Coronavirus Response Update – March 15, 2020

Email crafted on March 15, 2020

Members of the Colby community,

We are writing to provide updates since our last communication and offer additional information regarding the College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health and safety of our community remains our highest priority. We are grateful for the support the Dean of the College team and numerous other staff members offered to our students over the past few days. This includes assistance regarding travel planning, transportation, shipping, documentation, and other needs. While the plans of some students have not been finalized, we anticipate roughly 250 students will be on campus tomorrow and that by the end of the week approximately 120 students will remain in College housing until the end of the semester. In addition to ensuring our students are able to return home safely, we have been working to ensure those remaining on campus will receive the services necessary throughout the remainder of the semester.

We also want to assure you that we are working to protect the health and well-being of our employees, offering the support necessary to address faculty and staff needs, and collaborating with state and local governments and health care providers to minimize the possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Even though we are not aware of any confirmed cases on campus, the number of cases is rising nationally and we should continue to plan for that possibility. Media outlets are reporting governments, school districts, and businesses in other locations closing or severely curtailing operations and we should expect that will happen here in the near future. Several private schools here in central Maine, with children of Colby employees, have announced they will close this week.

The scope of our response, therefore, will need to expand.

  • Staff employees with risk factors and those with families who may have risk factors should contact their supervisor or Human Resources (207-859-5500) to review their circumstances and how the College can support their remaining at home. Several employees have already reached out and we encourage others to do so. Faculty should plan to work from home knowing that we will ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to work away from campus.
  • Should local schools or other providers close and you have a family member (e.g., child, parent, guardian) that you need to care for, we encourage you to stay home and care for them.
  • Tomorrow each vice president will be assessing their operations and staffing levels to determine who may work from home and what operational changes we might make (e.g., shifting schedules, work routines, rotating schedules) in hopes of reducing the number of staff who need to be on campus each day working in close proximity to one another.
  • We will also be exploring how to re-deploy staff currently assigned to departments that will see significant decreases in service requirements (e.g., dining services, facilities, athletics). We are committed, however, to finding ways to continue the employment, salary, and benefits for regular employees.
  • In addition to maintaining healthy habits, we strongly encourage faculty and staff to think much more carefully about social distancing and workplace interactions.

o   In-person meetings should be limited to 10 people or fewer whenever possible.

o   We are limiting group meetings or gathering to 25 people, effective immediately. Requests for exceptions to this policy will require approval from the Wade Behnke, Director of Employee Health and Safety, and either Provost Margaret McFadden or Vice President Douglas Terp.  Wade can be reached at 859-5504 or wade.benhke@colby.edu.

o   Please exercise social distancing while on campus, whether you are in a meeting, office, or walking on campus. As examples, please avoid sitting directly across a small table or desk from others, try to maintain a distance of at least six feet when talking directly to someone, and leave an empty chair between yourself and the person next to you.

o   If you need to have a meeting, consider alternatives to in-person meetings. Consider conference calls, Zoom, or other approaches. If you need to have in-person meetings, try to minimize their length. Human Resources has developed a reference guide to make meetings more effective, shorten their length, and make effective use of technology-based meeting time.

  • We will also expand the scope of our contingency planning over the next few days to increase our capacity to respond to changed circumstances.

We will be sharing additional information about operational changes and employment policies over the next few days. In the meantime, we encourage you to view the website daily for updates and check with your supervisor or Human Resources if you have questions.

Thank you again to the many, many faculty and staff who worked incredibly hard — with professionalism, creativity, and compassion — over the last few days as we moved into this strange, and hopefully short-lived, new world. We know it was challenging and stressful, and that you performed your work even as you were thinking of your own circumstances and families. We will continue to put the interests of our community first and get through this challenging time together.

Sincerely,

Margaret T. McFadden

Provost

Douglas C. Terp

Vice President for Administration