Dear Students and Families: Congratulations—we crossed the threshold of the midway point of the fall semester earlier this week! I hope you’ll take time this weekend to recharge your batteries, connect with friends and burn off some stress. The activities…
Coronavirus Update 6.8.20: Health and Safety Update
Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:
Recently, Syracuse University provided the campus community with an update on the work of the Public Health and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the Fall 2020 Open Working Group. That subcommittee has been engaged with faculty and staff across campus and with outside experts to develop a comprehensive framework to ensure Syracuse University is fully equipped and prepared to safely resume campus operations. As we continue to refine and advance that framework, we want to share additional detail about the actions we will take and policies we will implement to safeguard the health and well-being of our campus community.
In this message, we focus on answering the most frequently and commonly asked health and safety questions. Specifically, we address issues and actions related to:
- Masks & Face Coverings
- COVID Testing, Screening and Surveillance
- Facilities Considerations & Revisions
- Health Promotion & Prevention
- Teaching & Learning
The actions and policies described below by no means represent the full breadth and scale of the public health and safety measures Syracuse University will implement in the weeks and months ahead. As we continue to receive new information, review new science, and receive public-sector feedback on our framework, the University will take additional action, formalize new policies and continue to communicate regularly with our community.
Masks & Face Coverings
Q: What is Syracuse University’s policy on masks and face coverings? Will everybody have to wear a mask at all times?
Syracuse University will require face masks or face coverings for all students, faculty, staff and visitors while on campus, in the presence of others, and in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. In some instances, there are legitimate medical reasons that an individual cannot wear a mask for an extended period. There also may be a limited number of unique situations where wearing a mask during certain activities is not possible, appropriate or even hazardous to those with certain preexisting conditions. Efforts are underway to develop appropriate accommodations in such instances.
Q: Will Syracuse University provide masks to all members of the campus community?
Yes. Syracuse University will provide all faculty, staff and students with an initial supply of reusable (washable) cloth masks, upon return to campus. These masks will be provided at no cost.
Q: Will visitors to campus be required to wear masks?
Yes. Any individual accessing our campus—including visitors and contractors—is required to wear a mask or face covering while in the presence of others and in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. In addition, the University plans to limit campus visitors during the fall semester. According to health experts, visitors to campus from outside Central New York pose a risk of virus transmission to the University community (given that those individuals would not be subject to the ongoing testing and monitoring procedures in place for the residential campus community and CNY residents). For this reason, visitors and guests from outside Central New York will generally be restricted from accessing residence halls and other campus facilities.
Q: Who is responsible for ensuring students, faculty and staff follow the University’s policy related to wearing masks or face coverings?
It is a shared responsibility. We must all do our part to protect ourselves and each other. During the COVID-19 health emergency, wearing a mask is not only an action designed to protect you from exposure to the virus, but it is also a visible sign that each member of our campus community is doing our part to safeguard the health and wellness of others.
COVID Testing, Screening and Surveillance
Q: In a prior message, it was indicated that all students will be tested for COVID-19 upon return to campus. How will those tests be performed?
All students will be tested when they return to campus and again two weeks after their return to campus. Syracuse University will use pooled saliva testing for this purpose, with subsequent rapid testing of all individuals in a pooled sample that indicates a positive result. Testing of symptomatic students will be performed by health professionals from the Barnes Center at The Arch (under the supervision of Syracuse University’s medical director) and in partnership with outside laboratories. More specific details about how these tests will be administered will be shared prior to our students’ return to campus.
Q: How will Syracuse University conduct ongoing monitoring of the student population for instances of COVID-19?
We will implement two primary approaches for ongoing monitoring, including random testing and a wastewater surveillance program developed by public health faculty from Falk College. The wastewater surveillance program allows us to monitor for the potential of asymptomatic cases in our residence halls, athletic facilities, etc. and subsequently initiate individual testing of residents in response to virus detected in the wastewater originating from a given complex.
Q: What if a student tests positive for COVID-19 disease? What will be the procedure to support that student and safeguard others on campus?
If a student tests positive, the University will deploy its response protocol, which prioritizes the health of the student as well as the safety and well-being of the community. The student will be immediately moved via a Syracuse University medical transport to isolation housing. These rooms will be physically separated from other residential student rooms, have a private bathroom, and be stocked with a thermometer, sanitizing wipes, tissues, soap, hand sanitizer and toiletries. Students who test positive will remain in isolation until a negative test is achieved. While isolated, the student will be assigned a case manager to support all academic, health, housing and dining needs. For those students who are ill or asymptomatically positive, to the degree reasonably feasible, these isolated students will be encouraged to continue academic activities remotely or be provided with academic accommodations due to illness.
Q: How will Syracuse University address the need for contact tracing, assuming that there will be positive COVID cases during the fall semester?
