virus

COVID-19 FAQ for Augusta University and AU Health employees

For answers to questions not covered in this article, please call 706-721-9365 or email Human Resources.

Updated April 8:

What if I am a university employee who is not involved in direct patient care, but I provide services that require me to be on campus? What precautions can I take if I am working on site?  Should I wear a face mask?

On Friday April 3, the CDC changed its guidance on wearing masks to the following: “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The guidelines further state, “The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

Augusta University Health System is providing appropriate PPE to university and health system workforce members who are in direct patient care.

With respect to Augusta University providing cloth face coverings for essential employees who are not in direct patient care roles and must report to campus, the university’s Environmental Health & Safety Office recommends that a dust mask or cloth mask be worn if they can be obtained. (This is a recommendation, not a requirement.)

In addition, employees should continue to emphasize proper handwashing (lathering with soap for 20 seconds). Our recommendation for employees on campus is to increase frequency of handwashing. The university supplies sinks, paper towels and soap. Hand sanitizers are intended for use when access to handwashing supplies is not feasible and does not take the place of handwashing.

Student loan garnishment update:

The U.S. Department of Education has directed employers to stop federal student loan garnishment deductions from employees. Read more here.

eSignature available to employees:

Augusta University uses eSignature to empower faculty and staff to design secure, fully digital workflows, including legally binding signatures which allows students, parents and others to electronically sign official forms. Find more information about using eSignature.

Quarantine status notification and process:

Employee Health & Wellness will be heavily involved in the tracking and documentation of staff, including travel RNs and other contractors who work in our facilities, who are being required to self-quarantine due to the employee exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

As part of this process, it is critical for managers to communicate with Employee Health as an employee discloses they’ve been advised to self-quarantine. Managers should immediately email Employee Health & Wellness.

Employees will be required to self-quarantine away from all USG campuses, and AU Health System locations (to include ambulatory care clinics, etc.) based on the time-period as communicated by Employee Health based on the most current CDC guidelines.

Employees must immediately contact their manager and go off duty if symptoms develop. The manager must notify Employee Health. Once employees are notified of testing results or are placed on isolation, the employee must call Employee Health prior to reporting to their work site.  Employees will be released to work based on the current guidance from the CDC and/or an evaluation from a physician or health care provider given to Employee Health.

Augusta University Health System cares about the health and well-being of its patients, visitors and employees. Because of this, and due to the rapidly changing areas of impact, AU Health reserves the right to quarantine any employee who travels to any area at our discretion.

What should I do if I am sick?

Regular benefits eligible employees have leave that is available to them to cover absences. Employees should follow standard request and approval procedures. Employees are asked to not come to work when they are sick and rather to stay home and use appropriate leave. If an employee appears to be exhibiting symptoms associated with coronavirus while at work, a manager may let the employee know they are excused from work and should seek care from a health care provider. The employee will be expected to use appropriate leave to cover the time away and may be expected to provide a release from a health care provider to return to work.

Will FMLA cover me if I become ill with the Coronavirus?

It depends…

If you are eligible for FMLA based on the federal regulations and you have tested positive for COVID 19, then yes, FMLA will be available to you.

If you have only been exposed to the virus, FMLA is not applicable. However, you may still need to be quarantined and applicable leave could be an option subject to standard request and approval procedures.

Will FMLA cover me if an immediate member of my family contracts coronavirus?

Yes, FMLA allows an eligible employee to take FMLA leave if either the employee or an immediate family member, defined as spouse, child or parent, contracts the disease.

What if I have been exposed, but I am not showing any symptoms?

Employees who believe they have been exposed, but are not showing symptoms may be required to self-quarantine. Managers have the discretion to determine if an employee’s duties and responsibilities can reasonably be performed from an employee’s home location, and when they can, the manager may elect to offer the employee the option to telework. If the duties and responsibilities cannot be performed from afar, the manager should advise the employee that they will be required to take appropriate leave to cover any absence. Employees must follow telework and flextime policies, except that a manager can waive the requirement to complete an agreement and may use email to confirm approval to telework.

What if I have been exposed, and I am showing symptoms?

