COVID-19: CHRO email to OAs and classified employees on July 15, 2020

Subject Line: Return-to-Campus Planning: Update on safety plans and precautions


Dear Collegues,

I am writing today to provide an update on the University of Oregon’s return-to-campus planning efforts. As you know, our current plan is to resume more in-person, on-campus instruction, research, services, and events in the fall, following very strict safety protocols and expectations. Our resumption efforts are focused on safeguarding people.

We recognize that there is a rise in incidents of infection within the state and counties, which is obviously a source of concern, and we will continue to monitor the situation and adapt our plans accordingly. We will make a decision about whether to alter our plans for in-person instruction by August 26. Outlined below are the key components of our actions and considerations so that you can get a full sense of the planning and health precautions.

Safety plans for increased in-person, on-campus activities

If conditions allow for safe and responsible in-person instruction and on-campus research, events, services, and other activities, we will implement our plans in accordance with guidance from public health authorities. These measures are being implemented in consultation with the Incident Management Team, stakeholders across campus, the COVID-19 Employee Safety Reopening Committee, which includes employee and union representatives, the Office of the Dean of Students, and others. The plan includes a variety of safety and planning measures related to university operations, individual responsibilities, case management, and other actions that have been or will be implemented and are described below:

University spaces and operations – The university has worked to adjust schedules, operations, facilities, and programs to create distance or barriers between individuals or to limit the likelihood of the virus to spread.

  • Physical distancing and reduced density – Campus spaces such as the libraries, EMU, Student Recreation Center, classrooms, and administrative offices are being arranged or marked to help maintain 6-foot distances between people. Occupancy will be limited to reduce density and allow for people to maintain safe distances.
  • Enhanced cleaning – Custodial crews are completing daily wipe downs of commonly touched surfaces (e.g., handrails, elevator controls, door handles, light switches). This practice will continue into fall term.
  • Increased air handling – Where possible, air handling systems are being adjusted to maximize the circulation of outside air within buildings. In the approximately 15 percent of systems that cannot be adjusted, measures such as opening windows and doors may be employed to increase air flow
  • Plexiglas barriers – Plexiglas barriers will be installed as necessary to provide an additional level of protection in classrooms and other high-traffic areas.

Individual responsibilities – All members of the UO community are expected to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by keeping a safe distance from others, washing their hands, covering their cough, staying home when sick, and wearing face coverings. Refer to the Workplace Essentials Checklist for reference.

  • Face coverings – UO requires face coverings indoors and outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained. Gov. Brown recently issued a similar requirement for the entire state of Oregon. The COVID-19 Employee Safety Reopening Committee and the Office of the Dean of Students, in consultation with student stakeholder groups, are assisting in the development of guidelines for the implementation and enforcement of this requirement.
  • Health and wellness – UO has implemented a symptom self-check regulation that is consistent with OHA guidance. It requires employees and students who will be on campus to assess whether they have had any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 72 hours, and if so, they should not come to campus for a prescribed period of time.
  • Student behavior expectations – The Office of the Dean of Students is developing a set of expectations for students for safe behavior and adherence to community norms. In addition, a team of faculty communications experts and university communications staff are developing a plan for effectively communicating these expectations to students to influence their behavior and encourage appropriate health and wellness behavior.

Case management – The university is supporting campus and community testing and contact tracing in collaboration with Lane County Public Health and has developed its own nationally certified testing facility. Protocols are being developed in accordance with public health guidance. More information will become available as protocols are finalized over the next month.

Additional details about each of these measures and others are available on the Return to Campus webpage.

The Mitigations Strategies Group, as part of the Incident Management Team, continues working with unit leadership to develop and approve department-level resumption plans and guidance for the safety measures described above. The department-level planning process includes an HR survey to understand employee needs to inform their plans.

Safety plans for in-person instruction in the fall

As we strive to return UO to a residential campus for higher education, we are keenly focused on plans for in-person instruction this fall. A number of schools with August start dates for fall term are beginning to announce their plans, which naturally raises questions about what the UO is doing with regards to in-person instruction (although our start date is more than a month later in most cases).

Knowing that people are thinking about these factors, Provost Phillips has outlined, in a message to faculty, next steps should incidence of the virus continue on a path that would impact our current plans to resume in-person instruction for smaller courses and increased in-person support of students and activities. The university may need to adapt our plans and operations as public health conditions change in each of the counties in which our campuses operate. Again, on or before August 26, the university will make a decision about whether to alter our plans and either more significantly reduce the number of in-person courses or to transition to fully remote model for the fall based on a specified criteria. Those criteria are listed in his message.

I recognize the challenges the uncertainty of the moment creates for each of you and appreciate your continued commitment to our students and the mission of the university. This is a dynamic situation impacted by a variety of community-based factors, such as COVID-19 infection rates and K-12 school plans for returning this fall. We will continue to monitor developments and adapt or shift our plans as needed. HR will continue to explore and identify resources to assist employees through this unprecedented time, and we will continue to engage employee groups throughout the process. Again, thank you for everything you do.

Sincerely,

Mark Schmelz
Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice President