Dear Union College Employees:
We are looking forward to the return of students and in-person classes on Jan. 10, but are acutely aware of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 omicron variant.
With that in mind, we have made some changes to our COVID-19 protocols for the start of winter term as we work to slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our community and re-establish our campus bubble to the greatest extent possible.
- All employees are expected to receive a negative COVID-19 test this week prior to returning to campus. If you did not get tested on campus, an off-campus PCR or rapid test is acceptable. Should you receive a positive result from an off-campus test, please contact Gwen Pulvirent (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Human Resources and your supervisor.
- Employees working on campus are required to test twice next week on campus – once from Jan. 9-11 and again during the Jan. 13-14 window. Testing on Jan. 9 is from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 9 a.m - noon and 1 – 4 p.m. on all other days at Old Chapel/Hale House.
- Employees working on campus will be required to test twice during the week of Jan. 17 – once on Jan. 17-18 and again on Jan. 20-21.
Isolation and quarantine:
Our Isolation and quarantine guidelines have changed. In some cases, COVID-19 positive individuals will only need to isolate for five days if certain conditions are met. Likewise, fully vaccinated employees who have received a booster or who are not yet eligible for a booster do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, if certain conditions are met. Human Resources will provide details regarding release from isolation and quarantine to affected employees.
All members of the Union community are required to be boosted by Jan. 16 or within two weeks of becoming eligible for a booster. To help facilitate this, the College is offering booster clinics from 1-4 p.m. tomorrow and Jan. 13-14 at Memorial Chapel. You can sign up for an appointment here.
Masks continue to be required in most indoor spaces on campus. Cloth masks are not considered effective in preventing the spread of the omicron variant and are no longer recommended. Surgical or medical masks such as N95, KN95 and KF94 provide much greater protection against the spread of COVID-19 than cloth masks.
We recommend wearing cloth masks only in tandem with disposable surgical-style masks. Speaking of masks, how you wear them matters. Masks should fit snugly against your face and cover the mouth and nose at all times.
Remote work and meetings:
To reduce the COVID-19 risk to our students and those employees who work directly with students and must be on campus to do their job, supervisors are strongly encouraged to provide flexibility for those employees who can work remotely and who wish to do so through the end of January. Additionally, meetings that can be held on Zoom without affecting the quality of our work product are encouraged to be conducted in such a manner.
Also, we are potentially facing short-term testing capacity limitations from our outside testing partner starting in mid-January. To help ensure that students and those employees who interact with students have access to tests, employees working completely remotely over the next 3-4 weeks will not be eligible to test on campus until further notice.
Finally, it is important to note that while the latest evidence indicates that omicron is not as likely to cause severe illness as previous strains of COVID-19, it is much more transmissible. As a result, it poses a significant threat of disruption to our students’ academic progress due to lost time in the classroom and the challenges of ensuring that students have access to lecture information and other course materials while out.
Additionally, we are concerned about the impact on the health of our employees and their families, as well as our ability to operate in a manner that provides the level of service we want to deliver. We also have a responsibility to the larger Schenectady County community to do our part to safeguard the health of the most vulnerable members of the population and to not place further burden on an already strained medical system.
For these reasons, we encourage everyone to remain especially vigilant following our return to campus next week. Conscientious adherence to our COVID-19 protocols as we re-establish our campus “bubble” over the next 2-3 weeks offers our best chance for a highly successful winter term and to safeguard our larger community.
Starting with this message, we are resuming our weekly schedule of COVID-19 communications, which will be supplemented with updates as necessary. And, remember, you can always find the latest information on our COVID-19 website.
Interim Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Chief Human Resources Officer