In a virtual town hall for EMU employees, EMU’s Public Health Working Group revealed their recommendations for what campus operations should look like when in-person operations resume in the fall.
The group is made up of several experts from the EMU College of Health and Human Services. They have been working with the Washtenaw County Health Department to develop campus guidelines for public health protocols, such as screening and prevention, as well as university policy on face coverings, social distancing, cleaning schedules, and more.
Dr. Michael Williams, Director of the EMU School of Nursing and a member of the working group, spoke at the virtual town hall on Tuesday, presenting the group’s current recommendations for the fall.
The following recommendations have not officially been adopted by the university; all guidelines are under review and when finalized, they will be published in an official university “guide book” for all students, faculty, and staff to follow when on-campus operations resume in the fall.
Not all classes will return to in-person instruction this semester
Williams said that the group is recommending that not all classes return to in-person instruction in the fall. Large classes are of particular concern, where the spaces on campus are not adequate for proper social distancing.
For classes where physical distancing and remote learning are both not viable options, a plan to reduce risk of exposure should be created for each of those instances.
Face coverings and gloves on campus
The group is recommending that face coverings be required on all EMU grounds, and that instructors should either lecture behind plexiglass, or use a face covering during lecture.
The group recommends some exceptions for this rule for anyone with hearing challenges, or who have difficulty projecting their voice. Williams said that microphones, visual aides, and other resources will be available to help these individuals. Those with certain medical conditions will also be exempt.
Williams said that all students and staff should wear face masks from their car and inside of campus buildings, and that face masks should be available for anyone that needs one.
The requirement to wear face coverings will apply until the university deems them no longer necessary.
The group says that wearing gloves is not recommended as protection against COVID-19. Some employees with specific work tasks will be required to wear them, but it will not be recommended as a university-wide policy for all students and staff.
Physical distancing on campus
Physical distancing of 6+ feet is recommended whenever possible, until the university decides social distancing is no longer necessary.
Currently, each classroom and public space is being looked at to deem how many people are permitted in each room, and how to arrange furniture in a way that allows for this social distancing. Some seats, tables, and workstations will likely be removed from most locations.
Williams said that some stalls, urinals, and sinks in bathrooms will likely be blocked off to maintain social distancing. It is also recommended that no hand dryers be used, as these can actually circulate the virus.
The group also says that if meetings can be conducted online, even when everyone is back on campus, they should be conducted that way and not in person.
University employees will potentially return to campus in phases, and once back on campus, the goal will be to minimize the number of employees on campus at any given one time. Some employees might only show up physically to work two or three times a week, for example.
Coronavirus screening and testing
The group is also recommending that all students and employees complete a daily self-screening before coming to campus. It’s still unclear what exactly this might look like, but Williams said that they’ve been exploring various “web-based systems” as a possible implementation.
One such example is of an app that takes you through a quick self-screening process, and then it will present either a green screen for those that are deemed safe to be on campus, and a red screen for those deemed not safe to be on campus.
Williams said they are recommending one designated entrance and one designated exit for every building on campus, and that anyone entering a building will be screened. In the case of using the self-screening app, anyone that has a red screen would not be permitted to enter a building.
Williams said that evidence so far suggests testing is only needed for individuals with symptoms of the coronavirus. The primary concern is that coronavirus tests are only valid for the day they are taken; you can get tested one day, and be exposed to coronavirus the next, so daily testing would be needed. The group is sticking with self-screening requirements, as opposed to daily testing requirements.
The group is also contemplating a requirement for all students, faculty, and staff to wear their EMU ID card around campus. Williams said it would be to differentiate visitors and vendors from the usual campus population.
How will this all be implemented?
There are still a lot of details to work out, and the university is continuing its planning for the fall. Once these guidelines are finalized and adopted by the university, a “guide book” will provide all students, faculty, and staff with information on these new health protocols.
Each department and office on campus will be responsible for implementing the guidelines within their own offices. Every office should create a plan to implement these guidelines in a way that best fits their work space.
Michaels said that clear and easy-to-read signage around campus will be necessary to remind students and staff about coronavirus prevention policies. Training will also need to be provided for a variety of new procedures, including proper cleaning protocols, which will likely happen through the university’s online learning management system, Bridge.
Additional guidelines will be developed for certain departments, such as the Department of Music and Dance, where physical distancing and remote learning opportunities are slim.