Union Where You Are: Plans for 2020-21

Health and Safety Protocols

Union remains committed to the health and safety of the entire campus community. With input and guidance from state and local officials and the CDC, the College has created the procedures below for daily health self-screenings and attestation, use of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, testing, hygiene, improved ventilation, cleaning, quarantine, contact tracing and isolation, travel and more.

Each of us has a shared responsibility to comply with the guidelines, ask questions when something is unclear and support one another as we return to campus. Adapting to a new normal is essential for protecting ourselves, our families and community against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"You have an individual responsibility to yourself but you have a societal responsibility, because if we want to end this outbreak — really end it, and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin — we’ve got to realize that we are part of the process.” - Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

All students and employees will be provided with a care kit:

  • Two cloth masks with a CDC instruction sheet on how to properly wear a mask
  • An oral digital thermometer
  • A 2-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. These bottles are designed to be refilled at stations on campus.

An awareness campaign, “A Healthy Union Starts with U,” is helping to educate our community on the importance of following the guidelines.


Complying with the guidance that we establish is critical for the health of all members of our community. All students and employees will be responsible for reviewing and attesting that they have read a document that describes the rights and responsibilities associated with how they will engage with Union, whether on leave, on campus, near campus or remote.

Any changes in guidance will be reflected in revisions to this site. For additional resources on health and safety guidelines, review Reopening New York: Higher Education Guidelines.

A Healthy Union Starts with U - Health and Safety Protocols

  • Daily Health Screenings
    An illustration showing a checkmark

    Each day they are on campus, students and employees must self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms using the COVID-19 Daily Checklist

    After completing the daily checklist, each member of the campus community will have to fill out the online attestation form that tracks self-monitoring. If an employee works in an area without access to the internet, paper copies of this form will be provided.

    If they are displaying symptoms, each member of the campus community has an obligation to stay at home (employees) or stay in their residence and call Health Services (students). Anyone experiencing symptoms should NOT go to work or attend in-person classes.

    All members of our community are expected to follow our health and safety protocols including social distancing and wearing appropriate face coverings. Doing so will ensure a healthy community.

    Students who do not comply will be subject to disciplinary actions ranging from a warning to sanctions. In cases of severe violations, sanctions could include suspension or separation from the College.

    All employees (faculty, staff and administrators) are expected to fully comply with the policies, protocols and guidance outlined in this plan. Employees who fail to comply may face disciplinary action.

    Employees who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 or who are concerned about returning to work should consult with their supervisor and Human Resources about the possibility of working remotely or pursuing other options.

  • Protective Equipment
    An illustration showing a face mask

    Masks and Face Coverings

    Wearing a mask is one of the key elements to reducing the spread of infection. Employees and students must have a face covering (cloth mask, bandana, surgical mask or face shield) with them at all times and it must be worn in both interior and exterior public areas.

    In classrooms, students and instructors will be required to wear an acceptable face covering, even if social distancing exceeds six feet.

    Face coverings are not required when an individual is alone in an enclosed room, in their dorm room, or when outside with a six-foot distance from others.

    Cloth face coverings must meet the following CDC guidelines: The mouth and nose must be fully covered and the covering must fit snugly against the sides of the face with no gaps.

    Union will provide two cloth masks to students and employees who are on campus. Individuals are responsible for regularly cleaning and maintaining their own masks.

    Students who have a medical contraindication should notify Health Services

    Specific guidance for employees on masks in the workplace:

    • Employees must wear face coverings at their work area if the space is shared with one or more people, regardless of distance between desks. However, face coverings will not be required if a physical barrier (cubicle walls or plexiglass) is present between employees. Physical barriers cannot affect air flow, heating or cooling.
    • If an employee’s role requires a different type of face covering (e.g. a face shield), they speak with a supervisor or department chair to discuss that option.
    • Employees may request additional guidance pertaining to their individual role or work spaces. Employees who have a medical contraindication to wearing a mask should notify their supervisor.

    Physical Barriers

    Plexiglass shield barriers will be installed at areas where interactions between people are less than 6 feet and cannot be conducted otherwise.

  • Social Distancing/Physical Distancing
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    Social distancing, also known as physical distancing, must be practiced. This is one of the key elements for reducing the spread of infection. Individuals should maintain 6 feet distance when in public areas and from people who aren’t members of their residence. To help members of our community visualize 6 feet, the College will be placing signs and floor markings in densely populated areas.

    The total occupancy for indoors is limited to 50 percent of the maximum occupancy for a particular area, as set by the certificate of occupancy. Facilities will partner with departments across campus on final layout and implementation.

    Classrooms: Seating capacity will be reduced by 50 percent or more to ensure students and instructors are at least 6 feet from each other.

