Skip To Content Skip To Menu Skip To Footer

COVID-19 Terminology and Definitions

These definitions align with those established by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Dickinson College Health & Safety Committee.

Close Contact

The CDC currently defines a 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 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.” This is regardless of the use of face coverings. A close contact also includes being directly exposed to respiratory secretions (e.g., cough or sneeze).

Contact Tracing

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 requires alerting anyone who may have been exposed to it. Any Dickinsonian who tests positive for COVID-19 will be asked to provide a list of their close contacts (see above) within the past 48 hours. Every attempt will be made to contact those individuals, ascertain their health status, and explain our quarantine protocols. The identity of the individual who is symptomatic will not be disclosed to close contacts.

Face Covering / Mask

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid potential exposure. You will be expected to wear a face covering when in shared spaces on campus and/or within 6 feet of others. This combined with other recommended practices such as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, health monitoring and good hygiene practices (e.g., cover coughs and sneezes, clean frequently touched surfaces, etc.) help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

All individuals are required to wear a face covering to comply with CDC recommendations and Pennsylvania Department of Health requirements. Respiratory droplets are currently understood to be a primary agent of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spread. Current guidance suggests that, when within 6 feet of others, complete and continuous covering of both your nose and mouth with a breathable cloth barrier helps reduce the spread of these respiratory droplets. As a result, the college has provided a reusable cloth mask to all students, faculty and staff to aid in this endeavor. Those on campus may also wear their own face covering; however, it must meet certain standards.

All face coverings must:

  • be made with at least two layers of breathable material,
  • fully cover the nose and mouth and secure fully under the chin,
  • fit snugly but comfortably around the sides of the face, and
  • be secured with ties or ear loops, allowing one to remain hands-free.

Household / Pod

Students will live in apartments, houses, in rooms on floors of residence halls, or in rooms on wings of floors within residence halls with other students in what is referred to as a “household” or “pod.” Students within a pod typically share bathrooms and common space. Students living together in pods are much like a household or family. There will be opportunities to interact with more freedoms within pods, and students must consider their actions outside of their residential space in ways that protect their pod. Much like families leave the home to go to work or school and return home each day, pods must respect the freedoms allowed by making good decisions, remembering that they will come home to their pod each day and are accountable for the health and safety of their pod. Also, like families, students would quarantine together in their pod if one of their pod members were to be relocated due to testing positive for COVID-19.


The separation of those who have COVID-19 symptoms and/or have tested positive for COVID-19. Students who need to isolate will be relocated to alternative housing. Isolation is required until fever-free for 24 hours, improvement in all other symptoms, and 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms (20 days for individuals with severe/critical illness or who are severely immunocompromised). If asymptomatic, isolation is required until 10 days have passed since the positive test result.                                                         

Students in isolation will need to remain in their residential space. Residence Life and Housing will provide such students with food and assistance, as needed, and the Wellness Center will have daily check-ins.

Comprehensive information on Dickinson’s isolation and quarantine protocols can be found in the Exposure Management Quarantine and Isolation Plan.


See “Household / Pod”


The separation of those who are not symptomatic but who were in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The quarantine period is currently 10 days since the date of exposure (although in some cases this can be shortened to 7 days with additional testing).

Students in quarantine will have their card access deactivated, as they will need to remain in their residential space, not go to class or the dining areas (food will be delivered), and physically distance from each other as much as possible.

Students instructed by the Wellness Center to quarantine will be provided guidance about doing so. Roommates and other close contacts of a student who has tested positive will be relocated to a quarantine housing assignment. Pod members of a student who tested positive will need to quarantine but will be allowed to do so together in their current location as long as all pod members have a similar level of exposure to the student who has tested positive. Any student who prefers to be moved to a quarantine housing assignment in a separate location will be allowed to do so as long as there is space available.

Comprehensive information on Dickinson’s isolation and quarantine protocols can be found in the Exposure Management Quarantine and Isolation Plan.

Screening Testing

All Dickinson students will be tested twice a week using a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test supplied by The Broad Institute. It is critical that students sign up for a regular testing time slot at move-in and arrive for testing as scheduled. In addition, with approval from supervisors, employees who meet the following criteria will be tested weekly throughout the semester:

  • Routinely work on campus
  • Job requires regular contact with students, children, other employees and/or the public without the continuous use of a physical barrier (i.e., plexiglass)

Those being tested can access the results of their tests via the LabPass website. Test results typically arrive at The Broad Institute the next day and results are available 24-48 hours from when they are received.

For more information about Dickinson’s screening testing program, please click here.

Social Distancing / Physical Distancing

Maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others. This is expected of all Dickinsonians when around others who are not part of your household or pod.

“Stay at Home”

Students arriving to campus for the spring semester, students who have lived on campus and are relocating to a new space, and/or students who will be living with new roommates will be asked to restrict their movement or “stay at home” for a period of time after arrival. This is in response to the governor of Pennsylvania’s recommendation that those who travel from certain states need to stay at home.

Dickinson’s “Stay at Home” for residential students means the following:

  • Students will be able to remain on campus and within their pods.
  • Students will be able to attend to tasks on campus (e.g., picking up food, picking up books, picking up mail and packages, etc.), attend in-person medical appointments, attend in-person classes (held at the faculty member’s discretion).
  • Students may spend time outdoors while on campus as long as safety guidelines are followed, which include wearing a face covering if they are within 6 feet from individuals with whom they do not reside (i.e., members of their pod).

Students arriving for a January 25 start on campus start will have to “stay at home” through the morning of Monday, February 1. Students arriving for a February 8 start on campus (and students who have new members joining their pod) will have to “stay at home” through the morning of Monday, February 15 (after having a negative COVID-19 test on the previous Thursday or Friday). Students arriving for the second half of the semester (and students who have new members joining their pod) will “stay at home” through the morning of Monday, March 29 (after having a negative COVID-19 test on the previous Thursday or Friday).

If students require additional necessities from off campus (e.g., groceries and/or over-the-counter health supplies/medication) during the stay at home period, they can purchase these online from local stores and the college can arrange to have them picked up and delivered via the safety shuttle at predetermined times.