Safer at Home: Higher Education








  • The institution must notify and cooperate with their local public health agency on next steps.

  • Local public health agency contacts can be found here.

  • Outbreak guidance for non-healthcare facilities can be found here.

Institutes of Higher Education may use the Indoor Event guidance to establish their capacity. Remote learning is still encouraged.


  • Ensure 6-foot distance between all students, faculty, and staff wherever possible

  • Limit, wherever possible, the sharing of equipment and other resources

  • Ensure classes allow for appropriate physical distancing

  • Restrict group gatherings outside of classes, social or otherwise, unless pre-approved  

  • Conduct increased cleaning of campus spaces in accordance with CDPHE guidance  (Additional Guidance)

  • Ensure ventilation of classroom and office spaces meets OSHA guidance 

  • Post signage for staff and students on hygiene and safety measures

  • Develop heightened procedures to maintain cleanliness of any on-campus housing and to stagger access to shared areas (consider leveraging existing RA programs)

  • Increase capacity of campus health facilities and personal protective equipment

  • Develop protocols for how to treat symptomatic students including guidance on how to self-isolate and self-quarantine, whether to leave campus to return home, depending on travel requirements, etc.

  • Recreational services remain closed.

  • Ancillary student services including bookstores, other retail and food, maintenance, etc. to follow relevant industry guidelines


  • Conduct daily temperature checks and monitor symptoms in employees and refer symptomatic employees to the Colorado COVID Symptom Support tool. (Additional Guidance)

    • Best practice is to implement a temperature check station at the entrance. If this is not feasible, employee will check for symptoms at home and report symptoms either electronically or on paper per the system created by the business.

  • Require use of face coverings or masks whenever possible.

  • Require frequent handwashing upon arrival, departure and throughout the day, and have hand sanitizer available in public areas

  • Require faculty and staff to stay home if showing any symptoms or signs of sickness

  • Encourage all employees not critical to in-person operations or not classified as essential employees to continue working from home / remotely

  • Limit non-essential travel for faculty and staff and implement 14-day self-quarantine measures when travel does occur

To protect students/visitors

  • Restrict all non-essential visitors.

  • Conduct symptom checks for any essential visitors who will interact with students.

  • Provide clear communications on COVID-19 symptoms and implement social contracts with students to acknowledge that they are symptom-free if on campus.

  • Update student Codes of Conduct to influence responsible on- and off-campus behavior.

  • Leverage all student communication channels to educate and reinforce responsible behaviors.

  • Require students showing symptoms to report symptoms to campus health for instruction on next steps.

  • Face coverings are required to be worn in all public indoor spaces, as well as outdoors when 6 foot distancing cannot be maintained.

  • For students who require on-campus housing, limit to one student per room, if possible.

  • Restrict all study-abroad programs and limit non-essential travel during scheduled breaks.

  • Monitor student self-quarantine after essential travel or potential exposure.

  • Ensure physical distancing in common areas.

  • Maintain neat and detailed attendance records and visitor logs to enable contact tracing (if ever needed).

This guidance is for:
  • 2- and 4-year institutions, both public and private 

  • Private religious institutions authorized by the CDHE

  • Private occupational schools 

  • Postsecondary career and technical education programs

Frequently asked questions

COVID-19 exposure and close contacts

“Exposure” consists of having had “close contact” with someone who has confirmed or probable COVID-19 during the period when that person is likely to be contagious. 

Individuals with COVID-19 and symptoms are considered contagious for two days before symptoms start until 10 days after symptoms started. Individuals who are suffering from severe symptoms or who are immunocompromised should consult their medical provider to determine if they may be contagious for longer. 

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, but have not had symptoms, are considered contagious for 2 days before the test was collected and for 10 days afterward, unless they develop symptoms later. 

“Close contact” is typically defined as one of the following:

  • Being within 6 feet of someone who has a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes total, even if that time is made up of numerous shorter intervals.
  • Providing care for someone who has a COVID-19 infection without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Having direct physical contact with someone who has a COVID-19 infection.
  • Sharing eating or drinking utensils with someone who has a COVID-19 infection.
  • Being exposed to the respiratory droplets of someone who is sick with COVID-19 (through sneezing, coughing, shouting, etc.).

