Boston College released a Guide for Returning to the Workplace on June 2 to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 among faculty and staff as they return to campus. The guide, which includes recommendations for departments regarding scheduling and procedural instructions to allow for physical distancing, will be in place for the foreseeable future, according to the University.
The guide says that the University’s plans to reopen will comply with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s phased plan for reopening the Commonwealth and will take into account recommendations from the federal government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“It is difficult to determine exactly how long it will be in effect since the situation and the guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the CDC continue to evolve,” Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor said in an email to The Heights.
Baker’s original plan, announced on May 19, said that colleges in Phases 2 and 3 will construct operational plans for reopening. A June 1 executive order allowed businesses to partially reopen in Phase 1 to conduct necessary preparations for reopening in Phase 2. Phase 2 will occur in two parts: Step one began on Monday, while the start date for step two will be announced at a later date.
The guide says that faculty and staff will return to campus in phases in order to comply with physical distancing and building occupancy requirements. The first staff members to resume in-person work will be those “less able” to work remotely.
“The University, when assessing expanded staffing, will consider such factors as the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing capabilities for COVID-19, while also prioritizing mission-critical operations and the necessity to access on-site resources,” the guide reads.
The guide directs departments to schedule partial staffing and alternating days of on-campus work, and to stagger start and end times in order to minimize density on campus and enable physical distancing. It also recommends that departments consider implementing remote work options for employees, wherever possible. Faculty and staff who are able to continue working remotely—either fully or partially—should continue to do so, and all changes must be approved by each department’s respective dean, vice president, or vice provost, according to the guide.
Faculty and staff must refer to the “BC Employee Self Checklist” to conduct daily symptom monitoring prior to coming to campus. In order to resume on-campus work, faculty and staff must exhibit no symptoms related to the coronavirus, or they must be evaluated and cleared to return to work by a medical professional. Employees who experience any symptoms listed on the guide are to inform their supervisor or department chair, self-isolate at home, and contact their primary care physician for further guidance.
Any employee returning to campus may be required to receive daily temperature screenings prior to reporting to their designated workplace. Staff who engage with large numbers of people or who provide direct contact services, including Facilities and BC Dining workers, are more likely to be subject to the screenings, according to the guide.
Properly trained University representatives will administer temperature screenings with non-contact, infrared thermometers in private locations near the designated entrances of each individual’s workplace. If a screening detects a fever, the staff will be moved to a private and safe location to review the next steps and requirements for returning to work before they are sent home.
Employees who test positive for the coronavirus must isolate at home and cannot return to work until cleared by their physician, the guide reads. Any medical treatment related to COVID-19 is covered by BC’s employee health insurance, Trainor said in the email to The Heights. Those who test positive will be expected to use their accumulated sick leave to cover days of work missed while in isolation.
Staff who have been in close contact with an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus, which the guide defines as “within six feet for 10 minutes or more,” must quarantine for 14 days before returning to work, the guide reads.
Faculty and staff quarantining because of exposure to the virus will be given up to 14 days of leave with pay. If exposed more than once, individuals will be required to quarantine and will receive an additional 14 days of leave with pay, Trainor said in the email. Individuals who are able to work remotely while quarantining will be expected to continue doing so, subject to department permission, according to the guide.
“If people are sick we want them to stay home,” Trainor said in the email. “If people have been exposed … we want them to stay away from campus to control the spread of the virus.”
The guide says departments should encourage those with increased health risks to continue remote work. Employees who are planning to resume on-site work who are at a higher risk for the virus, are pregnant, or may experience mental health issues from returning to work are encouraged to utilize the Reasonable Accommodation for People With Disabilities Process. Possibilities for employees who use the process include accommodations for teaching or working on campus or remotely, or a combination of both, according to Trainor.
BC identification cards will be required to enter all campus buildings. Each building, department, or office will be responsible for maintaining a record of all individuals who enter a building that is not their home office, including campus visitors, in order to enable future contract tracing.
Entry to public restrooms will be limited, and in some cases, certain stalls or urinals will be closed, to guarantee at least six feet of space between individuals. The guide calls for elevator use to be restricted to ensure physical distancing and for employees to follow target occupancies posted in each elevator. The guide encourages faculty and staff to wear a mask or appropriate face covering when using a public restroom or elevator, and to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer afterward.
The University will conduct periodic “deep cleaning” of all campus buildings, particularly those with high traffic, in compliance with CDC cleaning and disinfecting guidelines. Departments should consider installing glass or plexiglass at customer service desks and counters, according to the guide.
Departments will alter meeting rooms, and they may rearrange open and shared work spaces to increase physical distancing. Some departments may take additional precautions such as adding signs or tape telling individuals where to stand and one-way directional signs to allow proper distancing in shared work areas.
Meetings should be held virtually whenever possible, according to the guide. If not possible, they should be limited to 10 people or fewer, and all participants should wear a mask or face covering unless the meeting space is large enough to allow for at least six feet of physical distancing.
Specific instructions for work in laboratories are not available in the guide, but it says they will be added once it is finalized.
The guide suggests that faculty and staff eat in their own office area or outside when possible. Gathering in break rooms that do not meet physical distancing requirements is prohibited, and individuals in break rooms and University dining halls must abide by strict instructions, including keeping their face masks or coverings on until ready to eat, using disposable plates and utensils provided by the University, keeping at least six feet apart, and avoiding facing each other. The guide instructs faculty and staff to disinfect table surfaces and other kitchen equipment used before leaving a common area.
Employees should use provided cleaning materials to disinfect shared items—including kitchen equipment, printers, and shared workstations—before and after use, according to the guide. It says that equipment designated for individual employees, including keyboards, phones, and tools, should not be shared with others.
The guide says that University vehicle surfaces should be disinfected before and after use. Occupancy of the vehicles will be restricted to one person at a time whenever feasible, and if not, all occupants must wear masks or face coverings while inside.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor
Correction (6/15/2020, 6:05 p.m.): This article has been updated to clarify that the guide was posted on Tuesday, June 2, rather than Tuesday, June 9.