Delta State University's response to Coronavirus

Coronavirus Update #7 – March 26, 2020:

TO: Delta State University
FROM: DSU President William N. LaForge
UPDATE #7: Coronavirus Update from President LaForge – March 26, 2020

I hope everyone is safe and healthy, and heeding all the good guidance we are receiving to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you to all faculty and staff for helping to execute our transition plans so well.  Reports from across campus generally reflect that our online course delivery is working well, and that students are engaged.

While there are no major policy changes or announcements to share with you today, I will use this update to help clarify several issues dealing with university operations and expectations during these challenging times.

First, Delta State University currently remains open…but with a modified schedule that attempts to reduce significantly the number of people gathered on campus on a daily basis, and while still maintaining the core functions of the university.  The main phone line in every department must continue to be answered (either in office or via transfer to a person’s cell/home phone) during normal operating hours (7:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday).  Also, any office that is not staffed on campus must have a sign on the outer door that provides a contact phone number and/or alternate office location.

Secondly, several questions have been raised concerning essential vs. non-essential staff responsibilities and expectations.

For purposes of clarity, please re-read the following excerpt from the March 17, 2020 Campus Update.

“To be clear, supervisors will advise all of their employees whether they are: 1) to report to campus for work, 2) authorized to work from home, or 3) included in rotational duties.  If you have concerns or questions, please raise them with your supervisor.  This modified schedule affects staff only.  Regardless of the configuration of your individual work schedule, you and all employees will continue to be paid.

Essential Staff
Employees who are designated as essential personnel, and who are able to work remotely, may be allowed to do so. Or, they may be required to work on campus, depending on unit needs and circumstances, as determined by the supervisors.

Non-Essential Staff
Employees who are designated as non-essential personnel will be asked to stay at home until contacted by their supervisor to report to work.  Because the University will still be open, each department will need a limited number of employees to report to campus in order to remain operational.  We have asked all supervisors to reduce the number of personnel to the bare minimum, and to rotate, to the extent possible, those employees who must report. All non-essential staff will be on-call during this time period, meaning they must be able to report to work, or work from home, as needed and when called upon.  Please understand that the University is operating under unprecedented circumstances, and we need each employee to remain flexible.”

My Executive Committee has revisited the definitions/descriptions above, and we reaffirm its content. This information builds in important features of flexibility for the university with respect to employee responsibilities, while also adhering to the guidance of health and governmental officials. I would especially note for clarity that staff supervisors are granted wide latitude in determining the need for all employees—essential or non-essential—to work on campus (safely) or remotely, and that ALL employees are considered to be “on call” while on paid administrative leave.

It is our intent generally to keep the number of individuals gathered on campus to a minimum, and so far our plan seems to be working.  However, we all need to be mindful that the work of the university must continue, even if a large portion of that work takes place remotely.

Lastly, we have been provided with some valuable guidance and suggestions prepared by our university Police Department and Human Resources Department that reflect best practices, in compliance with our general guidelines and those coming from the state [see March 24, 2020 email from the Human Resources Department titled “Requirements for ‘Stay in Place” at DSU”].

The Executive Committee has modified this list of best practices to provide some clarification:

  • In response to guidance received from IHL, we have implemented additional restrictions on visitors to campus and on facility access.  While buildings are still open, we have posted signs on many buildings that asks visitors not to enter the buildings, but, rather, to call the needed office(s).
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, older adults (age 65 and older) and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Any employee who is in this high-risk category should talk with his/her supervisor regarding the need to work from home exclusively.
  • At this time, Delta State has NOT implemented a “stay in place” posture on campus. Rather, we are simply asking employees to minimize their visits to campus and to other buildings where they do not have official business, and to utilize phone/Zoom meetings (instead of face-to-face meetings), when possible.

We continue to receive updates from a variety of sources on a regular basis, so I emphasize again that it is imperative that all students, faculty, and staff closely monitor the university’s website (www.deltastate.edu/coronavirus), official social media accounts, and their email for updates.

Please continue serving our students well during this challenging time, and keep yourself and your family healthy.