August 13, 2020

All questions answered from Aug. 7 faculty town hall

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rep fac town hall unanswered 550pxQuestions on entry procedures, masks and other issues were submitted online during the Faculty Town Hall on Aug. 7. Responses to questions that could not be answered live due to time constraints are provided here.In a virtual town hall Aug. 7, President Ray Watts, Provost Pam Benoit and other senior leaders provided updates and answered questions on planning for the re-entry to campus for fall 2020 (watch the full video here).

Faculty submitted more than 100 questions and comments during the hour-long event. Many were answered in the town hall and these were included in the comprehensive wrap-up that the Reporter published earlier this week. Here are answers to the rest of the questions received.


Scroll down to read the complete summary or use the links below to jump to specific topics


Classroom procedures

Hybrid learning

Testing

Quarantine

Caregiving

Masks

Distribution

Enforcing mask wearing

If a faculty member or student gets sick

Reopening decisions

Sharing UAB expertise

Research procedures

Student accommodations

Other questions



Classroom procedures


Will there be a unified guide for professors to know what to do in case things go wrong (if a professor or student gets sick, if students refuse to wear masks, if things don't get better next semester)?

Details, checklists and FAQs addressing these details are posted at uab.edu/uabunited.


How can students safely complete group activities in class?

In-person, students must maintain at least six feet between them, and take other health and safety precautions described here on the uab.edu/uabunited site. Any group activities must take this into account. Outside of class, instructors can provide recommendations on group work taking place online or in areas in which distancing and other precautions can be taken.


Is there a set protocol for students working in classrooms or labs outside of class time?

Students should not be in classrooms or laboratories outside of their scheduled times. See the UAB United website for student health and safety precautions.


What if the room size will not accommodate the predetermined student assignments? Can we develop our own schedule for student attendance?

All classrooms have been measured and the capacity for each has been determined to assign students to class.


This article answers questions that could not be addressed live during the town hall Aug. 7 due to time constraints. An article summarizing comments made and questions answered during the event is here.

What about entering and leaving classrooms? Close contact may easily happen. Is it regarded as too short an interaction?

If the exposure is less than 15 minutes it is not considered a close-contact exposure.


Given the structure of the hybrid class, where can faculty go to learn how many and which students will be in class each day?

You can check the course information in BlazerNET.


In a hybrid teaching environment, if a student turns up for a face-to-face class and it is the wrong day for that student, what is the faculty member to do? Obviously, they should request the student to leave. What happens if the student ignores the request?

The student is responsible for keeping up with their schedules and if they show up on the wrong day, they should be asked to leave. If the request is ignored, it should be communicated that their presence in the classroom is a health and safety compliance issue due to our need to keep students distanced. If a faculty member can be certain that there are sufficient absences to make room for the student who might show up on the wrong day, then it would be permissible for that student to remain.


Will students who are assigned to be in-person or virtual remain in-person or virtual the entire semester or will they perhaps switch at the midpoint of the semester?

Course designations as remote vs. hybrid or face-to-face are for the entire semester. Visit uab.edu/uabunited/faculty-staff/academics for more information on course delivery.



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Testing


Please let out-of-state students/families know when they will be receiving more information about COVID testing and how it will be handled. Very concerned since we have limited testing in Georgia and it is taking up to 20 days to get results.

Testing for out-of-state students is emailed to uab.edu email addresses on a rolling basis due to testing capacity and entry date.


Students are reporting that they have not received a testing email. What should we tell them?

Testing emails are sent on a rolling basis based on capacity in testing locations. We are encouraging students to check their uab.edu email daily for all updates regarding entry to campus.


What happens if you are asymptomatic and test positive during a random voluntary sentinel testing?

Those who test positive and are asymptomatic will be work-restricted for 10 days from the time of their positive test. If they develop symptoms, they will be work-restricted for 10 days from the date of symptom onset.


Can UAB work with public health to increase COVID testing, including in local schools as the school year begins?

We are working with public health officials in the state and the county to increase testing. We have partnered with them from the very beginning and consider them critical partners. However, there are nearly 700,000 public school kids in Alabama, and we currently do not have the capacity to take on this level of testing.


Do the results of the recent JAMA Open study advocating frequent testing of college students change our risk assessment or instructional planning?

No, they do not. Our testing plan is in line with the recommendations from our UAB experts.


I had a student go for testing and it took 19 days for Student Health to give a result, and that’s when fewer students were here on campus three weeks ago. How will this be better addressed (quicker turnaround time) with return to campus and slowing the spread with a greater number of students?

Issues causing some initial delays in testing have been identified and addressed. Specifically, the 19-day delay was related to a nationwide surge in testing and concomitant shortage in testing capability. Student Health Services immediately addressed the issue with that clinical laboratory, and then pivoted to using a different clinical laboratory since late July. Testing turnaround time has now decreased to 24-48 hours.


