FAQ

FAQ

Is it safe for on-site employees to work on campus?

Yes. The decision to transition to remote learning is not motivated by any evidence that the campus is inherently unsafe at this point. We have made this difficult decision in an effort to significantly reduce the population density of the campus as a preventive measure to enable social distancing, a technique recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to mitigate the potential spread of the virus. The steps we have taken are intended to reduce the risk of infection for the students who are returning home, as well as for the essential employees and the small number of students who remain on campus.

How have plans for this year’s commencement changed?

Because of the ongoing prohibition of large gatherings and our own efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19, commencement, which was scheduled for Friday, May 8th, and all commencement weekend activities, will be postponed. Chancellor Subbaswamy noted, “I cannot give you a definitive answer for how and when we will honor our graduates, but I can assure you that we will. As I work with our commencement team to develop alternative plans, I invite input from our students for whom this day means so much. Those wishing to share ideas can email them to commencement@umass.edu. As our plans take shape, we will keep the campus updated.”

Where can I find out more about the changes to Pass/Fail grading for this semester?

The FAQs About Electing Pass/Fail for a Spring 2020 Course has answers to common questions about the changes to pass/fail grading. Students can also speak with their instructor or advisor about the benefits of choosing Pass/Fail.

How is the university delivering remote learning?

Faculty and staff have adapted the curriculum and organized a dedicated suite of resources for online learning. This includes step-by-step guidance for faculty on how to conduct online classes as well as dedicated tech support for both faculty and students. These can found at Disruption Resilience: Teaching, Communication & Collaboration Tools for Students, Faculty & Staff. Technologies including learning management systems, Echo360 lecture capture and Zoom are being employed. On March 23, 2020, the first day of full-time remote learning, 43,171 individuals participated in UMass Amherst Zoom sessions. Capabilities included audio only, video/audio, screen sharing and session recording. Students will complete these courses, as they do any other, and for seniors they will stay on track to complete their studies and graduate this semester.

Does the university have a small number of students remaining on campus?

Residence Life will be housing the remaining 577 UMass Amherst students on campus in approximately 20 of the university’s 51 residence halls and has begun a sequenced process to consolidate locations.

On March 21 and 22, 825 students who left campus before spring break returned to pick up their personal belongings in five residence halls – Oak, Sycamore, Prince, Brett and Gorman. However, when Governor Charlie Baker issued new orders earlier this week for state residents to avoid travel and stay at home, Residence Life suspended further move-outs indefinitely.

Is UMass Amherst conducting research related to COVID-19?

Yes, as a top national research institution, the university has projects under way that can help the world respond to the spread of the coronavirus. For example, urgent research Is investigating whether health care providers can safely reuse protective face masks, which could slow the COVID-19 pandemic and ease a critical equipment shortage endangering medical workers and patients worldwide. For this and other research stories, visit www.umass.edu/newsoffice.

What should campus personnel do if they hear reports of possible exposure to coronavirus?

All campus personnel – including supervisors, deans and department heads – who are concerned about potential exposure because they believe an employee has tested positive, is presumptive positive, or has been in contact with someone they think has been infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), should contact the COVID-19 HR Response Team at 413-687-2283 or COVID19HR@umass.edu.

The team will advise on immediate steps to take and will then alert the appropriate campus office or state agency, which may include campus Environmental Health and Safety, University Health Services or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for follow-up. The response will include, as appropriate, attention to an individual’s health concerns, notification of potentially affected groups, and steps to manage and clean university facilities. 

Any students, faculty or staff who are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 should contact the University Health Services Triage Advice Nurse at 413-577-5229 for further guidance. If students who have gone home test positive in the future, they should also contact the Triage Advice Nurse.

 

I’m a student who lived on campus. When can I retrieve my belongings from the university?

We understand many students want to return to campus to collect their belongings. However, in compliance with Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order of March 23, implementing a stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts until April 7, the campus has suspended further residence hall move-out plans at this time. When the stay-at-home advisory is lifted, the campus will reassess any new guidelines before reinstating the sequenced move-out process for all remaining residents. 

Who should be reporting to campus for on-site work?

On-site designated personnel should report to work in accordance with the work schedule provided by their departmental leadership.

Can faculty use on-site classroom technologies to help prepare instruction for remote learning?

Yes. Faculty can leverage technology such as Echo360 lecture capture on campus to support their remote learning activities. If they choose to do so, they should visit campus on a limited basis and use social distancing practices. For further guidance, faculty can contact instruct@umass.edu.

What is the University’s policy regarding gatherings and events on campus?

All on-campus activity, including gatherings and events, is severely limited, and most students and employees are no longer on campus. On March 23, Governor Charlie Baker issued an order prohibiting gatherings of over 10 people.

  • Regardless of size, all external events (with outside vendors and non-UMass guests) are canceled.
     
  • All gatherings – meetings or other events – with more than 10 participants scheduled to be held on campus must be held virtually, postponed or canceled.
     
  • Attendance at all off-site events with more than 10 participants is prohibited. Virtual participation is allowed.
     