Working closely with the Onondaga County Department of Health, Syracuse University is prepared to hire and train our own contact tracing team. Acknowledging the personal nature of this task, the unique attributes of an academic environment, and also the broad diversity represented across our campus community, we believe that it’s important that the duties and responsibilities associated with contact tracing be performed by culturally competent individuals who themselves represent our community.
Facilities Considerations & Revisions
Q: How is the University going to ensure that social distancing is possible in classrooms?
The University has convened several cross-functional working groups across campus to recommend guidelines and update protocols in accordance with guidance from health and government officials. Space reconfigurations, signage, directional limitations, hybrid course delivery options and other considerations to maintain and ensure social distancing are underway and will continue to be implemented throughout campus.
Right now, we are in the process of inventorying classroom spaces, determining projected class sizes and—based on that data—determining a framework for how classes are assigned to spaces. In all likelihood, large lecture classes will institute a rotated attendance policy to enable social distancing or leverage technology to decouple learning from any particular space. Smaller classes will be offered in larger rooms, and we are currently assessing the inventory of larger spaces that can be used for fall instruction.
Q: How will the University make changes to facilities and public spaces to enable public health practices and behaviors identified as reducing the risk associated with virus transmission?
The University is undertaking ongoing, multi-faceted efforts to configure facilities and spaces—to the maximum extent practical—to reduce the risk associated with virus transmission. This work is ongoing right now.
Examples of these changes include, but are not limited to: deploying new signage in all buildings to promote social distancing; placing appropriate wayfinding signage at building entrances to limit flow through constrained spaces; configuring work and public spaces to allow for least 6 feet between individuals; assessing the need for barriers in workspaces where people must face each other or are unable to be 6 feet apart; adjusting chairs and desks to ensure proper physical distancing in conference and waiting rooms. In addition, in the fall we plan to limit access to academic and student-focused facilities for outside visitors and ask building coordinators to develop a plan to coordinate arrival and departure times of faculty and staff to reduce congestion. Finally, we will also limit in-person meetings to not exceed 50 percent of a room’s capacity, assuming individuals can still maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
Q: Does the University have plans for enhanced cleaning and sanitation of common areas, residence halls and other high-traffic spaces?
Yes. Since the early days of the COVID-19 health emergency, the University has implemented a robust cleaning and sanitation process. This includes enhanced cleaning and sanitation of classrooms, laboratories, studios and performance venues, libraries, residence halls, dining halls, recreation spaces, gathering spaces and other high-traffic areas. The University will utilize disinfectants that have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as appropriate to eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus (cause of COVID-19). For information on cleaning and disinfecting efforts in work areas, please visit ehss.syr.edu/about/covid-19-information/work-area-cleaning-and-disinfecting/.
Q: If I believe that a classroom or office requires modifications to ensure social distancing, what is the process to make a request for evaluation?
As described above, the University is currently working through plans to reconfigure facilities—to the maximum extent practical—to best support public health practices and behaviors identified as reducing the risk associated with virus transmission. Specific requests will be evaluated based on several criteria related to campus reopening plans and best available health guidance. You can learn about the space modification process and request an evaluation at bfas.syr.edu/facilities/service-requests/.
Health Promotion & Prevention
Q: What actions does the University plan to encourage and facilitate healthy behaviors among members of our campus community?
As students, faculty and staff return to campus, they will notice robust new signage promoting social distancing and other public health measures. For example, floor decals placed in campus buildings to remind people of the importance of social distancing. New signage aimed at promoting and protecting the health of our community will be placed in building entryways; outside elevators; and in dining centers, breakrooms, kitchen areas, meeting spaces and other locations frequented by students, faculty and staff. Our signage strategy will continue to ramp up throughout the summer as we look to welcome students in August.
Additionally, when students, faculty and staff return, they will also notice increased access to hand sanitizer stations; classrooms, gathering spaces and other areas will have reduced chairs, tables and desks; and in lecture halls, chairs will be taped off to ensure social distancing. These are just some of the immediate changes you will notice on campus, but by no means do they represent the full scope of efforts underway.
Q: How will students be informed and educated about steps and behaviors most appropriate to mitigate the likelihood of exposure to the virus?
Students will participate in an educational program prior to their return to campus focused on health and wellness issues and actions most appropriate during and beyond the COVID-19 health emergency. Further, as a condition of returning to campus, students will be required to affirmatively commit to a social compact statement (that is currently being finalized) that defines expectations related to behaviors and actions appropriate to protect their health and the health of those around them.
Q: How will students, faculty and staff who depend on public transportation safely access campus or other locations?
The University is establishing protocols for social distancing on all University-owned and University-sponsored means of group transportation—and we are coordinating with CENTRO. As an example, these new protocols include: establishing maximum passenger counts for the SU Trolley and other means of University-sponsored group transportation to allow for appropriate social distancing; requiring all operators and passengers to wear a mask on every vehicle provided or sponsored by the University (including the SU Trolley); installing hand sanitizer stations on such vehicles; and disinfecting vehicles on an enhanced schedule.