Employees who believe they have been exposed and are showing symptoms should seek care from a health care provider and may be required to self-quarantine. Managers have the discretion to determine if an employee’s duties and responsibilities can reasonably be performed from an employee’s home location, and when they can, the manager may elect to offer the employee the option to telework. If the duties and responsibilities cannot be performed from afar or the manager does not wish to consider telework, the manager should advise the employee that they will be required to take appropriate leave to cover any absence. The manager should let the employee know they will be required to provide a release from a physician or health care provider prior to returning to work. AU Health System employees are required to clear through Employee Health if they have been absent for three (3) or more days.

What guidance is available for home quarantine and isolation?

The CDC offers guidance on this topic.

If my job involves travel and I’m concerned about potential risks, what should I do? What if I am a manager of an employee who is scheduled to travel for work?

Managers and employees should discuss future business travel plans and review the most recent CDC guidelines for high-risk classified areas. Managers will have the authority to rescind prior travel approval. All should exercise good judgment in evaluating travel.

What if I am planning to travel or have traveled out of state or out of the country? What if I have coworkers who have traveled or will be traveling out of state or out of the country?

Employees should carefully evaluate any travel plans and only travel if absolutely necessary. The guidelines around travel are changing daily, and the current guidelines may be very different by the time the employee travels or is returning from travel.

Employees should notify their manager if they have traveled and if they are planning to travel. Employees may be required to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution if they travel.

If exposed, diagnosed or infected, the employee will be required to self-quarantine or isolate. The manager should let the employee know they will be required to provide a release from a physician or health care provider prior to returning to work.

Anyone planning to travel, either domestically or internationally, over spring break is encouraged to stay up to date with current travel alerts from the CDC. Currently, CDC recommends travelers should avoid nonessential travel to any country under a Warning Level 3 or higher. A list is available here.

As a reminder, anyone traveling to a country under a CDC Warning Level 3 or higher must not return to any USG campus or facility for 14 days following their return. Also, as the CDC guidance changes, employees will be subject to the relevant guidance at the time of their return.

Can a manager consider telework or flex schedules for employees?

Yes, a manager has the discretion to determine if it would be reasonable for an employee to work from home, an alternate location, or modify their work schedule. If the manager makes such a determination, he/she should work with the individual employee on modifying the employee’s business hours and/or scheduling the telework. It is important for managers to use this discretion wisely and appropriately. Not all positions are conducive to teleworking or flexible schedules. Teleworking should be limited to situations in which an employee is subject to quarantine. While now is a time that we encourage managers to be flexible, decisions around telework and flexible schedules must be reasonable. Managers should consult with their immediate supervisor as necessary. Employees must follow telework and flextime policies, except that a manager can waive the requirement to complete an agreement and may use email to confirm approval to telework. Managers should use the manager telework assessment and tips for managing telework and flextime to determine which positions are viable for telework and which positions might be appropriate for flexible scheduling. In addition, some positions may fall into both categories. As managers are able to implement telework/flextime for their direct reports, managers are expected to establish a process for employees to document work assignments and completion of work assigned. Please prepare a written document that includes the following:

A daily log of work accomplished, including the approximate time spent on each task. Attached is a weekly view sample and a project based sample.

What if my child’s school has been closed and I need to stay home to care for my child? 

Employees should request and receive approval for annual leave or PTO according to normal protocols. While managers are encouraged and expected to recognize the unique circumstances employees are facing and therefore allow annual leave/PTO where possible, the manager still has the discretion to grant or not grant annual leave/PTO based on operational needs and business continuity.

For certain positions that have duties that can be performed from home, while teleworking is not normally used to cover for child care, given the unusual circumstances we are facing, teleworking may be an option that a manager may consider. Managers must be fair and consistent as they evaluate requests. The above requirements for telework will apply.

New IT support resource available

To meet the growing needs of Augusta University’s faculty, staff and students, the Division of Information Technology has created an additional support resource.

Augusta University Information Technology’s Service Portal has been launched for many of your IT-related self-service needs.

This new resource, the IT Service Portal, is a web-based submission platform. The self-service portal was created for all of your non-critical needs. Submissions can be made here.

The new portal allows you to do things like:

  1. Report an issue: Open an incident with the service desk to ask for assistance with something that is broken.
  2. Make a request: Browse the catalog for some of our more frequently requested items.

Note: There will always be support requirements that warrant a call to the service desk, but the portal will provide self-help resources for the most common challenges faced by end users of technology and services at Augusta University.

For critical requests, call the Help Desk at 706-721-4000.

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