WVU announces outlines to employee expectations for safely returning to on-campus work

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has announced a plan for employees to return to work in its, “Return to On-Campus Work Playbook.”

According to the announcement, WVU Vice President of Talent and Culture Cris DeBord explained the guidelines in a letter to the campus community.

Part of the letter reads:

Dear West Virginia University Campus Community: 

West Virginia University is committed to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. And as we prepare to resume on-campus operations across the WVU System for the fall 2020 semester, the University has developed plans and guidelines for faculty and staff to ensure we are working in as safe a manner as possible amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To support these efforts, WVU has created a Return to On-Campus Work Playbook for Faculty and Staff. The playbook aligns with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines as well as guidance from University leaders and local, state and federal public health agencies. The playbook also includes several checklists for supervisors and employees to support their return to on-campus work.

However, circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to rapidly evolve, and WVU will update its plans and guidelines as additional information becomes available.

WVU Vice President of Talent and Culture Cris DeBord

The playbook stated that WVU will return staff to on-campus work over time in a coordinated process. One that officials explained would ensure appropriate physical distancing and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).

It also explained that Faculty and staff who will be working on campus during the fall will be required to complete COVID-19 testing. Faculty and staff will be asked to maintain social separation as much as possible and avoid large gatherings to the fullest extent possible until their test results are available after three to five business days.

If employees who will be working on campus this fall fail to take the COVID-19 test by August 15, they will be subject to employee disciplinary actions until they take the test, including, but not limited to, being placed on administrative leave without pay and/or being placed on administrative leave while using the employee’s annual leave.

The release also stated that the university is encouraging supervisors to be flexible with employees and that there are options that they can consider, depending on what works for their department. A few of these options include:

  • Remote work – Employees who can work remotely and fulfill their work duties should continue to do so to reduce the number of individuals on campus and the potential spread of COVID-19.
  • Alternating days – To limit the number of individuals and interactions on campus, departments and units may consider scheduling partial staffing on alternating days. These schedules support physical distancing (especially in areas with large common workspaces).
  • Staggered reporting/departing – The beginning and end of the workday typically bring many people together at common entry/exit points of campus buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times by at least 30 minutes may reduce traffic in common areas.

University officials stated that if a localized outbreak emerges, tighter restrictions and reduced on-campus staffing levels may need to be implemented.

All faculty and staff who have been instructed to return to their on-campus workplace are required to conduct symptom monitoring each day before reporting to work. Faculty and staff must be free of any symptoms potentially related to COVID-19 to be eligible to report to work. These symptoms currently include one or more of the following. If any are present, employees should immediately contact their healthcare provider for guidance and notify their supervisor:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Runny nose or new sinus congestion
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • New gastrointestinal symptoms
  • New loss of taste or smell

Personal safety practices have been put into place for all employees as well that the university hopes will mitigate any possible spread of the virus.

  • Face masks/cloth face coverings – Face masks or cloth face coverings must be worn by all faculty and staff working on campus when in the presence of others and in public settings where physical distancing measures may be difficult to maintain (e.g., common work spaces and classrooms).
  • Physical distancing – Keeping space between individuals is one of the best tools we have to avoid COVID-19 exposure and slow its spread. Faculty and staff working on campus should adhere to the University’s guidance on physical distancing practices.
  • Handwashing – Individuals should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (especially after they have been in a public place or after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or touching their face). If soap and water are not readily available, individuals should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Gloves – Healthcare workers and others in high-risk areas should use gloves as part of PPE. However, according to CDC guidance, gloves are not necessary for general use and do not replace good hand hygiene. In general, if the employee’s on-campus work duties previously required the wearing of gloves, they should continue to wear them.
  • Goggles/face shields – Employees do not need to wear goggles or face shields during general activities on campus unless these items are required as part of their work duties (e.g., labs).
  • Personal disinfection – While Facilities and Services crews will continue to clean offices and workspaces based on CDC guidelines, additional care should be taken to wipe down commonly used surfaces. Before starting work and before leaving any room in which they have been working, employees must wipe down all work areas with EPA-registered 60% alcohol solution. This includes any shared-space location or equipment (e.g., copiers, printers, computers, A/V equipment, coffee makers, desks and tables, light switches, doorknobs, etc.). Tissues, hand sanitizer and disposable wipes may be requested from a building supervisor.
  • Coughing/sneezing hygiene – If employees are in a private setting and do not have on their mask or face covering, they should always cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or use the inside of their elbow. Employees then should throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, employees should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

More specific workplace scenario guidelines are also in place in the handbook such as working in offices, using restrooms, elevator guidelines, meeting protocols, Mountain Line/WVU bus guidelines and travel limitations.

Officials explained that more information will be shared for returning to on-campus work on July 16 at 10 a.m.

To view the entire playbook and more guidelines, click here.

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