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Health and Safety Plan

Misericordia University
Version 1.3
January 7, 2021

The Pennsylvania Department of Education Preliminary Guidance for Resuming In-Person Instruction at Postsecondary Education Institutions and Adult Education Programs of June 3, 2020, states on p. 5:  “Postsecondary education institutions choosing to resume any of the in-person operations permitted during the various phases of PA’s reopening plan are required to create their own Health and Safety Plan, or its equivalent, and make that plan available to the public before proceeding to resume in-person instruction, operations, services, and activities.”

The following is the plan for Misericordia University as of January 7, 2021.  The strategies and activities outlined below reflect the structure of the plan requirements set out by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

This plan may be updated or modified at any point, depending upon evolving circumstances.  Updates will be posted on this page and noted by date of posting.

Strategy on how the institution will coordinate with local public health officials, or the equivalent of

  • A Misericordia University maintains a COUGARCARE team comprised of several staff members who will coordinate our efforts.
  • The COUGARCARE team will manage each case and be the point of contact between the University and the Department of Health.
  • In the event that a member of the Misericordia University community has been exposed, has identified symptoms, and/or has been confirmed positive, communication flow charts have been created to guide individuals on reporting.  Each chart identifies the context in which we need to reach out to local public health officials.
  • Employees have been trained and certified in contact tracing.  Contact tracing will occur following identified cases and will involve the awareness of and support from local public health officials.
  • Students, faculty, and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 must comply with requests for information related to the contact tracing process.

Strategy to safely resume in person instruction

  • Adjust academic calendar for later spring 2021 start to minimize the possibility of post-holiday transmission.
  • Social distancing in the classroom at 6-foot distances.
  • Additional spaces made available for coursework.
  • Establishing campus norms for masks (PPE), social distancing, personal hygiene, cleaning of surfaces, etc. 
  • Adding time between classes in order to allow cleaning products appropriate time to work.
  • Re-entry testing required for all students with any in-person contact on the Dallas campus.

Strategy to monitor health conditions on the campus community

  • Self-monitoring/screening by all students and employees - Daily self-reporting through an online app.
  • If any symptoms arise, do not come to work; do not go to class.  Contact the Health Center (students) or your supervisor (employee).
  • Testing abilities in the Health Center for symptomatic students and those confirmed to be exposed; more available if necessary.
  • Contact tracing through trained employees and in conjunction with the PA Department of Health, if positive cases arise.
  • Temperature screenings in residence halls.
  • Maintain online dashboard of positive cases, the status, and among which populations they arise.
  • Random sample surveillance testing during spring 2021 of all students and employees.

Strategy to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus on campus, and to inform the Department of Health in the event that transmission occurs at the institution.

  • Ongoing monitoring.
  • Ability to rapidly isolate/quarantine students who show symptoms and contact trace in conjunction with PA Health Department.
  • Ongoing requirement that if faculty or staff show symptoms or have had sustained close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, they should not come to work and should isolate immediately.
  • Flow chart of communication if a positive case arises; PA Health Department notification early in the process.
  • Increase work-from-home for non-essential employees to reduce population on campus.

Strategy to communicate accurate and timely information to students, faculty, staff, and the community we serve.

  • The university has established a special web site that features only COVID-19 related information.  The site is the primary location where our community can receive COVID-19 updates.  This web site is divided into different sections, each with content most relevant for certain audiences such as faculty and staff, students, and parents of current students.  The web site can be accessed by anyone, either on campus or off, and does not require a password or log in credential. The web site can be updated rapidly with new information. The site also includes a frequently asked questions area, a personal risk assessment review, and archives of previous announcements that remain relevant or helpful.  An online form is available for anyone who may have a question about our COVID response. We also include a “dashboard” which features the status and total count of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus.  Links to the web site are featured on the internal portal, myMU, for ease of access.
  • The university’s COUGARCARE team has been and will continue to issue regular updates to employees and students via email with simultaneous updates to the COVID-19 web site.  The frequency of these updates is currently weekly. The university may utilize a text message delivery system, MUAlert, for urgent or priority messages to students and employees who are registered for the system.  Some updates are also shared directly via the university’s many social media accounts as needed.
  • The COUGARCARE team coordinates activity with other key leaders on campus and with subgroups assigned to manage specific aspects of COVID-19, such as residence life and academic calendaring, and scheduling. Meetings are held daily Monday through Friday.
  • The university posted signage on exterior doors and within all its campus buildings featuring the personal risk assessment, social distancing, mask wearing requirements, as well as directional information in halls and stairways. Each sign features a QR code that can be scanned by any smart phone’s camera that will connect the user to our COVID-19 web page. Additional signage and banners have been placed near campus sidewalks and along the campus perimeter.
  • The university will monitor conditions and utilize the methods above as well as consider new tools and techniques as the situation dictates.

