As you know well, East Georgia State College has temporarily suspended instruction for two weeks beginning on Monday, 3/16/2020. Although instruction is suspended, the college is not closed. The college has created a Task Force which will be meeting regularly and closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation during this two-week period.
This COVID-19 situation has and will continue to be a fluid situation. The directives we receive from national, state, USG and local authorities will likely change from time to time as the situation changes. It is extremely important that each of us maintain regular and direct contact with our supervisors during this period to assure that we are up-to-date as the situation evolves.
• During this two-week period, I encourage you to regularly visit the college’s webpage about COVID-19 to stay up-to-date.
• Many faculty and staff will be teleworking, and those necessary to maintain service and safety will be on campus working. As this situation evolves, it may be necessary to make modifications to teleworking and on-campus assignments. Again, please stay in direct daily contact with your immediate supervisor so that changes can be made as needed.
During this two-week period, our two major goals will be (1) to prepare all of our courses for wholly online instruction so that we will prepared should it become necessary to offer all courses online for an extended period of time following this two-week suspension; and (2) to further develop and test the college’s Business Continuity Plan so that we will be able to continue to offer services to faculty, staff and students at an appropriate level during any continued period of interruption of normal operations. I know that everyone in our college community is committed to the intense hard work which will be necessary to accomplish these goals over the next two weeks. Your work and dedication are deeply appreciated.
Use the Travel Registry
As you know, the college established a Travel Registry to assist us in protecting our college community. You are Encouraged to Use the Travel Registry.
Registration is required if you have recently traveled or plan to travel to any of the Level 3 destinations before the beginning of fall semester 2020.
EGSC also encourages you to voluntarily register any domestic or international travel plans (from now until the beginning of fall semester) as you make those plans. This voluntary registration will enable the college to understand and evaluate risks as the situation develops. In short, knowing your travel plans will enable EGSC to better communicate with you about risks and precautionary measures and to protect our college community.
All Non-essential Travel Is Suspended
During this two-week period of suspension of instruction, all non-essential college travel is suspended. Even if your travel was approved prior to this period, please re-submit any request for travel to your immediate supervisor before traveling if you believe it is essential. That request must be approved by your immediate supervisor, the Vice President for Business Affairs and the President before you travel.
Preparing All Courses for Delivery in Online Format
As indicated above, one of our major goals during this two-week period of suspension of instruction is to prepare all courses for delivery in wholly online format so that we will be prepared for the possibility that implementation of that plan becomes necessary at the end of the two-week period. EGSC’s academic leadership will be working closely with faculty and staff during the next two weeks to assure that we are ready to do this if necessary. Additional resources include:
• The distance learning team at the USG has created a Keep Teaching Resource Webpage designed to provide faculty with helpful resources and contacts to prepare for a transition to online instruction.
• USG eCampus has produced an online training course for USG faculty called Guide to Teaching Online in D2L. They will share with any institution that requests it. It is a condensed triage-style training that focuses on the basics of online access, communication, quizzes, and assignment submissions. There will be a companion training for students as well as a basic D2L LMS template that faculty can use. If interested, please email Amy Austin, Director of USG eCampus Online Faculty Development, at email@example.com.
You are Encouraged to Conduct All Meetings Electronically, Not Face-to-Face
Please strongly consider the use of Skype, Zoom or conference bridge numbers to conduct all meetings. This includes meetings with as few as two EGSC employees. If you need assistance in setting up these meetings, please submit a work request to our IT department. Please understand that they will have an even heavier workload than usual during this extraordinary period. They stand ready to help you, but your patience is important in getting all of us through this together.
Please practice social distancing
You are strongly encouraged to help make our campuses “hand-shake” free zones and to maintain the practice of maintaining an appropriate distance between individuals in all face-to-face encounters. Also, please take full advantage of the disinfectant supplies made available to your unit and the hand sanitizer stations located around our campuses.
Responding to Requests from Media Sources for Information
It is possible that you will receive requests for interviews from media sources about things like the two-week suspension of instruction, cancellation of college events and external events on campus and teleworking. Please be certain to contact the Office of Institutional Advancement for advice before responding. It is very important that the public and all members of our college community receive clear and consistent information about this situation. Following this practice will help us accomplish that.
Beware of Scams and Misinformation
Please see the email message which was sent by our Chief Security Officer on 3/13/2020. As he points out, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, some bad actors are using this situation as an opportunity to harm others. As stated in his email,
- “Obtain information from trusted sources. Some web sites are providing misinformation and serving malicious software. Refer to the World Health Organization (WHO) (https://www.who.int), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (https://dph.georgia.gov/) for official information on COVID-19.
- Check email addresses and links. Inspect web links by hovering your mouse pointer over the URL to see where it leads. Review the sender’s email address.
- Beware of online requests for personal information. A COVID-19 themed email requesting personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Never respond to these emails.
- Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation or grammar errors, it is possible this is a phishing email.
- Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are likely to use greetings like “Dear sir or madam.” These usually signal an email is not legitimate.
- Avoid COVID-19 themed emails requiring an immediate response. Phishing emails often create a sense of urgency. Stop-Think-Act.
- Report suspicious email. Contact the EGSC helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org (478-289-2004) if you receive suspicious email. Alternatively, you can contact me directly at email@example.com.”
Information about Events on Campus During this Two-week Period
Virtually all public events scheduled on our campuses during this two-week suspension have been postponed or cancelled. This includes games scheduled for our Bobcat baseball and softball teams. Our Event Planning Office has already reached out to event organizers about cancellation or rescheduling. If you have any questions about an event which you scheduled or plan to attend, please contact our college’s Director of Event Planning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporting Any Information You May Receive About Individuals Who May Have Been Exposed to COVID-19 or Who Exhibit Symptoms of COVID-19
Please see the information below in the guidance from the USG for employees under the headings: “What Should I do if I am Sick?” “What do I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?” “What should I do if I am exposed but do not show any symptoms?” and “What if I have been exposed and am showing symptoms?”
