Updated July 9, 2020
As Georgia Tech moves toward a phased reopening of campus, we ask you to take all recommended safety precautions. The Covid-19 situation is fluid, and guidance will likely change over time. But our priorities will stay the same: to protect the health and safety of the campus community and to communicate clearly and consistently. The information below explains the rationale behind the changes we anticipate, what those changes will be, how we will support them, and how you can do your part as we move forward.
Here is what we know about Covid-19:
- Covid-19 is the illness that a person infected with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can develop.
- There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus.
- The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
- It is possible for people who are infected to infect others before they show symptoms (pre-symptomatic) or without ever showing any symptoms (asymptomatic).
- The virus is thought to spread primarily between people in close contact (within 6 feet of one another).
- Good hygiene and social distancing are the current best practices to avoid exposure.
We want to return to campus as safely as we possibly can, clear about the risks that still exist with Covid-19 but determined to move forward safely, responsibly, and compassionately.
Relying on expertise and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), and Governor Kemp’s Covid-19 Task Force, Georgia Tech will implement a plan to return to campus using a phased approach that prioritizes employee health and safety while delivering critical services and preparing for the resumption of in-person, campus-based instruction in August 2020.
Who Should Report to Work, and When
Supervisors will provide specific direction to their teams on when to return to in-person work. Anyone with questions about what category they fit into or when or how they should start reporting to work in person should, first, ask his or her supervisor. A phased plan has been created to guide those choices. Note: all non-essential travel is prohibited until further notice.
- In June, the ramp-up will begin. Only researchers and staff who must return to campus in order to carry out their job duties should return to working on campus. To reduce the number of people on campus, researchers and staff who can substantially carry out their work at home should continue to do so to the extent that teleworking does not affect our ability to serve students.
- For summer semester 2020, teleworking, split shifts, and staggered shifts will continue to be encouraged where possible. We encourage shift work and split work (part-time on campus and part-time at home) where possible.
- In mid-June and July, staff who support student services will be invited back to campus as we work toward an anticipated return to in-person teaching in the fall.
- In late July, staff who do not directly support research or student services will continue to work remotely until further notice or may begin returning to work in staggered shifts as determined by unit managers.
- During summer semester 2020 we will continue to utilize off-site working plans wherever possible.
- For fall semester 2020, it is expected that employees will return to campus by the start of the fall semester to conduct their work. Employees can expect social distancing will be practiced. We are working diligently to create an environment where social distancing can be relied upon as the best tool in reducing the spread of Covid-19. In the limited cases where social distancing cannot be practiced, supervisors will determine how employees continue to utilize teleworking, split shifts, staggered shifts, and other measures that promote physical distancing. Any alternate work arrangements should not interfere with our ability to serve students. The Institute will provide appropriate PPE for employees who must return to campus and who are unable to practice social distancing.
- For fall semester 2020, employees who care for or live with individuals at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 should plan to return to campus as scheduled and work with their direct supervisor to ensure that their work environment allows for social distancing and the ability to practice the behaviors known to reduce the spread of the COVID-19. Employees may utilize appropriate leave options as necessary. Employees should contact the campus human resources office to identify appropriate leave options.
- If an employee and supervisor cannot resolve a conflict related to return-to-campus operations, they should contact the HR Business Partner or HR Director within their respective unit.
- Georgia Tech will resume in-person instruction for the fall semester, adhering to social distancing and other public health measures to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Who Returns to Campus
Researchers and staff who must be on campus to carry out their job duties.
JUNE - JULY
Staff who support student services invited back to campus.
Staff who do not support research or student services continue to work remotely or work in staggered shifts.
Georgia Tech has identified six categories of campus-based operations and services that will be continued, enhanced, or resumed prior to the start of in-person instruction in August. Specific guidance and information are available on the detailed summer plan located under Supporting Documents.
- Ongoing activities related to support for on-campus students.