Reinforce practices related to hygiene, sanitation, and face coverings on campus

  • Face Covering/Masks
    All people will be required to wear face masks, unless they are unable due to medical reasons.  Masks are not required when alone in a room or office.  Masks are required when entering any public areas, either inside buildings or outside.  All members of the community should have a mask with them at all times.  Students will be expected to wear masks throughout residence halls except in their own bedrooms.  Masks have been provided to employees and students.  Additional masks will be available through Campus Safety on a limited basis as needed.
  • Self-Reported Diagnosis
    Each day, all students, faculty, and staff will be expected to fill out a short online or smartphone app-based self-diagnosis questionnaire before coming to campus or leaving residence halls to inform them about whether they should remain at home/in their dorm room rather than coming to public areas of campus.
  • Health Screening
    We will ask all members of the community to self-screen on a daily basis and report results through an on-line application.  For those who are symptomatic, they should either stay at home or, if already on site, immediately contact the COUGARCARE team by phone or email for additional instruction.
  • Quarantining and Isolation
    Spaces have been reserved to isolate resident students who test positive.  Plans are in place for all contingencies, including how to approach dining, housekeeping, and academic needs that those who have tested positive may have. Additional space is available for quarantine.
  • Contact Tracing
    In cases of potential exposure to COVID-19 on campus, contact tracing staff will reach out to individuals who were potentially exposed.  Without identifying the source of the potential exposure, staff will inform individuals of the nature of the potential exposure and advise them on appropriate next steps, including staying at home/in their dorm room, monitoring for symptoms, and seeking health care if necessary. Individuals who may have been exposed will receive regular follow-up contact to check their health status and ensure that they have access to testing and any needed medical care.
  • Personal Hygiene
    Wall-mounted or free-standing hand sanitation dispensers will be installed at each building entrance and in academic, recreational, and administrative buildings on each of our campuses.  Paper towel and soap dispensers are installed in all bathrooms and kitchen locations.
  • Ventilation
    Based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are following guidelines provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers to review and confirm HVAC systems are functioning properly in all buildings and related filtration are properly maintained to deliver required thermal comfort, energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
  • Cleaning Procedures
    We will be increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting throughout our campuses.  All common-area restrooms—including in residence halls—will be cleaned and disinfected twice each day.  All other common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily with roving crews disinfecting high-touch points throughout the day.

The university will supply the materials required to enable students, faculty, and staff to fulfill their responsibilities of keeping themselves and others protected throughout the spaces that they occupy, including personal spaces, desks, lecterns, classroom workspaces, etc.

Implement social distancing interventions and make the necessary modifications to facilities that may create an environment conducive to health, safe, and inclusive learning

  • Requirement of social distancing:  Whenever possible, community members will be expected to observe six-foot social distancing guidelines, whether inside or outside.
  • Adjustment of classroom occupancy, residence hall occupancy, and dining hall occupancy
  • Adjustment of course timing so as to allow 20 minutes between classes and thus the opportunity for cleaning products to be maximally effective.
  • Residence Halls
  • Residence hall rooms will be managed to reduce student population and density. 
  • If Luzerne County, Pennsylvania returns to phase red, students will be required to return home, or petition for shelter on campus. (In the case of students who may have clinical training in selected programs preparing students for licensure, such instruction will adhere to proper social distancing and other safety guidelines.)
  • Dining
    The Metz dining facilities will be open, but occupancy will be reduced to less than half its normal capacity or to whatever level is authorized by health officials.  There will be a pre-order option for quick "grab and go" service in the dining hall and other established dining locations.  Additional outdoor seating will also be created.  We will evaluate and adjust our dining plans as health guidance changes or if usage patterns dictate.
  • Athletics, Fitness, and Recreation
    We are working closely with our MAC partners, public health officials, and the NCAA to determine how and when it will be safe for varsity sport student-athletes, coaches, and staff to return to practice and competition.  Intramurals have been suspended for the spring semester.  Our fitness center and aerobics room will be open to students only and will operated with socially distanced equipment.
  • Use of Facilities by Groups External to Misericordia University
    All face-to-face conferences, seminars, and other events have been cancelled for the spring 2021 semester.  Unannounced visitors are permitted to walk the campus grounds, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, but they will not be permitted inside buildings.  Announced visitors (e.g., through admissions or athletics) will follow all campus protocols including the daily health check prior to coming to campus.

Review and adjust attendance requirements, absentee policies, and non-essential travel for students, individuals at high risk of COVID-19, and personnel.

  • Faculty set attendance polices for students.  Historically, they have been very understanding of illness and work with students to provide reasonable attendance policies in light of the pandemic.  That work will continue.  We will be attentive to seats assigned in courses so as ease the logistics of contact tracing.
  • Human Resources policies on telecommuting for employees have been developed.
  • Travel is suspended.

Modify course modalities, schedules, and academic calendars to adapt to changing transmission levels and community spread of the virus.

·         All addressed above.