Communicable Disease Emergencies
Communicable Disease Emergencies
May 1, 2020; August 20, 2021 (Revision);
Next Review Date:
Durham Technical Community College is committed to maintaining environmentally healthy and safe surroundings for students, employees, and the entire College community. The College adheres to local, State, and Federal requirements and operates in accordance with these requirements and recommendations from public health officials during communicable disease emergencies.
The purpose of this policy is to outline Durham Technical Community College’s instructional and operational response to communicable disease emergencies, including pandemics. Due to the unpredictable nature of such emergencies, this policy may not address every eventuality; the President and their designees reserve the right to take alternative and additional action at their discretion in accordance with the Presidential Authority During Emergencies and Adverse Conditions policy and with approval from the Board of Trustees, if warranted.
Declaration of a Communicable Disease Emergency
The State Health Director and the Governor have authority to declare a public health emergency. In the case of a communicable disease emergency, the Governor has broad powers to issue an emergency order to protect the public health.
The College is responsible for monitoring and communicating guidance from local and State officials, including the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS).
In the absence of an order from the Governor, the President or their designees may consult with local or State public health officials to determine the severity of the situation and what actions shall be taken, including the closure of the College. Under N.C.G.S. 130A-145, the public health authority rests with the State Health Director and the local Health Director. The College will adhere to any communicable disease orders of the State or local public health agencies to prevent transmission of a communicable disease and will provide any supplies deemed necessary to protect students and employees. The College will also provide protective supplies to employees whose work assignments require such supplies.
Students and employees are responsible for the following:
- Adhering to the College’s operational protocols in response to the communicable disease emergency; and
- Communicating to the College any evidence of a communicable disease that could seriously endanger the health of others. Once notified, the Public Health Officer, Safety Compliance Officer, or Chief/Director of Campus Police and Public Safety will immediately notify the appropriate health department in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Possible Actions During a Communicable Disease Emergency
In the case of a communicable disease or other public health emergency, the College may modify its instructional methods and operations. Examples of such modifications include temporary suspension of courses, transitioning to online instruction, and implementation of temporary teleworking plans. Such emergency modifications will be communicated via student and employee communication platforms and the College’s website.
College Closure and Campus Access Restrictions
The State Health Director and the Governor have authority to declare a public health emergency. In the case of a public health emergency, the Governor has broad powers to issue an emergency order to protect public health. Under N.C.G.S. 166A-19.30(b)(3), the Governor may close all schools, community colleges, universities, childcare centers, and adult daycare facilities; and order that no public events be held where large numbers of people are gathered in one physical location. The Governor may also cease all non-mandatory State services and order mandatory services to remain operational.
When the College is closed due to a communicable disease emergency, employee access is limited to essential and/or critical personnel unless prior authorization is granted. During a communicable disease emergency, students and employees should refer to the appropriate College response web page and corresponding resources for information on campus access, requirements, and protocols. The College may change these protocols as needed to reflect the changing nature of the emergency through the recovery period.
Students and employees must comply with all on-campus safety protocols, which are guided by Federal, State, and local decisions. Non-compliance with safety protocols will result in disciplinary action in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and the employee Disciplinary Actions, Suspension, and Termination of Employment policy, respectively.
Vaccination and Testing Requirements
Durham Tech employees (full-time, part-time, temporary, contractual, and work-study students), contractors, volunteers, and other individuals working on College premises, will be required to submit proof of vaccination or proof of weekly testing, regardless of role or on-campus work location. Barring an acceptable exemption, refusal to comply with this requirement will result in disciplinary action in accordance with the Disciplinary Actions, Suspension, and Termination of Employment policy. Please note the following:
- Adjunct instructors who solely work remotely are not required to submit proof of vaccination or weekly testing.
- Students employed by Durham Tech are considered College employees. Students employed under the work-study program are considered College employees if the work performed is for the College. For work performed for any public or private agency, students are also considered College employees unless the agreement between the College and the organization specifies that the organization is considered the employer. Students considered College employees are subject to the vaccination and testing requirements outlined here.
- Individuals in roles that involve partnerships with external settings or organizations that are required to adhere to public health and safety laws and regulations may be subject to additional requirements.
- Finalists for employment will be notified of the College’s vaccine and testing requirements via the offer letter, and Human Resources will discuss the requirements with new employees during the onboarding process. Volunteers and other individuals working on College premises will be notified of the requirements during their initial discussion with their College point-of-contact.
- Document Submission – Refer to the Proof of Vaccination/Testing Upload Instructions (PDF) for guidance on using Medicat, a HIPAA compliant EHR (Electronic Health Records) service. Documents will be reviewed by the Public Health Officer or their designee, and records will be maintained in accordance with the Records Retention and Disposition policy.
Vaccinated employees, contactors, volunteers, and others working on College premises must submit a copy of their vaccination card via Medicat within ten working days of official notification from the College that proof of vaccination or proof of weekly testing is required. The official notification will be delivered via a College-wide email from the Public Health Officer or the Vice President, Chief Campus Operations Officer and will be published to the College’s website.
Unvaccinated employees, contactors, volunteers, and others working on College premises must submit proof of their negative test via Medicat within ten working days of official notification from the College that proof of vaccination or proof of weekly testing is required. The official notification will be delivered via a College-wide email from the Public Health Officer or the Vice President, Chief Campus Operations Officer and will be published to the College’s website. Thereafter, unvaccinated individuals must submit proof of their weekly negative test within three working days of the test. If extenuating circumstances arise that prevent individuals from meeting this deadline, they must contact the Public Health Officer immediately. Individuals who miss more than two cycles of testing will be subject to disciplinary action.
