As state and local restrictions begin to lift and the University explores returning to full operation, it is critical that we remain focused on prevention and mitigation efforts aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. To that end, please closely review the following health and safety guidance. It includes important information for the campus community—faculty, staff, and students—about health and safety expectations as well as useful steps to take at home, in the community, and once you are cleared to return to campus. There are a number of hyperlinks and videos embedded in the material below. Please be sure to visit those links and include that information in your detailed review.
EXPOSURE TO AND SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Symptoms generally appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Individuals with the following symptoms or a combination of symptoms, may have COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fever (100.4° or higher)
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Unexplained headache*
- Sore throat*
This list of symptoms is not all-inclusive. Please consult a University health care provider** to discuss any other symptoms that are severe or concerning. Additional information is also available on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
If you have any of these symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have been in close contact*** with someone who is symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19, you should stay home to self-monitor and promptly contact a University health care provider** for additional guidance.
If you have returned to working on campus, you should also contact your supervisor. If you are COVID-19 positive, symptomatic, and/or have been exposed and have questions about returning to campus, please contact the following individuals:
- Faculty should contact: Joel Brouwer, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-348-6304
- Staff should contact: Sharon Hale, Sr. HR Partner, at email@example.com or 205-348-4641
- Students should contact: Dr. Steven Hood, Associate VP of Student Life, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-348-7549
If you have any of the foregoing symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have been in close contact with someone who is symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19 do not return to campus until you have been cleared by one of the campus officials named above (or their designee)
*If an unexplained headache, sore throat, nausea, or diarrhea is your only symptom, it can potentially have other, non-COVID-19 causes. If one of these four symptoms is your only symptom, please promptly contact a University health care provider for guidance.**
**Faculty and staff can contact University Medical Center at 205-348-1770. Students can contact the Student Health Center and Pharmacy at 205-348-2778.
***The CDC defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an individual for a prolonged period of time (i.e., 15 minutes).
You can take a number of actions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Wash Your Hands
Members of the campus community must regularly wash their hands with soap and water. Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs and prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information on why, when, and how to wash your hands, please visit the CDC’s website and watch the following video.
While washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations, if soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Practice Social Distancing and Avoid Close Contact
Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing:
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
- Do not gather in groups
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings
Keeping space between you and others, especially people who are at higher risk of getting severely ill (i.e. vulnerable populations), is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and to slow its spread. All members of the campus community must practice social distancing.
Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when Appropriate
It is important to understand the appropriate use of PPE. The effectiveness of PPE is highly dependent upon proper fit and use. Below is a brief summary of primary PPEs.
- N95 Masks, also known as N95 Respirators, are currently in short supply nationwide. These devices should only be worn by front line workers in medical facilities, first responders, custodial/environmental safety workers, and vulnerable populations. The CDC does not recommend that the general public use N95 masks.
- Cloth Masks are designed to protect others from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. They offer limited protection to the user, but are an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19. The CDC currently recommends wearing cloth masks in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Cloth masks can be cleaned and reused. The University will provide cloth masks to employees who do not have their own masks. Cloth masks must be worn on campus when social distancing is difficult to maintain. Employees should notify their supervisor if they need a cloth mask.
Surgical or Latex Gloves are only required to be worn by those performing medical procedures, those disinfecting common surfaces and those handling food or trash. The COVID-19 virus does not harm your hands, so gloves provide no protection, and touching your face with contaminated hands, whether gloved or not, poses a significant risk of infection. Additionally, proper removal of gloves takes training; if contaminated gloves are not removed properly, individuals are exposed to greater risk. When wearing gloves, people are also less inclined to wash their hands; this is counterproductive and puts others at higher risk.
Protective Glasses or Goggles are only required to be worn by front line workers in medical facilities and first responders who are at the highest risk of being exposed to fluids from an individual who has the COVID-19 virus.
Practice Good Cough and Sneeze Hygiene
Always turn away from others and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If available, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. Immediately dispose of the used tissue and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
Consistent with federal and state guidance, the University has implemented enhanced campus cleaning measures, which includes cleaning surfaces that provide the greatest opportunities for spread of the virus (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handrails, faucets, elevator buttons, etc.). The University also intends to have sanitizing wipes or other disinfecting supplies available for employees to use to regularly clean their personal workspaces (i.e., wipe down keyboard, mouse, phone, etc.). Members of the campus community should also wipe down their personal phones and continue regularly cleaning and disinfecting their homes, living quarters, and work spaces.
Human Resources / Leave Questions
As University employees begin returning to a working status, please remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides certain protections to employees who qualify for Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). For more information, please review the HR Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs. Employees should contact HR at 205-348-7732 if they have concerns about being a member of the vulnerable population.