- Broadening of research activities from the current essential research to a phased return of all sponsored (essential and nonessential) research activity.
- Operations and services that will need to be conducted to prepare for the start of in-person instruction in August.
- The final three categories include operations and services that may be resumed during the summer, pending additional guidance from the USG, public health authorities, and the NCAA. These are:
- In-person, non-credit classes.
- Summer camps and other community events.
- Student-athlete training and team activities.
Individuals who fall into one of the following GDPH and CDC categories for higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 may request alternate work arrangements.
For those who may be at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for managing Covid-19 related issues. Among the changes are definitions for people who will need extra precaution due to age and underlying medical conditions. In response to those changes from the CDC, the University System of Georgia (USG) is providing updated guidance on the wearing of face coverings and for who is eligible to seek alternate work arrangements due to falling into one of these categories.
The CDC no longer gives a minimum age for those at risk. The USG will continue to use 65 as its measure for evaluating requests for alternate work arrangements. Individuals who are younger than 65 can provide documentation from a health care provider that their age is a determining factor for risk that should prevent them from working on campus as scheduled.
People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions
People with the following underlying medical conditions may request alternate work arrangements under the previously developed process:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
The USG Human Resources department provided a common form for employees to use in making such a request. Documentation for underlying medical conditions will be required as a part of the request. All requests should go to the Institute’s human resources office, which will review the request and upon approval will work with the employee and their immediate supervisor in documenting and providing for the alternate work arrangement.
Employees who care for or live with individuals at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19:
Employees who care for or live with individuals at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 should plan to return to campus as scheduled and work with their direct supervisor to ensure that their work environment allows for social distancing and the ability to practice the behaviors known to reduce the spread of the Covid-19.
Employees may utilize appropriate leave options as necessary. Employees should contact the campus human resource office to identify appropriate leave options. For more information about work arrangements and leave options for employees unable to return to campus, refer to the Return-to-Campus Manager's Tool Kit below in the USG Approved Plan and Supporting Documents.
Georgia Tech will adhere to current USG workplace health and safety guidance and all existing executive orders issued from the Office of Governor Brian Kemp.
Follow Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention basic guidelines, including:
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Use hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inner elbow.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Social distancing (6 feet of separation from others) at work:
- Be respectful of others’ personal space.
- Assess and adjust workspaces to maximize social distancing, including spacing furniture with 6 feet of separation.
- Hold virtual meetings whenever possible.
- Provide services remotely whenever possible.
- Do not share phones, desks, offices, computers, or other equipment. In cases where equipment is shared, it should be disinfected before and after each use.
- Do not gather in groups greater than 50 persons when social distancing cannot be maintained.
- When interacting in open environments (e.g., outdoors, atriums, auditoriums) or in indoor common areas, keep a safe social distance.
- Limit occupancy in elevators and bathrooms to one person at a time, unless social distancing can be maintained.
- Do not use a restroom when it is being cleaned.
- Supervisors should allow employees to take meals outside or in separate locations.
- Cancel or postpone any events or activities (networking happy hours, lunch-and-learns, etc.) or consider hosting them virtually.
- Avoid all person-to-person contact, including handshaking.
As Georgia Tech increases the number of on-site community members, sanitation efforts will increase. Building managers and Facilities Management will adhere to the following measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and promote a healthy and safe campus:
- Buildings and labs to reopen as a result of resumption of services and operations will first undergo proper sanitation protocols.
- All uses of indoor common areas must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some common areas may be closed if social distancing cannot be maintained while in use.
- Elevators and bathrooms will have signs posted indicating only one person is permitted at a time. Additionally, bathroom doors will be equipped with occupancy indicators.
- Bathrooms will be closed to anyone other than cleaners during cleaning times.
- Cleaning of labs will be performed regularly by research personnel. They will be trained in proper cleaning methods prior to resuming lab operations.
