COVID-19 FAQs for Staff | January 18, 2021
Last updated on January 18, 2021
Updates for staff from Geoffrey S. Swift, Vice President for Finance & Administration, and Treasurer are available here.
This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is separated into four sections:
- General Infection Prevention Measures
- Return to Campus
- Face Covering
- Employee Health Issues and Reporting Absences
General Infection Prevention Measures
What is the college doing to protect employees from the risk of contracting COVID-19?
The college is making a comprehensive effort to protect its employees and students from COVID-19. It has implemented an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, specifically tailored to the college, to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19. The Plan includes protocols for distancing, wearing face coverings, hygiene, and meetings, self-monitoring, employees with symptoms or diagnoses, exposure to symptomatic and diagnosed individuals, and returning to campus, among other steps. All employees are required to review and follow the Plan at all times.
Can the college require employees to observe infection control practices (e.g., regular hand washing and social distancing protocols)?
Yes. Requiring infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, physical distancing, proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal, is prudent and does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These practices may also include staggering breaks to minimize the number of people in one area at a time.
What can I do to minimize the risk of spreading illness?
Stay at home if you are sick (with any illness, but especially if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, fever, etc.); avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose; cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least twenty seconds; and if soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
How does COVID-19 impact the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The ADA and Rehabilitation Act, as well as their state and local counterparts, continue to apply during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or state or local public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19. Recent EEOC guidance specifically states that symptom screening, temperature screening, and COVID-19 testing are permissible. Employers should remember that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, the college will continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.
Can managers require the use of personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators, gloves, etc.) in the workplace?
Independent of a pandemic, yes. The college will take into consideration what is required for the safety of employees. OSHA differentiates face coverings and face masks from Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”), which is specific protective equipment for a particular activity or task. “A face mask (also called a surgical mask, procedure mask, or other similar terms) on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth)”(Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, page 10). Certain job tasks and activities, largely in Bates Health Services, Bates Security, Facility Services, and DCCE, may require specific types of face masks and other PPE given unique and higher risk activities within those roles. These departments have specific training and policies regarding PPE.
How can I ensure that I will receive all college emergency notifications?
The college has a secure emergency notification system that allows authorized Bates Officials to send information and instructions simultaneously to individuals through land line phones, cell phones, text messages, and e-mail. Please review your Emergency Contact information under the Account & Access tab on Garnet Gateway and update it as necessary.
What other resources are available to faculty and staff?
The Caring Commons is designed to share community support resources among Bates faculty and staff. Locally, both CMMC and St Mary’s have robust information on their websites. The CDC and WHO are always definitive sources of information.
While the resource list is not intended to be exhaustive, it will be updated periodically as new major or particularly relevant resources become available.
Return to Campus
Who will determine if I need to return to work on campus?
Senior staff, department heads, and managers will determine the operational needs and which employees are expected to return to campus to perform this work.
Are all employees expected to return to work on campus or will some employees still be allowed to work from home?
Not all employees will be expected to return immediately to work on campus. Managers may assign employees who can perform their duties effectively off-campus to work remotely (either partially or fully) to maximize physical distancing in the workplace on campus.
If the manager believes the employee can effectively perform the functions of their job at home, they can and should continue to allow the employee to do so. If some of the employee’s functions require them to be on campus but they can complete other portions at home, the manager may schedule the employee to be on campus for the time required to complete that campus work. Staggering schedules within the department is an effective way to limit the number of employees in a building at one time while ensuring that the work that needs to be done on campus or can be done more effectively on campus is completed.
Will my schedule change?
Depending on your department’s needs it may be necessary to alter or stagger schedules to minimize the number of employees in your department at any one time. Your manager will discuss any possible schedule changes with you.
What if I’m asked to return to campus but I have an underlying medical condition that makes me more susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19?
Employees who are high risk for developing complications associated with COVID-19 due to an underlying health condition may request an accommodation. Employees should contact their Human Resources partner to begin the interactive process to discuss possible reasonable accommodations. Barring undue hardship, accommodations may include working from home, reassignment, additional PPE and/or social distancing protocols, different schedule, etc. If a reasonable accommodation is not feasible, the college may permit the high-risk employee to take a leave of absence and use their accrued and unused paid time off during their absence. Because the risk is attributable to COVID-19, the nature of the employee’s need for accommodation may change over time. Therefore, whether the employee has an accommodation or is on leave because one could not be implemented, the employee’s situation will be reviewed regularly to determine the extent to which circumstances may call for a different approach.