If students visit home for a weekend, are they going to be required to be tested again?

Students will be asked to practice safety behaviors on and off campus and participate in sentinel testing that will take place throughout the semester. At this time, tests will not be required for students returning from the weekend.


Do graduate students who have been working in the lab with previous approval in summer need to take a COVID-19 test or not after Aug. 1?

No, these graduate students who have been working in the lab during the summer are not required to take a COVID-19 test for campus entry.



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Quarantine


I had heard that if a student's roommate tests positive for COVID, they have to quarantine for their roommate’s 10-day isolation period plus an additional 14 days. Is this not the case anymore?

Quarantine always lasts for 14 days from the date of the last close contact with a person who tests positive. So, if the two roommates remained living together in close contact for the duration of the positive student's isolation, then the above statement is true. However, it is our strong advice that any student who tests positive complete their isolation in a separate living space from any asymptomatic close contacts, or the asymptomatic close contacts complete their quarantine in a separate living space from the positive contact.


If an employee is exposed and has to self-quarantine for 14 days, will that employee still be able to work from home and receive salary?

[This question was answered in the Employee Town Hall on July 13.]

If an employee is directed to isolate/quarantine by UAB Employee Health, the employee should be compensated during the defined isolation/quarantine period. Employees must notify Employee Health if they are not tested onsite. Employees who fail to contact Employee Health may have to use benefit time during the isolation/quarantine period.


Will students be allowed to quarantine at home should the need arise? Who will take care of their health needs should they get symptomatic?

[This question was answered in detail during the Incoming Undergraduate Student Town Hall on July 8.]

If the student has received a positive test — whether or not they are symptomatic — they will be required to isolate for 14 days. “And we would need to decide then, if you're symptomatic are you able to go home and convalesce or do you need other care and how can we help you get that?” said Michael Faircloth, M.D., medical director of Student Health. “If you are able to go home, we can help you do that and we want to make sure that you can do that safely.” There will also be space on campus for isolation and quarantine “for students who can't go home or don't want to go home or don't need to go home for whatever reason,” Faircloth said.



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Caregiving


Any possibility with assisting with in-home childcare?

UAB conducted a survey of employees to assess childcare challenges and needs and plans to offer options to provide some level of assistance. At this time, home childcare support is not anticipated. More information about childcare options, including in-home options like Wyndy, can be found on the Human Resources site here


A survey for employees was sent out to gauge the level of support that will be needed to accommodate parents of children in grades K-8. However, smaller children who require daycare were not included in this survey. I'd like to know what additional supports the university will be providing for those of us who have children ages 5 and under who need supervision.

The purpose of the survey was to assess the unexpected childcare needs caused by changes in school district plans. We recognize that the pandemic also has affected the capacity of many childcare providers. We are maintaining a resource list of childcare centers that are operating and encourage parents to visit this page on the Human Resources site and click on the Childcare Resources link at the bottom of the page.


If primary caregiving responsibilities force instructors to deliver courses remotely rather than in-person, what does that do to the provost's expectation that 60% of all program courses are in-person? My concern is that 90% of my program's instructors are primary caregivers.

Whether and how much faculty will need to be on campus for in-person instruction times for hybrid courses will be determined on a case-by-case basis in an interactive dialogue with chairs or other supervisors.


I know that children/schools have been addressed but there are also senior dependents for whom an illness would be much more detrimental. Additionally, adult day care or nursing homes/assisted livings are more problematic right now. My question is, in this case can a faculty opt to teach remotely if they can assure that the student experience is only positively impacted?

Whether and how much faculty will need to be on campus for in-person instruction times for hybrid courses will be determined on a case-by-case basis in an interactive dialogue with chairs or other supervisors.



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Masks


If it is recommended that we wash our face masks daily and we teach Monday-Thursday, is there a way to get more than two face masks?

The university is providing two masks to all faculty, staff and students free of charge. Additional UAB-branded masks are available for purchase at the UAB Bookstore. Video instructions from UAB for making a face mask at home are available online.


Perhaps a very mundane question, but regarding the masks we will be provided with: Are they different sizes (or perhaps adjustable), or are they one-size-fits-most? The latter often are often a bit tight on me and grow more and more uncomfortable the longer I wear them.

The masks that will be provided are one-size-fits-most. While the masks will be provided to each employee, there is not a requirement that an employee wear the UAB-provided masks if the masks do not fit appropriately. The requirement is that the employee wear an appropriately fitting face covering.


When will we be able to pick up our bag of PPE for our classes?

Deans’ offices will be communicating pick-up times to faculty. [For information on mask pick-up for students and employees, see this Reporter article.]


