible for the vaccine, or if we are not able to formally verify vaccination status, to the extent possible, students will be given the option of alternative accommodation if they are uncomfortable with the arrangement.

  • Homestay families will provide students with single rooms.

To the extent possible, in places where these conditions cannot be met or in locations where risk has increased after students have entered the homestay and the homestay is considered unsafe, SIT will utilize alternative accommodation such as hotels, guesthouses, apartments or other viable and safe options available in the program country.

2. International Excursions

SIT defines “international excursion” as a student educational trip planned and led by SIT outside of the program host country.

Due to the elevated health risk posed by COVID-19, international excursions were suspended in most SIT locations during the pandemic. However, as vaccination rates continue to increase globally, more countries are opening borders and easing entry requirements for international travelers.

SIT will resume international excursion opportunities under the following conditions:

  • Key COVID-19 indicators in the excursion country are not at elevated levels (e.g. case numbers, vaccination rate, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity). 
  • There are no prohibitive entry requirements for the excursion location (e.g. borders are open, testing is readily available, and there is not a long quarantine requirement).  
  • There are no prohibitive movement restrictions in place within the host country (e.g. limited mobility allowed that would prevent program activities from occurring).
  • Following the excursion, students will be required to obtain a viral PCR test 3-5 days after returning to the program host country (unless students have been tested within a day of departure from the international excursion country.)  SIT will arrange and pay for this test.

In places where these conditions cannot be met, SIT will replace the international excursion with in-country excursions that have similar learning outcomes.

3. Independent Travel

SIT defines “independent travel” as travel within the host country* that: a) occurs during the program’s defined enrollment period; b) is independently organized by a student; c) is unrelated to program activities; d) does not interfere with scheduled program activities; and e) involves an overnight stay.

*For purposes of this independent travel definition, the countries within the European Schengen zone are considered to be “within the host country.” If travel to another country within the Schengen zone is approved, students will be required to obtain a viral PCR test 3-5 days after returning to the program host country (unless students have been tested within a day of departure from the country to which they traveled.) Students must arrange and pay for the test.

For spring 2022, independent travel requests for in-country destinations (including travel to other countries within the European Schengen zone) will be considered under the following conditions, as consistent with the Independent Travel Policy

  • Submission of the independent travel request is consistent with the process steps detailed in the Independent Travel Policy so that a proper review can occur with the academic director and the Student Health, Safety & Well-being regional manager.
  • Students are vaccinated.
  • Key COVID-19 metrics being monitored by SIT are favorable in the region being visited.
  • There are no movement restrictions imposed by the host country government that would impede travel.

SIT reserves the right to deny or rescind approval for independent travel requests for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, including but not limited to: the location is deemed unsafe; the student is in poor academic standing; etc. If a student receives approval for independent travel and their travel is cancelled for any reason, SIT is not responsible for forfeited travel payments (e.g. cancelled flights, lodging, etc.).

4. Vaccinations

As part of our commitment to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of students, staff, and global host communities, SIT requires students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to the start of their program.  In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control, SIT considers students to be fully vaccinated once they have received a) the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g. both doses of a two-dose vaccine and one dose of a single-dose vaccine) and b) any COVID-19 booster dose(s).  Additional information about booster doses can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website.

SIT understands that there are legitimate reasons why students may not be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or may not be able to get a booster dose. We provide the opportunity to petition for an exemption to our vaccination requirement on the grounds of medical reasons, sincerely held religious beliefs, or vaccine/booster unavailability. Petitions will be reviewed by SIT’s Risk Assessment Committee as long as they do not present undue hardship and/or pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the requesting student or to other members of our programs.

Recognizing that COVID-19 vaccines may not be available in many global locations, SIT strongly encourages—but is not requiring at this time—all program faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

5. Masks

The CDC recommends wearing a well-fitted mask to help prevent severe illness and reduce the potential for strain on healthcare systems. SIT requires all participants, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask anywhere required by host-country laws or in locations where SIT staff and partners on the ground determine it is necessary to mask based on conditions at the time.

SIT recognizes that COVID-19 prevalence varies from one location to another and conditions, while improved in many places, are still very fluid.  SIT will outline the masking protocols for each location in the location-specific risk management plans developed prior to each term and will adjust protocols at any point if local government regulations change or conditions warrant it.

6. Tests & Quarantine

The following testing protocols are based on CDC guidelines.

Before Departure to Host Country

  • Unvaccinated students must take a viral PCR test 1-3 days prior to departure, or in some cases prior to arrival (based on the specific requirements of the host country). Students who test negative should present the test result to airport officials. Students who test positive may not travel.
  • Vaccinated students do not need to obtain a viral PCR test prior to departure (unless required by the host country or when SIT deems it necessary).

