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Working on Campus Guide

Guide for Returning to the Workplace

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is committed to providing guidelines and best practices that will help keep employees safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The university has developed the following Guide for Returning to the Workplace to assist employees returning to campus. This guide will be updated as federal and state restrictions are modified. This guide provides protocols for the general population. More specific COVID-19 work plans may be developed for specific departments, trades, tasks and evolutions. 

Whether it is due to personal or family health concerns, to care for children or other reasons, employees in need of an accommodation can make that request to Human Resources by emailing COVID19HR@uml.edu. The Employee Assistance Program offers many tools and resources to navigate the pandemic.

Other Resources:

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  1. We will keep the safety and health of our community as our top priority.
  2. We will provide the fullest academic and campus life experience possible.
  3. We will meet or exceed guidance set forth by state and federal authorities.
  4. We will rely on members of our community to act responsibly.
  5. We will act on new information promptly.

Health & Safety Practices

  • Daily Self-Monitoring Requirement:  The daily monitoring of one’s health and well-being aids in early detection of infectious disease and is one of the most effective measures to prevent community spread of COVID-19. Staff coming to campus are required to review the university’s COVID-19 Daily Self Checklist prior to reporting to work. If upon completing the self-check, you answer YES to any of the questions you MUST STAY HOME, notify your supervisor and email Kim Casey, Director of Compensation and Benefits, or call at 978-934-3557 or COVID19HR@uml.edu. If you start to feel sick during your shift, you are to notify your supervisor, go home and contact Kim Casey as indicated above. 

  • Social Distancing: Keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus and slowing its spread. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if they have no symptoms. Social distancing is important for everyone, especially to help protect people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. All community members on campus are expected to adhere to the following social distancing guidelines:
        Stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people at all times.
        Do not gather in groups.
        Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.

  • Face Coverings: Because social distancing cannot be assured at all times, face coverings must be worn indoors, including in classrooms, laboratories and open office spaces. Face coverings must be worn outdoors when six feet of distance can’t be maintained. Face coverings are not required in private settings such as individual offices and residence hall rooms.

    It is recommended that face coverings be kept on your person at all times since it is possible that you may come within six feet of another person. Wearing a face covering helps to protect others by containing respiratory droplets when you cough, sneeze or speak. Since individuals can be contagious before the onset of symptoms, you may be contagious and not know it. If you cover your nose and mouth, it can limit the spread of COVID-19. Another good reason to use face coverings is you touch your face less when your face is covered. Touching your face after touching something contaminated with COVID-19 increases your chances of getting sick with COVID-19. Please refer to the Face Coverings FAQ and Knowing the Difference of the Types of Face Coverings for more information. 

  • Laboratory Environments: Specific resources have been developed for individuals working in laboratory environments. Please visit EH&S COVID-19 Information for Labs website

  • Personal Protective Equipment: These guidelines are not meant to override existing requirements for use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is required for your work on campus. Where there is a discrepancy between these guidelines and established PPE requirements, seek further guidance from your supervisor and/or Environmental Health and Safety.

Personal Hygiene Guidelines

a sign in the bathroom reminding people to wash hands for 20 seconds Photo by Ed Brennen

It is important that you continue to follow the CDC and public health guidance which includes: 

  • Wash your hands – use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. To prevent the spread of germs, wash your hands often throughout the day, especially after coughing, sneezing, using or cleaning restrooms, and before handling food.

  • Use hand sanitizer when you are on the go and cannot wash.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash.

  • Don’t share drinks, food, utensils or similar items.

  • Clean shared equipment before and after each use.

  • If you are sick, stay home. Avoid close contact with others.

Workplace Settings

  • Staffing: Only faculty and staff directly involved in on campus student teaching and Residence Life support are authorized to work on campus on a regular basis 

  • Working in Office Environment: We have invested in safety measures ranging from physical barriers to enhanced cleaning efforts. Departments should assess open work environments and meeting rooms to institute measures to physically separate and increase distance between employees, other coworkers and visitors.  

    • If you work in an office, no more than one person should be in the same room unless the required six feet of distancing can be consistently maintained.  
    • If more than one person is in a room, face coverings must be worn at all times. A face covering is not required if you are working alone in a confined office space (does not include partitioned work areas in a large open environment).   
    • Face coverings should be worn by any employee in a reception/receiving area. Face coverings should be used when inside any UMass Lowell facility where others are present, including walking in circulation areas such as corridors where others travel and in break rooms, conference rooms and other meeting locations.
  • Meetings: It is strongly encouraged to conduct meetings via web-based tools, such as Skype, Zoom or traditional conference calls. In person meetings will be limited in size to no more than 10 people. Meeting rooms must have chairs removed, and remaining chairs set up to provide at least six feet social distancing between attendees. 

  • Campus Vehicle Usage: Only one person is allowed per vehicle. Prior to initial daily entry, vehicle interior, steering wheel, high touch surfaces, and door handles should be cleaned with disinfectant wipes, or disinfecting spray approved for use against the COVID-19 virus.

  • Elevator Usage: When using the elevator maintain social distancing by staying six feet apart in the elevator if that is not possible ride solo or take the stairs. 

  • Hallway usage: Wear face coverings in hallways when there is a possibility to come within six feet of others.

  • Breaks: Lunch and intermediate breaks will be taken with standard social distancing practices of six feet of separation being observed. It may be necessary to stagger lunch periods and breaks to allow for this social distancing.

  • Travel: At this time, all university travel is prohibited.

