University of Alabama system develops safety plan to reopen campuses for fall semester

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In an effort to ensure the safe return of its students, faculty and staff this fall, the University of Alabama system developed a guide with recommendations to reduce the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 on all system campuses.

The Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan provides guidance on phased returns to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama Birmingham and the University of Alabama Huntsville.

Testing

  • Depending on the availability of testing, all returning students will be tested for COVID-19 either before or following their return to campus.
  • In the event universal testing is not available, any student with COVID-19-related symptoms or who is arriving from an area identified as experiencing increased community transmission will be tested.
  • After returning to campus, sentinel testing is strongly desired to identify outbreaks and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 on campuses.
  • Sentinel testing would involve conducting COVID-19 tests on a randomized sample of 2.5 percent of employees and students. Testing will be voluntary for most students.
  • Students living in on-campus housing or participating in university-sponsored extracurricular activities may be required to participate.
  • A trained team will be sent where there have been multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a single location to offer testing.

‘Stay Safe Together’ platform

  • The platform has three tools to help mitigate the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19: Healthcheck, an Exposure Notification Application, and an Event Passport.
  • Healthcheck is a COVID-19 assessment tool that allows users to report COVID-19 related symptoms and exposure.
  • How often reporting will be required will be determined by public health and medical guidance
  • The Exposure Notification application alerts participants if they have been in close contact with a person who has reported a positive COVID-19 test within the past 14 days.
  • Participation in the notification system will be voluntary. According to the plan, the app is designed to protect user privacy.
  • Event Passport is recommended to help facilitate access to on-campus facilities or events having ten or more people.
  • It can also be used to ensure compliance with reporting requirements by denying facility or event access to individuals who have not completed the required assessment.

Campuses are encouraged to establish an Incident Command Center (ICC) or use their existing emergency management team as its ICC to monitor and address COVID-19 cases. ICCs should be formed no less than two months before students return in the fall.

PPE

  • Everyone is required to wear face coverings when social distancing cannot be achieved.
  • This includes in classrooms, labs, communal office space, and on-campus gatherings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • The university is required to purchase and distribute PPE including face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes.
  • Faculty and staff will be provided two nondisposable face coverings.
  • If available, students can purchase face coverings from the campus.

Housing

  • A separate residence hall or floor should be designated for isolation/quarantine of COVID-19 positive cases.
  • Asymptomatic students who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 may remain in their on-campus residence if the room has no common areas.
  • Off-campus accommodations should be considered if no suitable on-campus housing is available to house positive cases.

Cleaning protocols

  • Campuses must develop a plan for cleaning and disinfecting to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Items that can be touched by multiple people should be removed from common areas.
  • Students, faculty and staff are responsible for cleaning/sanitizing their personal workspace.
  • Sanitizing wipes or disinfectant should be made available.
  • Custodial staff must be trained on the implementation of the campus’s cleaning and disinfecting plan.

Move-in

  • Students will be given additional time to move in to minimize congestion.
  • Campuses may temporarily suspend the requirement for in-state students that all freshmen live on campus. It would apply only to the 2020-2021 academic year.

Greek Life

  • Modified plans for recruitment should consider innovative ways to conduct events previously held in-person.
  • Chapters must work with Student Housing to develop and implement guidelines for move-in and living in chapter houses, meals, as well as practices for cleaning and disinfecting.

Athletics

  • Athletic events must adhere to CDC, NCAA and conference guidelines.
  • Staff and student-athletes must be educated on COVID-19 and prevention measures.
  • Student-athletes and staff should be screened daily in the early phases of a campus plan.
  • Athletes should be tested upon their return to campus and before participating in athletic events.
  • A randomized screening of student-athletes may be mandated for continued participation in athletic activities.
  • To the extent warranted and practicable, campuses may consider incorporating event-specific prevention measures, including but not limited to a symptom assessment in connection with event ticketing, distributed seating, and mandatory face coverings for spectator attendance.

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