All discussions about possible accommodations must include a representative from Human Resources, the employee, and the employee’s manager. Every accommodation situation requires an individualized assessment of the employee’s medical situation and the essential functions of their position. The college may request and obtain medical certification from the employee’s health care provider to assist in exploring an appropriate accommodation plan.
Will I be required to return to campus if I have an immediate family member with an underlying medical condition that makes them more susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19?
The employee should discuss with their manager whether their responsibilities can be performed at home. For work that cannot be performed at home, or not performed as effectively at home, the college has implemented protocols and policies to reduce the risk of transmission on campus. Please see the Bates Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Employees with immediate family members at high risk should be hypervigilant, practice rigorous hygiene, and take every precaution to protect at-risk family members at home.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) site, www.resourcesforliving.com (User ID 4bates Password: bwell), has a webinar with information on how to protect you and your family from COVID-19 as well as a list of resources for information on coping with coronavirus fears. The EAP is a free service for all Bates employees and their dependents.
Employees who continue to not feel comfortable coming to work may request a temporary leave of absence from their manager. Normal time away from work policies will apply. Please see the employee handbook for more information. A leave of absence will be considered on a case by case basis, balancing both the needs of the college and the employee.
What if I am concerned and do not want to work on campus?
If you do not exhibit any symptoms of the coronavirus and have not been exposed but do not feel comfortable coming to work then you should request a temporary leave from your supervisor. Normal time away from work policies will apply. Please see the employee handbook for more information. We recognize this can be a very stressful time. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free service for all Bates Employees and their dependents.
User ID: 4bates
The EAP site has a webinar with information on how to protect you and your family from the coronavirus as well as a list of resources for information on coping with coronavirus fears.
Will I be provided with disinfectant supplies to keep my work space clean?
Yes, cleaning kits (surface cleaner, disinfectant, paper towels and gloves), a vacuum and trash liners will be provided to each building. Additionally, there will be a centralized area designated to leave your trash and recycling in each building. Use these products provided by custodial services and use in accordance with instructions. Allow disinfectant to work using a ten-minute dwell time. Wear appropriate personal protection equipment (nitrile or chemical-protective gloves) for office cleaning or disinfecting.
Facility Services is implementing many changes, including increased cleaning of common spaces, installation of additional hand sanitizer units, installation of signage across campus, and a thorough review of ventilation systems. These efforts can be found here.
What considerations should be taken when organizing a department or small group meeting?
In accordance with national guidelines, meetings should be limited to no more than 10 people. In addition, meeting organizers should choose a space large enough to allow for social distancing of at least six feet between attendees. Whenever possible, teleconferencing or video conferencing using Zoom should be used in favor of in-person meetings. Review the CDC Social Distancing website for the most up-to-date advice on appropriate gathering sizes.
Will Commons be open for food service for faculty and staff?
Commons is currently reviewing its plans for operations. Faculty and staff should assume that Commons will not be open, and that they will need to bring their food to work. Employees should minimize the amount of food that needs refrigeration to limit the use of common refrigerators, and should ensure that all food refuse be disposed in centralized trash that is removed nightly. Food waste should not be thrown away in private office trash that may not be emptied regularly by custodial services.
Will lactation rooms continue to be available?
The college will continue to provide lactation rooms. However, users may need to schedule use for proper sanitizing of lactation rooms to ensure compliance with thorough sanitization protocols.
Can managers require the use of face coverings in the workplace?
During a pandemic, yes. The college will take into consideration what is being required and/or recommended by the CDC as well as other federal, state, and local government mandates.
Why should I wear a face covering?
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies and evidence on infection control report that these droplets usually travel around 6 feet (about two arms lengths). A face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.
What is a face covering?
A face covering should consist of multi layers of fabric allowing for breathing without restriction. It should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face and completely cover the nose and mouth. A face covering is secured with ties or ear loops. You can also make your own face covering.
When should I wear a face covering?
