West Virginia University leaders Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop and Drs. Clay Marsh and Jeff Coben today (July 7) sent a letter to the campus community outlining safety procedures for students’ return to campus scheduled for Aug. 19.
Dear WVU Campus Community:
We are looking forward to safely welcoming our West Virginia University family to campus for the fall semester. During this unprecedented time, we must think differently and take specific health and safety measures to protect our University community.
Your health, safety and wellbeing are our top priority and are the paramount driver of our decisions. We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation to ensure the safety of our University communities and to maintain the continuity of our teaching and research mission.
While we are taking the necessary health and safety precautions over the coming months, it is important to understand that some members of our WVU community will contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Because of this, all of us play a role in protecting the health of others and ourselves.
Additionally, we expect every member of our University community to commit to the safeguards outlined in this letter that are intended to protect you and others.
We know you’ll have questions, and we’ll work together to make sure you feel safe while you are on campus. If we commit to these safeguards, we can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and enjoy the campus experience that our University community deserves.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS BY WATCHING THE “THREE Cs” – CLOSE, CONTINUOUS CONTACT WITH OTHERS, CROWDS AND CLOSE SPACES.
Maintain physical distancing to at least 6 feet.
· Increasing the physical distance between individuals reduces transmission of the virus.
· Everyone returning to campus should strive to maintain 6 feet separation to the fullest possible extent. The greater the physical distance from others, the lesser the risk of transmission.
· This may include working or learning on a remote or “hybrid” basis, limiting meetings and gatherings, postponing non-essential meetings and events, reducing occupant density through staggered or extended schedules, removing seats from shared spaces, modifying circulation patterns and using outdoor venues instead of indoor facilities.
Face coverings and face masks will be required on all WVU campuses.
· The spread of COVID-19 can be controlled when 80% of a population wears face coverings and face masks properly.
· It is critical that all WVU community members wear face masks or coverings to protect others and yourself.
· As a general guide, masks should cover both your nose and mouth, and you should not remove them during conversations. Dr. Kathy Moffett explains why it’s important to wear your mask or face covering and how to properly put them on.
· Failure to comply with the University’s Student Code of Conduct regarding personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and face coverings, will result in one or more of the following measures: written warning, removal from class, probation, suspension and/or expulsion from the University. Employees will be subject to discipline for failure to comply with policies relating to PPE.
· Students who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons, which will be the only exemptions allowed, should contact the Office of Accessibility Services via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible arrangements. Faculty and staff who want to seek a modification should contact email@example.com to discuss their needs.
CLEAN YOUR ENVIRONMENT AND YOUR HANDS TO CREATE SAFE CAMPUS SPACES FOR ALL
· Across the University, WVU community members must maintain responsible personal hygiene.
· To protect yourself, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water or use hand sanitizer when touching public surfaces. Humming the chorus of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is an easy way to estimate.
· Do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes, which can introduce the virus.
· Cover your face when sneezing or coughing (even when wearing a mask).
· Limit touching shared surfaces to reduce the spread of the virus.
· The University will increase cleaning protocols in high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces.
TEST, REPORT, TRACK AND MONITOR HEALTH CONDITIONS
Testing for COVID-19
· The University will provide a free test to all students and employees who are returning to WVU campuses and provide for continued testing throughout the year. A nasal live-virus, anterior swab test will be administered, which is less invasive and results in less discomfort than sampling from other upper respiratory anatomical sites. The testing procedure should take less than five minutes to complete. You will be instructed to self-isolate/quarantine until you know your test results.
· You will receive an email to your WVU account containing a link to register for testing at your preferred date, time and location.
o A registration email will be sent on Monday, July 13, to faculty and staff in Morgantown who will be working on campus this fall. Employees based in Morgantown who are on temporary furlough will receive the email to schedule testing upon their return.
o A registration email will be sent on Friday, July 17, to students in Morgantown who will be attending classes on campus this fall.
o A registration email will be sent on Monday, Aug. 3, to students, faculty and staff at WVU’s divisional campuses (WVU Institute of Technology and WVU Potomac State College) who will be attending classes or working on campus this fall.
· As part of the registration process, you will be required to consent to a COVID-19 Testing Program terms of Services and complete an online pre-test questionnaire.
· For students, failure to take the COVID-19 test will result in a $250 fee being added to a student’s account.
· For employees, if you fail to take the COVID-19 test by August 15, you will be subject to employee disciplinary actions until you take the test including, but not limited to, being placed on an administrative leave without pay and/or being placed on administrative leave while using your annual leave.
· After you are tested, you will be provided a welcome back kit that includes a cloth face mask or gaiter, disposable masks, hand sanitizer and a key touch tool.
