Plan to Return to Campus Prioritizes Employee Health and Safety

  • June 15th, 2020

The University of Alabama entrance marker is pictured with flowers in front.The health and safety of our faculty and staff are a priority as The University of Alabama plans to return to full operations this fall.

After transitioning to remote instruction and limited business operations in March, the campus will transition to full operations, including in-person instruction, with public health policies that reduce risk to students, faculty and staff while safeguarding the most vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.

Even after a return to full operations, UA will encourage or require some to work remotely, stagger shifts and functions, maintain social distancing, and use personal protective equipment. Faculty and staff will be allowed to use available leave as needed for symptoms, quarantine and isolation related to COVID-19.

The “Plan for a Return to Full Operations” was drafted by the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Return to Full Operations alongside multiple campus working groups coordinating with The University of Alabama System Task Force and adhering to cornerstone objectives set by Chancellor Finis St. John.

The plan is nimble and will adjust as new information is available or circumstances change.

In accordance with the UA System plan, students and employees will be tested for re-entry, if available, and there will be periodic testing to detect trends and outbreaks along with testing for those who need it. UA System campuses will conduct contact tracing to stop spread and notify individuals who have been in close contact with someone with a verified positive test.

Steps being developed for faculty and staff include:

  • Education and training tools required to return to campus were sent to employees in May
  • Routinely logging symptoms in a Healthcheck feature
  • A voluntary, anonymous exposure notification app that alerts users who were in close contact with individuals with a positive COVID-19 test
  • Event passport feature to facilitate attendance at events after personal assessment via the Healthcheck

In addition, cloth face masks will be required on campus in these situations:

  • Classrooms and labs
  • Crimson Ride buses
  • Communal offices
  • On-campus gatherings where distancing is difficult

Face coverings are encouraged, but not required, in enclosed offices, enclosed study spaces, outdoor settings where distancing is met and University Recreation facilities.

Cloth masks can be worn by faculty, staff and students not studying or working within a medical setting or performing first-responder duties. Individuals are responsible for maintaining their personal PPE, and reasonable accommodations will be made for those unable to meet these requirements.

The University plans to reserve medical-grade N95 masks for employees in positions more likely to directly contact someone with COVID-19. Generally, these include, but are not limited to, certain positions within the University Medical Center, Student Health Center, Brewer-Porch Children’s Center, WOW Program, Capstone Village, UA Police Department and Custodial Services.

Faculty and staff are encouraged to keep a 6-foot distance from co-workers. When distancing is not possible during limited activities, employees should use appropriate PPE.

Measures taken on campus to limit spread include:

  • Sanitation stations and hand sanitizer available around campus
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols for high-touch surfaces, high-traffic locations and Crimson Ride buses
  • Placement of plastic dividers and covers where needed
  • One-way directional signs for large, open workspaces with multiple through ways
  • Modified layout of classrooms and communal spaces for required distancing
  • Hybrid approaches to teaching including the availability of online content for students who may be remote or temporarily isolated
  • Procedures to reduce shared objects
  • One-way halls and staircases where possible
  • Eliminating buffets in dining halls and adjustments to seating and service to maintain distancing
  • Offering more grab-and-go options in dining halls

Supervisors will play an important role in efforts to phase employees back to campus. Phased staffing measures include:

  • Remote work may continue with approval for those who can work remotely to fulfill part or all of their responsibilities
  • Alternating work days to limit interactions
  • Staggering reporting and departure times when possible to reduce traffic build-up

Those on campus are encouraged to report known or potential cases of COVID-19 to employee and student health officers for assistance and follow-up.

Faculty and staff concerned about being at a higher risk can contact UA Human Resources to assist with questions and requests for accommodations. Personal medical questions can be answered by Faculty-Staff Clinic at University Medical Center.

The full draft plan along with other public health information can be found at healthinfo.ua.edu.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.