You are required to wear a face covering in all shared spaces on campus, including congested outdoor spaces (for example, Alumni Walk or entering Commons) and in private work spaces when multiple people are present.
What if I do not have a face covering?
Bates will provide access to face coverings for all employees, as needed, and they may be issued as part of one’s uniform in certain departments. If you would like to make or purchase your own, the CDC has provided instructions on how to do so. If you need one, contact your supervisor/manager or Jess Smith of Environmental Health & Safety (EHS).
Should I clean my face covering?
Yes, in accordance with CDC guidelines you should clean and maintain your face covering after each daily use. Cleaning your face covering in a washing machine is appropriate or by hand in a sink with a soapy solution. It is good practice to have at least two face coverings that can be alternated between daily use.
Should I use a face covering while in a restroom at work?
Yes, this would be considered a “shared space” in that multiple employees may use that space during the course of the day.
What if I cannot wear a face covering?
Accommodations will be made for those within our community who may not be able to wear a face covering due to trauma or underlying medical conditions. Employees requesting an accommodation for face coverings must contact Human Resources.
Should I remind someone who is not wearing a face covering that it is required?
We may remind friends or others, when in close spaces, to wear face coverings in accordance with employee and student policy. We must recognize that some community members will receive an accommodation because they are not able to wear a face covering. It is not appropriate to ask an individual to explain an accommodation. We remind the community to consider who is asking, and who is asked, and to consider our biases before reminding a colleague or community member to wear a face covering.
-If you see a faculty or staff member who is not wearing a face covering and you don’t feel comfortable saying something you may inform HR with a note to email@example.com
-If you see a student or students who is/are not complying with the policy and you don’t feel comfortable saying something, you may inform Carl Steidel, Senior Associate Dean of Students, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Employee Health Issues and reporting absences
Employee Health Issues and reporting absences
Is there a plan to do universal testing for staff and faculty?
Testing will be available to all staff and faculty.
What if I become ill with COVID-19 or think I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?
We ask that staff and faculty notify their supervisor and do not come to work if they meet any of the below criteria:
- Any COVID-19-related symptoms
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Or at least two of these symptoms
- Fever or chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore Throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning you. See current list of CDC symptoms.
- Direct exposure to a person who has or is later diagnosed with presumptive or confirmed COVID-19.
If an employee meets the above criteria, employees shall follow guidance from their medical provider and public health officials (e.g. self-quarantine) and must have a negative test for COVID-19 before returning to campus.
If an employee meets any of the below criteria, the employee shall continue to perform daily self-screenings and notify their supervisor and not report to work if they meet any of the above listed criteria.
- Exposure to a person who has been directly exposed to a person who has or is later diagnosed with presumptive or confirmed COVID-19.
- Attendance at a large group gathering where there was a person who has or is later diagnosed with presumptive or confirmed COVID-19.
If I have the symptoms of COVID-19 how do I get tested?
Contact your primary care provider to discuss your symptoms and see if they recommend getting tested and then guide you through the process.
If you do not have a primary care physician and need to find a test site you can visit Get Tested COVID-19 and enter your zip code to find a test site near you. Contact the test site to help guide you through the process.
If you test positive, as required under the Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, you must contact your manager and Human Resources within 24 hours. You may contact Human Resources at HRCovid@bates.edu or by calling at 207-795-5100.
If I was sick with COVID-19, when should I return to work?
Employees are required to follow CDC guidance regarding discontinuing home isolation.
How much information may a manager request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, new loss of smell or taste, or gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Symptoms screening practices are based on CDC guidance and updated regularly if that guidance changes. Managers and Human Resources will maintain all information about employee illness as confidential medical records in compliance with the ADA.
How do I self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19?
Use this questionnaire to monitor yourself daily for symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC (Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following: (1) Fever; (2) Chills; (3) Repeated shaking with chills; (4) Muscle pain; (5) Headache; (6) Sore throat; (7) New loss of taste or smell). If you experience any of these symptoms stay home and contact your primary care provider for directions. Please notify your supervisor and Human Resources of your symptoms and that you need to stay home.
When do I apply for Pandemic Sick leave policy benefits?