· You will be able to check your test results electronically within three to five days. You will be asked to self-isolate and monitor your condition for approximately three to five days until you receive your results.
· Students who are taking classes exclusively online and employees who will be notified by their supervisor in the coming weeks that they will continue to work remotely, or will not be physically working on campus full-time this fall, will not be required to be tested.
· Students, faculty and staff with a positive test result will be notified by the local health department. Students, faculty and staff with a positive test result in Morgantown will also be notified by the Student Health Services clinic.
· Representatives from the local health department will conduct a case investigation for all positive cases and initiate contact tracing (process described below).
· The University will assist with contact tracing and also work with local health departments to determine if there is a need to decontaminate a specific facility or implement any additional mitigation measures.
· Testing information regarding patients is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines and will be kept confidential.
· Faculty are prepared to provide course content to students who are unable to attend classes due to illness or quarantine.
· Additional detail about testing can be found on our Return to Campus: Testing website.
Self-monitoring and illness reporting
· To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure, you must regularly monitor your personal health status.
· You should not come to campus if you are feeling ill. Students, faculty or staff who become ill while on campus should return to their campus or local residence, self-isolate and avoid further contact with others. You should use a mask or face covering and follow physical distancing guidelines. Follow the instructions found on our Coronavirus website for students or for employees. Buildings or classrooms do not need to be closed and contacts of these individuals do not need to be notified.
· Some units with unique risks associated with their operations may establish more stringent access controls, including daily temperature checks and health status questionnaires before reporting to work.
· If you develop COVID-19 symptoms after testing negative, you should be evaluated by a physician. Students based in Morgantown should contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. Students on WVU’s divisional campuses should contact their Student Health Clinic, the local health department or the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources hotline at 1-800-887-4304. Faculty and staff should call WVU Medicine’s COVID-19 phone number at 304-598-6000 (Option 4).
- While COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease, the best evidence indicates that the disease is unlikely to spread through casual contact.
- The goal of contact tracing is to identify, through a series of interviews, those individuals who have had significant close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
- Until a formal case investigation and contact tracing can be completed, all those who are known or suspected to have been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 should undergo a 14-day self-quarantine/self-monitoring period. In these situations, close contact includes:
- Having been within 6 feet of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 for a period of at least 15 minutes in any environment, regardless of the use of face coverings or masks; or,
o Having been in a closed indoor space with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 for a period of at least 15 minutes, regardless of the use of face coverings or masks.
· Please note that this is interim guidance and is based on the current outbreak situation in the Morgantown community. The guidance can/will be updated as the situation evolves.
- You must self-isolate if you feel ill or have had direct contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
- Contacts of contacts (e.g., secondary contacts), or brief contacts with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, are generally not felt to be at high risk of infection. Therefore, unless the health department identifies that a specific outbreak situation warrants further action, the University will not seek to identify casual contacts or secondary contacts. Units may advise employees and students to monitor their own health for the development of any symptoms, but quarantine procedures are not required for these types of contacts.
- Individuals who meet the criteria for close contacts may be released from quarantine if they have no symptoms for a 14-day period or if they have no symptoms for a period of 7-days and receive a negative test result from COVID-19 testing. Employees and students should follow the procedures on our Coronavirus website for assistance in seeking testing.
- All WVU community members are required to notify the University if they test positive for COVID-19 or are self-isolating due to suspected or known exposure to COVID-19. Students should notify the WVU CARE Team, and employees should notify WVU Medical Management.
- The local health department will contact any individual who tests positive for COVID-19, complete an initial case investigation and initiate contact tracing. The University will support these efforts by providing contact information, personnel and other resources as requested. Once close contacts are identified, they will be quarantined and monitored for the development of symptoms.
- WVU Student Health and Student Life will work with students on procedures for isolation and return to class. Supervisors and WVU Medical Management will work with employees on procedures for isolation and return to work guidance. Units and supervisors should ensure that the privacy and confidentiality of all students and employees is maintained during any efforts to identify potential close contacts.
· Testing is only one part of a multifaceted strategy to diminish the spread of COVID-19. Our extensive initial testing will also establish a baseline of disease prevalence that will be monitored for trends throughout the year.
· We will issue a weekly update via the Return to Campus website on the number of positive cases identified within the University community. This data, along with local and regional trends, will be continually monitored by University and local and state health officials to determine if and when additional containment or mitigation strategies may be required.
PROVIDE A FLEXIBLE AND SAFE LEARNING AND WORK ENVIRONMENT
Protecting the vulnerable and our extended community
· All of our personal situations will be unique. Some members of our University community may be more vulnerable to complications of COVID-19 that increase the risk of infection or the severity of symptoms.