Exposure of students in the same classroom with someone who has COVID-19 infection is determined based on a number of factors, including the classroom environment, the social distancing protocols in the classroom, the size and ventilation of the classroom, and the sanitation protocols used in the classroom. 

Because class sessions typically last much longer than 15 minutes and may involve different activities and configurations, prolonged contact even at distances greater than 6 feet may make someone a “close contact.” Local public health agencies, in concert with institutions, will conduct a case investigation to determine what information and directions individuals in the impacted class should be provided. In addition contact tracing will be initiated by the appropriate local health department. 

In addition, depending on the environment and types of person-to-person interactions, high-risk "close contact" exposures can occur in fewer than 15 minutes; for example, with activities like coughing, sneezing, singing or vigorous indoor exertion which are known to increase the risk of disease spread.

In some cases the whole classroom may have to quarantine, but not in all cases. Each case will be evaluated individually by local health officials, who will advise institutions as to the appropriate course of action. Local public health agencies, in concert with institutions, will conduct case investigations to aid in defining the appropriate response. 

Anyone who has close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 or new symptoms of COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days from the date they were last with that person. People required to quarantine will be contacted by public health in collaboration with the higher ed institution.

Masks and social distancing

Masking and maintaining physical distancing reduces the risk of the disease spreading. However, because no single measure is 100% protective from disease spread, people can still get COVID-19 even if they are 6 feet apart and wearing a mask. Therefore, adherence to these guidelines does not eliminate the need to quarantine based on other factors. The local public health agency will work with the institution to determine the most appropriate course of action based on the setting. Close contacts of people with COVID-19 still must quarantine for 14 days.

Faculty, staff, and students who are not engaged in industrial or health care activities should wear a cloth face covering or mask that covers both the nose and mouth. These can either be purchased or made by individuals for their own use. Instructions are available on the CDC website.


Tests are a critical tool that should be considered alongside other tools. Like all testing, COVID-19 tests can produce both false negative and false positive results. People can have COVID-19 and receive a negative test result if they get tested soon after the start of their infection. Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine even if they have a negative test. 

Testing by itself cannot “clear” students, teachers, or staff. Individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 may test negative initially, but later develop symptoms and be contagious. With ongoing community spread in Colorado and elsewhere in the United States, an individual who tests negative initially could also later become infected with the virus. Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine even if they have a negative test.

In most circumstances, CDPHE does not recommend routine testing of healthy students, faculty, or staff. Testing should only occur 7 days after a person is exposed to a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 or if they develop symptoms.

Types of tests:

  • RT-PCR/nucleic acid tests: These are the primary types of tests used to confirm current COVID-19 infection. These tests are considered the most reliable, but they take longer to analyze -- it could take several days to get results. 
  • Antigen tests: These tests also can be used to confirm a COVID-19 infection, but can produce a false negative in some cases. The results of antigen tests may be available in under an hour. Health care providers may want to conduct a RT-PCR/nucleic acid test to confirm the results of a negative antigen test.
  • Antibody (serological) tests: These tests can detect the presence of antibodies, which might show evidence of a current or past COVID-19 infection. These tests currently cannot determine if the person is still contagious or if they are immune to COVID-19. Do not use antibody tests to prove immunity, clear employees to work, or make decisions about grouping people in congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities.

CDPHE does not recommend re-testing people who have already been confirmed to have COVID-19 for at least 90 days, except in rare circumstances in discussion with public health or a provider. 

Closures and online learning

Institutions should work closely with local public health agencies to determine the best course of action if one or more cases of COVID-19 are detected in a classroom. A classroom may be advised to temporarily move to online learning if an outbreak is detected and may elect to implement online learning if a large number of students or instructors are unable to attend in-person classes.

The extent of a closure will depend on numerous factors. Work with the local public health agency to determine the best course of action.