Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
September 16, 2020

Contact Tracing; Classroom & Lab Notifications; NOVID

Source: Contact Tracing; Classroom & Lab Notifications; NOVID

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community:

As we enter the second half of September, we are grateful for your continued commitment to our shared responsibility for the health and safety of our community. Your participation in our mitigation strategy – including the daily symptom assessment, maintaining physical distance and wearing a face covering – make it possible for us to continue campus activities, including classes and research. Keep it up! We must maintain our vigilance in the weeks ahead to continue our in-person offerings. We can do this. We are Tartans, All In. Everywhere!

Having completed our arrival asymptomatic screening, we are now beginning regular asymptomatic testing, and are randomly identifying students located within the Pittsburgh area to participate in this testing. All students who intend to participate in any on-campus or CMU-related activities, such as in-person instruction, research or campus life, are expected to participate when selected for random testing, which is being offered at no cost to students.


This asymptomatic testing, in addition to our testing for symptomatic individuals, will inevitably identify positive cases. As of September 15, we have reported results from 4,685 asymptomatic tests, and of those, 31 students — 0.66% — tested positive for COVID-19. For all students who test positive, the university will initiate a plan for care, isolation and contact tracing. Contact tracing is done by staff trained on proper protocols and systems, including requirements around confidentiality. The contract tracing interview is designed to identify the close contacts of a student who tests positive, with “close contact” defined as someone who has spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the time they were presumed to be infectious.

The contact tracing team then reaches out to each of the identified close contacts. University Health Services (UHS) staff are ready to quickly assess close contacts who are experiencing symptoms using point-of-care diagnostic tests that provide rapid results and accelerate our ability to initiate care and additional contact tracing when required. If a student testing positive gives us permission to do so, we will provide their name to the student’s faculty members, so they can provide any additional academic support for the individual as needed.


Based on our experience over the first weeks of the semester, as well as on our commitment to transparency, we will be notifying community members who may have shared a classroom or laboratory with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. These notifications will begin the week of September 21. Students who are experiencing COVID-like symptoms will be tested by UHS with point-of-care rapid results tests. Students who are asymptomatic but are concerned about whether their classroom or lab followed mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings, will be given information on whom they can contact to discuss their concerns and be evaluated for testing.

These notifications are separate and distinct from the individual notifications students may receive from the contact tracing team if they have been identified as a close contact, and will not disclose the identity of the individual who tested positive. Students and faculty members sharing a classroom are not considered to be “close contacts” for contact tracing purposes due to the university’s mitigation strategy for preventing spread in classrooms, which includes requiring the instructor and students to maintain physical distancing and wear facial coverings, as well as upgraded ventilation systems, enhanced cleaning protocols and reconfigured classroom furniture.


Finally, we are pleased to make you aware of one more tool to track the spread of COVID-19. NOVID, which was founded and created by CMU Professor of Mathematics Po-Shen Loh, is an anonymous COVID notification app that will assist the campus community by tracking coronavirus within personal networks. NOVID notifies users when someone in their network has tested positive for COVID-19. NOVID also allows members of the CMU community to self-report their own positive diagnosis. We encourage faculty, staff and students to voluntarily download and use the NOVID app.

Our COVID-19 dashboard continues to provide daily updates for CMU case numbers, weekly updates for asymptomatic testing reports, important information for students and families, faculty, researchers and staff, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Each element of our campus mitigation strategy plays an important role in preventing the spread of COVID19 within our community. We appreciate each of your efforts to adhere to these guidelines and procedures. Together, we can preserve and sustain our ability to continue in-person experiences on campus.


Daryl Weinert
Chief of Staff and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
COVID Coordinator