· According to the CDC, individuals with certain conditions may have a higher risk for COVID-19 infection such as adults aged 65 or older, people with HIV, asthma, chronic lung conditions, diabetes, serious heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, severe obesity, being immunocompromised, pregnancy, caregiving of vulnerable family members, etc.
· Currently, medical conditions that necessitate reasonable accommodations related to COVID-19 are being addressed as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodations. In accordance with the ADA Amendments Act, certain factors do not meet the definition of a disability. Reasonable modifications will be determined on a case-by-case basis. When applicable, other provisions may run concurrently with accommodations such as FMLA, FFCRA, leave and other University programs. In these cases, employees will be referred to WVU Medical Management.
· If you are an employee and have questions or need accommodations, faculty and staff encouraged to contact Coronavirusmodification@mail.wvu.edu. More information can be found at WVU’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s ADA Coronavirus Modifications website.
· Students with questions related to accommodations and the Coronavirus should contact the Office of Accessibility Services at 304-293-6700. More information is available at https://accessibilityservices.wvu.edu/.
· Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic alteration of patterns of work, transportation, family support, child-care, travel and other fundamental modes of life, we expect our leaders, managers, supervisors, faculty members and researchers to model flexibility and foster a community of wellness and awareness to the maximum extent possible.
· Flexibility includes the readiness to immediately adapt to changing circumstances by implementing more restrictions and/or returning quickly to safer at home guidelines.
Discouraging travel away from campus
· Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others; however, airports, bus stations, train stations and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also spaces where it can be hard to physical distance (keep 6 feet apart from other people).
· Traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous if you or your loved ones are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19. While you are traveling, it is possible a state or local government may put into place travel restrictions, such as stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, mandated quarantines upon arrival, or even state border closures.
· University-related international and domestic business travel for WVU students and employees will be extremely limited and require prior approval by the unit's vice president or dean of the college/school.
· Individuals who are returning to the WVU campuses from any international/cruise ship travel are subject to a 14-day self-quarantine/self-monitoring period.
· Anyone traveling domestically outside of West Virginia is subject to a 5-day self-quarantine/self-monitoring period. This does not include commuting to work.
· Due to the nature of their work, WVU clinical faculty, residents and fellows will follow WVU Medicine guidelines on travel.
· The University strongly discourages any student or employee from personal travel to locations other than their home and campus. We also strongly discourage students and employees from hosting visitors from other locations. Specific information can be found on the What You Need to Know section of Return to Campus website.
- Visitors (non-WVU students) to residence halls will only be allowed to access first-floor and public areas. Overnight guests will not be allowed in residence halls.
- Residents in University Apartments are discouraged from having guests during this time to mitigate the spread; however, no more than one guest per person/per unit is allowed at one time, per the Resident Handbook.
- Please keep in mind the visitation policy is subject to change should there be a recommendation from health officials to restrict or limit visitation.
- If a positive case is identified in a residence hall or apartment, the University will work with the Monongalia County Health Department to determine testing procedures. Contact tracing will be led by the Monongalia County Health Department and WVU School of Public Health to notify those who have been in contact with a positive case.
PROVIDE EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION TO INCREASE AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING
COVID-19 Education Module
· Prior to returning to the WVU campuses, all employees and students will be required to complete an online education module that will provide specific information about COVID-19 and further elaboration of the policies, procedures and processes the University is undertaking to promote safety and wellness in this new environment.
· The module will be available at the end of July and must be completed by August 15.
· Failure to complete the module will result in a $250 fee being added to student accounts.
· Employees will face disciplinary actions if the course is not completed by August 19.
Signage and reinforcing messaging
· Moving around our campuses this fall will be different. To help aid you in following the established protocols, students and employees can expect to see relevant health and safety information on signage posted throughout our campuses.
· The key safety guidelines noted in this letter will be continually reinforced throughout the year via communication messages, additional campus conversations and other information channels.
We’ll share more information about our Campus Health and Safety measures with you at the Return to Campus Conversation on Thursday, July 9 at 10 a.m. – and continue to visit https://www.wvu.edu/return-to-campus for information and operational adjustments as appropriate. If you have a question about public health and safety you’d like to have addressed during that conversation or on our Return to Campus website, please use the question submission form.
This is an unprecedented time in our history, and our infectious diseases and health and safety experts are working with teams across the University and the community to implement appropriate safety protocols. We ask that you continue to be patient and commit to following the guidelines that we have provided so that everyone in our University community can enjoy a safe and healthy fall semester.
We look forward to seeing you on campus soon.
Clay Marsh, MD
Vice President and Executive Dean
WVU Health Sciences
Jeff Coben, MD
Associate Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean of the School of Public Health
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
CONTACT: Tara Scatterday
Communications and Institutional Relations HSC
Director of Projects for Strategic Initiatives
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