Dear Clark Employees,
We have some important updates on operational matters affecting University employees. But before getting to this information, we must convey to you how deeply grateful we are for all you continue to do in this demanding situation to support students, colleagues and those people across the extended Clark community who depend upon the University and its people every day. We know you do so even while attending to the needs of those at home and in your personal lives amid all the new stresses and pressures that the COVID-19 crisis has created. Clark’s faculty and staff epitomize the best in Clark, and as we continue to confront this situation as a community, your extraordinary commitment, dedication, professionalism, good judgment, and thoughtfulness are making all the difference. Thank you.
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, as you know. As we trust you saw, yesterday we announced the latest Clark information, which has not changed. Specifically, a staff member has demonstrated symptoms that required testing for COVID-19. The test results normally are back within 48 hours, but the current backlog on testing may delay that. When the test results are back, the person will inform us and we will inform the campus community of the results. Further details are in yesterday’s announcement.
In light of yesterday’s developments, our COVID-19 Response Team and Emergency Response Cabinet have held further detailed discussions about University preparedness and the possibility of a positive test result in that instance or should a future such instance emerge. Throughout this situation, and given the emerging news across the country, public health experts have continued to advise the University to be prepared, like all institutions, for such an eventuality.
We remain focused, above all, on the health and safety of everyone at Clark, including of course our employees. In this context, it is most important to share that health professionals have advised us that the only individuals at special risk from the affected person referenced yesterday are those who had been in close contact with that individual. In this situation, close contact has a very specific health meaning, per the CDC. As yesterday’s announcement indicated, we asked the affected person to provide us with a list of all individuals at Clark with whom they were in that type of close contact over the past week. The person had a clear memory of who that was, and we contacted each of those individuals and advised them to follow the recommended public health protocols in their situation.
As you know, many students remain on campus, and even beyond the deadline of March 22 that we have set for students to vacate campus if at all possible, some students will have to remain on campus because the COVID-19 situation elsewhere prevents their returning home. The University is committed to meeting its obligations to our students and others that depend upon Clark.
But we also must address the essential societal goal at this time of increasing social distancing and protecting the health of the most vulnerable. Therefore, having carefully considered the best information available to us, we have some updates around Clark operations:
- The University’s current expectation is that employees will come to campus to work unless special exceptions (see items #5 and #6 below) are approved by their supervisor or if offices have already devised plans for individuals to operate remotely that have been approved by their vice president.
- Effective tomorrow, we expect a core focus of every office will include preparations for varied work arrangements that may be necessary during the next two weeks, and perhaps beyond. Further related information is below.
- We must stress that there are many functions of the University that cannot be done remotely and still meet Clark’s critical obligations to students and others. Therefore, during the preparations ahead, a top priority of department heads will be to guide where relevant the development of flexible work plans that will not interfere with the University’s ability to meet those obligations.
- In the name of caution, even as employees return to the office, all offices are advised to immediately begin minimizing close contact among all personnel. Specifically, all employees should:
- When possible, err on the side of conducting business with others, even when at the office, through email, phone, or video conferencing. All formal meetings should be conducted in this manner.
- Arrange creative workspaces as needed to eliminate close contact if at all possible.
- Scrupulously follow CDC guidelines to protect themselves and others.
- Employees who have serious chronic medical conditions or other conditions that result in their being at higher risk to this virus according to the CDC may contact their supervisor for special permission effective today to begin working from home or through other varied work arrangements, as outlined below.
- Employees who have no alternative at home except to be the primary caregiver for children home from school or for vulnerable parents also may contact their supervisor for special permission effective today to begin working from home or through other varied work arrangements, as outlined below.
- Regarding the above two types of requests: We have instructed department heads and supervisors to consider these and all personnel requests in this situation on a case-by-case basis and to err on the side of individual health, while striking a balance that ensures their office is prepared to deliver critical University services for students or others.
- By tomorrow morning, we will provide department heads and managers with the types of operational matters that they should evaluate with their offices during the above deliberations and preparations. For example, alternatives to coming to campus to work every day—where possible without interfering with critical University obligations to students or others—might include flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, change in standard work schedules, a condensed workweek and other options that HR has provided to department heads. HR will provide to department heads the applicable University policies that they can use to address questions in their offices.
And we must stress: If you are sick, do not come to work. Call your healthcare professional.
We know you will understand that there are more complexities to these matters than a single email can possibly address. The University aims to provide as much support and guidance as possible. We will shortly be placing on the University’s COVID-19 website, under the heading “Employee Guidance,” additional FAQs intended to answer some of the questions that the above decisions will raise. We will add to the FAQs as we develop new information, including about the use of sick time, leave balances, and other compensation-related matters. Please review the FAQs on the COVID-19 website closely, and if you still have questions about related employee policies and procedures write HR@clarku.edu. All other questions about the University and the COVID-19 situation should be addressed to COVID-19-info@Clarku.edu.
We greatly appreciate your attention to these matters and your vital role in Clark’s mission, in meeting our shared societal obligations, and in protecting the health and safety of yourself and those around you. The way that faculty and staff have responded to the challenges of this global crisis has reflected Clark at its best.
We will continue to directly send you updates as new information warrants. Please continue to check the Clark COVID-19 website regularly.
David P. Angel, President
Paul Wykes, Chair, COVID-19 Response Team