  • Regardless of whether an event or gathering falls within this scope all persons are urged to maintain social distancing (six feet away from other people) whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizer and practice proper respiratory etiquette.

 

 

What are the options for high-risk employees who are designated as onsite employees who are over the age of 60, pregnant or suffer from a chronic health condition or are in a mandatory quarantine?

Employees designated as working onsite who are over the age of 60, pregnant, or who suffer from a chronic health condition such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are eligible for alternative work assignments during the COVID-19 outbreak. Such employees should contact Central HR at  (413) 687-2283 or Covid19HR@umass.edu, and the HR representative will work with the employee to approve the request and inform the supervisor.. The employee is responsible for finalizing the details of work assignment with the department.

What are the general obligations of an employee working remotely?

During established work hours, the employee is required to be available and ready for any work-related communication or task. The employee may be required to attend departmental or other meetings at the primary work location or on campus or via video conferences, if approved by the supervisor.

Work completed at the employee’s alternative work site shall be considered official university business. The employee must protect the information from unauthorized access, disclosure or damage and must comply with federal, state and University policies, procedures regarding access, disclosure and/or destruction of official University records.

Employees must ensure that university information, including personally identifiable information (PII) and student records is secure at all times.

Are there alternative work assignments available for non-exempt employees who are not required to be physically on campus?

Yes. Supervisors will communicate the parameters for remote work, including the tracking of hours, overtime approval and providing work direction.

How should an employee prepare to work at an alternative work site?

Employees should bring home their laptop and other necessary materials. Managers/supervisors can receive guidance on making alternative work-site arrangements.

Employees must use sick or other accrued leave for any portions of the day where work is not being performed.

The University recommends that any work performed off site through a University application be completed using University-owned equipment since that equipment has the most up-to-date security applications installed. IT should be consulted should any questions arise.

What if a co-worker becomes ill with COVID-19? Will employees still be required to come to work?

That will be a decision of the university’s public health professionals to assess the situation and advise employees and managers on the best course of action, which may include quarantine.

What signs and symptoms may indicate that an employee has become ill with COVID-19?

The CDC reports that COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. At present, the CDC also includes epidemiologic risk factors such as a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset, as well as close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, as criteria for health care professionals to identify individuals as patients under investigation (PUI). Refer to the most current CDC guidance as criteria will likely change as further information becomes available.

What steps should be taken if an employee on campus is ill with fever, cough or other symptoms that may evidence COVID-19?

If you are sick with a fever and cough, please stay home and seek medical assistance if necessary. Employees working on campus who are sick with a contagious acute respiratory illness should remain at home for at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (more than 100° F / 37.8° C) and signs of fever — without the use of fever-reducing medications — to minimize the spread of illness. Employees should seek immediate medical care if symptoms become more severe (e.g., high fever, difficulty breathing, etc.).

May the campus send an employee home if they have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. A manager can consider sending an employee home if they are showing symptoms of being ill. The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough or shortness of breath. The decision to send an employee home who is exhibiting these symptoms or others is to be made on a case-by-case basis. If possible, consult with the campus Human Resources Office and University Health Services staff before sending an employee home. An employee sent home shall remain in pay status for the remainder of the day and use accrued leave or unpaid leave thereafter.

May the campus prohibit an employee from coming to work if the employee is known to have had close contact with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, or who has contracted COVID-19?

Yes. The campus is obligated to provide a safe workplace and may take necessary and reasonable steps to minimize health risks for its employees, such as requiring that employees not come to work if they have COVID-19. If an employee has had very close contact with a person who has COVID-19 (such as living in the same household), the employee should be told to watch carefully for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Employees should stay home if COVID-19 symptoms develop and should go home immediately if COVID-19 symptoms occur at work.

Will the campus require an employee who contracted COVID-19, or who was possibly exposed to COVID-19 and directed to remain quarantined, to provide certification before returning to work?

Yes. We will require a certification from a local public health department clearing an employee to return to work if they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 and been placed in quarantine.

What if a co-worker becomes ill with COVID-19? Will employees still be required to come to work?

That will be a decision of the university’s public health professionals to assess the situation and advise employees and managers on the best course of action, which may include quarantine.

What if an employee wants to go home because the employee doesn’t want to risk exposure to illness but are not ill?

Employees may be granted time off by their supervisor under the relevant collective bargaining agreement or policy. Such employees must use their accrued time or unpaid leave.

Are additional considerations made for employees on campus who are at risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Employees 60 and older, pregnant employees and people who have serious chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease may be more susceptible to serious illness may request alternative work assignments. Please contact central Human Resources at (413) 687-2283 or Covid19HR@umass.edu to discuss further.

What precautions can employees can take to remain healthy when sharing a workspace?

The CDC has recommended many steps employee can take to minimize contact and guard against illness.

Will the campus grant leave to an employee who is sick with COVID-19?

Yes. Employees who are ill with COVID-19 should be advised to remain at home until cleared by their local public health department to minimize the spread of the virus. Employees will be able to use accrued leave or unpaid time for any period of absence. We are exploring additional options for employees who exhaust or have exhausted paid leave time in order to remain in pay status.