Upon Arrival to Host Country

  • Unvaccinated students must quarantine after arrival for 7 days with receipt of a negative test (taken between day 3-5 of quarantine) OR must quarantine for 10 days if no test is administered. Quarantine requires remaining in a specific room separate from other non-exposed people.
  • Vaccinated students do not need to quarantine upon arrival (unless required by the host country or when SIT deems it necessary).
  • Both unvaccinated & vaccinated students must obtain a viral PCR test 3-5 days after arrival. SIT will arrange and pay for this test.

Please note that certain host countries may have additional testing requirements that are not detailed here, such as testing immediately upon arrival or pre-departure testing for all travelers regardless of vaccination status. In these instances, students are expected to pay for the testing required by host countries.

7. Transportation

Traveling on public transportation, including planes, increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 as it puts travelers in close contact with each other, often for prolonged periods of time, and exposes them to frequently touched surfaces. While the CDC no longer requires wearing masks on public transport, SIT strongly encourages students to mask while on planes and any form of public transport in their host country, regardless of local masking protocols, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help protect the local communities in which students are immersed abroad.

Some SIT programs may organize private transport, such as vans or buses, for student groups to travel between program activities. In turn, SIT staff and partners on the ground will determine if it is necessary for students to mask based on local conditions at the time.

COVID RESPONSE PROTOCOL

Quarantine guidelines should be followed when an individual may have been exposed to the virus and may or may not have been infected.

Isolation guidelines should be followed when an individual is sick or when that person has been infected with the virus, even if they are non-symptomatic.

1. Exposure

a. Who does not need to quarantine. Students 18 years or older who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters (or have tested positive for COVID-19 through a viral test within the previous 90 days and subsequently recovered and remain non-symptomatic). However, students should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the “date of last close contact” (the date of last close contact is considered day 0) and should get tested at least five days after the date of last close contact. In turn, if students test positive or develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should follow the recommendations in the Isolation section below.

b. Who should quarantine. Students 18 years or older who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should quarantine if they are in one of the following groups:

  • Have completed the primary series of recommended vaccine, but have not received a recommended booster shot.
  • Have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (completing the primary series for J&J vaccines) over two months ago, but have not received a recommended booster shot.
  • Are unvaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.

c. What to do for quarantine. Stay inside housing accommodations and away from other people for at least five full days (day 0 through day 5) after the date of last close contact. The date of last close contact is considered day 0. Students should also:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home.
  • For 10 days after the date of last close contact watch for fever (100.4 degrees F or greater) and other COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If symptoms develop, get tested immediately and isolate (see below) until test results are returned. If the test result is positive, continue to follow isolation recommendations. If negative, students can leave housing accommodations, but should continue masking when around others at home and in public until 10 days after the date of last close contact.
  • If symptoms do not develop, get tested at least five days after the date of last close contact.

2. Positive Test or Symptomatic

If a person tests positive and/or is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, SIT follows these CDC guidelines:

a. Isolate. Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected. Isolation means staying home in a specific room and separating from other people for at least five full days (day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the date of the positive viral test for non-symptomatic individuals). Those in isolation should:

  • Monitor their symptoms. If students have an emergency warning sign, they should seek emergency medical care immediately.
  • Remain in contact with their health care provider
  • Stay in a separate room from other household members and use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Take steps to improve ventilation at home, if possible.
  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when around other people.
  • Take care of themselves (e.g. rest and stay hydrated).

b. Contact Trace. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting one’s close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID, they are helping to protect everyone. The CDC defines close contact as someone who was within 6 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.

c. Ending Isolation. People who had COVID-19 and were symptomatic may be around others after: a) five full days of isolation (day 0 is the first day symptoms appeared), and b) 24 hours with no fever (without using fever-reducing medications), and c) other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. These individuals should continue to mask around others at home and in public until day 10 (day 6 through day 10).

  • If an individual who was symptomatic would like to test prior to ending isolation, the best approach is to use an antigen test toward the end of day 5. Obtain a test only if fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved. If the test result is positive, the person must continue to isolate until day 10. If negative, end isolation, but continue to mask around others at home and in public until day 10.

People who had COVID-19 but were non-symptomatic—and continue to have no symptoms—may be around others after five full days of isolation (day 0 is the date the test was conducted). However, these individuals should continue to mask around others at home and in public until day 10 (day 6 through day 10). Furthermore, if symptoms develop after testing positive, the five-day isolation period should start over (day 0 would be the first day of symptoms).

  • If an individual who was non-symptomatic would like to test prior to ending isolation, the best approach is to use an antigen test toward the end of day 5. If the test result is positive, continue to isolate until day 10. If negative, end isolation, but continue to mask around others at home and in public until day 10.

BEFORE DEPARTING THE PROGRAM

While there is no longer a requirement for travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery in order to enter the U.S., we encourage students who are returning to other countries to confirm the testing requirements for that country. In the event that a student tests positive for COVID at the end of their program and is not able to return home as planned, SIT will assist the student in finding room and board and will extend iSOS insurance coverage during the student’s isolation period. The iSOS insurance policy offers specific coverage that can assist students with some of the housing, meal, and airfare costs associated with quarantine. Please refer to SIT’s student insurance webpage for more details.