Exemptions – The College recognizes that employees contactors, volunteers, and others working on College premises may have medical or religious reasons for not complying with vaccination requirements. Individuals may submit an exemption request in accordance with the guidelines below.
Please Note: Individuals who are not vaccinated must submit proof of weekly testing even if they have submitted an exemption request, and the testing requirement will remain even if the exemption request is approved.
Medical Exemption – Individuals who wish to request a medical exemption must submit a vaccination exemption request form and any supporting documentation via Medicat within ten working days of the College’s official notification that vaccinations or weekly testing are required. Please Note: The College reserves the right to request additional supporting documentation.
Religious Exemption – Individuals who wish to request a religious exemption must submit a vaccination exemption request form and any supporting documentation via Medicat within ten working days of the College’s official notification that vaccinations or weekly testing are required. Please Note: The College reserves the right to request additional supporting documentation.
Exemption requests will be reviewed by the Public Health Officer or their designee. The Public Health Officer or their designee will notify the requestor, Human Resources, and the Equity Compliance Officer of their determination in writing within ten working days of receipt of the request. If the request is denied, the requestor must comply with the vaccination or testing requirement within ten working days of notification; otherwise, they will be subject to disciplinary action. The Public Health Officer’s decision is final and not subject to appeal; however, individuals may submit a new exemption request if they can provide new or additional documentation to support their request.
Prohibition on Providing False Information – Durham Tech places great importance on the integrity of its policies and procedures. The intentional provision of false information can cause irreparable harm to the College community. Accordingly, any individual who knowingly submits false vaccination, testing, or exemption information or intentionally misleads College officials will be subject to disciplinary action. Furthermore, the College reserves to report any related violations of state and/or federal law.
Policy and Procedure Modifications
During communicable disease emergencies and other adverse conditions when normal operations are suspended, the College will implement a modified policy and procedure development process. The College also reserves the right to take the following actions:
- Allow official College communications during the emergency to supersede any policy or procedure language if there is a conflict between the two;
- Suspend existing policies and procedures when necessary to address emergent instructional and operational modifications;
- Modify or suspend the standard policy and procedure development process when such modification or suspension is necessary to respond to the emergency in a timely manner;
- Codify new policies and procedures or revisions to existing policies and procedures when such action is necessary to reflect and address critical response efforts; and
- Defer to the President’s authority to adopt temporary policies or to amend or suspend existing policies for the duration of the emergent event.
Reporting Communicable Disease Cases
Under N.C.G.S. 130A-135 through 130A-139, the College must report cases or suspected cases to the local health department, which in turn reports this information to the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
Students or employees who know or suspect that a member of the College community has a communicable disease should immediately contact the Public Health Officer. Refer to the North Carolina Division of Public Health Communicable Disease Manual for a listing of reportable communicable diseases.
For more information about Communicable Disease Surveillance and Reporting, consult the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Internal and External Communications
During communicable disease emergencies, the College will notify students and employees of critical response updates and resources via student and employee communication platforms, the College’s website, social media, and local media. Internal communications will be coordinated by the Critical Response Team. External (public-facing) communications will be coordinated by Marketing and Communications in collaboration with the Critical Response Team.
College Premises – Any property in use by the College including property that is leased, owned, used for College functions, or used by the College in the offering of any of its courses
Communicable Disease Emergencies – Circumstances caused by biological agents, including organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or toxins, with the potential for significant illness or death in the population
Contractors – For the purposes of this policy: individuals employed by an organization/company other than Durham Tech who are contracted to work on College premises. During the course of their work, these individuals (e.g., day porters and housekeeping staff) will, or may, come into direct contact with other members of the College community and are therefore subject to the vaccination and testing requirements outlined in this policy.
Contractual Employees – For the purposes of this policy: contractual employees are individuals employed by Durham Tech on a contractual basis.
Although otherwise considered contractors, the following individuals are not subject to the College’s vaccination and testing requirements: (1) individuals contracted to assist in an emergency capacity, (2) individuals contracted to address urgent maintenance issues (e.g., plumbing and HVAC repairs); and (3) individuals whose contracted work does not bring them into direct contact with members of the College community for extended periods of time.
Critical Personnel – Employees who, regardless of category, are critical for operations during states of emergency. Critical personnel shall be notified in advance of their critical status via their job description or direct communication from their supervisor or division head. Employees who are considered critical employees include but are not limited to select administrative officers, Campus Police and Public Safety officers, select Facility Services personnel, the Public Health Officer, and the Safety Compliance Officer.
Essential Personnel – Employees who, regardless of category, are necessary for operations during states of emergency. Essential personnel shall be notified in advance of their essential status via their job description or direct communication from their supervisor or division head. Employees who are considered essential employees include but are not limited to administrative officers, Campus Police and Public Safety officers, Facility Services personnel, the Public Health Officer, and the Safety Compliance Officer.
Official College Communications – For the purposes of this policy, “official College communications” refers to electronic communications sent via ConnectMail, employee email, and the College’s website.
Pandemic – The worldwide outbreak of a serious communicable disease in numbers clearly in excess of normal
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection
Volunteers and Other Individuals Working on College Premises – For the purposes of this policy: individuals who work on College premises in a voluntary or visiting capacity whose work or campus location places them, or may place them, into direct contact with other members of the College community. Due to their proximity, or potential proximity to others, volunteers and other individuals working on College premises are subject to the vaccination and testing requirements outlined in this policy.
Working Days – Days when the College is open and operating under a normal schedule. This excludes weekends, closings due to adverse conditions, and holidays.