UMass Amherst will provide a full college experience in fall 2021, including face-to-face instruction, full residence halls, and a complement of student events and activities. It is expected, therefore, that staff resume their on campus work this summer. Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to Fall 2021. This information was updated August 10, 2021.
Building and Office Space Safety
Q: How will the university keep me safe as we return to campus?
A: The University will continue to follow guidance provided by the CDC and DPH related to mandatory safety standards and will maintain all health and safety protocols as required. Any changes to current campus guidance will posted to the university’s website.
Q: Is there a plan to provide rotating schedules or find single occupant office/work space for those in shared work spaces?
A: The University will continue to follow CDC and DPH guidelines for safe and appropriate use of space. Subject to public health and vaccination data, buildings will be permitted to be populated at full capacity and resume normal operations for the fall with likely no need for staggered or rotating schedules.
Q: How will staff workspaces be accommodated and be aligned with health and safety protocols (i.e. installation of Plexiglas, etc.)?
A: The University will continue to follow CDC and DPH guidelines. It is expected that we will return to pre-pandemic standards once offices re-open at 100% capacity and barriers will not typically be necessary. Final decisions related to physical modifications will be determined by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). Facilities and Campus Services will continue to utilize cleaning protocols pursuant to state and federal guidance.
Q: Will we be able to use bathrooms or kitchens safely?
A: Yes, the University will continue to follow DPH/CDC guidelines regarding Covid19 safety standards until rescinded or amended by the state.
Q: Will we continue using the daily Covid self-checklist?
A: Yes, every member of the UMass community has a role to play in maintaining a healthy and safe campus. With that said, all individuals will be required to comply with all current Covid19 safety protocols, including using the daily Covid19 self-checklist.
Q: Has environmental health and safety reviewed and addressed building ventilation systems in older buildings?
A: Yes. EH&S has worked closely with Facilities and Campus Services to review and address building ventilation. If there are concerns or questions related to a specific building, the building coordinator can contact the Environmental Health & Safety office.
Q: How do I report a safety concern?
A: Employees may report safety concerns to their supervisor and/or the Environmental Health & Safety office.
Q: Will masks be provided?
A: The University encourages employees to provide their own face covering whenever possible, and many members of our community have already purchased or made them for their own use.
Q: If I am fully vaccinated, is it okay for me to not wear a face covering, socially distance, or follow all of the other public health requirements that we were required to follow previously?
A: Public health guidance continue to adapt as the pandemic continues and variants of the novel coronavirus emerge. All members of the community, even those fully vaccinated, should continue to keep apprised of current guidance from state and federal health officials and the university. The university may, on occasion, issue health and safety requirements that are more detailed or comprehensive than what is currently recommended at the state or federal level.
Testing Requirements and Vaccination Information
Q: What will testing requirements be for Fall 2021 for all employees?
A: Employees onsite will continue to be tested in accordance with current campus testing requirements. Testing requirements can be found at the University's COVID-19 Testing Programs website. These requirements will be examined as necessary.
Q: Are supervisors allowed to ask staff if they have used the daily self-checklist?
A: Employees are expected to monitor their own health condition using the daily self-checklist. If a supervisor notices that an employee is exhibiting symptoms from the checklist, they may speak with the employee and send them home if necessary.
Q: Is it a requirement to be vaccinated?
A: Employees, who are not already vaccinated, are required to receive a dose of COVID19 vaccine by August 16, 2021 and a second dose, if required as part of the vaccine regimen they choose, by September 16, 2021. Employees may be vaccinated at the site of their choice, but the University shall continue to make vaccines available to employees on the Amherst campus during this period.
Q: If I am on a pre-approved leave, do I have to get vaccinated by the deadlines?
A: Employees who are on a pre-approved leave (e.g. parental leave, sabbatical) and will not be accessing campus are not required to be vaccinated until their return from leave.
Q: What if a booster shot is recommended due to the variant(s)?
A: If a booster dose is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) prior to June 30, 2022, the University will develop a plan to ensure employees comply with the recommendations.
Q: How will my vaccination status be tracked?
A: The University will track and maintain each employee’s vaccination status in a confidential manner, including by downloading the status of active employees on the MA DPH database. Employees whose vaccination status is not available on the MA DPH database, including those employees vaccinated out of state, shall need to provide proof of vaccination status.
Q: Do I have to wear a mask if I am not fully vaccinated?
A: Employees who are not fully vaccinated (two weeks have passed since their final dose) are required to wear masks. Importantly, even vaccinated employees may be required to wear masks, depending on current public health rules enacted by the university.
Q: What if I want to wear a face covering?
A: Individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated should continue to wear face coverings. Individuals who are fully vaccinated may wear a face covering if they wish to, even if there is no current masking requirement in effect.
Q: Is there a process for medical and religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement?
A: Any requests for medical exemptions to the vaccination requirement shall be made in writing using a Medical Vaccination Exemption Form [PDF] and process on the university website that includes uploading appropriate documentation to support such request (like certification from an appropriate medical professional that the employee should not be vaccinated). Medical accommodations related to exemptions will follow the university process for ADA requests.
Any request for religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement shall be made in writing using a Religious Vaccination Exemption Form [PDF] and process on the university website that includes uploading appropriate documentation to support such a request (certification from appropriate religious professional that the employee should not be vaccinated). The appropriate documentation can be uploaded and/or attached to an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What safety protocols are in place for employees exempt from the vaccination requirement?
A: Employees exempted from the vaccination requirement shall be required to wear masks and otherwise be subject to mandatory testing as recommended by public health officials. Supervisors may be made aware that an individual is exempt from the vaccination requirement (but not told why the exemption is in place) in order to enforce any mask, testing, and distancing requirements that may be in effect.
Q: What option(s) do I have, if I do not want to be vaccinated and have no medical/religious exemption?
A: Unvaccinated employees, who do not have an exemption or are not awaiting approval for an exemption, shall be placed on unpaid leave and not permitted to work until they are fully vaccinated. Those employees may use compensatory time, personal time, and accrued vacation, in that order, to remain in pay status. Employees may be placed on unpaid leave for a period of no longer than one (1) year.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Q: Are Flexible Work Arrangements available for academic year 2021-2022?
A: For detailed information regarding Flexible Work Arrangements please visit the Modern Workplace Initiative homepage.
Medical Issues and Accommodations
Q: I have a health condition that doesn’t allow me to return to work on-site at this time. Will I need medical documentation to submit an Accommodations Request?
A: If you have a health condition that impacts your ability to work on campus, you may request an ADA accommodation by using the Medical Accommodation Request Form that will require medical documentation.
Q: Will there be assistance available for those experiencing stress related to returning to campus?
A: The FSAP (Faculty Staff Assistance Program) is available for anyone struggling with stress related to returning to work or any other difficulties they may be experiencing. Visit the FSAP website for contact information.
Q: Who can I contact with additional questions?
A: Please email Covid19HR@umass.edu with any questions. Your Human Resources Director for your business unit, school, or college is also available to provide guidance and assistance with any additional questions or concerns.