- Instructions will be posted for proper hygiene and handwashing, according to GDPH and CDC guidelines.
- If an employee is diagnosed with or tests positive for Covid-19, areas occupied by the affected employee will be closed for 24 hours when possible. If a 24-hour closure is not feasible, the area will remain closed for as long as possible without disrupting campus operations.
- Custodial services will clean and disinfect all areas used by the Covid-19-positive person.
The following materials will be purchased and made available in workspaces to help prevent the spread of Covid-19:
- Tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
- Soap and/or hand sanitizer.
- Disinfectant wipes.
We know that Covid-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced when someone who has the virus talks, coughs, or sneezes. It is also possible to have Covid-19 without any symptoms and spread it without knowing you are doing so.
Face Coverings on Campus:
Effective July 15, 2020, University System of Georgia (USG) institutions will require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible. Face covering use will be in addition to, and is not a substitute for, social distancing.
Face coverings are not required in one's own dorm room or suite, when alone in an enclosed office or study room, or in campus outdoor settings where social distancing requirements are met.
Anyone not using a face covering when required will be asked to wear one or must leave the area. Repeated refusal to comply with the requirement may result in discipline through the applicable conduct code for faculty, staff, or students.
Reasonable accommodations may be made for those who are unable to wear a face covering for documented health reasons.
Cloth face coverings may be used in lab spaces that do not contain chemical, biological, or radioactive agents. Single-use surgical masks are required to be worn, and will be provided, while in lab spaces containing chemical, biological, or radioactive agents. In labs where these agents are present, normal lab safety and PPE protocol will remain in place.
For more information about face masks and coverings, review the guidelines from Human Resources: hr.gatech.edu/face-coverings.
Free instructions for making your own face mask and face shield can be found here: c.gatech.edu/instructions.
Guidelines for Using Face Coverings:
Put on and take off the face covering by handling only the ties.
- A face covering should fit snugly against your face with no gaps.
- Your face covering should always cover both your nose and mouth completely.
- Do not touch the front of the face covering.
- Put on and take off the face covering by handling only the ties.
- Wash hands immediately after removing the face covering.
- Do not share a face covering or any other PPE. Handle only your own face covering — not that of others.
- Wash cloth face covering after each use.
- Can be included in regular laundry.
- Use warmest setting appropriate for the fabric.
- Dry completely on high heat setting or in direct sunlight.
Covid-19 Daily Self-Screening and Guidance
Georgia Tech is implementing a self-screening process to support the early identification of illness and help protect the health and safety of our community. In addition to self-screening, thermal screening will be deployed in strategically selected locations. All employees are strongly encouraged to administer the Covid-19 Daily Self-Checklist before reporting to campus.
Based on guidance from the CDC, employees should consider these questions each day before coming to campus:
Covid-19 Daily Self-Screening Questions
- Do you have a fever (temperature over 100.4ºF or 38ºC) without having taken any fever-reducing medications?
- Do you have a loss of smell or taste?
- Do you have a cough?
- Do you have muscle aches?
- Do you have a sore throat?
- Do you have shortness of breath?
- Do you have chills?
- Do you have a new or unusual headache?
- Have you experienced new onset of any gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite in the last few days?
- Have you, or anyone you have been in close contact with, been diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed in quarantine for possible exposure to Covid-19 within the last two weeks?
- Have you been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by a medical professional or a local public health official within the last two weeks?
You can download the Covid-19 Daily Self-Checklist PDF at c.gatech.edu/daily-check
If you reply YES to any of the questions in the checklist, stay home. If you begin to feel ill while at work, you should immediately go home. If possible, avoid all public transportation, ridesharing, or taxis. See the “If You Get Sick” section for more information on the steps you should take. You will be expected to leave campus and self-isolate until all appropriate criteria for your return are met.
Example of thermal image screening
Georgia Tech will deploy thermal image screening at strategic locations on campus that will not create bottlenecks or crowding or place people at unnecessary risk of exposure. All personnel conducting the screenings will have the appropriate training and resources.
