COVID-19 Resources & Updates Read More

Looking Ahead

Thank you for your perseverance and engagement during these unprecedented times. Since January, WPI has been working to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on our university community. We are proud of the extraordinary efforts of our faculty, students, and staff to not only pivot to work and learn remotely, but also to observe new and challenging health and behavior guidelines from our local, state, and federal public health partners. By remaining off campus, practicing social distancing and hand washing, and wearing cloth face coverings, our community has helped slow the spread of this virus. Now, two months after significantly limiting access to campus due to the pandemic, we are looking ahead to resuming work on-campus.

The health and safety of our community remains our top priority, and the university is deeply committed to continuing to do all we can to help mitigate the spread and the very human impact of COVID-19. Our actions in returning to campus must fall in step with society’s ability to manage the virus and the guidance provided by local, state, and federal officials.

Our approach to returning to work on campus will be phased and deliberate and will require detailed pre-return planning on the part of everyone involved. This Return to Campus Guidance is intended to inform your actions as we begin to return to campus. As our knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, our policies and plans will be updated as appropriate.

Each of us has a role to play in keeping the WPI community safe. All students, faculty, and staff working on campus are expected to comply with these guidelines. Lack of compliance will result in revocation of campus access privileges and may result in other disciplinary measures.

Phased Return

WPI recognizes and greatly appreciates our designated emergency personnel who have continued to report to campus for work since March 2020.  Their dedication and tireless efforts have been invaluable in maintaining critical operations on campus during this pandemic.

We are now beginning a phased return to work on campus for all other employees as follows:

  • Employees who have been working on campus continually since March 2020 should continue to do so based on their work assignment.
  • Research activities will resume incrementally in the coming months, consistent with WPI’s Research Lab Reopening Guidance.
  • Remote teaching and working will continue through the summer. Employees who can effectively work remotely must continue to do so until otherwise notified by their supervisors.

To manage the phased reopening of campus, department heads will develop Department Reopening Plans specific to their operations that comply with the Office Spaces Checklist issued by Massachusetts. Department heads must use the template available here and submit their plans here.

  • Department heads with employees designated as emergency personnel who have been working on campus since March 2020 must develop their Department Reopening Plan as soon as possible.
  • Department heads who do not have employees designated as emergency personnel should review this Return to Campus Guidance and the Department Reopening Plan template and begin the process of drafting their plans.  WPI will announce a future due date for submitting these plans for approval.
  • Please note that Principal Investigators (PIs) and center directors restarting lab work on campus should follow the approval process in the Research Lab Reopening Guidance.

The Office Approval Committee will review submitted Department Reopening Plans.  The Office Approval Committee is comprised of representatives from the Office of Environment Health & Safety (EHS), Talent & Inclusion, and Facilities.  The Office Approval Committee will make a recommendation to approve or deny the plan and submit this recommendation to the leadership of WPI’s Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT).

The CERT leadership will officially approve or deny plans on a rolling basis.  If a plan is approved, the Office Approval Committee will communicate this outcome to the department head and the department head will be responsible for sharing their approved plans with their staff prior to returning to work on-campus.  If a plan is denied, the Office Approval Committee will communicate next steps to the department head, which may include revising and resubmitting the plan or delaying the return to work on-campus until a future date.

We acknowledge that some questions remain unanswered.  WPI’s Return to Campus Guidance will be evaluated and updated regularly to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local guidelines and best practices.

Thank you for your thoughtful attention and coordination as we begin this reopening process. We are committed to supporting you through this unprecedented challenge. If you have any questions, please check the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and Updates website and related FAQs.

Training & Acknowledgement

Prior to returning to campus, all employees must complete an online training on COVID-19 and sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understand this Return to Campus Guidance. The training is available here (WPI login and VPN required); the text of the acknowledgment is available here.

