Is USU requiring vaccines or masks?
After the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to what has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, USU announced plans to require vaccines for students for the spring 2022 semester. Details are forthcoming.
State law prohibits state universities, including USU, from requiring masks. Additionally, universities in the state of Utah are required to have more than 70% of courses offered in-person, which makes 6-foot social distancing in the classroom no longer feasible.
Vaccines, masks, and social distancing are critical tools for reducing the transmission of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. The university enthusiasticallly asks all those who can to get the vaccine, to wear a mask in indoor spaces, and social distance to the greatest extent possible and whenever possible.
What is the university doing to help students, staff and faculty stay healthy?
USU is taking the following actions to protect campus communities:
- The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way you can protect yourself and others against the virus. The university will work with the local health departments to offer a series of vaccination clinics on campus as soon as students return for the fall semester. These clinics will be free and open to all students and employees.
- The university strongly encourages masks indoors, including classrooms, and will have signage across campus to that effect. Though state law requires that no one be excluded if they refuse to wear a mask, individuals are free to ask others if they will mask up together. Download approved COVID-19 signage for use in your office. Please note, disrespectful behavior or retaliation toward any member of the campus community based on a person’s use of face mask (or not) is prohibited and will not be tolerated.
- The university asks anyone who is ill to stay home and get tested for COVID-19. USU offers USU COVID-19 Paid Leave to all eligible employees in situations related to COVID-19.
- USU will continue to both perform case containment and monitor wastewater (sewage) on campus for enhanced levels of COVID-19. These tools help us determine when to target COVID-19 testing to specific groups, such as on-campus residence halls.
- Free COVID-19 testing on the Logan campus will continue to be offered to all current employees and students who have symptoms or think they may have been exposed to the virus. Free testing is also available throughout the state. Anyone can view the number of positive cases and trends over time on the USU COVID-19 dashboard.
If I am meeting with a colleague or student who exhibits symptoms of an illness, what should I do?
Employees meeting with individuals, including students, who are demonstrating visible symptoms may request to reschedule the appointment or meeting, meet remotely via Zoom, or by phone. This should be done in a polite and thoughtful way without shaming the individual with symptoms.
May I only meet with students via Zoom or by phone?
You may always offer the option of meeting via Zoom, but if a student requests a meeting in person, that request should be honored. If you have concerns about this, talk to your supervisor about ways to increase social distancing in the meeting and having masks on hand to offer to those you meet with.
Can an employee who is symptomatic be required to go home?
Yes. A supervisor can and should require an employee who is ill with any symptoms to stay home, seek a COVID-19 test, and not return until their symptoms subside.
Anyone who is has tested positive or been exposed to someone who tested positive, or has been asked to quarantine by health officials should submit a COVID-19 Questionnaire. USU's case containment team will reach out about contact tracing and will provide more information and support.
If an employee is staying home for illness, when can they return to work?
The symptoms of COVID-19 are highly variable and may change with new variants. Individuals who are sick should get tested for COVID-19. Those who test negative should return when symptoms subside, and those who test positive must submit a COVID-19 Questionnaire and follow public health guidelines for self-isolation.
Who is eligible for COVID-19 Paid Leave?
Under Temporary University Policy 20-T2, both benefited and non-benefited employees (part-time, wage/hourly, and student employees,) qualify for USU COVID-19 Paid Leave. For questions about paid leave associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the HR Solutions Center at 435 797-0122.
Under Temporary University Policy 20-T1, supervisors are also authorized to approve telework and/or flexible schedules for employees who are sent home due to exposure or illness but who are still well enough to work for positions where work can be done remotely.
Can I ask an employee, student, or visitor if they are vaccinated?
No. You should not ask about the vaccination status of an individual. If they volunteer the information, you cannot use this information in any way to exclude the individual from locations, programs, services, meetings, or activities. You may request through signage or verbally that you prefer people to wear masks around you. You can also model mask wearing to encourage others to do so. Disrespectful behavior or retaliation toward any member of the campus community based on whether a person is vaccinated (or not) is prohibited and will not be tolerated.
What if an employee is anxious about coming to work for fear of contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it to others?
Supervisors should encourage employees to protect themselves by getting vaccinated if possible, wearing masks indoors, and keeping work areas clean. Supervisors should also include a Zoom option for large meetings, rearrange workspaces , and continue to provide plexiglass barriers to help facilitate social distancing where possible.
Under Temporary University Policy 20-T1, supervisors are authorized to approve flexible schedules, staggered or split shifts, and other innovative ways to reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone differently, and USU encourages supervisors to be flexible and all employees to support each other. Check the Aggies Thrive webpage for resilience and mental health resources for employees.
What should a supervisor do if an employee has underlying health issues or is at a greater risk for complications from COVID-19?
If an employee has an underlying health condition that puts them at a greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19, even if vaccinated, supervisors should be supportive of their concerns and discuss ways in which the risk of exposure to the virus can be reduced. If an employee has a disability or illness that puts them at greater risk, they may contact the ADA Coordinator in Human Resources to discuss available accommodations that would meet the employee's health concerns. Requests for accommodations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Supervisors who have questions about accommodating at-risk employees should contact HR.
Can an employee work remotely if they are sick or if they are caring for a sick family member?
Supervisors may approve employees to work from home when sick if their work can be accomplished remotely. Employees who are too sick to report for work or who cannot accomplish their work remotely can take advantage of COVID-19 Paid Leave. Supervisors should expect that employees may need to stay home and/or work remotely to care for sick family members or young children in quarantine.
Can an employee who cares for someone who is immunocompromised or someone who can’t be vaccinated continue to work remotely?
Supervisors and employees should discuss these issues and be flexible and innovative in identifying ways to lessen the risk of COVID-19 exposure to the employee, including through social distancing, mask wearing, and plexiglass barriers. An exception to working onsite 100% of the time may not be available to the employee, but the temporary COVID policy allows for staggered or split work shifts to reduce density in the office or hybrid work schedules to accommodate caring for an immunocompromised person as long as the work permits this. Requests affecting onsite work must be approved by the supervisor with the support of the vice president or dean over the unit.
How will the university respond if the pandemic worsens again or large outbreaks occur?
University officials will continue to track case count data (for the state, USU communities, and campuses), perform case containment, and monitor wastewater (sewage) for elevated levels of the virus. Consistent with our infectious disease plan, USU will utilize all available tools to address any outbreaks, including focused and hot-spot testing, case containment, and, if necessary, adjustments to program and service delivery methods. USU’s response will be carefully tailored to the present circumstances, and deployed on an escalating basis.
The vaccine is the best tool we have to prevent a large outbreak and the transmission of COVID-19 and severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. We encourage all employees and students who can to get vaccinated. There are many myths circulating, but you can find the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine from the Utah Department of Health.
Additionally, university officials recognize that outbreaks may affect local K-12 schools or daycares and will continue to respond with flexibility for employees.
Will the university monitor for COVID-19 cases in the student body or employees with randomized testing like in spring of 2021?
No. University officials will continue to monitor wastewater (sewage) for elevated levels of COVID-19 and target testing in specific areas to contain potential outbreaks.