Q: How is the University planning to enforce social distancing and health/safety protocols?
First, it is important for all members of our community to understand that enforcing social distancing standards and other measures of prevention is everyone’s responsibility. It should be a shared expectation that all students, faculty and staff will not only themselves adhere to the directives and policies in place to safeguard public health—but also remind others to do the same when necessary. For students specifically, the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience is currently taking steps to communicate expectations to students and families. As previously described, as a condition of returning to campus, students will be required to affirmatively commit to a social compact statement that sets expectations related to behaviors and actions appropriate to protect their health and the health of those around them. Students who are identified to have acted with disregard for their health and the health of those around them will be referred to the student judicial process for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.
Teaching & Learning
Q: How is the University going to ensure that social distancing is possible in classrooms?
Based on the recommendations of the Public Health and Emergency Management Subcommittee, the University has convened several cross-functional working groups composed of faculty and Academic Affairs staff to establish guidelines and protocols appropriate to reduce density and facilitate social distancing in classrooms and other academic spaces. Work to reconfigure classrooms is already underway, as is an inventory of all classroom spaces and projected class/section enrollments. Based on this review, the University will determine a framework for assigning classes/sections to individual spaces. As a general rule, those efforts assume a 30-person limitation on class/section size, or 50 percent of the room’s stated capacity (given the ability to maintain 6 feet of social distancing). Large lecture classes will likely institute a rotated attendance policy to enable social distancing or leverage technology to decouple learning from any particular space. Smaller classes will be offered in larger rooms, and we are currently assessing the inventory of larger spaces that can be used for fall instruction. Like we did after WWII, the University is also exploring utilizing temporary modular classrooms as required to reduce density and facilitate social distancing.
Q: What about labs, studios and other hands-on or experiential learning programs? Will they be canceled altogether?
No. We are in the process of assessing the needs and requirements of all departments and programs to determine how to best facilitate labs, studios and other hands-on or experiential learning programs. In some cases, it may simply mean finding much larger spaces to conduct these types of experiential courses. In other cases, it means we must “think differently” and identify creative ways to safely and meaningfully deliver classes like dance woodwind or vocal instruction or field work in the natural world.
Q: I am a faculty member; can I have plexiglass installed in my office to accommodate office hours?
This question represents a good opportunity to illustrate the “think differently” imperative inherent in resuming campus life in the face of the COVID-19 health emergency. While it is true that the University will be installing plexiglass barriers in some high-traffic service centers across campus, doing so in faculty offices is not contemplated at this time. It is important, however, to understand why. Specifically, it is because—as a rule—faculty should be discouraged from meeting with students in confined spaces. Instead, faculty should consider holding office hours outside of their office—for example on the Shaw Quad or in a classroom or conference room (where 6 feet of distance can be maintained)—or by leveraging a technology solution like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Q: If I am at increased risk for complications of COVID-19 or live with someone who is at risk, can I opt out of teaching or learning in person this fall?
Your health and safety are our chief priority; Syracuse University will not ask you to do anything that will jeopardize your well-being or the well-being of an at-risk family member. We have heard from many students, faculty and staff with similar circumstances and are in the process of finalizing guidelines related to this issue. The provost will share that policy with faculty shortly.
Q: The modified calendar calls for instruction on weekends. I have religious restrictions that prevent me from teaching/attending class at certain times.
Based on feedback we have received, we are looking at weekend instruction only for Fridays before sundown and, potentially, Sunday afternoons.
Q: We are returning to in-person instruction, but will all classes and labs be held in-person?
We are all working together to deliver for our students—as practical and allowable given health guidance—a residential academic experience for the fall. This means, to the maximum extent possible, classes will meet in-person. That said, it is also likely that some large lecture classes will institute a rotated attendance policy to enable social distancing or leverage technology to decouple learning from any particular space. Smaller classes will be offered in larger rooms, and we are currently assessing the inventory of larger spaces that can be used for fall instruction.
Q: If a student would prefer to take classes online and stay home, are they required to come to campus?
If a student prefers not to return to campus in the fall, for whatever reason, they have the option to continue academic progress towards a degree via an online semester. Faculty and many others are working to create online course offerings that mirror those classes that will be offered in a residential format during the fall semester. For that reason, if returning to campus in the fall is not a viable option for some of our students, the opportunity to participate remotely will be possible. Importantly however, if a student opts for an online semester and to remain in a location other than Syracuse, New York, for public health reasons, their access to campus will be limited (given that those individuals would not be part of the ongoing testing and monitoring procedures in place for the residential student population).
We are committed to identifying, creating and implementing health and safety policies and protocols that support a safe, healthy and academically meaningful campus experience in the fall. While that effort is well underway, much work remains. Therefore, we want to remind you again to please routinely visit Syracuse.edu/coronavirus for the latest updates.
Stay well, stay safe, and take care of yourself and your loved ones.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation
Interim Vice Chancellor and Prov