The training will include up-to-date safety information and precautions, including social distancing, hand washing, proper use of cloth face coverings, daily self-checks at home, the importance of staying home if you are sick, when to seek medical attention, and the underlying health conditions that put someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Safe Campus

Access to Campus

Limiting the number of people on campus, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors, reduces the chances of incidental contact that spreads illness.

Only designated students, faculty, and staff who have been granted access to remain on, or return to, campus may be on campus, live in the residence halls, or work in the labs and buildings. Visitors are not permitted on campus at this time.

Approved vendors are permitted in accordance with the vendor approval process that is in place. See the FAQ “How will vendors and deliveries to campus be handled?”. All vendors visiting campus will be logged (name, contact information) by the department receiving the vendor.

WPI-sponsored domestic and international travel is not permitted at this time. Personal domestic and international travel is strongly discouraged. This restriction does not apply to employees commuting from their homes to work on campus if they are permitted to work on campus.

Building Occupancy & Staffing

WPI has limited occupancy within on-campus office spaces to no more than 25% capacity. Employees are reminded to stay within their assigned working areas, when possible, to limit movement throughout campus and contact with others on campus.

Employees who can effectively work remotely (telework) must continue to do so at this time.

There are several staffing options departments and supervisors should consider for maintaining social distancing among employees in the workplace and decreasing congestion in buildings on campus and at entry points:

  • Remote Work/Telework – Employees who can effectively work remotely must continue doing so. Other remote work arrangements should be approved by the employee’s immediate supervisor and can be done on a full or partial day/week schedule as appropriate. Employees working remotely somewhere other than their permanent residence must update their address in Workday; no additional approvals or forms are required.
  • Alternating Days – Departments and supervisors should consider partial team staffing in the workplace on alternating days.
  • Staggered Work Arrival and Departure Times – Departments and supervisors should consider staggering employee arrival and departure times by at least 30 minutes to reduce congestion in common areas of campus.
  • Staggered Lunch and Break Times – Departments and supervisors should consider staggering the lunch and break times for employees.

Employees can also speak with their supervisors about other staffing options that achieve work goals and meets the employee’s needs.

Workplaces & Shared Spaces

Students, faculty, and staff should always ensure separation of 6 feet or more between themselves and others on campus, unless this creates a safety hazard due to the nature of the work or the configuration of the space.

Follow all building-specific signage, including elevator limits, one-way hallways and stair wells, restroom limits, etc. to ensure social distancing and minimizing the number of people in one place. Cloth face coverings are required on campus, especially in close spaces such as hallways, stairwells, elevators, restrooms, control rooms, and WPI-owned vehicles.

Open workplaces and cubicles may be reconfigured (if needed), including by using physical partitions to increase physical distance and by opening windows and doors on a regular basis to improve ventilation where possible. Shared common spaces, such as kitchenettes, breakrooms, and conference rooms, and high-density areas have been closed or reconfigured to allow for 6 feet of physical distancing. Dining options are not currently available on campus, except for Gateway Café, which operates only with prepackaged food.

Conducting Meetings

As we resume our on-campus work, employees should continue to host meetings virtually.

On the rare occasion that a meeting must be conducted in-person, the number of attendees must be limited to no more than 10 people and attendees must sit at least 6 feet apart with all participants wearing cloth face coverings. Others can join the meeting virtually.

Eating in the Workplace

To limit occasions of incidental contact, we suggest that employees bring meals from home during this uncertain time. Only Gateway Café is open currently. Remember that communal food sharing has the potential to spread illness so please do not share food. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands before eating, as well as cleaning and sanitizing your food preparation surfaces and high-touch areas. Face coverings are required when entering dining areas and kitchenettes on campus.

Guidelines for Research

Research will resume in a phased approach over the coming months, consistent with public health and safety guidelines and based on the access priorities designated by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (VPR).

The Office of the VPR has created the Research Lab Reopening Guidance and all research personnel must review this guidance, develop and obtain approval for their Laboratory Reopening and Social Distancing Plans, complete training, and sign an acknowledgement, before returning to the labs.