How will faculty enforce/report mask-wearing and distancing issues with students?

[Provost Benoit and John Jones, Ph.D., vice president for Student Affairs, provided detailed guidance on this question during the July 8 Faculty Town Hall.]

 “The first thing is, in this bag that I talked about earlier [the welcome bag that will be provided to all faculty and instructors] there will be a couple of disposable masks that you should take with you to class,” Benoit said. “So if a student forgot their mask or left it in the car, you can provide them with a disposable mask. The other issue is students who refuse to wear masks. If that happens and it's time for your class, just as you would with any other disruption, it's possible to cancel the class at that point and report that. We're particularly interested in individuals that repeatedly refuse to do that and then it goes to Student Conduct.”

“Within Student Conduct, we have created a process that we want to be educational in regard to getting students to comply with all of the requirements that we're asking of them as they return to campus,” Jones said. “And certainly we can be punitive if we need be. But as Dr. Benoit indicated, faculty members are responsible for classroom behavior. As certainly we as part of the Student Conduct, we will support that and can hold students accountable in the event they do not comply.”

“I’m working on putting material in your bags about how to have that conversation with the student,” Benoit said. “There's a lot of miscommunication out there about masks and whether or not they are effective. And I think having some of that information readily at hand could help you when you face these situations in your classrooms.”

“I’ll add to please report that kind of behavior to our Student Conduct office,” Jones said. “Even though the student may comply with your request, we need to know if the same individual is creating a pattern of being unresponsive in other classrooms as well. That will allow us to be more progressive in sanctioning.” 

“I would also encourage you to add this information to your syllabus,” Benoit said. [See how to access a syllabus template here.] “It’s really important that you lay out the expectations of the classroom at the beginning of the class and reinforce that.”



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If a faculty member or student gets sick


If you have symptoms, and are told to stay home, are you required to take sick days or will it be understood and counted as "working from home" for those who can?

If instructors feel well enough to deliver remote instruction, they may do so. Please visit uab.edu/humanresources/home/covid-19-resources/ for information on sick leave as it pertains to COVID-19.


If a professor gets sick for two months, and he has a “backup” professor, will this other person have to teach six courses until the end of the semester or will there be an option to hire lecturers to take on that load? Or will the professor be paid more for the extra load?

These situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis with chairs.


What are my chances of catching this virus?

COVID-19 is highly infectious, but adhering to strategies shown to protect you and others (e.g., mask wearing, maintaining distance from others and avoiding crowds, as well as hand/cough/sneeze hygiene) significantly reduces risk of infection. UAB has implemented these and other strategies to promote a safe campus environment.



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Reopening decisions


We have repeatedly heard from UAB leadership that UAB’s campus will be as safe as possible, but what counts as a relevant possibility is contingent on the surrounding circumstances. The more we require under a situation of risk, the more we are responsible for the results. What responsibility does UAB assume for students, faculty and staff who may test positive? 

Providing a safe environment for our campus community is our top priority. Our students, faculty, staff, patients and community depend on UAB’s mission to deliver education, patient care, research, economic development and community service. There is a level of risk in any public setting while community spread of COVID-19 persists in the United States and Alabama, but proactive safety strategies have proven effective to reduce risk of infection. We are well suited with the expertise and resources to mitigate risk on campus and have planned extensively to implement a combination of safety strategies we believe will continue to be effective. UAB cannot eliminate all risk but we have invested significant resources in giving our campus community the structure, information, tools and support needed to promote a safe environment. We will require compliance with safety protocols on campus and promote personal responsibility to further minimize risk both on- and off-campus. When a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, UAB — including Student and Employee Health and our world-renowned academic medical center and hospital — offers medical care, guidance and other resources to support recovery.


As cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Jefferson County and Alabama are rising, what rationale does the UA System Board of Trustees give for bringing students back to campus?

 

Why are we teaching hybrid courses at a time of such dangerously high levels of COVID-19? Has there been a survey of how students feel about coming back for classes?

[Similar questions were answered during the July 13 Faculty Town Hall.]

The University of Alabama System has directed that all three system campuses be open for on-campus classes in the fall, subject to social-distancing requirements. Our class design for the fall was developed with recommendations from our health experts, and we will be constantly monitoring population health through our Healthcheck technology and student and sentinel testing data.

Additionally, an Incident Command team is carefully monitoring health data to make determinations on any changes that need to be made to course delivery. While UAB did not take a survey of students, there are surveys from other comparable institutions showing that a majority of students favor returning to campus, in a safe manner.


Students are having to reside in dorms for one or two classes and everything else is online. Will this change?

Freshman students are still required to live on campus but may work with Housing to ask for an exemption due to extenuating circumstances.



