Guidance for Resuming Campus Operations
MEMORANDUM FOR CAMPUS LEADERS
From: Heather Wilson
Date: May 27, 2020
Subject: Guidance for Resuming Campus Operations
This memo provides general guidance for all leaders on how UTEP will return and increase operations on campus. We will also schedule web meetings to elaborate on this guidance and answer questions.
The variety of functions and work settings on campus makes a single, prescriptive instruction unlikely to be appropriate or effective. Instead, with this document as a guide, each Principal Investigator, Department Chair, Office Manager and Director – referred to as “leaders” in this document – will develop a written Work/Safety Plan to resume operations.
Until we have a vaccine, we anticipate that local transmission of the disease will fluctuate, and we will have to adapt over time. Attachment 1 is the matrix for how we will operate at different levels of risk. While we will continue to monitor a variety of factors with respect to resuming campus operations, the most important ones relate to the local transmission of disease and impact on El Paso’s healthcare system.
The University leadership will assess, discuss, decide and inform the campus of a change to risk level so that each unit can adjust their operations accordingly.
Essential campus operations have continued while most of us worked remotely. In addition, over the last few weeks, we have taken steps to open a few areas and will continue this gradual testing and learning in the coming weeks to help us refine our plans and operations so that the entire campus can safely transition to “Limited Campus Operations.”
Our return to campus will be guided by the following general principles:
- Continue our mission as a comprehensive public research university that is increasing access to excellent higher education, advancing discovery of public value, and positively impacting the health, culture, education, and economy of the community we serve.
- Protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff based on best practices and CDC and public health guidelines.
- Provide campus departments the flexibility to use a mixture of remote and on-campus operations, modified workspaces, and schedule variations to enable each unit to best fulfill its purpose.
- Monitor and adapt to changing levels of COVID-19 in our community.
WRITTEN WORK/SAFETY PLANS
In anticipation of resuming “Limited Campus Operations,” each leader will develop a written Work/Safety Plan. Plans should focus on people who report to you, areas controlled by you, students you support and operations you oversee. Leaders should have a draft of their plan as soon as practical, but not later than June 15. Plans should be reviewed by supervisors and submitted to the appropriate Vice President for approval not later than June 30.
A gradual opening of campus will help us test processes and improve plans for other units. If your unit wants to volunteer for the initial return to “Limited Campus Operations,” please contact your Vice President.
For buildings or venues that host multiple operations or departments, Building Managers and space stewards will develop and share a “Building Work/Safety Plan.” The Vice President for Business Affairs will approve these plans. The building plan should discuss common areas such as entryways, stairways, elevators, and restrooms. If PI or unit Work/Safety Plans are written before the Building Work/Safety Plan is complete, these unit plans should include minimal suggestions about building safety. Plans can be updated once the building plan is approved and available.
To give you an example of what plans might look like, three “Work/Safety Plans” for limited campus operations are attached – Athletics, the Office of the President, and a research laboratory. These are intended as models to help shape your thinking, recognizing that each unit, department and workspace is different. A checklist for the President’s Office is also included to help serve as an example. (Attachments 2-5)
Leaders are encouraged to solicit input and feedback from their units in the development of their plans and to share draft plans with peers so that we learn from each other and develop shared ownership and broad understanding.
Adaptability and Agility
In preparing their Work/Safety Plans, leaders should anticipate that the disease could worsen in our community, requiring a return to more restrictive operations. To the extent possible, leaders should consider this in developing their Work/Safety Plans.
Protecting the Vulnerable
Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:
- People 65 years and older
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
- People who have serious heart conditions.
- People who are immunocompromised.
- Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
- People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher).
- People with diabetes.
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
- People with liver disease.
Leaders who know of employees who are at high risk will, if at all possible, find ways for those employees to work remotely until we return to “Open Campus” operations. The temporary remote work policy can be found here.
Employees who are at high risk and who are scheduled to return to campus should discuss this with their supervisor or contact the Office of Human Resources Leave Administration at HRLeaveAdmin@utep.edu or by phone at 915-747-5202.
All plans must emphasize that sick employees must stay home. Any employee who comes to work and is ill will be sent home.
Employees with COVID-19-related symptoms will self-isolate for a minimum of three days even if their symptoms improve and will be directed to free testing available in the community. Test results will be required for anyone who has had COVID-19 related symptoms before they return to work.
