6.22.20: Update from Task Force to Safely Open the Lehigh Campus

Sent to faculty and staff on June 22, 2020.

To Faculty and Staff:

As a limited number of faculty and staff have returned to campus in the past two weeks, the Task Force has continued planning and preparing for the broader opening of offices and laboratories. This work includes developing signage, implementing sanitization protocols, and developing other policies to support health and safety on campus.

Governor Tom Wolf recently announced that twelve counties in the yellow phase of the Process to Reopen Pennsylvania plan will move to green on Friday, June 26, 2020. This includes Lehigh’s home of Northampton County.

While we are using the Commonwealth’s plan as a guide and continue to comply with requirements, Lehigh has the discretion and responsibility to manage the opening of campus at the pace we deem necessary to implement proper health and sanitization protocols and support the safety of the campus community. We need to do all we can to make the campus safe and to support the health of all students, faculty and staff.

We have developed a timeline for the phased opening of campus for staff, faculty and graduate students for the remainder of the summer. Please keep in mind that while dates are noted in the below matrix, the phases can be adjusted based on the course of the pandemic, and a phase can be returned to if warranted by health circumstances.

Details of Open II Phase (June 25 - July 5, 2020)

Faculty, staff and graduate students are encouraged to continue working remotely through August 2. Faculty, staff, and graduate students needing to return to on-campus work prior to July 6 must request permission and access from their department chair or supervisor and follow the instructions in our email from June 9. Read below for additional details regarding each phase.

Timeline for Phased Opening For Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students

Present - June 24, 2020: Open I (formerly referred to as Yellow I, which corresponds with the Commonwealth’s plan)

Faculty, staff, and graduate students are expected to continue working remotely, whenever feasible. Permission to work on campus is required and is only granted by Dean or VP if work is mission/time-critical and only possible on campus.

June 25 - July 5, 2020: Open II (formerly referred to as Yellow II)

Faculty, staff, and graduate students are expected to continue working remotely, whenever feasible. Permission from VP or Dean to work on campus and completion of safety training is required.

July 6 - August 2, 2020: Open III

Faculty, staff, and graduate students are encouraged to continue working remotely, whenever feasible. Permission from supervisor, department chair, or PI to work on campus and completion of safety training is required.

Supervisors/chairs/PIs must create safety management plans for their offices to ensure social distancing, hygiene/sanitizing practices, and reduced density.

August 3, 2020: Open IV

Faculty, staff, and graduate students may work on campus. Social distancing, hygiene/sanitizing practices, and reduced density plans continue to be in effect.

Staff and faculty who wish to continue to work remotely, partially or entirely, must coordinate these arrangements with their supervisor or chair.

Details of Open III Phase

As we noted in the table, beginning July 6, staff, faculty, and graduate students whose work is not time/mission-critical will be permitted to return to their workplaces with chair/supervisor permission. The following procedures must be followed by all:

  • Complete the COVID-19 Return to Work training on Course Site (Lehigh login required), including the acknowledgment and agreement.
  • Conduct a personal health self-screening each day before coming to campus. A self-screening tool will be available within the HawkWatch app by July 6.
  • Stay home if you are feeling ill or have a fever. Consult your healthcare provider.
  • Comply with all on-campus safety and hygiene requirements, including wearing face coverings (masks), social distancing, and hand washing. In August, we will be providing a wellness/safety starter kit for all faculty, staff, and students, which will include masks, hand sanitizer, and other items.
  • Meetings should be held via Zoom, telephone, or by other device whenever possible and in person meetings should be limited in size as much as possible with strict social distancing and mask requirements in place.

Before giving permission for employees return to campus, supervisors must:

  • Create a safety management plan to reduce density and encourage social distancing in their offices. Such a plan might include dividing teams into groups that alternate in-office work and remote work, staggering shifts and start times, and continuing to utilize remote work options where possible. A management plan template is forthcoming.
  • Communicate with their team members to coordinate a smooth transition.
  • Monitor employees’ completion of the COVID-19 Return to Work training and compliance with all safety guidelines while on campus.

Required Safety Training

Regardless of the timing of your return, prior to resuming on-campus work, all staff, faculty, and graduate students must complete the online COVID-19 Return to Work training via Course Site. The training includes a thorough explanation of all personal safety practices required of Lehigh community members. It also requires anyone wishing to work on campus to acknowledge and agree to abide by safety and hygiene protocols.

Resources for Returning to Lehigh

We will be launching web-based guidance for the return to Lehigh, including assistance with changes to office/workspace layouts; securing PPE (if needed) and cleaning/sanitizing supplies; and acquiring signage to promote social distancing and hygiene. If you have any questions about these matters in the meantime, please email inreopen@lehigh.edu.

Requests to Continue Remote Work in Open IV

We understand that even after the university has taken health and safety precautions, some staff, graduate students and faculty members may still feel uncomfortable coming to campus due to concerns about their own health or that of vulnerable loved ones. If you fall into the CDC-defined category of people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to a serious underlying medical condition (see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html), you may submit a confidential request for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, by submitting these COVID-19/Pandemic Specific forms through email at incovada@lehigh.edu:

If you are 65 years of age or older (another higher risk category defined by the CDC) or do not have an underlying medical condition but are generally concerned about returning to campus, please talk with your department chair or supervisor about modifications (such as remote work, flexible work schedules or workspace modifications) that may allow you to perform your position accountabilities effectively and productively. You may also consult with Human Resources at inhro@lehigh.edu to determine whether your circumstances may be addressed under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

We will continue to keep you informed as we move forward. We welcome feedback regarding all task force efforts at incovid@lehigh.edu.

Thank you for your continued service to Lehigh.

Chris Halladay, Co-Chair

Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Brent Stringfellow, Co-Chair

Associate Vice President for Facilities

University Architect