COVID-19 Update - Telecommuting Options
March 16, 2020
Please read this email in its entirety as it contains important information for all employees.
By now I am certain everyone is aware of the Executive Order regarding COVID-19 issued late last week by Governor John Bel Edwards enacting various emergency measures including closure of all K-12 schools through April 13. As of this date, all actions implemented by Southeastern in response to COVID-19 are consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order.
In today’s update, I want to share with faculty and staff additional details regarding campus operations that reflect the latest guidance from public health officials and others regarding the coronavirus.
I want to remind everyone that we are doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. In addition, to the extent possible, we want to ensure our students can earn credit for their courses and continue progressing toward their educational goals. Finally, we want to make sure that we are doing everything necessary to help protect public health.
Many of the specific steps that we and other organizations have enacted in recent days are associated with what is known as “social distancing.” This strategy is designed to reduce close contact between people in order to limit opportunities for transmission of the coronavirus among individuals in the community. These measures are being implemented in hopes of protecting people as well as slowing the spread of the coronavirus so that our hospitals and healthcare agencies can maintain the capacity to treat individuals needing acute care and avoid what could otherwise become overwhelming numbers of patients.
For us, these actions have included suspending travel and cancelling all university-related activities and events, including athletic practices and competitions. Additionally, as you know, we are reconfiguring academic instruction to eliminate face-to-face instruction, primarily by transitioning classes to online delivery. As academic classes move to remote delivery in the next few days, faculty members will be able to drastically reduce the need to routinely be present on campus, unless their presence is deemed essential as directed by their supervisors.
Before providing additional details about “social distancing,” I want to point out several special circumstances that could impact faculty and staff and provide the specific actions these individuals will need to take. Specifically:
If you are ill or feel as though you might be becoming ill, if you have reason to believe that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, or if you recently returned from travel to a location where there is an active coronavirus outbreak, do not come to work, make your supervisor and Human Resources aware, self-isolate and seek medical advice/treatment.
If you have an elevated risk of infection by the coronavirus, or if you are at risk for developing more severe illness should you become infected, do not come to work, and make your supervisor and Human Resources aware. Individuals in this category include older adults and those with serious underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, suppressed immune system, etc.
If you have dependent or spousal care issues arising from that individual’s presumptive or positive diagnosis of COVID-19, do not come to work, and make your supervisor and Human Resources aware.
If you have dependent care issues as a result of closure of public schools and daycare facilities, you should discuss your situation with your supervisor and Human Resources.
While it will be necessary for some staff to remain on duty on campus in order to maintain critical operations, I anticipate that some staff, due to the nature of their duties, will be able to transition to work from home as designated and approved by their supervisors.
Supervisors who have questions about implementation of any of the above referenced matters should seek guidance from the next-level supervisor and Human Resources. Please note that Southeastern has an existing Telecommuting Policy, including a Telecommuting Agreement which must be completed and approved in order for staff members (not faculty) to be authorized to work remotely. While prior approval of a Telecommuting Agreement is required, I am temporarily modifying the approval process to require only the supervisor’s recommendation and final signoff by the relevant vice president. Additionally, I am temporarily modifying the policy to allow for the Agreement to be completed and approved online. Instructions for seeking and obtaining approval of a Telecommuting Agreement will be posted to the COVID-19 resource webpage shortly.
As mentioned earlier in this communication, social distancing measures are intended to mitigate spread of the coronavirus. Specific social distancing measures to be exercised by faculty and staff going forward are as follows:
Try to keep at least six feet distance from others.
Avoid congregating in large groups of people, especially in confined spaces.
Avoid business or personal travel other than local travel that is of an essential nature (grocery store, pharmacy, etc.).
Avoid any contact with anyone who appears to be ill.
It is also extremely important that faculty and staff continue employing aggressive personal protective measures that have been described previously, including:
Frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
Use of appropriate hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching high-touch surfaces.
Avoid touching your face.
Employ appropriate cough/sneeze protocols.
Clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
I cannot overemphasize these basic protective measures; please ensure that you employ them while on campus and when you are away from campus.
I know there is almost nothing about any of this that seems remotely like “business as usual,” so I will not even presume to suggest that we carry on as usual. What I am asking is that you do the best you can under the circumstances, and that you try to be patient and exhibit a caring attitude toward others.
As we move forward, there will almost certainly be more disruptions, frustrations and unanswered questions. Despite these issues, I believe we can successfully meet any challenge if we work together, and I am proud and humbled to work alongside each of you as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
John L. Crain