Healthy Practices for Individuals

Daily Self-Check of Symptoms

All employees permitted to work on campus and all students remaining on campus must conduct a daily self-check of their symptoms prior to coming to campus. This is a two-step process:

(1) Review the symptoms listed below and take your temperature. If you have no symptoms and no fever, you may come to campus.
(2) If you have a fever or any symptoms, check your symptoms using the Massachusetts screening tool for COVID-19 located on buoyhealth.com.

If you have any of the symptoms listed below, do not report to come to campus and follow the guidance in the section titled “Stay Home if You are Sick.”

People with COVID-19 have a wide range of symptoms, including, but not limited to:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever (temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, likes nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Please seek emergency medical care immediately (call 911 or Campus Police at 508-831-5555) if you are on campus) if you are experiencing:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not comprehensive; please refer to the CDC’s website for the complete list of symptoms.

As with any illness, please call Health Services at 508-831-5520 (students) or your personal physician (faculty and staff) if you are experiencing symptoms that are concerning to you.

Stay Home If You Are Sick & Return to Work Only When Cleared

You must stay home if:

  • You are sick or have a fever – or
  • You are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms – or
  • The Massachusetts screening tool (buoyhealth.com) advises you to self-isolate or get tested – or
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 – or
  • You have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, is being tested for COVID-19, or has concerning symptoms – or
  • A member of your household tested positive for COVID-19, is being tested for COVID-19, or has concerning symptoms.

If you feel symptoms arise while on campus, please return home immediately and notify your supervisor of your absence.

If you leave work or do not come to work on campus for the reasons above, you must:

  • Remain at home and not return to campus.
  • Contact your supervisor so that they can arrange for coverage and track the illness and absence rate in the office. Supervisors are instructed to keep personal health information of employees confidential.
  • Call your physician for telehealth services and for your physician to determine whether COVID-19 testing is needed. Student employees can call Health Services at 508-831-5520.
  • Work remotely if you are feeling well enough to work.
  • Contact Benefits@wpi.edu to assist with COVID-19-related medical leave.
  • Report any positive COVID-19 test, for either yourself or a close contact, to Health Services on this form.
  • You must remain at home and not return to campus until you have tested negative for COVID-19, completed the isolation process detailed by the CDC, and/or your physician or the Department of Health has cleared you to return to work.

Upon notice of a positive COVID-19 case on campus, WPI will notify the Worcester Board of Health and work with them to trace likely contacts on campus and advise close contacts to isolate, self-quarantine, or get tested for COVID-19, as appropriate. WPI will also shut down areas of campus (as needed) and engage the EHS HAZMAT team, which has a specific protocol to properly deep clean and disinfect areas suspected of infection with COVID-19 in accordance with current CDC guidance.

Limiting the Spread of Germs

Help keep the WPI community safe and decrease the spread of COVID-19. Make these behaviors part of your routine:

  • Stay home if you are sick or experiencing any COVID-19-like symptoms and avoid close contact with others.
  • Always wear a cloth face covering or mask in shared spaces while on campus (see below).
  • Always maintain physical distance and stay six feet away from others.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and high-touch areas, such as your keyboard, phone, workstation, equipment, screens, doorknobs, and light switches.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow.
  • Throw out used tissues immediately and wash your hands.
  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, or touching when greeting another person.

The risk of virus exposure occurs outside of the workplace as well. When at home or away from campus, we encourage you to continue practices such as thorough cleaning, hand washing, social distancing, and wearing cloth face coverings to limit the chance of virus exposure.

Cloth Face Coverings

Massachusetts requires cloth faces coverings in public places – both indoor and outdoor – where social distancing is not possible, including classrooms and workplaces. You are not required to wear a cloth face covering if doing so is unsafe due to your medical condition or disability. In such cases, you must practice social distancing to the greatest degree possible.