    Labs: Similar to classrooms, smaller lab groups will be placed into larger rooms when possible and lab sections will be spread out across the day.

    Common spaces: Furniture in common spaces will be removed or taped off.

    Meetings: Meetings should be conducted remotely via Zoom or a similar platform. If an in-person meeting is required it must be limited to no more than the maximum amount of people allowed by current guidance provided by New York State. The meeting space must be large enough to allow a distance of 6 feet for all people in the meeting and masks must be worn.

  • Hygiene, Cleaning and Disinfection
    An illustration of a hand under a faucet

    Hand washing and hand sanitizer: Proper hand washing is a key element of reducing the spread of infection. Individuals are expected to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water following CDC guidelines or use hand sanitizer when unable to wash their hands. Hand sanitizer stations will be posted across campus and individuals are encouraged to use them frequently.

    Phone cleaning: Since we use our phones many times during the day, it’s important to clean phones to help stop the spread of germs. Wash your hands before cleaning your phone and use an alcohol-based disinfectant cleaner to disinfect your electronic devices. Refrain from sharing phones or computers.

    Enhanced facilities cleaning protocols: Facilities Services will provide daily enhanced cleaning and disinfecting for high-use areas and frequently touched surfaces throughout campus.

    Sanitation kits: Sanitation kits will be available for employees and students to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in their work areas and/or classrooms. This is an additional resource to the enhanced cleaning and disinfecting conducted daily by Facilities Services.

    Improved ventilation: We are implementing several measures to improve demand control ventilation, increasing HVAC maintenance and will maintain the recommended temperature and humidity levels.

  • Communications

    Union will provide regular updates and changes to health protocols via its website. Signs on campus will keep the campus community informed of protocols, regulations and further guidance.

  • Testing

    Union’s testing plan will include initial and surveillance testing, not just diagnostic, and will go into effect upon return to campus. We are working with various vendors, including the Broad Institute, as we finalize plans.

    Initial testing: All students and employees will be screened and tested for the Sars-Cov-2 virus upon arrival and as they return to work. Faculty and staff already working on campus will also be tested at this time.

    Regular testing: Students will be tested weekly. Staff and faculty will be tested at regular intervals throughout the term. Student-facing staff will be tested more frequently throughout the term.

    If a positive case on campus occurs, the patient, Schenectady County Department of Health (or the county where the patient lives) and Union College Health Services (students) and Human Resources (employees) will receive an email of the positive diagnosis.

  • Isolation and Quarantine
    An illustration of someone sick in bed

    Union College has an isolation protocol that will be initiated in the event of a positive or suspected positive case. The College will have dedicated spaces for residential students that are positive, suspected positive or deemed necessary to quarantine per Schenectady DOH guidance.

    If a student tests positive or is required to quarantine, the student must either:

    • arrange to be picked up by a parent immediately if they choose to isolate/quarantine at home, or
    • coordinate with Health Services to quarantine in Union’s designated space.

    Union College designated space for isolation and quarantine:

    • Students who test positive and are asked to isolate or quarantine by Schenectady DOH will be accommodated in isolation/quarantine space.
    • Faculty and staff will not have the opportunity to isolate or quarantine in these spaces.
    • Students living in isolation/quarantine spaces agree to follow Schenectady DOH regulations. Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.
    • Care for students in isolation or quarantine: Schenectady DOH will be in touch with students required to isolate/quarantine daily per their protocol. Union College Health Services will also monitor students during this time.
  • Travel

    If you are considering travel for personal reasons in the United States, you will need to adhere to CDC, state and local health department guidelines for traveling and isolation requirements after travel.

    CDC recommends all travelers avoid non-essential international travel.

    Students are discouraged from traveling off-campus for anything besides essential errands and off-campus housing.

    The College will limit all non-essential business travel. Please secure approval from your supervisor before making business travel plans.

    As of June 25, 2020, according to New York State Executive Order 205, all travelers entering New York from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10 percent test positivity rate, over a seven-day rolling average, will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine. See the list of states that fall under New York’s advisory here.

    If you have traveled from within one of the designated states with significant community spread, you must quarantine when you enter New York for 14 days from the last travel within such designated state, provided on the date you enter into New York state that such state met the criteria for requiring such quarantine.

    The requirements of the travel advisory do not apply to any individual passing through designated states for a limited duration (i.e., less than 24 hours) through the course of travel. Examples include but are not limited to: stopping at rest stops for vehicles, buses and/or trains; or layovers for air, bus or train travel.

    The travel advisory requires all New Yorkers, as well as those visiting from out of state, to take personal responsibility for complying with the advisory in the best interest of public health and safety.