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Updates on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Northeastern University is closely tracking the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and university leaders are making contingency plans and decisions in accordance with global public health authorities.

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Monitoring Health and Accessing Care

Learn more about COVID-19, its symptoms, and available resources on how to keep yourself healthy.

What is coronavirus, and what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 infection typically develop respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

 

How does COVID-19 spread?

It is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person who, for example, coughs or sneezes. It is important that everyone practice good respiratory hygiene. For example, sneeze or cough into a flexed elbow, or use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin. It is also very important for people to wash their hands regularly with either alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water.

It is still not known how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, although preliminary information suggests the virus may survive a few hours. Simple disinfectants can kill the virus making it no longer possible to infect people.

What can I do to decrease my chances of getting infected?

Practice good respiratory hygiene. Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently. Avoid touching your face, including your nose and mouth. Avoid people who are sick, and cover your cough with a tissue. Disinfect commonly used surfaces frequently.

Do not share drinking glasses, bottles, utensils, makeup, toothbrushes, vaping or other smoking devices, boxes of food, finger-foods, or anything else that could carry the virus from one person to another.

What should I do if I observe a friend or colleague showing respiratory symptoms?

Remember that the likelihood of symptoms such as sneezing and coughing being associated with COVID-19 is extremely low. It is more likely that the person showing those symptoms has the common cold or perhaps the flu. If you become aware of a Northeastern student or colleague who has received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, you should do the following:

  • Preserve the person’s privacy and anonymity as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Refrain from sharing this information unless instructed to by public health authorities.

This is a picture of Centers for Disease Control laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. Photo courtesy of the CDC

 

What is the difference between self-isolation and quarantine?

The CDC defines these terms in this way:

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

The university does not currently have any diagnosed cases of COVID-19.

What is the university doing about community members who do not self-report and self-quarantine?

The university is urging anyone who has traveled abroad to self-monitor their health and, if they are returning from a CDC Level 3 country or region, to self-quarantine for 14 days. The voluntary cooperation of all members of our community is critical to prevent disease transmission and to protect the health and safety of the university community.

What if I feel overwhelmed or worried?

If anxiety or undue fear is overwhelming you, the university has 24/7 mental health support you can call through Find@Northeastern: 877.233.9477 (U.S.), +1.781.457.7777 (Int’l)

What should I do if I am feeling sick?

If you test positive for COVID-19, or believe you have been exposed, you should follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and your local public health department regarding treatment and home isolation. Please refer to CDC guidance about caring for yourself or someone who is sick. Please know that the university will not disclose an individual’s identity and medical condition to anyone.

Boston

Please be aware that several Boston hospitals are asking visitors with milder symptoms to call a primary care physician, if you have one, before going to the emergency room. If you decide to go to the emergency room, call ahead and follow their instructions which may include wearing a mask and not waiting in the waiting room.

Phone numbers for emergency rooms/departments in the Boston area:

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC): 617.754.2400
  • Boston Children’s Hospital (patients aged 21 and younger): 617.355.6624
  • Boston Medical Center (BMC): 617.414.4075
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital: 617.732.5636
  • Massachusetts General Hospital: 617.724.4100
  • Tufts Medical Center: 617.636.5566

Massachusetts State Epidemiology line: 617.983.6800

  • An on-call epidemiologist is available during normal business hours for emergencies and to answer questions regarding case investigation and implementation of control measures. Availability at night and weekends for emergencies only.

Partners Healthcare has set up a Coronavirus Hotline for patients and the general public to answer questions about COVID-19: 617.724.7000 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days/week). This hotline is staffed by nurses across the Partners network as a resource for patients and the general public.

Students on campus can call NUPD at 617.373.2121 for any urgent concern or  University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) during hours of operation: 617.373.2772, choice, #2.

Seattle

  • NU students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call their local General Practitioner
    • King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center:
      • 1-206-477-3977 (Open daily from 8 a.m to 7 p.m. PT)
    • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, please call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center
      • 1-800-525-0127.

San Francisco / San Jose

  • NU students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call their health care provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care
  • Santa Clara County: Call 2-1-1 or text 211211.
  • San Francisco County has a call center for those who do not have a primary care doctor and think they may have COVID-19 and would like to get tested. Those within San Francisco can reach the call center by phone at 3-1-1. Those outside of San Francisco can call 415-701-2311.

Charlotte

  • NU students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call their local General Practitioner
    • Mecklenburg County has an information hotline available
      • 1-866-462-3821 (option 1 to speak to a pharmacist or nurse)

British Colombia (Vancouver-Based NU Members)

  • NU students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call:
    • HealthLink: 811
    • Their local general practitioner

Ontario (Toronto-Based NU Members)

  • Call Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000

London, UK (NCH Based NU Members)

  • Please call NHS 111

Does NUSHP cover the cost of COVID-19 testing?

Yes, the full cost of diagnostic tests for COVID-19 is covered for all our fully insured members who meet CDC guidelines for testing, including NUSHP-insured students across our network locationsFor the most current testing guidelines, please visit the CDC’s website. 

Will NUSHP cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, NUSHP will also cover the cost of vaccination when a COVID-19 vaccine is available, and waive co-payments for medically necessary COVID-19 treatment at doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and urgent care center.

Here is some additional information of services that have been implemented to assist with COVID-19 matters:

  • Staffing a dedicated member help line (888-372-1970) for all COVID-19 related inquiries
  • A 24/7 nurse hotline (888-247-2583) is available free to all members and offers a safe and convenient clinical resource for minor ailments or questions
  • A COVID-19 webpage which will be updated regularly as new information becomes available: https://home.bluecrossma.com/coronavirus. Please note: the information on this page applies to any NUSHP-insured student, not just students in Massachusetts.

Will I be informed of positive Covid-19 cases within the university community?

Consistent with state and federal privacy laws, Northeastern will never disclose the identity and medical condition of an individual member of the university community.

Below is some important information to be aware of about how the testing and notification process generally works in the United States:

  • Physicians can order COVID-19 testing for patients who meet the guidelines for testing.
  • State and local public health authorities have rigorous protocols for dealing with positive COVID-19 cases.
  • The applicable local public health agency where a patient resides is alerted to the positive test result by the patient’s health care provider, which triggers an investigation of each case by public health authorities.
  • This investigation includes contacting every person with whom the diagnosed individual has been in close contact recently.

    In Boston, for example, individuals who test positive are contacted by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). The BPHC begins its investigation by interviewing the patient about every single contact the patient has had during the last 14 days. Public health officials conduct what is called “tracing;” they map the network of the patient’s recent contacts, determine close contacts and contact those who are deemed to be high risk due to exposure to provide information and instructions.

    This general protocol is very similar across the United States, including in the states of California, North Carolina, and Washington. You can find information relevant to the UK here, British Columbia here, and Ontario here.

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