COVID-19 Return to Campus Required Employee Training Coming Soon!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Return to Campus
- 1. What is Rice doing to make the campus safe to return to work on campus?
a. Each school/division/department is developing a Return to Campus Plan, in collaboration with Rice Crisis Management Advisory Groups, where the following will be identified:
- the administrative (e.g. adjusting staff schedules) and engineering controls (e.g. reconfiguring office layouts) implemented to ensure physical distancing measures are in place;
- the plan for self-cleaning including ordering supplies for easy access;
- the process for ordering face coverings for employees working on campus
b. Each employee will be required to complete a Return to Campus training outlining not only the measures Rice is taking to provide a safe place to work but also sharing the expectations for employees while working on campus.
- 2. Who should I talk to if I am concerned about returning?
Each employee is encouraged to talk with their supervisor first. If employees have concerns after doing this, employees and/or supervisors can contact Human Resources for guidance. Please reach out to HRBP@rice.edu.
- 3. Will there be testing?
Rice is currently in the process of identifying testing options.
- 4. What PPE is being provided for Rice employees?
Rice will be providing masks for employees and each school/division should make plans for ordering via https://coronavirus.rice.edu/ppe-guidance. Depending on one's position, PPE beyond a face mask can be requested. Additionally, employees can bring their own mask and are encouraged to keep a mask at the office, in the car, etc. ready for use if needed.
- 5. What cleaning practices will be put into place across campus?
Each school/division/department, depending on the location, will be developing a cleaning plan. FE&P has established the areas that will be cleaned regularly and each area will need to have a plan as well. Cleaning will be a shared responsibility for all employees, specifically maintaining one's personal work area daily.
Cleaning supplies can also be ordered via the PPE site at https://coronavirus.rice.edu/ppe-guidance.
- 6. How will I know when I can return to work on campus?
Each employee should work with their supervisor to develop their employee work plan, which is based on the needs of each area and the circumstances unique to each employee.
- 7. Will employees be required to self-monitor?
Employees are required to do a self-health assessment daily prior to coming to campus. See the CDC guidelines regarding symptoms at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html. If needed please use the symptom self-report form and process for Rice at https://coronavirus.rice.edu/.
- 8. What is physical distancing?
Much of the public discussion to date focuses on specific disease-prevention strategies – e.g., face coverings, which I wrote about last week. Over the coming months you will hear the crisis management team referring to a systems approach to creating a safer environment to mitigate against a potential spread of COVID-19 on the Rice campus. This term refers to a layered defense, each intervention working in collaboration, with no single strategy as a silver bullet.
What will constitute this system at Rice? Some methods will focus on individuals: testing for the COVID-19 virus and temperature checks; personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, and engineered barriers; and, personal hygiene such as hand-washing and staying home if ill. Other methods will focus on the community and campus infrastructure levels: population health procedures such as physical distancing, reducing gathering sizes, and case management (contact tracing, isolation, quarantine); and building strategies such as cleaning and disinfection of high touch points and improved ventilation.
Today we want to elaborate more on physical distancing. We specifically use this term, not the more common “social distancing,” because our goal is not to socially isolate people – in fact, just the opposite. Physical distancing means keeping space between you and other people outside of your home, and it’s one of the best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is a particularly important practice if you are a member of a higher-risk group as defined by the CDC.
While on the Rice campus everyone should, whenever possible, stay at least 6 feet away from other people. When this is not possible, a face covering must be worn both indoors and outdoors at all times when you’re within 6 feet of someone else (except when you’re in your residential dorm suite or when you’re in your own office or space used only by you).
Physical distancing is particularly important for gatherings, and you should limit your participation in groups and stay out of crowded places. This is why the university is limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people, both indoors and outdoors, coupled with a requirement for appropriate physical distancing and face coverings.
All of the above methods are scientific and technical matters, based on the guidance issued from the CDC. But of equal importance is our need to care for each other, and every person taking responsibility for our collective environment. The first person in Houston to test positive for COVID-19 was a Rice employee. That individual did exactly what we hope and expect every member of the Rice community would do – staying home when ill; reporting when a travel companion tested positive for the virus; providing a list of all Rice people who they had contact with, who in turn self-quarantined for two weeks; and, finally, returning to work when fully recovered.