Submitting Plans for Return to Campus

Most employees will continue to work remotely, but offices that require an on-campus presence must submit their plan for each employee in their office or unit to safely return to work through an online process. 

The centralized planning process will enable Facilities, Police, Public Safety, Parking Services, Health Services, remote card access and other campus services to know who is on campus and prepare to deliver support as needed. We certainly understand that plans may change throughout the semester and when they do, revised plans should be submitted through the portal.

There are three options available:

Short-Term: Individuals that require on-campus access for a few minutes, hours or days (less than five) may request access through this process. These requests are reviewed by an authorized senior cabinet member, and if approved access is granted for the time frame request.

Long-Term (not for research): Individuals or units that require on-campus access for longer than a week, on an ongoing basis, or are submitting a re-entry plan for the department may request access through this process. These requests must be initiated by department directors/chairs and are reviewed by the executive cabinet member of the department/unit as well as the Operations & Logistics committee. Approved access is granted after review and approval.

Research/Scholarship: Individuals that require access for research activities may request access through this process. These requests must be submitted by the lab PI and are reviewed by the Research Review Committee before approval.

Authorized approvers (Executive Cabinet, Senior Cabinet and designees) will receive an e-mail as requests are submitted, and can be reviewed by using the link in the e-mail or navigating to www.uml.edu/AccessRequest and then the Reviewer > Pending section.  All e-mails are automatically generated.

Department plans should be developed with these criteria in mind:

  • The health and safety of employees and students
  • What is the critical value added by having employees on campus in the delivery of front facing student services or services in support of teaching and research activities?
  • If a face-to-face service must be delivered on campus, can employees rotate between remote and on campus?
  • How does the physical layout of the office space (i.e. cubes, private offices, circulation, etc.) constrain staffing levels?

Please assure that all employees for which access is being requested have read and agree to abide by the UML Return to Work guidelines.

Please build in time for university leaders to review your plan and additional time for support services to prepare for your occupancy before setting the date employees in your area will return to campus. 

Submit Building Access Request

Cleaning/Disinfecting

Table full of cleaning kits Photo by Ed Brennan

UMass Lowell has a trained and professional maintenance staff that is responding to the needs of campus in regard to the COVID-19 on a daily basis. In addition to the standard cleaning protocols, the university has implemented an enhanced cleaning frequency to clean and disinfect common areas and commonly touched surfaces.

All UMass Lowell employees should wipe down commonly used surfaces before and after use with products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19 and are appropriate for the surface. This includes any shared-space location or equipment (e.g. copiers, printers, computers, A/V and other electrical equipment, coffee makers, desks and tables, light switches, door knobs, etc.).

  • Cleaning can be done with soap and water, or by wiping down with disinfectant spray or wipes. It is recommended that EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 be used for this purpose. Cleaning may be all that is necessary in your work area if surfaces and objects are not being touched throughout the day by multiple persons.
  • Disinfection must be done using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 complying with recommended contact times listed for these disinfectants. Disinfection is important for surfaces and objects touched by multiple persons through the day. Frequency of disinfection will be determined by the amount of exposure to touching by multiple people.

In the event that the university is notified of a positive COVID-19 case with on campus exposure, Facilities Management developed plans to clean, sanitize and disinfect the affected area as appropriate. Learn more about Facilities cleaning protocols.

The work practices established above are designed to provide protection consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance.

Testing

A student takes a testing swab from a student EMT Photo by Tory Wesnofske

Weekly surveillance testing is required for all residential students and is expected for all commuter students, faculty and staff who are on campus. This step exceeds all current Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

Testing for any students who exhibit symptoms will be available through the Wellness Center. Symptomatic faculty and staff should contact their healthcare providers for testing. 

Surveillance testing is conducted among populations who are not showing symptoms in an effort to identify potential cases early and quickly isolate them before the virus can spread. UMass Lowell has partnered with the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center affiliated with MIT and Harvard University.

  • Tests will be self-administered and are minimally invasive. The individual being tested will collect the sample themselves by inserting a swab that looks like a “q-tip” just as far as the bottom of the cotton tip into one of their own nostrils, rotate it around the sides of the nostril for 15 seconds, and then use the swab to repeat the same procedure in the other nostril. 
  • Surveillance testing will be conducted by the university at no cost to individuals. 
  • Results will be shared via email as quickly as possible, with results typically expected within 24 to 48 hours. Residential students who test positive will follow their isolation plan. Contract tracing to identify exposed individuals will be undertaken in partnership with the Department of Public Health.
  • Results will only be shared with the Department of Public Health if the test is positive. This is protected health information and will not be shared with parents of students or other campus community members. Read more about contact tracing.
  • Testing does not replace or reduce the importance of social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands, isolation or quarantine.

Contact Tracing

The role of the university in contact tracing can be characterized as supportive. The statutory responsibilities of local public health are to initiate and lead contact tracing. As a reminder, a close contact is defined as someone who was closer than six feet from you for longer than 15 minutes.  

Our role as an organization, if requested by local public health or the Contact Tracing Collaborative (CTC), is to clarify the scope of contact a student or staff member might have had while on campus. Local public health authorities may also contact the university if there are unusual and/or alarming levels of disease requiring more intensive investigations and accompanying interventions. The status of an employee's or student’s health is considered protected health information and will not be shared with the community in a manner that would violate the right to privacy of that community member.  

Health Services will support the symptom assessment review and the logistics of placing a student in isolation and quarantine when a positive case is identified in our student population. This will be recorded by Health Services in the manner of other protected health information.