March 15 COVID-19 Update to Staff
I write to share important information regarding our plans to support staff during this coming week in response to the unfolding COVID-19 situation. We are focused on maintaining a safe and healthy workplace, sustaining our academic programs remotely, and ensuring continuity of operations. The college remains open and staff should continue to report to work this week, particularly as we have students on campus who will still be departing to travel home in the next two days.
The most important action we have taken to safeguard the health and safety of the community was the difficult decision to require our students to return home. There are a limited number of students who are unable to leave campus either because of travel restrictions in home countries or significant extenuating personal, family, or other circumstances. These students will be given permission to remain on campus until the end of the winter semester. Thus, the college must continue to provide housing, meals, and other support for this group of students on an ongoing basis.
Because certain students will be on campus for two more days and others will be physically present for longer, following is the guidance for the week ahead:
- Our top priority is to maintain the health and safety of the campus. We are not aware of any reported COVID-19 cases in the Bates community, although cases have been reported in Maine and we must recognize and assume that the virus is more widespread than testing to date would indicate. Thus it is critical that all Bates employees observe the public health guidance regarding responsible hygiene practices, social distancing, and limitations on gatherings. This information is posted by Bates and supported by guidance from the CDC.
- If you have concerns about working on campus this week, please consult Jay Phillips if you work in Facility Services, Christine Schwartz if you work in DCCE, or the senior staff member responsible for your area if you work in any other department. If you are concerned with respect to privacy involving health-related issues you may consult with Human Resources.
- We recognize that daycare centers and K-12 schools are closing in many communities. If you have a dependent in one of these schools and are unable to make arrangements for dependent coverage, please speak with Jay, Christine, or your senior staff member.
- As ever, but especially now, we ask that staff and faculty not come to work if you are sick, particularly if you are experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
- We are following our usual leave policies, except that, for this week, any employee who, with prior approval, misses work due to illness or dependent coverage and has insufficient accrued paid time off will receive their full pay and benefits and will not be required to take unpaid leave. Dependent coverage is for employees home with dependents whose schools or daycares have closed. If you have low paid time off accruals, please speak with Jay, Christine, or your senior staff member.
Meanwhile, we are actively developing plans to support remote work by employees whose physical presence is not required to carry out their duties. We have asked managers to consider how they can adjust schedules and assignments going forward to reduce the number of people on campus at any given time, while continuing to keep the college open and operating.
This is an unprecedented situation for both Bates and the broader community, and we appreciate your patience and dedication as we work through these significant challenges. We also emphasize that this situation is evolving rapidly and will undoubtedly require ongoing revisions to how we manage our work together. We are actively monitoring the situation and we will communicate accordingly.
Vice President for Finance and Administration, and Treasurer