Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is a foundational pillar of our COVID-19 response, allowing us to stop the halt of infection by isolating those who have tested positive, quarantining those who have been identified as close contacts, and notifying some other members of the community to self-monitor for symptoms. The key to effective contact tracing is quick reporting, investigation, and notification, which requires the participation of all members of the community.

It is important that everyone at the college support students who have to isolate or quarantine through what is unavoidably a very stressful time and a disruption to their educational experience. By working with students concerned with missing class content and assignments, you will help prioritize their health and the health of our community. As a reminder, students or employees who are symptomatic – whether with confirmed COVID or symptoms that could be something else – should be guided to stay home, get tested if they have not yet done so, and get well.

Since early March 2020, Columbia has had a protocol for members of the campus community to inform Campus Safety and Security if they have tested positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms, or have come in close contact with someone who is sick or is experiencing symptoms.

Campus Safety and Security personnel has undergone the Johns Hopkins contact tracing training, and also relies on a protocol developed by the Chicago Department of Public Health to identify and inform members of the campus community who may have been exposed to individuals who meet the above criteria, and to determine if other members of the community need to be notified that they may need to take precautions as a result of a contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, has been diagnosed or has tested positive.

We continue to support public health authorities and provide appropriate assistance with contact tracing.

How Close Contacts are Identified
If an individual reports to the College they have tested positive for COVID-19, contact tracers will work with the positive individual to identify their potential close contacts and those individuals will be contacted for notification and guidance.

If you are an identified case, a Contact Tracer will send an email with a survey link attached that must be filled out within 24 hours. If the Contact Tracing Unit doesn’t receive a response within 24 hours, your Columbia ID will be deactivated.

Close contacts who do not have symptoms

  • Close contacts who do not have symptoms must wear a mask for 10 days, but no longer have to quarantine for the first 5 days even if they are unvaccinated or unboosted. They are still required to get tested.
  • If you are a close contact, you have to test either via a PCR test at Day 6 (where the day of close contact counts as Day Zero), or test negative three times on a rapid antigen/home test: The first time on the day you find out you were a close contact, the second time 48 hours after and the third time 48 hours after the second test. You should wear a mask at all times for the full 10 days even if you test negative.
  • You must report that you are a close contact to the college.

What to do if you have symptoms

  • Anyone with symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 must get tested and isolate pending test results.
  • People with symptoms may take one PCR test or may use two rapid antigen/home tests 48 hours apart as an alternative to a PCR test to rule out COVID-19.
  • If using rapid antigen/home tests, you must test negative at least twice 48 hours apart on a rapid antigen/home test if you have symptoms. That means you must test when symptoms appear and, if negative, confirm your negative status with a second rapid antigen/home test 48 hours later.
  • You must isolate while waiting for the result of the PCR or the result of the second rapid antigen/home test.
  • Even after a negative test, if you still have symptoms, you should continue to wear a mask until symptoms resolve; while you may not have COVID-19, you may still be infectious to others with your cold or other illness.
  • If positive, you must report your case to the college

To make an appointment at the CareATC testing center at 618 S. Michigan, call 844-766-3775; the phone line is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. In the event that you are sick with COVID-19, employees should contact; students should email,, and as soon as possible. 

Notification Requirements
You are required to notify Campus Security at,, and the Student Health Center at (students only) if you are a campus community member who:

  • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Is waiting for test results because you are experiencing symptoms and currently self-isolating.
  • Recently had close contact with a diagnosed case of COVID-19.