Winthrop University: COVID-19 Coronavirus Workplace-Related Information and FAQs

COVID-19 Coronavirus Workplace-Related Information and FAQs

The Winthrop University leadership and the Critical Incident Management Team are closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation related to COVID-19 and will provide HR-related updates below.


Guidance to Employees for Reporting Work Time and Leave (pdf - 129 KB)

Working from Home


Workplace Safety Issues

    If any employee presents themselves at work with a fever or difficulty in breathing, this indicates that they should seek medical evaluation. While these symptoms are not always associated with influenza and the likelihood of an employee having the COVID-19 coronavirus is extremely low, it pays to err on the side of caution. However, supervisors and coworkers should exercise caution and not overreact to situations in the workplace potentially related to COVID-19.

    We understand that local healthcare providers may be testing for COVID-19 only in situations where the patient is exhibiting severe symptoms.  An employee who is exhibiting symptoms may be encouraged to avoid coworkers, go home, and follow the guidelines below to minimize the risk of transmission. Generally, employees should exercise a level of caution, and respect for coworkers, by not being at work with a fever; and, not returning to work until the employee has been fever free without fever reducing medication for 24 hours.

    While supervisors may encourage employees who appear to be sick to go home, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places restrictions on the inquiries that an employer can make into an employee’s medical status. The ADA prohibits employers from making disability-related inquiries and requiring medical examinations, unless (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity, or (2) where the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.

    According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whether a particular outbreak rises to the level of a “direct threat” depends on the severity of the illness. The EEOC instructs employers that the assessment by the CDC or public health authorities provides the objective evidence needed for a disability-related inquiry or medical examination.  To date, the CDC has not classified COVID-19 as a pandemic.

    Employees are encouraged to take the same steps they would take to avoid the seasonal flu, which is already one of the worst flus in the last 10 years. For the annual influenza, other similar illnesses, and the COVID-19 virus, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. Employees are encouraged to stay home if sick, especially if they have fever. The following actions are suggestions to take to avoid the flu.

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Teleconference in lieu of meeting in person if possible.

    Follow updates from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding additional precautions.

    Employees who are exhibiting symptoms should contact their healthcare provider immediately and stay home from work. 

    Employees, who suspect they have been exposed, are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days in order to prevent the transmission to others. During the self-quarantine period, employees should take their temperature with a thermometer two times a day to monitor for fever, and watch for cough or trouble breathing.  Should symptoms develop employees should contact their healthcare provider.

    Yes, employees who have reason to believe they have been exposed to COVOD-19 may use their sick leave for the work days included in the 14-calendar day self-quarantine period.

    Winthrop will continue to closely monitor the situation in South Carolina, York County, the surrounding counties, and on campus, and follow the advice of the CDC and local emergency management officials in the event cases are confirmed locally and/or on campus.


Issues for Workforces That Travel

    At this time, no.  Winthrop leaders are closely monitoring the CDC and other federal guidance with regard to travel.

    Until further notice, Winthrop asks employees who choose to travel to countries identified by the U.S. State Department as a Level 3 or Level 4 threat, to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon returning to the United States. During the self-quarantine period, employees should take their temperature with a thermometer two times a day to monitor for fever, and watch for cough or trouble breathing.  Should symptoms develop employees should contact their healthcare provider.



General COVID-19 Questions

    The virus symptoms manifest as a mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Unfortunately, at this point there is no easy way to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus. A CDC-developed laboratory test kit to detect the COVID-19 coronavirus began shipping in February to select qualified U.S. and international laboratories.

    People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets also land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Therefore, it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. The CDC recommends as much as 6 feet. It is possible to catch the virus from someone even before they have symptoms, but little is known about this aspect of the virus at this time.

    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

    Winthrop employees who have questions about their own health or if they have symptoms they suspect could be COVID-19 or the flu, should contact their healthcare provider for advice.


    Ellen Wilder-Byrd, associate vice president of University Communications and Marketing, is collecting and responding to questions related to Winthrop’s preparedness for dealing with COVID-19.

Last Updated: 1/9/23