August 20, 2020

More questions answered from Aug. 14 employee town hall

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In a virtual town hall Aug. 14 (watch the full video here), President Ray Watts, Provost Pam Benoit and other senior leaders provided updates and answered questions on planning for the entry to campus for fall 2020.

Employees submitted more than 160 questions and comments before and 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 questions that could not be answered live due to time constraints.


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


Masks

Mask distribution

Mask policies and enforcement

Salary and benefits

Employee Health, Healthcheck, testing and COVID-19 treatments

Employee Health

Healthcheck

Sentinel testing

COVID-19 treatments

Asymptomatic positivity rates at UAB

Academic questions

Working remotely

UAB Medicine questions

Employee accommodations

Childcare

Other



Masks


Mask distribution

How do School of Medicine employees get their masks?

The School of Medicine dean’s office provided SOM employees disposable masks and hand sanitizer for employees working onsite and/or hybrid in May. In addition, the university will provide two UAB-branded masks for all SOM employees and students. Faculty, staff and students will receive two UAB-branded masks. The dean’s office will coordinate pick-up of faculty masks with departmental representatives for departments to distribute the week of Aug. 24. Staff/student pick-up locations are listed in this UAB Reporter article.


In the previous town hall, it was mentioned that employees will receive face shields and masks among other items. Will these be given to all staff across campus? I am an employee for the SOM but am based in a clinic setting.

All staff will receive two masks. Faculty also will receive face shields that they can use while recording their classes for remote students.


Will all employees be able to claim a mask, even if they have not returned to campus yet?

Yes, you can come to one of the pickups listed in this UAB Reporter article. Any employee with a UAB ONE Card may receive two masks.


Teaching assistants are often in front of the classroom and assisting with teaching. Will they be provided with face shields?

Please ask in your dean’s office for access to face shields.


If we're still required to work from home, can we go ahead and get masks now for when we return or do we have to wait until our group is cleared to return to campus?

Staff and students can pick up their masks in a drive-thru distribution from Express Lot 4 Aug. 21-22 and in the UAB Bookstore starting Aug. 21. Find a map and other distribution locations in this UAB Reporter article. You must have your UAB ONE Card with you and you may not pick up for anyone but yourself.


Can employees pick up a mask with their ONE Card when helping assemble kits at the Hilton?

Yes.



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Mask policies and enforcement

What should I do if I see employees or contractors not wearing face masks?

Face coverings are mandatory for UAB students, employees and others on campus at all times — inside and outside — except at a private workstation/private office that is in an enclosed space where no others are present. Face coverings are a critical tool to minimize risk of virus transmission, and signage around campus has been designed and placed to ensure everyone is aware.

If you notice someone not wearing a face covering, you may respectfully and politely remind them of this expectation and point them to resources that may be available to obtain one. You may also report non-compliance to a department administrator, Student Conduct & Outreach, Human Resources, the Office of Compliance & Risk Assurance, or anonymously through the UAB Ethics Hotline. To ensure appropriate response, it is helpful to provide as much information about the circumstances as possible.


Who is responsible for enforcing the mask and social distancing within academic buildings?

Face coverings and appropriate physical distancing are important elements of UAB’s plan for reactivating campus and are required. Student Conduct and Outreach and supervisors/Human Resources have processes in place to address non-compliance. If you notice someone not wearing a face covering, you may respectfully and politely remind them of this expectation and point them to resources that may be available to obtain one.

Additionally, if you are an instructor, you should require a student who fails to wear a face covering or practice physical distancing to leave the classroom. Otherwise, individuals should report non-compliance to a department administrator, Student Conduct & Outreach, Human Resources, the Office of Compliance & Risk Assurance, or anonymously through the UAB Ethics Hotline, as appropriate.


Are mask rules open for interpretation? For example, if two people work in a large room, so that person A is far from person B, can person A choose to not wear a mask because there is a six-foot difference between the two people?

Face coverings are mandatory for UAB students, employees and others on campus at all times — inside and outside — except at a private workstation/private office that is in an enclosed space where no others are present. If employees have questions about how UAB’s health and safety requirements are to be implemented in their work environments, they should contact their supervisors for more information about their unit’s operation plan.


What is the expectation for wearing masks outside?

See above.