You should apply for Pandemic Sick leave if:
- You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis,
- You are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19,
- You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 related reasons (for example, close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19), or
- You are a primary care giver for an individual who is subject to either 2 or 3 above.
How do I apply for Pandemic Sick Leave?
Please notify your supervisor and Human Resources if you will be out for a COVID-19 related reason. Complete a Pandemic Leave Request Form within 3 business days. A verbal request will be accepted until a form can be provided. A verbal request for Pandemic Leave can only be given by calling the HR COVID-19 line at 207-795-5100.
If I choose to travel out of state for personal reasons are there any restrictions upon my return?
Yes, per state of Maine requirements, and executive order if a Maine resident travels out-of-state they must follow all applicable quarantine or testing requirements when returning to Maine and before returning to work. As the state of Maine travel requirements may change in the future you should check back to their website and the state you are traveling to for any restrictions that may be in place at the time of your travel.
If I choose to travel beyond Maine and am subject to the quarantine requirement may I use Pandemic Sick Leave for the period of quarantine?
No, if you choose to travel out of state and are subject to the quarantine requirement you would need to use your own vacation or personal time.
If I choose to travel beyond Maine and choose to take the test can I take the test on campus?
No, if you traveled out of state and are subject to quarantine or taking a COVID-19 test and you choose the test you must contact a healthcare provider to schedule the test. Once you have met the state requirements you may return to campus. Note, to meet the state requirements you may also have taken a COVID-19 “PCR” test and received a negative result no longer than 72 hours prior to returning to Maine.
What if I am in a benefit eligible position that does not include leave?
If your position does not include leave you should still follow the same procedures for applying for Pandemic Sick Leave. Your pay would continue subject to your continuing to be out on an approved absence. If your absence exceeds 30 days, short-term disability will be applicable.
What if I am in a per diem or temporary non-benefit eligible position?
If you are in a non-benefit eligible position (per diem or temporary) you do not get any paid leave. However, as required under the Infectious Disease and Preparedness Plan, if you test positive for COVID-19 you are required to report the diagnosis to Human Resources (HRCovid@bates.edu or 207-795-5100) and are required to follow CDC guidance regarding discontinuing home isolation.
What happens if my absence is due to lack of daycare?
If you cannot work due to the absence of daycare, normal sick and vacation leave policy will apply. If you expect this situation will continue for an extended period of time please contact your Human Resources partner to begin the interactive process to discuss possible work arrangements. Barring undue hardship, arrangements may include working from home, reassignment, different schedule, etc. If a reasonable arrangement is not feasible, the college may permit you to take a leave of absence and use their accrued and unused paid time off during the absence.
I am a bi-weekly employee on a modified work schedule, how do I report my time?
Until further notice, employees who are on a modified work schedule will receive their full pay and benefits. To receive regular pay for hours not worked under a modified work schedule, the employee may be required to work remotely, report to work if needed on a scheduled day off‐campus, or asked to work an alternate schedule at their supervisor’s request.
For modified work schedules, employees should report on their timesheet/card the following:
- Regular – All hours worked on campus or remotely should be listed as regular hours.
- Corona Virus Earnings – All remaining hours the employee was asked to remain home but would normally have worked up to their normal weekly schedule should be listed as Corona Virus Earnings.
- Report all hours for paid and unpaid leaves not related to COVID‐19 as usual on the timesheet/card (e.g. vacation, sick, personal, FMLA, etc.).
What if I can’t work due to an injury or illness not COVID-19 related?
If you cannot work due to an injury or illness that is not related to COVID-19, normal sick leave policy allows you to use accrued sick time to care for yourself or family members. If the injury is work-related, please notify your supervisor and follow procedures for reporting an injury.
Have my medical benefits been affected in this crisis?
No. There will be no changes to the College’s medical benefit plans. Please note: Testing for the Coronavirus is also covered at 100% with no employee cost. TelaDoc is a service available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through our medical plan where you can access a doctor through either the phone or video chat. The consultation is free for the Aetna PPO and Whole Health Plans. There is up to a $47 co-pay for the Aetna Consumer Choice (HSA) Plan.
- Phone: 1-855-835-2362
- Video: www.teladoc.com/aetna.
To save time, register on the Teladoc website prior to your consultation. There is no charge for registration.