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OU announces end to administrative paid leave, start of mask requirements in Phase Two of reopening plan

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Human Resources Building

The Human Resources office located in the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory in Norman on June 14, 2016.

OU Human Resources announced an end to COVID-19 administrative paid leave on July 2 and outlined guidelines for Phase Two of the university’s reopening plan in a Thursday evening email. 

According to the email, which was sent to all university staff and signed by OU President Joseph Harroz and Chief COVID Officer Dale Bratzler, employees who are unable to “complete their job duties fully from home,” as determined by their supervisors, must return to campus July 6. 

Employees who believe they have an underlying health condition that could prevent them from returning to campus or resuming their normal job duties must request accommodation through OU’s formal interactive Americans with Disabilities Act process. According to the email, more information on the university’s ADA policy can be found on OU’s HR website

According to the email, telecommuting should continue when possible throughout Phase Two of the university’s reopening plan, which is slated to end Aug. 2. The email said administrators anticipate that during Phase Two, many employees can work some from home and some from campus, depending on job responsibilities.

The email said college deans and vice presidents will approve telecommuting arrangements and altered work schedules. At least 48 hours’ notice must be given when those arrangements will change an employee’s current assigned schedule or work location.

Before returning to work, employees who have been telecommuting or on administrative paid leave must complete the COVID-19 Screening and Reporting Tool, according to the email. They’ll be notified via email of their screening results, and that email must be forwarded to the employee’s direct supervisor once received. 

According to the email, individuals must maintain social distancing while in public settings, common areas and shared spaces. People must also wear face masks if inside, or outside if social distancing can’t be maintained. 

If social distancing isn’t possible in a certain space, alternatives must be implemented, such as staggered breaks or shifts, reconfigured physical space or seating designations, revised workflow processes or flexible meeting formats — like Zoom or phone conferencing, the email said. 

Gatherings of more than 10 people, including meetings, must be avoided unless the gathering is part of a “mission-critical function” and additional precautionary measures are taken, including at least social distancing measures and alternatives, according to the email. 

According to the email, everybody working on campus should wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth, and bandanas and scarves aren’t acceptable. University employees can remove masks only when they’re in their own “enclosed private workspace” and alone. 

Masks will be provided to employees, according to the email, and masks “for daily wear” are expected to last five days. To acquire masks for their employees, managers should fill out the university’s mask request form

Campus visitors, vendors and contractors must wear masks while at OU and should bring their own, according to the email. Those ordering food delivery should meet the delivery person outside the building they’re in, according to the email. 

According to the email, access to university buildings will stay restricted throughout Phase Two, or until expanded access is coordinated by University Operations and the building coordinator, and then approved by the appropriate dean or vice president. After expanded access is granted, mitigation steps must still be put in place to limit visitors to just those intended to be in the building. 

The email also said common areas must be maintained to provide for social distancing and safe hygiene practices, including the following guidelines: 

  • Only four occupants should be in an elevator at a time, and masks should be worn while using the elevator. 

  • Seating at tables and benches should be limited to one person per six feet. 

  • Restrooms should not be used by more than one person at a time when social distancing can’t be maintained, and face masks should be worn while in public restrooms. 

  • Custodial teams will use “enhanced” cleaning and sanitation procedures in all OU buildings. 

  • Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available to all campus offices and departments through Facilities Management. 

  • The use of drinking fountains that aren’t touch-free should be discouraged. The use of communal water coolers and coffee stations should only be allowed if “appropriate procedures” are enforced for disinfecting surfaces before and after each use. 

The email said department and area managers are responsible for getting cleaning supplies from Facilities Management by filling out a request form, as well as allowing for surfaces in shared spaces to be cleaned. Cleaning instructions for different types of shared equipment are available on the OU Work Anywhere website

Department managers must contact Facilities Management and the Environmental Health and Safety Office for help disinfecting when they’re made aware of anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 and has been on campus in the last seven days. 

According to the email, individuals are responsible for cleaning personal and shared spaces and should disinfect their workspaces daily. They should use food preparation areas one person at a time and must clean the area after they’re done using it. 

Employees and students who test positive for COVID-19 must get clearance from Goddard Health Center by using the COVID-19 Screening and Reporting Tool before returning to campus. According to the email, Goddard won’t issue a clearance until required isolation time has passed and the individual meets “other clearance requirements.”

According to the email, employees and student employees must use the screening and reporting tool if any of the following situations apply: 

  • They were on campus but then were absent for seven or more consecutive days for any reason. 

  • They traveled domestically or internationally, unless they qualify for the Commuter Process. 

  • They attended a large event or entertainment venue with more than 50 people present and didn’t wear a mask or practice social distancing while attending. 

  • They had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. 

  • They’re experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. These individuals should also contact their healthcare provider about certain symptoms. 

  • They have a household member who was diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Visitors to campus for mission-critical work will be asked to complete the screening and reporting tool before arriving on campus, according to the email. They’ll also be advised to tell the person that invited them to campus if they start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms during their visit. 

Departments planning to require temperature checks should notify Human Resources, and employees with an elevated temperature can’t return to work until they no longer have an elevated temperature and aren’t experiencing other COVID-19 symptoms, according to the email. 

All university employees and visitors will comply with OU’s travel guidance, except as provided in the Commuter Process, according to the email. 

According to the email, the Return to Research plan is outlined on the OU website, and a second phase of the research restart program will be announced soon that applies to campus faculty, students and research support staff participating in the program. 

The email said employees who refuse to comply with the return plan are subject to “disciplinary action,” in accordance with applicable faculty or staff handbook policies. Employees can refer to the Communicating Care: Conversation Tips During COVID-19 guide when they see others acting in a way inconsistent with university policy. 

If an employee or student employee indicates compliance is not possible due to medical reasons, they should be referred to Human Resources to request accommodations on the basis of disability. According to the email, student employees seeking accommodations on the basis of disability outside of a university work environment should contact the Accessibility Resource Center.

Vendors, visitors, and patients who refuse to comply with the return plan are subject to having their access to campus suspended or terminated, according to the email.

Ari Fife is the OU Daily summer editor-in-chief and a sophomore journalism major minoring in international studies and political science. Previously, she served as a senior news reporter and was an SGA beat reporter.

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