Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines

At the time of this writing, a public health emergency necessitates the below guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine. The goal of the Allegheny College Health Agency is to ensure the highest likelihood of safety for all community members. To support this goal, the COVID-19 medical team—in consultation with and with the full support of President Hilary Link and the President’s Cabinet—reserves the right to tailor isolation and quarantine decisions based on individual circumstances.

(Updated: 03/05/21)


Isolation is initiated immediately after a positive COVID-19 test, regardless of whether that test is PCR or antigen, on campus or off campus. Persons who test COVID-19 positive must immediately go into isolation off campus, either at the College-arranged location or at their home. There is a quiet room at the on-campus testing center where those who test positive can gather their thoughts, call family, and make appropriate arrangements.

Quarantine is initiated immediately after contact tracing and must be started within two hours of ACHA notification of a positive COVID-19 test result. ACHA has a team of eight contact tracers on call, all of whom have received the Johns Hopkins Certificate in Contact Tracing (available on Coursera).

COVID-19 Vaccine: per CDC recommendations, vaccinated people with an exposure to someone with COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

Asymptomatic COVID-19 positive persons may return to campus 10 days after their test date, pending a medical evaluation by the COVID-19 medical team to confirm their asymptomatic status.

Symptomatic COVID-19 positive persons may return to campus 10 days since symptoms appeared AND 24 hours with no fever AND as long as other COVID symptoms are improving, again to be confirmed by the COVID-19 medical team.

Close contacts of COVID-19 positive persons are quarantined for 14 days after their last contact with the person who has COVID. There is no option to shorten quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test. We adopted these guidelines from the CDC guidelines for Institutes of Higher Education, which are different from the CDC guidelines for the general population.

Close contacts include those who were within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more (the 15 minutes is cumulative over 24 hours); hugged or kissed; shared eating or drinking utensils; sneezed, coughed, or otherwise got respiratory droplets on each other.

Retest: Persons who receive a positive COVID-19 PCR test will not be retested. Persons who receive a positive COVID-19 antigen test on Allegheny College campus will reflexively receive a follow-up PCR test. They will be required to isolate and their close contacts will quarantine until those PCR results are available (usually two to four business days).

Length of Isolation and Quarantine: the reason that both isolation and quarantine are longer for the close contact than for the COVID-19 positive person is because of the course of infectiousness:

  • Days 0–4 — person is infected but does not always shed enough virus to make a test positive.
  • Days 5–14 — person sheds virus and will likely have a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Day 15+ — person is done shedding virus and is no longer contagious, even if still symptomatic.

Therefore, the COVID-19 positive person is already on day 5–15+ when they get tested, so they need to isolate for only 10 more days until they are no longer contagious.

Unfortunately, the close contact is only on day 0–4, so they have a full 14 days in quarantine.