The college is required to report known cases of COVID-19 to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Accordingly, if you do become aware of any information of this type, please let your immediate supervisor know immediately. The immediate supervisor should then promptly make the President’s Office aware. If for any reason you cannot contact your immediate supervisor, please call the President’s Office immediately. Also, please remember that exposure to COVID-19, infection or the perception by others that you may have or have been infected is a stressful event for the individual and those close to them. Please assure that you treat any information you may receive about suspected or actual exposure with the highest level of confidentiality possible under the circumstances and with compassion for the individual involved.
Information for Employees from the University System of Georgia
In addition to the above information, the USG has provided the following guidance for employees (as of 3/13/2020).
“What can I do to protect myself?
The most important responsibility we each have is to practice prevention. Prevention is paramount.
Please take appropriate measures such as:
· Wash hands regularly.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
· Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Be responsible and courteous to others and stay home if you are sick. If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your health provider.
· Respect personal space when greeting others and during conversations.
· Be mindful of those in high-risk populations such as those with underlying health conditions and the elderly.
We take very seriously the responsibility to make prudent choices for the well-being of the USG community. The Governor has issued a directive to reduce the number of employees on-site at any one time and prioritize teleworking and flexible scheduling.
What action is the University System taking to protect students, faculty and staff from COVID-19?
We continue to monitor COVID-19 and to take safety actions as warranted. We are operating in conjunction with our local, state and national health agencies to include regular updates with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).
Each college and university president has established a task force composed of leaders from across campus who are working to continually assess the institution’s readiness plans and execute protocols related to medical health and safety, business continuity, emergency preparedness and travel.
What should I do if I am sick?
Employees should not come to work when they are sick. Employees should stay home and use appropriate leave. If an employee appears to be exhibiting symptoms associated with coronavirus while at work, a manager should excuse the employee from work and advise them to seek care from a healthcare provider. Regular benefits-eligible employees have leave available to them to cover absences. Employees should follow standard request and approval procedures. The employee will be expected to use appropriate leave to cover the time away and may be expected to provide a release from a healthcare provider to return to work.
What do I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath; you should contact your primary care physician or institution health center, if applicable for students.
What if I have been exposed but am not showing any symptoms?
Employees who believe they have been directly exposed to COVID-19, but are not showing symptoms, should self-quarantine consistent with DPH and CDC guidelines. Employees must contact their supervisor if they are unable to come to work or need to make a telework arrangement. Employees should contact their healthcare provider if they become sick and remain home.
What if I have been exposed and am showing symptoms?
Employees who believe they have been directly exposed to COVID-19 and are showing symptoms should seek care from a healthcare provider and may be required to self-quarantine. During this time, employees should not come to work and should inform their manager. Managers have the discretion to determine if an employee’s duties and responsibilities can reasonably be performed from an employee’s home location, and, when they can, the manager may elect to offer the employee the option to telework.
Will FMLA cover me if I become ill with the COVID-19?
If you are eligible for FMLA and you have tested positive for COVID-19, then yes FMLA will be available to you.
If employees have only been exposed to the virus, FMLA is not applicable. However, they may still need to be quarantined, and applicable non-FMLA leave (to include sick leave) could be an option subject to standard request and approval procedures.
Will FMLA cover me if an immediate member of my family contracts COVID-19?
Yes, FMLA allows an eligible employee to take FMLA leave if either the employee or an immediate family member, defined as spouse, child or parent, contracts the virus.
Can a manager consider telework or flex schedules for employees?
Employees should consult with their supervisors about teleworking and flexible schedule options. Supervisors have increased flexibility to approve telework and flexible schedules in order to comply with the Governor’s directive to reduce the number of employees on-site at any given time. Authorized managers can waive the requirement to complete the usual telework agreement and may use email to confirm approval to telework.
What guidance is available for home quarantine and isolation?
The CDC has guidance on this topic found at the website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/.
If my job involves travel and I’m concerned about potential risks, what should I do? What if I am a manager of an employee who is scheduled to travel for work?
All non-essential business travel is suspended in order to comply with the Governor’s directive. Managers have the authority to rescind prior travel approval. Required in-person meetings should be transitioned to an electronic format or rescheduled. USG official travel to a CDC Level 3 or higher country is not authorized and will not be reimbursed.
Will I be reimbursed for travel if my meeting is cancelled?
Employees should explore all options to obtain refunds or credits for cancelled or rescheduled conferences and business meetings. Employees will be reimbursed for expenses that cannot be refunded due to COVID-19 assuming the travel was properly authorized consistent with travel regulations.
What if I am planning personal travel or have traveled out of the state or country?
Employees should use their best judgment regarding travel plans to destinations other than CDC Level 3 or higher locations. Anyone planning to travel, either domestically or internationally, is encouraged to stay up-to-date with current travel alerts from the CDC.
Currently, CDC recommends travelers should avoid nonessential travel to any country at a Warning Level 3 or higher. Employees who have traveled to or plan to travel to CDC Level 3 or higher locations must not return to any USG campus or facility for 14 days following their return. In addition, employees returning from a Level 3 or higher country are required to self-quarantine in accordance with the DPH and CDC guidelines.”
I extend to each one of you my personal thanks and appreciation for all you are doing to keep our college community safe and to continue a high-quality learning environment in the face of this world-wide situation. Your efforts make a big difference. Thank you.
Each of you is very important to us. Please be safe.