The science behind living (in our case teaching, researching and learning) in a COVID-19 environment is becoming increasingly clear. The vast majority of transmissions happen because of the presence of virus-saturated droplets in the air shed by COVID positive people – both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Individuals become COVID positive because they come into contact with a sufficient density of these droplets. Current CDC guidance establishes that the greatest risk to being infected is for anyone in close contact (within 6 feet) with a COVID positive person for 15 minutes or longer. There are very few transmissions that occur from someone touching a contaminated surface. I found this article useful in understanding the current science.
With this science in mind, our safety emphasis for this semester will be as follows:
- Face Masks/Coverings. Masks are the single best way to reduce airborne droplets and to reduce the risk of transmission by both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID positive people on campus. All individuals on campus are required to wear a face covering while on campus. You can review our interim face mask/covering policy here. The final policy and accompanying procedures will be shared with campus soon.
- Distancing. All of our classrooms have been configured to ensure there is more than 6 feet between all occupants, including instructors, of the classrooms. We need your support to make sure that classroom seating configurations (all of the chairs, tables and desks) remain the same throughout the semester. Signs are placed throughout each building instructing occupants about safety protocols that we expect everyone to follow. While many of the signs are designed to lower the density around occupants, it is each person’s responsibility to maintain a 6-foot bubble around them. Large signs will be posted to remind Jayhawks to maintain 6 feet between each other.
- Cleaning. Buildings will be closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. so that our custodial staff can thoroughly clean each of our buildings in a safer environment. We will use fogging machines each night to establish a more thorough daily cleaning of each building, so it is best that the buildings are not occupied. During the day, there will be custodial staff in each building, focusing on keeping high-touch surface areas clean. The custodial team will not clean classrooms between classes. Alcohol wipes will be located within each room and students will be expected to wipe down hard surfaces when they take their seats. Cleaning supplies will also be available for all office spaces so that employees can disinfect their work areas as needed. Our research teams have partnered with custodial since reopening in April, and have practiced a similar protocol.
- Responsibility Pledge. As members of the Jayhawk community, we are each responsible for carrying out each action in our Responsibility Pledge in order to protect ourselves and each other. If we each stay home when we are not feeling well, wear our face masks at all times, maintain our distance from our fellow Jayhawks, and wash our hands frequently, we have the greatest likelihood of completing the fall semester uninterrupted, which will help to ensure our shared success as individuals and as a university during the pandemic.
- Common areas. Common areas will be available for staff, students and faculty in all of our buildings, as well as in eight tents positioned around campus. Guidelines for using the common areas, to include eating, can be found in the Employee Handbook at protect.ku.edu.
Staff Management and Support
Supervisors, I recognize that you have a unique and critical role in ensuring our staff feel valued, heard, empowered, and supported so they can be successful in their work as they serve our students and their colleagues during this unprecedented and challenging time.
I ask that you take extra care to listen to your staff – to make sure you are aware of their unique needs and challenges – as you make plans to open offices this fall while shaping an appropriately flexible work experience wherever and whenever possible.
I know the Operations team has been coordinating with you to understand which members of your staff are going to be on campus this fall and their requirements for support. This week we need to establish clarity and finalize plans for staffing offices on campus and supporting staff who will continue to work from home. Please connect with your staff this week to ensure they are aware of plans for your office and your expectations for them and their work this fall.
In order to best prepare for fall, my specific ask of all supervisors is that you complete the following tasks over the next several days:
- Follow up with Operations and confirm which staff members are going to be on campus and where they will be working.
- Confirm with Operations (firstname.lastname@example.org) that we have adequately configured staff work spaces to accomplish work in the safest way possible. The primary focus will be to establish the same distancing measures we have configured in our labs and classrooms. Where necessary, we will install barriers to add a layer of protection.
- Communicate with your staff members to ensure they are aware of and comfortable with their work role and location for the fall semester. The Operations team is available to help with these conversations if helpful.
- In instances where you have an employee who is essential to on-campus operations, yet does not feel comfortable with the way their space has been configured or who has other concerns, the Operations team will work with you and the employee to determine if there are additional safety measures that can be put in place to mitigate concerns.
- Please send all updates and requests for support to Callie Long, who will be coordinating follow-up conversations as necessary.
The time to finalize all of our preparations is tight, and we still have work to do to address the physical configuration of our staff work areas. As a reminder, to the extent possible, our goal should be to have as few staff as possible working on campus for the fall semester.
One of the values of the Jayhawks Rising strategic plan is “we respect and support one another.” Supervisors, this is a critical moment when you, as a leader at KU, can make sure our staff feel their voices are heard. Thank you in advance for completing these tasks that demonstrate our commitment to our shared values. That will help us to collectively create the university we envision, “an exceptional learning community that lifts each other and advances society.”
Thank you for all you do for KU.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor