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

COVID-19 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 updates as necessary. 

With regard to workplace concerns related to COVID-19, please refer to the following frequently asked 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.

    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. Employees may also contact Human Resources, Employee Diversity, and Wellness by email at FSCOVIDReporting@winthrop.edu or by phone at (803)323-2273 to discuss a COVID-related situation. An HR representative will contact you with additional information and instructions.

 

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 should be sent home immediately or remain at home and told to contact their healthcare provider for additional instructions. 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. 

    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. 

    Since many of us are now fuly vaccinated the steps in this process are different depending on your vaccination status. Employees who suspect they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 should contact Human Resources to determine exposure on campus and what steps the employee should take.

 

Updated Information Regarding Requesting and Approving Travel

    Effective immediately and through June 30, 2022, work-related travel may resume with prior approval from the vice president of the division in which the traveler is employed.  International travel must be approved by the President.  Employees must obtain written approval via email prior to making any nonrefundable travel plans.  Considerations when approving travel will include COVID-related travel advisory information and current budgetary restrictions.  Employees will not be reimbursed for travel that was not approved prior to incurring travel-related costs.  .  See the Updated Travel Guidelines for more information.

    We hope that employees will not engage in these types of activities until such time that they are considered to be fully vaccinated.   If an employee, who is not fully vaccinated, chooses to engage in these types of activities it is especially important that upon returning to the workplace, the employee follows the masking and social distancing requirements while on Winthrop’s campus. Employees should notify HR if they believe they may have been exposed, if they are experiencing symptoms, or if they have tested positive to the COVID-19 virus.

Last Updated: 7/13/22