You must wear a cloth face covering at all times while on campus, especially when physical distancing of 6 feet is not possible or when you are in a shared or close space (e.g., conference rooms, common areas, kitchenettes, hallways, stairwells, elevators, restrooms, control rooms, and WPI-owned vehicles). You are not required to wear a cloth face covering if you are sitting alone in a private office or residence.

Everyone on campus should provide their own cloth face covering or mask for normal, day-to-day activity. WPI will provide masks and other PPE (gloves, goggles, face shields) in specified settings, such as for Health Services employees and HAZMAT employees, when required by health and safety officials or regulatory agencies.

Cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face,
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops,
  • Include multiple layers of fabric,
  • Allow for breathing without restriction, and
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth when removing your cloth face covering, and wash your hands immediately before and after removal. When not in use, store your cloth face covering in a paper bag or Ziploc-style plastic bag, never in your pocket, purse, or briefcase. Change and launder your cloth face covering daily.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Campus & Workplaces

Regular cleaning with soap and water decreases the amount of the virus that causes COVID-19 on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.

The WPI Facilities staff cleans and disinfects all campus buildings at least daily and more frequently as needed. Facilities sanitizes frequently touched surfaces using safe, but powerful hospital grade disinfectants and microfiber towels for greater surface cleaning impact, and uses a fogging machine that employs a mist to disinfect. Examples of frequently touched surfaces and high traffic areas include, building entrances, door handles, elevator buttons (inside and outside), stairwells, water fountains, office doors/knobs, light switches, classroom/lecture hall desks and tables, conference room tables, restrooms, etc. Facilities maintains all required cleaning logs.

Employees are expected to clean and disinfect their own personal workstations and shared spaces (such as conference rooms) between use. WPI has provided cleaning supplies for each workplace in centralized locations. You are encouraged to wipe down your workstation or shared space at the start and end of every work shift or organized activity. Frequent cleaning of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people (e.g., tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, touch screens, equipment, screens, computer keyboard and mice, phones, printer/copiers, coffee makers) is important.

Avoid sharing office materials and equipment, such as phones, computers, office supplies, printers/copiers, coffee makers. If you must share, remember to clean and disinfect after each use.

Employee Well-Being

The well-being and health of our employees is of the upmost importance during this unprecedented time. Remember there are resources available to support you.

COVID-19 Workplace Accommodations

WPI encourages employees who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 to work remotely or arrange for an alternate work assignment.

According to the CDC, some groups are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well-controlled, including:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised (many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, autoimmune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening medications.)
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease
    • People whose medical provider deems them at higher risk

If you have a disability or an underlying health condition, or live with someone with an underlying health condition, and you believe you are at risk coming to campus for work, please contact Heather Mulry in Talent & Inclusion.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, it is common to experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Support is available through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for WPI employees. More information is available here. For questions about the EAP Program, you may also contact the Division of Talent & Inclusion.

Resources

WPI Resources

WPI’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and Updates
https://www.wpi.edu/news/coronavirus
Questions: coronavirusquestions@wpi.edu
COVID-19 Reporting Form: https://wpi.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dhF4H8uRISSCmUd?

WPI’s Guidance for Research
https://www.wpi.edu/news/coronavirus/guidance-research

Division of Talent & Inclusion
https://www.wpi.edu/offices/talent

International, Federal, State, and Local Resources

City of Worcester
http://www.worcesterma.gov/coronavirus

Worcester Board of Health
http://www.worcesterma.gov/public-health/board-of-health

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-updates-and-information

Massachusetts Department of Public Health
https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

Massachusetts Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-mandatory-safety-standards-for-workplaces

Massachusetts Safety Standards for Office Spaces
https://www.mass.gov/lists/safety-standards-for-office-spaces

Massachusetts Safety Standards for Laboratories
https://www.mass.gov/lists/safety-standards-for-laboratories

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Covid-19
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019