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Salary and benefits


If we are out with COVID-19 does that come out of our paid time off or is it paid by the university according to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Information which includes the employee paid leave rights and requirements related to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as well as the Emergency Family & Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) can be found on the HR website here.


Will UAB participate in the payroll tax cut?

UAB, in coordination with the UA System, is monitoring for the release of the implementation guidance related to the Executive Order issued Aug. 8. We will continue to update the campus as more information is available.


For UAB salaried employees returning to work after furlough, it is my understanding that all monthly benefit elections in arrears (June/July) will be deducted from our first paycheck issued end of August. Is there any way the two months of arrears can be made up over two paycheck periods?

UAB covered the cost of the employer and employee contributions to any enrolled medical or dental plans during the furlough period. Regular medical and dental deductions will begin effective with the employee’s August paycheck. Any specific concerns or questions about collections of arrears should be directed to the Benefits Office at benefits@uab.edu.


Will furloughed employees on the All of Us research program be rehired once the state COVID-19 levels decrease?

Any employee who separates from UAB may continue to seek employment opportunities and apply for approved openings for which they are qualified. Any specific concerns or questions should be directed to your HR Consultant (find contact information for the HR Consultant in your area here).


Will there be an investigation into fair pay at UAB?

Our compensation philosophy is designed to be competitive, performance-based, transparent and consistent, as such there is not a current initiative to investigate fair pay across the entire university. Any specific concerns or questions about your pay should be directed to your HR Consultant (find contact information for the HR Consultant in your area here).


When will pay cuts get lifted?

Pay has already been reinstated. See the July 11 Expense Reduction Strategy Updates under Latest Updates at uab.edu/uabunited.



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Employee Health, Healthcheck, testing and COVID-19 treatments


Employee Health

Are employees and their family members able to receive a PCR COVID test if they are not exhibiting symptoms?

Employees who are not exhibiting symptoms may receive a diagnostic COVID-19 test (PCR) through sentinel testing, voluntary entry testing or hotspot testing as directed by contact tracing efforts if needed. Family members are not tested through Employee Health.


Which in-the-community COVID test sites have the fastest usual turn-around with results?

UAB does not track turnaround times at COVID-19 test sites in the community. Employees tested at UAB typically receive results within 24 hours.


What are the names/descriptions for the various testing?

UAB uses nasal swabs and nasopharyngeal swabs, which use a deeper sampling technique.


How can I access a voluntary COVID test?

Check your email. Updates will be shared with those eligible via email and featured in the eReporter.


If a staff member tests positive, what are the procedures for other staff members on their hallway?

Those employees should indicate a close contact in Healthcheck. Close contacts will be work-restricted for 14 days and will be tested if they develop symptoms.


If you indicate any symptoms on the Healthcheck and get the "Least Risk" notification, what are the next steps?

Press the "Get my Passport" link on the Least Risk page for use on campus that day.


If an employee just has one of the symptoms on the list, will they automatically be tested, or will they be further evaluated before being tested?

In most cases, yes.


How do we get into the pool to get tested? I just came back to campus and none of our area has been tested.

This is assigned randomly, not by voluntary sign-up. Be sure to check your email for an invitation to test.


Are neck/face gaiters considered to be an acceptable face covering for the UAB campus? Many people use these instead of a mask, and recent research shows they may be worse than no mask at all.

We are aware of this study, which has limitations. We are unaware of definitive data on this and require a face covering at this time. We do not recommend face coverings with an exhalation valve.


Healthcheck

I am working remotely, but work in an area where most staff are on campus. Is there a way for me to opt out of Healthcheck until I return to campus?

Ask your unit administrator to make sure you are assigned to the correct group for Healthcheck tracking purposes (remote, hybrid or on-site work status).


Healthcheck can be difficult to access in the UAB App because of Duo. You cannot check the box to only sign in every 30 days. Any chance this is being fixed?

This issue has been addressed, and Healthcheck access should now be much easier through the UAB App. Using the employee portal at my.uab.edu is also a quick, convenient way to complete Healthcheck.


Tuesday's eReporter directed readers to the UA System's updated COVID-19 health and safety plan, which requires daily Healthcheck participation and mandatory virus testing before re-entering campus. Will UAB be adopting these new requirements?

