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OU announces changes to remote work policies, COVID-19 screening requirements in Phase IV Return Plan

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Graphic of people wearing masks, Sept. 3.

OU has announced it will begin Phase IV of its COVID-19 return plan starting June 7 in a Friday evening email. 

The COVID-19 return plan was signed by OU President Joseph Harroz and OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler. Phase IV of the plan includes changes to remote work, COVID-19 screening and reporting for faculty staff and students, vaccination, social distancing changes, update masking protocols and testing, isolation and symptom monitoring.

As a strategy to minimize the spread of COVID-19, OU has implemented remote working where possible on its three campuses. The “Remote Work Phase-Out Schedule” of the Phase IV return plan asks managers to notify employees to return to their regular, pre COVID- 19 schedule on campus between now and Aug. 2.

Section I of the plan stated each area must be prepared to slow or stop the remote work phase-out and to fully return to remote work as soon as possible if the university deems it necessary.

OU faculty, staff and students must complete the online COVID-19 Screening and Reporting Tool before participating in on- or off-campus activities or responsibilities if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive. Reporting tool requirements vary based on the vaccination status of an individual.  

Completing the online screening and reporting tool is strongly encouraged, even if the employee or student has received the "complete COVID-19 vaccine series."

Vaccinated employees or students who experience COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, and are waiting for COVID-19 test results are required to complete the online COVID-19 Screening and Reporting Tool. 

Unvaccinated employees or students who experience COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, have had close contact with an infected individual within the last 14 days, are waiting for COVID-19 test results and have traveled internationally or have taken a domestic or international cruise are also required to complete the online screening and reporting tool. 

Individuals returning from international travel or domestic or international cruises “will generally have to” quarantine away from campus for seven days and receive a negative COVID-19 test before they return. Faculty or staff traveling internationally or taking cruises must be prepared to take a paid or unpaid leave during the isolation period, and students must review their “academic obligations” when commiting to travel.

In light of recent CDC guidelines — which stated that fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks — the university eliminated its masking and social distancing requirements. The return plan still encourages the entire OU community to get vaccinated, with an emphasis on students living in congregate housing. 

COVID-19 vaccines are available to all students, faculty and staff on all three OU campuses at no cost to individuals.

According to the return plan, third parties may now resume hosting events in university facilities following pre-COVID protocols. The university recommends that anyone participating in events on OU property receive their COVID-19 vaccination. 

No additional operations will be required for campus research to access on-campus research laboratories and field sites at this time.

According to the plan, access to campus buildings returned to “normal operations.” Goddard Health Center will also be open during its normal operating hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and will require masks. 

According to the return plan, the university will resume pre-pandemic cleaning protocols. It emphasized that it is the responsibility of departments and areas to obtain appropriate cleaning supplies and provide for the cleaning of shared office equipment, furniture, surfaces and environment. 

Visitors and vendors on campus are required to accept and adhere to university masking policies and any requirements for entry and continued attendance at specific university events and facilities. Tenants are required to adhere to university guidelines whenever in public areas on campus.

In a May 19 university press release, OU President Joseph Harroz wrote the lifting of COVID-19 protocols — such as masking, social distancing guidelines and the availability of vaccines — will prepare the university for a “more normal” academic year.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we at OU have followed guidance issued by the CDC, and we will continue to do so,” Harroz wrote. “As we continue preparations for an academic year that feels much more normal, it’s a relief in many ways that the availability of vaccines, and our ability to provide them, allows us to lift our masking requirement and adjust our social distancing guidelines. This decision, like all of our COVID-19 protocols, was developed in close consultation with our medical and public health experts.”

Gabriela Tumani is an international student from Brazil. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in international studies and works as a junior news reporter for The Daily.

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