We have put in place some extraordinary, and temporary, policies (e.g., face coverings, limitations on gatherings) and there will be others over the coming months. Some members of our community would have us go further; others would prefer no rules at all. But we must have some, and they must be reasonable to ensure the collective cooperation we vitally need.
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration
What we’re reading this week
COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings (CDC, May 27, 2020): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/office-buildings.html Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education (CDC, May 30, 2020): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/considerations.html How COVID-19 Spreads (CDC, May 27, 2020): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html
- 9. What are the cleaning & disinfectant protocols for Rice?
Our custodial staff have been trained to follow the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control’s guidance for cleaning and disinfection and to keep themselves safe while doing their jobs. They are using the EPA’s approved Disinfectants for Use Against SAR-CoV-2 (COVID-19) for cleaning.
One key decision we have made is to deploy our custodians to work on tasks – and in areas – that have the highest impact on preventing disease transmission. So we must modify some routine maintenance tasks. Generally, our custodians will focus on cleaning public spaces and ask members of our community to help with spaces that are mainly private.
- Specifically, here’s what the university is doing:
- Placing hand sanitizing stations at all designated entrances to buildings.
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, toilets and sinks with much greater intensity.
- Increasing cleaning of commonly used spaces.
- Deploying sanitizing wipes in all office suites, classrooms, labs and common spaces.
- Fogging to sanitize all bathrooms and shuttle buses every night.
- Removing trash and recycling from public areas.
- Following the strict hygiene protocols already in place for food preparation and delivery, as well as in athletics facilities.
All of us must work together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, so we are asking everyone to help make our community safer by doing the following:
- Be diligent in practicing physical distancing by wearing university supplied masks or other face coverings, staying at home when you’re ill, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- If you’re a student living in a residential college, use cleaning supplies furnished by the university to clean your room.
- If you’re faculty and or a student, use the disinfectant wipes provided in each classroom to wipe down surfaces before the start of class. While we will be cleaning classrooms more often, we can’t sanitize every classroom between every class.
- Everybody working in a private office or suite will bring their recycling and trash to a common place on each floor of each building, where it will be removed daily by our custodial staff.
We’re doing this because it not only makes our campus safer for all of us, but also specifically helps protect our frontline custodians, who are working hard to take care of our university. All of these actions are very similar to those taken by most of our peer institutions, and we know they will make Rice a much safer place to learn and work in the fall semester.
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration
- 10. How is Rice protecting employees as we prepare to return to campus?
We will require supervisors to prepare a work plan for every employee. We’re doing this because every employee has different personal circumstances and the Human Resources Office is helping supervisors make appropriate accommodations. Although accommodations made for health reasons generally require medical documentation, in many instances, COVID-19 specific accommodations will be granted without normal medical documentation and without going through the formal ADA accommodation process.
Every employee will be required to take a short on-line training course before returning to work for the fall semester. The training will cover proper hygiene procedures such as the right way to wear a face covering, the meaning of physical distancing and the importance of staying home when you’re feeling ill.
At the end of the training, every employee will be required to sign an affirmation that they will abide by the special rules (such as wearing a face covering) established to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Violations of these temporary policies will be strictly dealt with through the normal employee discipline processes.
We want everyone who feels ill to stay home. Effective July 1, 2020, Rice will implement a temporary sick leave program that will remain in effect while the university responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. All full-time and part-time staff will receive five days of sick leave, in addition to normal paid-time-off. The sick leave days will be available for staff to use until June 30, 2021. Additional details will be published this week by the Human Resources Office.
Lastly, we are recommending everyone who works at Rice to conduct a Daily Self Checklist before reporting to work. Any employee who has been directly exposed to COVID-19 patients or has symptoms of COVID-19 should email or call their health care provider, contact their supervisor and submit a Rice University Health Reporting Form.