UAB will begin requiring daily Healthcheck compliance beginning Aug. 24. COVID-19 testing is mandatory for all students coming to campus. Employees are being offered voluntary COVID-19 testing, as outlined in the email titled "Optional university employee COVID-19 entry testing now available," sent Aug. 20, which can be read in the Latest Updates section of the uab.edu/uabunited site.


How can we get the Healthcheck to send to our smartphone as opposed to email? I can’t make it switch.

Text notifications are automatically enabled for everyone who has submitted a valid mobile number and did not unsubscribe over text. Both email and text notifications work on a different schedule.



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Testing

Would you recommend that individuals who were previously infected with COVID-19 participate in sentinel testing?

Yes, if the infection occurred greater than three months previously.


Is there any risk associated with being tested when we are selected for sentinel testing?

There are no risks associated with the self-administered nasal swab procedure involved in sentinel testing.


COVID-19 treatments

It seems we hear little about the efficacy of COVID-19 treatment drugs and protocols. Could we hear about that? Would these be available to affected students and staff, or are they still in the research process?

Right now there is only one FDA-approved drug for treatment of COVID-19, and it is called remdesivir. It is being used for hospitalized patients (it requires an intravenous infusion, so it cannot be used in the outpatient setting). Other treatment options are under active study, and we are especially excited to be studying new agents in the outpatient setting that can be taken in the oral form (pills or tablets). We hope these studies get up and running soon.


Is there any more research being done on the use of hydroxychloriquine/zinc/azithromycin?

There is widespread agreement across the infectious disease field that the clinical trials done to date have laid to rest the question of whether these drugs are effective in treating COVID-19. The answer is no — and moreover, in some trials, these drugs were associated with significant harm. There is no interest in continuing to evaluate them and researchers are pursuing more-specific antiviral drugs.



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Asymptomatic positivity rates at UAB

What percentage of UAB student/faculty/staff tested are positive for COVID-19 but asymptomatic?

Recent positivity rates among thousands of asymptomatic individuals tested in sentinel and entry testing both remain less than 1%. (Last week’s sentinel testing rate was .02% positive.)



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Academics and student aid


I wasn’t aware that you needed to fill out an in-state tuition form to receive it. Is it too late to receive in-state tuition? I’m transferring from Jeff State.

No, it is not too late. The deadline of Aug. 1 is to allow time to review applications prior to the first payment deadline. We will continue to review fall requests as they are submitted and documentation is received. 


My dad is an employee at UAB and I'm supposed to be getting half tuition, but it hasn't kicked in yet. What should I do?

Please confirm that the online certification form is complete in Oracle. The online certification for dependent/spouse benefit can be found under the Educational Assistance section of the Oracle self-service menu. For additional assistance, please contact Benefits at (205) 934-3458 or benefits@uab.edu.


What’s the best link for students for all information? They are asking me questions about which day they attend, etc.? Do we refer them to their advisor for this? BlazerNet?

The student town hall Aug. 11 included a demonstration of how to access and read the class schedule, including which days to attend. The Student section of uab.edu/uabunited is a good place, but students should also check their email (including GreenMail) regularly for important updates and news. 


What’s the best way to get school materials for this coming semester?

Check with your instructor on required materials and where to purchase. UAB’s Bookstore is operating and available to assist.


If we have classes online but need stuff on campus, what should we do?

You are permitted on campus to manage your course needs.


When will all the classes have submitted what form of instruction they will be using?

That deadline has passed. Please refer to your schedules to determine what type of class delivery you are signed up to receive.


Will I be getting any sponsors? And will I be allowed to work under the department professor to get experience in my respective field of masters?

Yes, please work with your advisor and faculty mentor on this.


How are assignments and test proctored in an online/remote learning environment?

We utilize ProctorU and other technology to address this. Please visit here to learn more.


How will we get books from the UAB Bookstore if paid through VA Dependent aid?

Students can purchase textbooks and supplies in-store or order online. If ordering online, be sure to select “Student Account” as your payment option if you are using VA Dependent or some other source of financial aid. This payment option is available to any student with excess financial aid in-store or online. Please note that any amount over a student’s available aid will require the difference to be paid by the student. When ordering online, students can choose in-store pickup, curbside pickup, dorm pickup or have their orders shipped to the address of their choice.  We will also offer students the opportunity to pick up their online orders at Blazer Hall starting 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Aug. 19. If you have any questions, contact the Bookstore at 205-996-2665 or visit shopuab.com.