Employees who are ill and who have no remaining sick leave or personal leave should stay home and contact Human Resources at HRLeaveAdmin@utep.edu or call 915-747-5202 to determine if they qualify for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
All Work/Safety Plans must address training required for employees. At a minimum, every employee working on campus must receive training on:
- Symptoms of COVID-19
- Stay home decisions
- How the virus spreads
- How to protect yourself and others
- Cleaning and disinfection
Leaders may add training requirements depending on their operations and activities.
General training material on the required subjects prepared by UTEP’s Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) department will be provided by June 1. This material will be updated as we learn from early units returning to campus.
Attachment 6 has useful references on a number of topics, including ones that might help with training based on individual needs.
All return to work plans must address distancing in the workplace. According to CDC guidelines, the recommended minimum separation between asymptomatic individuals is six (6) feet.
Activities that increase the force of exhalation or the depth of inhalation (e.g., singing, yelling or exercising) must also be addressed in plans because these increase the risk of the virus spreading.
Cloth or spun fiber face coverings can reduce risk of transmission of disease by those who are infectious. Because people can be infectious even when they don’t have symptoms, wearing a face covering protects other people.
While we are in “Limited Campus Operations” and “Low Density Operations,” all employees, students and visitors to campus will be required to wear cloth or spun fiber face coverings when in public and shared areas of campus. All return to work plans will address the use of face coverings in the work space and discuss any exceptions to this University policy. Examples of reasons to not wear cloth face coverings include:
- Different protective equipment is required to do work.
- Medical condition precludes wearing a face covering.
- Individuals are engaged in outdoor, physical exercise (e.g. walking, biking, etc.) and are taking care to remain more than 6 feet away from people outside their household.
Some locations and activities on campus require specialized personal protective equipment (PPE). Leaders should address this in their plans.
Employees will supply and maintain their own face coverings.
The campus is currently undergoing enhanced cleaning in public areas, classrooms and class labs. These areas are serviced at least twice a day, which includes disinfecting doors, knobs, switches and areas that are frequently touched. Restrooms are serviced several times a day and thoroughly cleaned at night. In research areas, floors are cleaned and trash removed daily. Research support staff will continue to clean remaining areas to ensure the correct product is used that will not affect the research being performed. Office areas receive full service once a week with a disinfecting agent. Return to work plans should address supplemental cleaning and disinfection practices in your area.
The University has purchased bulk cleaning and protective materials including hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, disinfecting wipes, and a small supply of disposable face coverings for those who forget to bring face coverings. EH&S will make arrangements to provide these supplies after plans are approved and submitted.
UTEP EH&S stays in contact with employees and students who are self-isolating because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been in close or continued contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
As we return to campus, it will be even more important for employees to inform their supervisors when they are ill. Supervisors will immediately inform UTEP EH&S at 915-747-7162 or COVIDaction@utep.edu.
UTEP EH&S will work with the City of El Paso Department of Public Health to facilitate contact tracing. UTEP EH&S, in coordination with supervisors, the UTEP Head of Emergency Operations (Police Chief Cliff Walsh) and Facilities Management will make an assessment of facilities that may need to be closed for deep cleaning.
All Work/Safety Plans will include provisions for keeping track of employees and visitors who are in the workspace by date to facilitate contact tracing if needed.
Leaders need not plan for signage in their Work/Safety Plans.
A team is developing universal institution-wide signage that will be available for buildings and departments later in the summer. Leaders will be notified about sign distribution and installation.
EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
The Recovery Plan Task Force is working with academic colleges, departments and support units to ensure that fall courses have the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions and the exceptional instruction and training that our students expect and deserve is maintained. The Task Force has engaged departments and faculty across campus to identify an optimal mixture of face-to-face, hybrid and online courses for the fall, and a survey will be going out to students shortly to get their input.
We will get more information and guidance to faculty, staff and students on fall course delivery before the end of June. This guidance will also include a safety plan similar to that described above for classes that have on-campus meetings.
Student services will continue to be provided online as much as possible. All departments have a web presence and are accessible through email. Student facilities such as the Union, Recreation Center and Mike Loya Academic Services Building will have their own Work/Safety Plans.
While there are about 50 students who continue to live in University housing, the return of large numbers of students requires special planning. The Dean of Students and staff are developing a plan for residential living based on best practices and health guidelines. Because large numbers of student athletes live in campus housing and athletes return to campus before other students, the Dean of Students is working closely with the Department of Athletics on this plan.