KU issues COVID-19 employee handbook; virus testing will be provided, university orders 50K masks

photo by: Screengrab/University of Kansas

New guidance from the University of Kansas, issued Friday, July 17, 2020, tells faculty members what to do in various situations regarding COVID-19 exposure.

The University of Kansas on Friday afternoon released an employee guidebook for faculty and staff members related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which included new information on who can and cannot work from home, what personal protective equipment would be available, and more details for the campus community on daily personal health screenings.

For all employees whose job description does not have a requirement to be on campus, KU employees will largely, if not entirely, be expected to work remotely during the fall semester, the document says. Conversely, those employees who have duties that require an on-campus presence will be expected to appear on campus in person. The guidebook indicates the decision on whether an employee needs to work on campus will be made in consultation with the employee’s supervisor and will be based on the employee’s job description.

Once the KU campuses resume physical operations, all students, staff members, faculty members and visitors will have to complete a daily health assessment on a smartphone app to access campus buildings. KU is currently piloting the app, called CVKey, which was created by alumnus and former Google engineer Brian McClendon.

The app asks the user questions in line with guidance from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health to see if they are at risk of having COVID-19. The app then generates a code that can be scanned at kiosks located outside of every campus building. The guidance did not address what would happen to those without smart phones.

Friday’s handbook also detailed more measures the university has taken to equip the campus with personal protective equipment and sanitary materials for when courses resume. At a minimum, the document says, KU has ordered 50,000 face masks to distribute, placed sanitation stations in every corridor of each building, purchased sneeze guards and other protective equipment for instructors and reconfigured classrooms to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

The guidance also lists procedures for filing grievances against those not complying with safety mandates, such as not wearing a mask or not socially distancing when appropriate. The grievance process appears to mirror the process for violations of student or faculty codes of conduct that aren’t related to the pandemic.

With regards to testing, it appears KU employees will have several options to choose from once the semester begins. According to the guidance, after a person calls their health care provider, testing for the respiratory virus can be obtained at Watkins Health Services, the campus health center, along with other area options available to the general public.

The guidance also establishes the first public protocol for what happens when an employee is suspected of having COVID-19. First, the employee is expected to notify their supervisor, who then notifies either a department head or resources official. Then, directions will be given to the employee for what to do next, while the appropriate dean, vice provost for operations, emergency management coordinator and Watkins chief of staff are confidentially notified.

From there, a supervisor will begin to initiate proper area closures while a thorough cleaning service is requested. Once the cleaning is complete, the department will agree on a “return to work” date for employees who were sent away while awaiting the results of the hypothetical COVID-19 test.

The guidance begins with a message from Mike Rounds, KU’s vice provost of operations, and says it is meant to be a living document that may evolve as public health guidance surrounding management of the pandemic changes.

“If, individually and together, we follow the measures set forth in this guide, our combined effort will promote a safe environment for all Jayhawks who learn and work on our campuses while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19,” Rounds said.

KU’s fall semester is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.

Contact Conner Mitchell

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