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Working remotely


If employees are advised to work remotely indefinitely, are there guidelines regarding being able to travel while continuing to work? Does there need to be an official "remote" job title to allow for that?

The Telecommuting Agreement should document the specifics relative to the approved remote working location. The employee should consult their supervisor to discuss any request to change the remote working location, even if temporarily.


Do you know if employees who have changed to completely remote will continue to work remotely? If so, are there guidelines for being able to work from different locations?

HR is working to provide additional guidance to managers and leaders around remote work beyond limited business operations. Due to the specificity of this question it would be best answered by the supervisor or through the department/unit’s HR representative.


Can we continue to allow some SOM staff to work with a rotating team schedule — each member working a combination of remote and in office days each week?

The key message through modified business is that employees who can work from home should continue to do so. The goal is to bring back as few employees as possible at this time, to keep employees safe. Employee reentry and remote-work schedules ultimately will be coordinated and managed at the department-level.



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UAB Medicine questions


Is there any way to get hand sanitizing stations placed at all entry points at the Avondale Business Center?

We have at least nine of these stations already in place at each entry point (there are only 2 entry points for staff and guests), as well as at the loading dock entrance for deliveries and mail carriers. We also have stations at each of the restrooms and at each beginning/end point of main hallways, and finally, we also make sure disinfectant wipes and ‘personal’ sanitizer is available by staff when needed. The stations are monitored daily to ensure sanitizer is available. If you have a concern, please contact Amy Ward at aeward@uabmc.edu.


What PPE should employees wear when caring for symptomatic patients with a known positive COVID 19 test in the ambulatory setting or symptomatic patients with pending tests?

If the patient is currently COVID-19 positive and not convalesced or a symptomatic PUI, our employees providing care should wear gown, gloves, N-95 respirator and face shield. The staff should know about these patients, and they should only be seen in the approved clinics dedicated for COVID-19 patients.


How can an employee obtain an N95 mask if needed in the ambulatory setting?

The clinic should order supplies via their usual method. If they try to order an item that is backordered or restricted, the clinic manager/director can contact Stephen Burroughs (sburroughs@uabmc.edu) to coordinate a supply pickup at the TKC loading dock.


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Employee accommodations


I live with a family member who is immunocompromised, and I also have school-age children doing virtual learning. When I approached my supervisor about teaching fully online as an accommodation, I was told to fill out the AWARE form first; however, when I read the details about the program, it specifically says that it is NOT for individuals who have family members at high risk for illness or death — that it is solely for the individual’s situation (not family). Can you please clarify?

Faculty and staff directed to return to campus who have concerns about doing so due to disability or high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may contact the AWARE Program to request a reasonable accommodation. Other types of accommodations — including accommodations for caregivers and accommodations due to childcare needs — should be directed to the employee’s supervisor or departmental administrator.


In the first COVID-19 staff training, it prompted you to complete an AWARE document if you were considered high risk. I recently found out that due to what I submitted on the document, that I am prohibited from coming on campus. Is that permanent?

Please follow-up with the AWARE Program if clarification is needed related to a specific accommodation request.


For employees who experience mental or emotional health concerns, will accommodations be made regarding returning to campus?

Faculty and staff directed to return to campus who have concerns about doing so due to disability or high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may contact the AWARE Program to request a reasonable accommodation. UAB has taken a number of steps to support the health and safety of faculty, staff and students. Please visit uab.edu/uabunited to learn more about these efforts. Also, follow-up with your supervisor to learn more about the specific health and safety measures that are being taken in your department as well.



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Childcare


Will there be resources available to parents of children under the school age when/if daycares have limited hours? I have a son under the age of 2 and his daycare has been closed since March. Will the option to work from home while caring for our families during this uncertain season still be available in the fall?

UAB will not be able to address the specific challenges of every individual employee who has childcare needs; that is why we are emphasizing flexibility whenever possible. We recognize that many daycare centers are operating at reduced capacity due to CDC guidelines, or not at all. UAB is partnering with Childcare Resources, Inc. to ensure that employees have a central source of information about which childcare programs have open slots. Please visit uab.edu/humanresources/home/covid-19-resources/covid-childcare-resources and scroll to the bottom of the page to find this information.