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Sharing UAB expertise


How can we best counter misinformation on Facebook, Twitter, etc.? 

UAB has worked consistently throughout the pandemic to make UAB experts available to distribute accurate information and guidance — including correcting inaccurate information — in both traditional and social media, and we will continue to provide this vital community service.


Should UAB be in the business of advising students, staff and faculty of behaviors in their personal lives that we discourage for the protection of the UAB community

Education and communications — including a student-led campaign in partnership with Student Affairs/Student Health — have and will continue to promote personal responsibility and safe practices on and off campus. Further, limitations will be placed on certain off-campus activities (e.g., Registered Student Organizations will not be permitted to host off-campus events until further notice.)  


What guidance is being given to students about off-campus activities and traveling outside of Birmingham (visiting family, etc.). We can keep them safe in the classroom, but we don’t know what they are doing outside of class.

UAB is communicating with students via multiple platforms to encourage safe behavior. Please visit uab.edu/uabunited/students for more information.

 



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Research procedures


What happened with the research infrastructure/equipment enhancement effort that involved all institutions of higher learning in Alabama? Was that put on hold because of COVID-19?

The systemwide research core effort has been put on hold for now. We will re-engage on this later this year or early in 2021.


Will undergraduate students who have been cleared to be on campus after Aug. 1 be able to do research in the lab?

Undergraduates are permitted to conduct research on campus if:

  • they were working in the laboratory before UAB transitioned to limited business operations, and
  • they are included in the chair- and dean-approved laboratory operational plan. 

Undergraduates who are new to research will, in general, not be approved to work in a laboratory. However, the student and mentor may apply for an exception. A subgroup of the Undergraduate Research Advisory Council will review the exception applications and determine whether or not the exception will be granted. For more information, see R2Ops Operational Plan for Undergraduates.



Do graduate students who have been working in the lab with previous approval in summer need to take a COVID-19 test or not after Aug. 1?

No, these graduate students who have been working in the lab during the summer are not required to take a COVID-19 test for campus entry.
 



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Student accommodations


For face-to-face courses, how do we handle students with a DSS accommodation to attend remotely? Must these courses be recorded in the same way as a hybrid course? What if the room to which the course is assigned does not have the technology for this?

If students cannot attend in-person classes based on disability or COVID-related circumstances, they will be working with Disability Support Services for a temporary academic adjustment and DSS will work with instructors on those adjustments. UAB IT is equipping classrooms with the necessary technology. 


What is the appropriate time/way for students to request (from an instructor) a non-medical/non-DSS accommodation due to personal circumstances? With two full weeks before classes begin, is now too early?

If students cannot attend in-person classes, they should contact Disability Support Services as soon as possible for a temporary academic adjustment and DSS will work with instructors on those adjustments. Faculty and students are encouraged to work together on adjustments that need to be made throughout the semester and guidance is available on the uab.edu/uabunited site here.



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Other questions


When will UAB begin matching retirement accounts again?     

At this time, the employer match/contribution to voluntary 403(b) retirement plans remains suspended. A decision on the retirement contribution reductions will not be made until the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) and will be made in consultation with the UA System.


Can designated parking be implemented in the parking deck so that you can park on the floor that you actually work on instead of first-come, first-served parking? This would eliminate having to park on the floor that you don’t work on and cut down on having to take the elevator.

UAB employee parking decks are used by permit holders who not only work in buildings connected to the respective deck, but in buildings that may be blocks from that facility. It is not feasible to designate parking spaces to a specific group.


When will the Healthcheck emails begin?

Healthcheck emails have been distributed based on employees' work status and requirements. Learn more about Healthcheck and initiate the process at uab.edu/healthcheck.


Is the idea still for faculty to work remotely if possible? Or are we expected to have presence time on campus?

Whether and how much faculty will need to be on campus for in-person instruction times for hybrid courses will be determined on a case-by-case basis in an interactive dialogue with chairs or other supervisors.


Are contract instructors subject to the same requirements as an employee?

Yes.


Can you inform all chairs and deans via email that it’s okay for instructors to use the hybrid model for honors courses?

[Question answered by Honors College Dean Shannon Blanton, Ph.D.] For the fall semester, many honors courses are being offered in a hybrid format. All the deans have been informed that we are supporting the hybrid course delivery format for the fall semester. They in turn communicate with their department chairs.


Is the UAB recreation center reopening at the beginning of the fall semester?

The Campus Recreation Center plans to open Aug. 17 and is committed to providing quality and inclusive spaces and programs while minimizing the risk of exposure. The Recreation Center will offer modified hours of operations and follow updated safety policies and procedures, which will be strictly enforced. Read the center’s full re-entry plan on its website.

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