Signs will be posted at building entrances prohibiting anyone with a fever or Covid-19 symptoms from entering. Contact-less thermometers will be supplied to all buildings as they reopen.
Georgia Tech may deploy additional methods of temperature screening, including thermal imaging and handheld infrared thermometers, at locations throughout campus.
If you are found to have an elevated temperature (over 100.4º F or 38º C), follow the appropriate steps outlined in the Covid-19 Exposure Decision Tree (https://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus/decision-tree).
If you test positive for Covid-19 or begin to have symptoms of Covid-19, you should report the illness immediately by following the steps below.
Step 1: Communicate
- Employees: Notify your supervisor. Students: Notify your faculty members.
- Email Stamps Health Services at email@example.com or call the Emergency Management Team within the Georgia Tech Police Department at 404.894.2500.
- Notify Georgia Tech Human Resources Benefits at 404.385.2377. Upon notification, GTHR Benefits will consult with you on the types of leave available and will follow up with your supervisor and local HR unit representative.
- Contact your primary care doctor for guidance regarding medical evaluation.
Step 2: Evacuate and/or Isolate
If you become ill while working on campus: You should immediately go home. If possible, avoid all public transportation, ridesharing, or taxis.
If you become ill while telecommuting: You should not come to campus.
For either situation, follow the appropriate scenario below for returning to work.
- Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas or return to campus.
- Monitor yourself for symptoms of Covid-19, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may be present as well.
- Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, or if you think it is an emergency.
- Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. Your local health authorities may give instructions for checking your symptoms and reporting information.
- Separate yourself from other people.
Prior to physically returning to work on campus or visiting the campus temporarily, employees are required to adhere to Georgia Tech’s “Return to Work” guidelines. These guidelines apply to all employees, regardless of their classification, and specifically cover employees who:
- Have tested positive for Covid-19 or are presumed to have had Covid-19 based on symptoms.
- Did not exhibit Covid-19 symptoms but tested positive.
- Have been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
If an employee is working on campus or at a remote location, the employee must abide by the guidelines for the respective scenario outlined below before coming to campus for any reason.
You tested positive for Covid-19 or were presumed to have Covid-19 based on symptoms and have stayed home. There are two strategies that can be used to determine when you can return to work:
- Symptom-based Strategy:
- Your temperature has not exceeded 100.4º F or 38º C for at least 72 hours (that is, three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen); AND
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved); AND
- At least ten days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- Test-based Strategy:
- You no longer have a fever (without the use of medicine that reduces fever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen); AND
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved); AND
- You have two negative tests, at least 24 hours apart.
Because of the limited availability of tests, most people are using the symptom-based strategy.
You have been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19 or were presumed to have Covid-19 and have stayed quarantined for 14 days.
You may return to work if you have not exhibited any Covid-19 symptoms during the 14-day quarantine period.
You did not have Covid-19 symptoms but tested positive and have stayed home. You can use one of the two strategies:
- Time-based Strategy:
- At least 10 days have passed since the date of your first positive test; AND
- You continue to have no symptoms (no cough or shortness of breath) since the test.
- Test-based Strategy:
- You received two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart.
Please Note: If you develop Covid-19 symptoms, follow guidance from the section titled “If You Get Sick” above.
Documents Required for Your Return to Work
Before returning to work, employees are required to notify Stamps Health Services at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide GTHR Benefits with one of the following documents:
- Fitness-for-duty Certification Form (c.gatech.edu/fitness-for-duty)
- Physician's Statement
Other approved documentation (contact GTHR Benefits at email@example.com for support).
Employees should submit the document to the GTHR confidential fax at 404.894.6978 to the attention of the GTHR Benefits Department. Employees should not submit this information through ServiceNow.
Upon receipt of the document, employees will be allowed to return to work.