We also recognize that the availability of childcare may change quickly due to COVID-19 exposures. Employees should work with their managers to define alternative work schedules/assignments when possible, or consider a temporary leave of absence if necessary.  More information can be found at uab.edu/humanresources/home/covid-19-resources/covid-childcare-resources under the Guidance for Working Parents and Emergency Leave Option tabs.


Is there any type of service for parents with special-needs kids who cannot attend the traditional childcare being offered?

While we do not have a particular service for parents of children with special needs, we recognize that what these families require in terms of childcare can vary significantly. Please contact the individual programs to learn more about their ability to provide accommodations, or reach out to the UAB Childcare Taskforce via ewykle@uab.edu with specific concerns.


If Alabama K-12 schools announce they will go remote, will the university follow suit? How will this affect those of us who have returned to the office for work?

The factors K-12 considers in making decisions on closing are different than those a complex organization like UAB considers. UAB will monitor decisions made by local school districts and consider how that might affect our campus community, but we will make data-driven, evidence-based decisions regarding UAB operations.



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Other


When it gets cold, it will be hard to eat outside. What are the plans for eating in cold weather?

Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break, which should increase options for employees looking for places to eat as the weather gets cold. Indoor options that will allow for social distancing while eating will include Bartow Arena and others.


There was earlier discussion about employee common areas not being allowed to be used upon reentry (i.e. kitchen, breakrooms, refrigerators, etc.). What dining options are available to employees?

Due to the specificity of this question it would be best answered through the department/unit’s HR representative to ensure the response is based on your department/unit’s operational plan.


The original information I saw which said to take the COVID-19: Basic Safety and Awareness Course referred us to the UAB Learning System. The new UAB United website links to a CITI Program course with the same name, and not the other site. Should we be taking both courses?

Recently it was determined that the new UAB United website linked to a CITI Program course rather than the Docebo (Campus LMS) to access the COVID-19: Basic Safety and Awareness Course. This link has been corrected. The COVID-19 Basic Safety and Awareness Course is required for employees who remained on campus during limited business operations, those who have been designated to work on-site or hybrid during limited and modified business operations, as well as future hires who will work on-site or hybrid. This course is necessary to obtain clearance to be on campus regardless of what your status was during limited business operations. Employees are only required to complete the COVID-19: Basic Safety and Awareness Course to satisfy the entry to campus requirement.


Are additional parking lots going to be open for those who park in the remote lots as they are now? How is remote parking going to work for those on evening shifts?

Express lots are open as normal. Passenger loads on each Blazer Express bus are capped at 10 riders to promote social distancing. Also, a face covering is required in order to ride the bus. As of Aug. 24, additional buses have been reassigned to heavily used routes to balance the reduced bus capacities. To make this change, UAB Transportation has suspended the Purple, Gold and North Green routes and closed Zone C for the fall semester. The remaining Blazer Express routes will run on this schedule:

  • Silver Route – 5:30 a.m. to midnight
  • Blue Route – 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • South Green Route – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Detailed information can be found at uab.edu/transportation.


I am concerned that social distancing in the Administration Building will be difficult and also have concerns about air quality in older buildings. What is being done in these areas?

Many employees have been working in the Administration Building and have been able to maintain social distancing. Unit operational plans should outline ways social distancing will be promoted.

Facilities has assessed HVAC systems across campus. The filtering used in our HVAC systems is already the highest quality that can be utilized and the outside fresh air has been increased to the highest setting. We are closely monitoring the most recent data and adapting our operations, based on the current guidance available (CDC; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; etc.). If new information regarding these systems is provided through the CDC, we will address it quickly. If you have a specific area of concern, please contact Environmental Health and Safety.


How often is senior leadership working on campus vs at home at this point?

Some senior leaders continue to work at home, some are hybrid and some work on campus.


When can employee travel be reinstated?

The restriction on all non-essential international and domestic travel will be assessed as public health conditions warrant and in consultation with other entities within the University of Alabama System. UAB has implemented a waiver form for travel that is deemed essential and unavoidable.



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