Winthrop University: Faculty and Staff - March 10, 2021
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Office of the President
114 Tillman Hall
Rock Hill, SC 29733, USA
803/323-2225
803/323-3001 (fax)
president@winthrop.edu

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Faculty and Staff - March 10, 2021

Dear Colleagues:  

With the concerns voiced during last week’s town hall and the reality of our accelerated return to work based on the Governor’s executive order, I asked Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety to provide information to help the campus understand more clearly the status of our important preventative health and safety measures and others that have been in effect for some time.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and more

We continue to follow CDC guidance on safe practices in the workplace. Last summer we consulted with the Medical University of South Carolina on our Return to Learn and Work plans which detailed our preparations to safely welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus for the fall semester. This review included our social distancing plans for classrooms, residence halls and shared spaces, in addition to our plans for returning employees to the campus. We adjusted our plans as needed and have been successful in providing a safe workplace with very few cases of COVID-19.  It is important to note that CDC and SCDHEC procedures were followed every time a potential case was made known to us, and we provided a dashboard on our website. 

Masking

Following CDC and SCDHEC guidance, Winthrop has required all staff, faculty, visitors and students to wear masks or cloth facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Masks are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. The same expectations that have served us well since last summer will remain in place. Researchers with the CDC said last month that two masks are better than one in slowing the spread of the virus, so that is certainly an option for those with heightened concerns about the return to work.

Cleaning and disinfecting

As we have said before, everyone has a role to play in maintaining a healthy work environment in the pandemic. Employees should follow handwashing guidelines and work together to keep their areas clean. Our custodial staff is continuing frequent cleaning processes throughout the day in all classroom, residential and administrative buildings. They begin their workday early in the morning before many of us are at our desks. They are focusing on disinfecting restrooms, common areas, and high-touch surfaces like faucets, light switches, knobs, handles, buttons, railings, etc.  Our enhanced safety measures include twice daily cleaning blitzes of high-traffic areas in common spaces, per CDC and MUSC guidance.

Please do not expect cleaning like this in individual offices. The staff is disinfecting doorknobs and collecting trash from individual offices, unless specific appropriate cleaning, such as in an office that has been left vacant for some time, is requested through the Facilities Management work request system. (Please note that you must use a computer on the campus network to access this system. The How to Submit Work Requests webpage may be consulted for help.) Some offices have indicated that their employees prefer to do their own cleaning/disinfecting, and that is perfectly fine. Supervisors may contact Facilities Management regarding how to request trash bags and the process for collecting trash.

In addition, EHS and Facilities Management staff are working with building coordinators to receive regular feedback on our custodial staff. Therefore, please report areas of satisfaction and concern to your building coordinator, so our teams can  provide staff with proper feedback to ensure the campus’ expectations are being met. If you do not know who your building coordinator is, please share feedback utilizing the facilitiesmanagement@winthrop.edu email address. (Note: please do not use this address for work order requests.)  

Return to work kits and supplies

When we entered Phase 2 last July, cleaning kits were provided to departments and offices from EHS. Kits included a 22 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer for office/department use, 32 oz. bottle of disinfectant cleaner for office/department use, disposable masks for office visitors, gloves and paper towels. These supplies were provided based on the number of employees in an office/department (not supplies for each person) and are available for replenishing. Supervisors may request these through the Facilities Management work request system.

As was the case last summer, no wipes or personal-sized hand sanitizers are available for each employee, but such personal supplies are much more widely available now, and employees are encouraged to bring their personal supplies to work if those will help decrease personal anxiety levels about workplace cleanliness.  

Ventilation

CDC guidelines for building ventilation recommend practices that are financially feasible, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The CDC notes that while there may be some risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus through ventilation systems, there is no evidence of such transmission at this time. It is important to remember that not all of our buildings have operable windows, including Dalton, Owens, Carroll, West Center, Campus Center, Dacus, Dinkins, most of Rutledge, and the addition to Johnson. Thurmond, Kinard, Withers, Bancroft, McLaurin, and the residence halls have operable windows which can be opened for additional ventilation. If windows are opened, it is important to close windows upon leaving the space to reduce heating, cooling and dehumidification demands. 

We have increased air filtration to as high as possible without significantly reducing design airflow of our HVAC systems. We have researched portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems, but CDC guidance notes this as a consideration for “higher risk areas such as a nurse’s office or areas frequently inhabited by persons with higher likelihood of COVID-19 and/or increased risk of getting COVID-19,” rather than more general use. Likewise, based on CDC guidance, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is an option for spaces where increasing room ventilation is limited, yet it is also the most expensive consideration that the CDC lists in its layered approach to ventilation. We do not believe UVGI is necessary based on our low campus incidence of COVID-19 transmission. However, Facilities Management and EHS staff will continue to monitor CDC and SCDHEC recommendations and may invest a portion of the recent stimulus in building ventilation prior to the beginning of the fall semester. 

Signage and shields

Since last summer we have installed hundreds of signs and scores of Plexiglas shields in offices, work spaces, and other areas. From reminders of our physical distancing requirements and labels for ingress/egress routes, to disinfecting instructions and hygiene tips, more than 30 signs and decals are available from Printing Services at no charge to departments and offices. Supervisors may request additional COVID-19 signage by visiting the print shop website.

Testing
Also based on CDC guidance, Winthrop is not requiring COVID-19 testing for faculty and staff who return to campus. However, saliva assay free expedited (SAFE) testing is available twice monthly through our partnership with the USC College of Pharmacology. For those who are symptomatic, free COVID-19 testing is available through DHEC at the Winthrop Coliseum or you may access local health-care facilities, pharmacies, etc. A covidreporting@winthrop.edu dedicated email address is available to report suspected or confirmed positive cases, and this triggers protocols for both students and faculty/staff to receive further instructions. Contact tracing is provided by Center for Student Wellness for students and Human Resources for employees.

Vaccinations

On March 8, South Carolina entered phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.  Faculty and staff of institutions of higher education are now able to receive the vaccine.  While the vaccine is not mandatory for anyone, I cannot overstate the importance of being vaccinated.  Modern public health has proven the safe and effective use of vaccines for over 200 years.  Globally, over 313 million individuals have thus far received the COVID-19 vaccine.  I encourage you to receive the vaccine via the Rock Hill Vaccination Clinic located at the Galleria Mall or one of the many chain pharmacies providing the vaccine to individuals in phase 1b.      

I hope this information helps ease some of your anxiety about returning to campus. I am confident that we are doing all that we can from an institutional standpoint to provide a safe and healthy work environment, but we certainly will continue to evaluate our processes and work to address your concerns. I am asking that each of us—by wearing a mask, self-monitoring, practicing good hygiene, physical distancing, and more—continue to do our part to help keep our colleagues and students healthy and safe. 

Sincerely,

George

George Hynd
Interim President

Last Updated: 7/13/22