We are closely monitoring the increasing rate of infection in Houston and Texas. As President Leebron has stated, the university will make decisions about the fall semester in mid-July, including contingency plans to adapt to the changing environment.
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration
- Can employees work remotely? Are there resources and tools for guidance?
The university is open and requires some Rice employees physically on campus to provide services to our community. However, every effort should be made to provide opportunities for remote work for staff. Unfortunately, some job duties simply cannot be performed remotely. Employees should discuss their situation directly with their supervisor for clarification on remote work and special pay codes related to COVID-19.
For normal paid time off, employees should follow the procedure as they do typically. This policy can be reviewed at https://policy.rice.edu/405.
- Setup VPN and Duo – connecting to Rice network and accessing Rice resources
- Computer equipment requirements: Rice-owned or personal – is it ready for remote teaching?
- Setup your Cisco VoIP phone for Single Number Reach
- Guidelines to working remotely
- Quick links to remote working tools – email, VPN, Zoom, Canvas, Library Journal, etc.
Zoom – Collaboration/Online Meeting Tool: https://kb.rice.edu/84808
- Setting up your account – For those that have not used Zoom before, you should have received a Zoom invitation to confirm the new account that has been provisioned for you. Please click the accept link and login to your account. If you already are a Zoom user no action is required.
- All Rice Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students have been granted a Professional license which provides for up to 100 attendees and a maximum of a 24 hour session duration. Undergraduate Students have been provisioned with a Zoom Basic license.
- For meetings over 100 attendees you may request a Webinar License from the OIT Helpdesk and these will be granted by priority need.
- Joining or Hosting a Zoom meeting session – https://kb.rice.edu/67469
Cisco VoIP Phone:
Single Number Reach: https://kb.rice.edu/98804
- Single Number Reach will allow you to setup an additional phone number (such as your mobile phone) that will also ring when your office line is called.
- Scheduling when this feature is active is optional.
Call Forwarding: https://kb.rice.edu/77512
- Forward all calls to Voicemail or another number
Remote Access to Voicemail: https://kb.rice.edu/64041
You may access your office phone voicemail remotely by calling 713-348-3000 and follow prompts
- Rice Emergency | Rice Crisis Management: https://emergency.rice.edu/
- Requesting additional assistance for your technology needs:
- I have heard that we are practicing “social distancing.” What is that?
Social distancing is a term used to describe infection control actions taken by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Most recently, it’s been referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the best strategies in preventing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) The CDC defines social distancing as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible."
It is less drastic than quarantine or isolation, which are used for people who are suspected to be carrying the virus. While some people may find social distancing to be a big relief—canceling business-related travel to a conference may give someone peace of mind—others find it to be a major inconvenience. Many concerts and public gatherings have been canceled due to the recommendations about social distancing.
Clearly, social distancing may be the most effective way for people who aren’t infected with the coronavirus to avoid getting it. But it does lead to some major changes in how businesses are run, public events are held, and social interactions occur. Understanding what it means, why it’s recommended, and how to practice it can help alleviate any fears you may have.
Why is the CDC Recommending It?
The CDC believes COVID-19 spreads easily throughout communities. So they have recommended social distancing as a way to help stop the spread. The CDC believes COVID-19 spreads easily throughout communities. So they have recommended social distancing as a way to help stop the spread.
- My child’s school is closed but I need to work. What services can Bright Horizons back-up care provide?
Bright Horizons Centers are still open, and you can make an appointment to take your child to one of those locations or you can have in-home care as well. More information about this service can be found here. https://people.rice.edu/benefits-rewards/other/back-up-care-advantage-program/rice-bright-horizons-care-advantage-fact-sheet/.
- Should I be concerned about interacting with people from a certain country?
Fear and anxiety about a disease or illness can lead to social stigma toward people, places or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. While safety precautions must be taken during a widespread public health concern, recognize when students, employees, etc. are being treated unfairly and demonstrate our commitment to the Rice values and inclusion by taking the proper steps to intervene and report such treatment.