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Coronavirus Information for NIH Trainees

Message from Sharon Milgram, Director, OITE

What happens when an NIH employee or trainee tests positive for COVID-19?

Coronavirus Safety Links and Requirements

Travel Guidance

Asymptomatic Testing

Read an Important Message from the Division of International Services Regarding SCAMS!

Dear NIH Trainee,

I hope you are feeling well and dealing with these uncertain times with a sense of calm focus and resilience.

The staff of the OITE may not be on campus, but we are continuing our activities on your behalf in the virtual space. This webpage is intended to provide support and keep you informed. Watch for group sessions on wellness, resilience, and mindfulness meditation plus career and professional development opportunities. Because activities are now online, trainees on any campus can participate easily.

Please contact us with ideas for webpage improvements and additions that would make your life easier … or perhaps just more fun.

I appreciate that each of you has unique situations to sort out and contend with. Please do not hesitate to email me (; I will do my best to address any concerns you may have.

In the meantime, be safe, wash your hands, and take care of yourselves and each other!

Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director, OITE

What happens when an NIH staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

If an NIH staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the following steps (PDF) are activated:

  • If NIH did the testing, the Occupational Medical Service (OMS) will contact the individual directly with guidance on home isolation, including for household members within 24–48 hours.
  • OMS and the NIH Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology Service (HES) will initiate contact tracing to identify staff who work in close proximity to the individual and may have been exposed. If testing is done elsewhere, staff are expected to notify OMS of their positive result, so contact tracing can proceed if warranted.
  • OMS will advise staff who test positive to work with their primary care physician to determine a plan for medical care.
  • OMS or Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology Service must report positive test results to the public health departments with jurisdiction over the home area where a worker who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • OMS also will notify the staff member’s supervisor that the individual is sick with a health condition and is advised to stay at home.
  • At no time should supervisors or staff share information about suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections of NIH staff with anyone other than those authorized by the affected individual(s) to receive such communication.
  • Those potentially exposed individuals will be contacted by OMS to assess their risk. They will be asked to quarantine and monitor themselves for possible COVID-19 symptoms if their exposure constitutes a significant risk of infection according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The OMS Active Monitoring Protocol allows contacts of COVID-positive persons to identify earliest signs of illness and determine the need for testing.
  • Areas where the staff member worked will be evaluated for cleaning and potential closure if the space is not needed for immediate occupancy. If the person has not been on site more than 5 days prior to symptoms, then the workspace will not require cleaning. Any questions can be directed to the Division of Occupational Health and Safety for guidance.
  • Staff who work in those areas will be notified of this requirement.

 Visit the NIH Intranet for additional FAQs and further information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.


IMPORTANT: NIH Coronavirus Safety Links (7-13)

Prior to returning to their NIH worksites individuals must (1) read the NIH Safety Guidance, (2) watch the accompanying video, and (3) certify to their supervisors that they have done both and are aware of the requirements and expectations.

NIH Safety Guidance: (updated 7/23/20)

NIH Safety Guidance Video: (The video can be accessed by those with an NIH email account; neither VPN nor a PIV card is required.)

NIH Safety Guidance Video Technical Tips:


Guidance on Travel (from Francis Collins, MD/PhD, Director, NIH, 8-14)

But while we are talking about taking breaks this month, I do want to take this opportunity to remind you again to think carefully about your vacation travel plans. As we all know, travel is associated with increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide clear guidance on factors that increase your risk during travel, and steps you can take to mitigate them. As I mentioned in last week’s email, Diane and I took the CDC guidance very seriously, and intentionally chose a vacation spot that is isolated from others and will not put us or anyone else at increased risk, or place restrictions on us when we return. The guidance to protect yourself and others should always be followed, whether you’re at your local grocery story or traveling – wear a face covering, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash your hands frequently. I shared the below resources last week, but am sharing them again for good measure:

These links also are available on the NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus Intranet landing page. Many states are requiring or recommending isolation or quarantine for individuals traveling to or from certain states, so be sure to check the guidance from the state health departments for those states to which you are traveling and where you reside before you leave for or return from vacation.

I think many staff who are working onsite are wondering how travel to a high-risk area might affect their ability to return to their NIH worksite. To address these questions, we’ve launched a new page on the coronavirus intranet page called Guidance on Returning to NIH Facilities After Travel. Anyone who has had a high-risk exposure within 14 days prior to returning to NIH physical workspaces should self-quarantine, notify your supervisor, complete the OMS Coronavirus Screening Questionnaire, and follow OMS recommendations for further care. A high-risk exposure means close contact within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with a person not wearing a facial covering and likely or known to be infectious with SARS-CoV-2. Please review the new page for additional guidance.

Asymptomatic Testing (from Francis Collins, MD/PhD, Director, NIH, 8-14)

This week, the NIH Clinical Center began offering testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection to all asymptomatic staff approved to work onsite in NIH Bethesda-area facilities. I encourage onsite staff to take advantage of this free testing and schedule an appointment via this website.

Other NIH locations in Baltimore, Maryland, North Carolina, and Montana also have begun conducting asymptomatic testing of approved onsite staff, with all lab analyses done at the NIH Clinical Center.