Return to Campus Update for DSA Staff

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dear DSA Colleagues,

I know that as we approach the gradual, phased opening of the fall 2020 semester, there is excitement about the return of our students, and there is also elevated fear and concern about what greater density on our campus means for the health and safety of our campus community. It is important for me to remind you that all decisions we make for Student Affairs are done in consultation with Dr. Sacared Bodison, director of our University Health Center, Dean Boris Lushniak and faculty in the School of Public Health, and medical officials in Prince George’s County. We will only make decisions that are aligned with public health guidance and permissible with national, state and county mandates.

Since the landscape is ever-changing and unpredictable with COVID-19, it means that at times we may need to revisit decisions we have made already. For example, we made decisions about housing eight weeks ago, when the predictions about the coronavirus indicated that it would abate in the summer and have a resurgence in November; clearly, this has not been its path. We also made these decisions as the City of College Park encouraged us not to release too many students from housing as they were concerned these students would end up in the city, creating a different public health issue. Given what we’ve learned about coronavirus to-date, I am meeting with the Resident Life leadership team this week to re-evaluate where we are based on the number of Housing Addendums signed by 5:00pm on Monday, July 20, 2020. This is just one example of the work we will continue to do. We will make sound decisions, based on appropriate guidance, and revisit as needed when things shift.  While I know this changing nature creates its own angst, and potentially more work, it is what it means to lead well and right during a pandemic. It is important for me to be transparent about this process so you understand that we are not backpedaling or whimsically changing our minds but, rather, making the best decisions we can make at any given time.

As a commitment to continuing to answer your questions, below this note please find information about health monitoring and guidelines for safe work spaces. Thanks for submitting your questions and thanks to staff in the VPSA office who are reaching out to campus partners to answer your questions.

If you want to talk with a VPSA Council representative about any issue or concern related to coronavirus or the gradual, phased and safe reopening of campus, please feel free to join our weekly conversations - where questions will be gathered and answered - Wednesday, July 22 from 9:00a.m. - 10:00a.m.

This Wednesday’s conversation will be led by Warren Kelley, Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. Join via Zoom. Each week a different VPSA Council representative will hold time for folks to convene to ask questions, be in community and learn more. Join as your schedule allows.

Until we connect again, stay well, good people,

Patty Perillo, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs


Health Monitoring 

When/how will we make a decision about closing/returning to all virtual learning if there are clusters or outbreaks?  What is the threshold?

Decisions regarding closing/returning to all virtual will be made by the University administration in consultation with campus, County and State health professionals. The threshold will be circumstantial taking into account numbers, clustering, available resources, and input from State and County officials.

Where will student symptom tracking responses go? 

Positive responses will be tracked by Health Center healthcare professionals.

How are student and staff networks being factored into decision making? E.g. if a student has X academic advisor and is a RecWell student employee and involved in a student organization, is spread being modeled across the broad expanse of staff they are coming in contact with? 

This will be handled through the Contact Tracing process if there is a positive test result.

And if an employee is quarantined due to possible exposure, is their entire trust pod then quarantined?

It will depend on the circumstances.

What expectations will there be for staff to self-isolate/quarantine after trips, family visits, and use of commercial airlines?

We will follow State and County guidelines if and when they address travel related issues.

What will be the expectations for contact tracing at in-person events/programs? Will this be a requirement? How will we be communicating this requirement to students with marginalized identities who are particularly sensitive to being tracked? What safeguards will we be putting in place to protect privacy, delete records after the period for contact tracing has passed, etc.?

The State Health Department contact tracers will expect the University’s event/program organizers to assist with attendance records. The Health Department does not collect social security numbers, financial data, or immigration status and strictly adheres to HIPAA regulations to protect all information.

Will the health center expand their hours to help with DRL duty staff in overnight COVID-related situations? 

The Health Center building will be open from 8:30a.m. - 5p.m., Monday-Friday with extended telemedicine hours. A medical and a mental health provider is on-call 24/7during the academic calendar.

What information will be provided to off-campus students and their roommates who might be experiencing symptoms? 

Off-campus students and roommates may call the Health Center to talk to a healthcare professional, arrange a telemedicine visit or call the after-hours nurse line if the Health Center is closed.

With community bathrooms in mind, what will be done if there is a large scale outbreak in the residence halls? 

Testing will be important if there is a large-scale outbreak to determine those needing isolation versus those who test negative but require quarantine. Bathroom arrangements will be a factor in determining the need to relocate students.

How much will staff be relied upon for contact tracing amongst students?

Staff assigned to students’ groups (RA, professors, event organizers) will be expected to share what information they know about group attendance, precautionary behaviors (wearing of masks, physical distancing) etc. The State will do the contact tracing.

What will the quarantine/isolation plan be for off-campus students?

Off-campus students will receive individualized guidance that will accomplish adequate separation of that individual from others, resource for nutrition etc. This may involve assistance from family, friends or University volunteers.

Guidelines for Safe Work Spaces

In advising and one-on-one scenarios, is there a shared expectation of how to meet with students? For example, if a meeting cannot be done with 6-feet of social distancing, should that meeting be moved online?

Each department will have to make individual decisions about these meetings. All meetings should be in a location that allows for physical distancing and/or moved online.

If a staff member is positioned in a public space (shared, cubicle, etc.) or small office not able to accommodate 6-feet of social distancing, should all one-on-one meetings be moved online? 

Each department will have to make individual decisions about these meetings. All meetings should be in a location that allows for physical distancing and/or moved online.

If staff are expected to be on campus for one-on-one meetings, what safeguards can be put in place to accommodate privacy and confidentiality for students or staff? 

Each department will have to make individual decisions about these meetings. Masks will be required inside buildings when safe physical distance cannot be maintained. All meetings should be in a location that allows for physical distancing and/or moved online.

What physical-space accommodations are or will be made for those required to do work from a campus location? 

Every director will have to complete an Authorization to Return to Work form for the department. Each office will make every effort to keep employees safe with signage, requirements for face coverings, moving furniture where feasible, supplying cleaning materials and hand sanitizer, and rotating staff schedules. Public areas may have plexiglass partitions. In addition, all employees are responsible for their own monitoring of symptoms, hand washing, wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance and staying home when sick.

Additionally, the UHR video notes that employees may get up to two face masks, but I wonder about timing and access to those supplies (including thermometers - e.g., Will staff be compensated for or provided with masks or a thermometer should they be required to be on campus sooner than they are available? Will there be extra supplies disseminated automatically or must they be acquired by an office or staff member in advance and independently placed?). 

Staff members need to purchase their own thermometers. Two face masks will be provided by each department in Student Affairs. They are being ordered centrally by Procurement and will be available as soon as we get them. Additional supply orders are being placed centrally.  Consult with your supervisor if you have a specific request. 

Will live on staff members be given additional PPE to protect themselves in the residence halls, such as n95 masks and face shields and so on?

All staff are being provided face coverings and other materials that are required for their safety. The University is following the guidelines set out by the CDC, OSHA, USM, the County, and the State.

What steps are being taken to protect immunocompromised live on staff? 

Immunocompromised live on staff need to work with their supervisors and UHR to determine their needs. Immunocompromised staff who cannot telework can apply for ADA accommodations through UHR.

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