Morehead sets stage for next phases of campus reopening

Writes about campus mask mandate

University of Georgia President Jere Morehead is outlining, in an email to UGA faculty and staff, the steps that will be taken for the next phases of campus reopening.

From UGA president Jere Morehead…

We have made significant progress in our Phase 1 work to prepare the campus for the full return of faculty, staff, and students in August. We appreciate the dedication of the supervisory personnel and essential staff members who have been leading the way during this initial period. Their work has enabled us to determine the dates for the commencement of Phases 2 and 3.

Phase 2 will begin on Monday, July 20. The following groups of employees will be added to the on-campus workforce in Phase 2:

  • Supervisors (including administrative faculty) who did not return to campus during Phase 1.
  • Personnel who perform mission critical/time-sensitive functions who have worked remotely during reduced operations.
  • Appropriate support personnel for the groups listed above.

Over the next two weeks, it will be up to vice presidents, deans, department heads, and directors to identify the employees in these groups who should return on July 20. As noted in the Return to Campus Guidelines, staggered or rotating weekly schedules and the use of telework in conjunction with on-campus work are still appropriate, as needed to maintain social distancing guidelines of the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH). The University System of Georgia has notified all institutions that July 17th will be the last day that Non-Closure Emergency Leave can be utilized.

Social distancing, usage of face coverings, and self-monitoring for signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should continue. Please note that employees should not return to campus until they are notified by their unit that they can do so.

Researchers should follow the Research Resumption Requirements for Phase 2, which are described on the Office of Research website.

Phase 3 will begin on Monday, August 10, when all faculty and staff return to campus for Fall Semester, unless they have been approved for telework. Employees who worked staggered or rotating schedules and/or teleworked during Phases 1 and 2 will resume regular, in-person schedules on campus unless otherwise directed to support social distancing in unique and densely populated work environments.

As we have consistently stated, our primary commitment is to the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students. Members of the Medical Oversight Task Force have provided significant leadership in our ongoing planning, and they will continue to provide insight as our plans evolve in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Garth Russo, Executive Director of the University Health Center, leads this effort, along with Dr. Marsha Davis, Dean of the College of Public Health; Dr. Lisa Nolan, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Dr. Shelley Nuss, Campus Dean of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership. Together, they are refining protocols for screening, monitoring, notification, and isolation; coordinating plans for contact tracing with the GDPH; and exploring options for COVID-19 testing.

We are pleased to report several new developments, among a host of measures being put in place to promote safe practices:

  • Effective July 15, 2020, the University of Georgia—along with all University System of Georgia (USG) institutions—will require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible. Face covering use will be in addition to and is not a substitute for social distancing. Face coverings will not be required when alone in an enclosed office or study room, in campus outdoor settings where social distancing requirements are met, or for students in their own residence hall rooms or suites. Anyone not using a face covering when required will be asked to wear one or must leave the area. Repeated refusal to comply with the requirement may result in discipline through the applicable conduct code for faculty, staff, or students. Reasonable accommodations may be made for those who are unable to wear a face covering for documented health reasons.
  • The University has purchased 150,000 cloth face masks—two for every faculty, staff, and student at UGA with extras on hand—and these are now being delivered to individuals and departments. An awareness campaign will soon be underway to help encourage students, faculty, staff, and visitors to comply with the requirement to wear face coverings, especially in classrooms, labs, study areas, student life facilities, buses, and other spaces where social distancing may not always be possible.
  • Surveillance and screening will be supported by the implementation of a notification application (app) that was recently purchased by UGA, upon the recommendation of the Medical Oversight Task Force after several weeks of research. The app is designed to provide a daily reminder to members of the campus community to check for symptoms prior to coming to campus each day. Self-reports of positive cases will automatically and securely notify the GDPH to begin contact tracing and will simultaneously engage the appropriate University units to facilitate mitigation efforts, such as cleaning and disinfecting the impacted environments or providing support services to those in need.  The app will be tested in Phase 2 for roll-out by Phase 3, and more details will be forthcoming.
  • Both the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Lab are now certified to support human SARS-CoV-2 testing. Previously the labs were certified to accept and perform diagnostic tests on animal tissues and cultures, but this new certification grants them the ability to accept human samples. Veterinary Medicine is now gearing up to perform this service. The expertise of our faculty in this area will be of great benefit to our University and local community.
  • We are actively forging our partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health for contact tracing, and we anticipate that the GDPH also will play a role in our testing strategy as we move into the next phases of reopening. Any member of the community can call the Northeast District Screening Hotline at 706-340-0996 for an appointment at the GDPH’s fixed testing site located at 1030 Mitchell Bridge Road.  In addition, all USG employees are eligible for free COVID-19 virtual screenings through Augusta University Health System’s AU Health Express Care app, which is available for download on iPhone and Android at www.augustahealth.org/COVID19.
  • Sixty thousand (60,000) digital thermometers are currently being distributed to all faculty, staff, and students. In the best interest of the health and safety of our community, the University of Georgia is requiring all faculty, staff, and students to self-monitor and is asking that they take their temperature every morning before coming to campus.
  • More than 4,000 gallons of hand sanitizer have been ordered and will be available for distribution in classrooms, offices and common areas across campus.
  • Over 2.5 million individual sanitizing wipes have been delivered to UGA, with an order for refills to arrive later this month.
  • More than 4,500 individuals have completed a mandatory supervisor training module on health and safety precautions and individual responsibility. (This training is accessible to those who are not supervisors.)
  • Similar mandatory training modules are also being prepared for all faculty and staff.
  • Employees returning during Phase 2 will have access to the training module prior to their return through the Professional Education Portal.
  • The training module for students will be in place by early August and will be available via eLC.
  • The Office of Instruction is offering courses and resources to aid instructors in preparing for the Fall 2020 semester. Among the resources are:
  • Initial Guidelines for Fall Semester Instruction
  • Online Learning Instructional Resources from the Office of Online Learning
  • Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Office of Instruction Teaching and Learning Continuity site
  • The Office of Research has published the aforementioned Research Resumption website, which includes the Research Resumption Plan for investigators and an FAQ for researchers.
  • The Facilities Management Division (FMD) has created a Q&A reference for departments and individuals looking for more information about cleaning their areas.
  • The Division of Marketing & Communications has developed signage and other resources to support the return to campus.

In addition, the USG has updated its guidance on accommodations. While the CDC no longer provides a minimum age for those at risk, the USG will continue to use 65 as its measure for evaluating requests for alternate work arrangements. Individuals who are younger than 65 can provide documentation from a health care provider that their age is a determining factor for risk that should prevent them from working on campus as scheduled. In addition, individuals of any age with the following underlying medical conditions may request alternate work arrangements through the University’s ADA accommodations process:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Smoking
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

The University’s COVID-19 website is updated regularly with new information. You should also watch your email for weekly email digests with updates about Return to Campus plans. Past editions of the weekly digest can be found on the Campus Messages page of the COVID-19 site.

It is important that all members of the community are aware of the many safety precautions being taken by the University, are knowledgeable of the resources available to them, and understand their individual responsibility to abide by the guidelines issued by the GDPH, CDC, USG, and UGA to contain the spread of the coronavirus. We are doing everything within our power to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all of us to live, work, and learn. Your ongoing support, cooperation, and flexibility remains essential for our efforts to succeed.

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

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