Fall 2020 COVID-19 Plans

On March 23, 2020, the University of Mobile suspended all on-ground classes and transitioned to an online delivery format. All activities were cancelled and resident halls and dining facilities vacated as our state dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the subsequent four months, the President of the university, assisted by his Senior Leadership Team (SLT), began planning for the eventual return to on-ground operations.    

The university plans to resume such operations on August 17, 2020. It is our desire to return to as near a normal campus experience as possible. In addition to our long-standing tradition of offering the very best in academic preparation and student experience, the university will work diligently to ensure the health and safety of our students and employees. The key components of the plan will be pro-active measures designed to (1) reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections; (2) monitor students and employees to control any spread of infection; and (3) respond to any cases that appear. These plans are based on the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Alabama Department of Public Health, and the Mobile County Health Department. This document provides the highlights of the plan. Individual departments will have additional information for employees and students.

I would like to thank everyone in advance for your cooperation and flexibility. Please understand that any of our plans can be superseded at any time by new regulations from state and/or local officials. Depending on conditions that exist at the start of the fall semester, guidelines and requirements may be more or less restrictive. As always, we will act out of an abundance of caution. Please be in prayer for your university as we navigate through the upcoming semester.

Dr. Lonnie A. Burnett

President, University of Mobile


I. GENERAL INFORMATION

What is COVID-19?

Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Seven sub-groups are known to infect people, including several that cause the common cold. MERS-CoV (which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS-CoV (which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome), and the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infect animals and have evolved to make people sick.  COVID-19 is a disease caused by a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. COVID-19 is a new virus that hasn’t caused illness in humans before. Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in human infections, causing illness and in many cases death. Cases have spread to countries throughout the world.

How COVID-19 Spreads:

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

It is also 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. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but additional studies are underway.

Symptoms:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. It is also important to note that many people who contract COVID-19 remain asymptomatic. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

II. UNIVERSITY OF MOBILE SAFETY PRACTICES

UM Announces Fall Schedule Change and COVID-19 Precautions

The University of Mobile announced July 7, 2020, that it will modify its fall 2020 academic schedule. Classes will begin as scheduled on Monday, August 17, but all on-ground classes will end on Tuesday, November 24. Faculty will have the option of giving an on-ground final exam during the last class meeting, or giving a final exam in an online format during November 30 – December 3. Clinical experiences and internships will follow their regular schedules. 

Commencement ceremonies for the spring and fall 2020 graduating classes will be moved from December 12 to Saturday, December 5. Additionally, fall break, which was scheduled in October, has been cancelled. Monday, November 23 and Tuesday, November 24, which had been scheduled as part of Thanksgiving break, will now be used as class days. 

According to university president Dr. Lonnie Burnett, these changes are made to ensure that most students will be off campus at a time when increased cases of COVID-19 might appear and that “as always, we are acting with an abundance of caution with the health and safety of our students and employees as our main concern.” 

The university continues to plan for the resumption of on-ground instruction this fall along with open resident and dining halls. Current CDC and Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines are the basis for the university’s COVID-19 preparations. Dr. Burnett noted that, “Our plans can become more or less restrictive based on the guidelines and orders that might be in effect when the fall semester begins.” An overview of the current COVID-19 safety plan can be found on the university website at www.www.emanuelsoftware.com/coronavirus.

General Practices: 

A few simple steps can greatly reduce your chances of being exposed and exposing others to COVID-19.

  • Practice good hygiene: cover coughs and sneezes, don't touch your face, and wash hands often
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your household
  • Use cloth face coverings when in public
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used items and touched surfaces often
  • Avoid the use of shared objects
  • Closely monitor symptoms
  • Stay home or go home when sick

Social Distancing: Social distancing will be practiced in accordance with CDC and State of Alabama guidelines. This practice will be in effect where feasible in classrooms, offices and common areas. Chapel will be delivered in a virtual format during the fall semester. The dining hall will be expanded into the Ram Hall area. Classroom space capacity will be established and monitored to ensure proper social distance capability. Students in larger classes where social distancing is not possible will be provided a remote participation option.

Facial coverings: Face coverings that cover the mouth and nose will be required in any environment where social distancing cannot be feasibly implemented, per order by the Governor of Alabama. Students and faculty will supply their own personal face coverings. (For information on face coverings, see //www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html.)

Symptom Screening: Employees and students will be required to answer screening questions related to the current status of their health. These confidential screenings will be used to determine the current health of the individual as well as to ascertain potential future risk.

Temperature Checks and Symptom Monitoring: Students and employees are encouraged to self-monitor by taking their own temperature daily. The university will conduct non-contact temperature checks in high density areas such as resident halls and larger office or academic buildings. Students and employees are asked to report any symptoms which may indicate COVID-19. See above for potential symptoms. 

Testing: COVID-19 testing will be required for individuals who exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or for asymptomatic individuals with recent known or suspected close contact to documented infected individuals. (By CDC definition, close contact refers to being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes).

Quarantine: Any student or employee who tests positive or who has been in close contact (see above definition) with an infected individual will be required to follow CDC quarantine guidelines before returning to work or class. The university has designated certain rooms as quarantine spaces for resident students who are unable to return to their homes. CDC quarantine guidelines can be found at //www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine-isolation.html. Individuals requiring quarantine will receive instructions from, and may not return to normal status until cleared in writing by, the campus wellness coordinator.

Contact Tracing: Contact tracing refers to the strategy in which university officials work with an infected individual to identify other individuals with whom the infected person may have come into close contact (see definition above). The purpose of contact tracing is to determine if additional individuals need to submit to COVID testing.

Campus Logistics: Deans and area supervisors will survey all buildings to determine the best method for keeping congestion to a minimum. Certain doors may be designated as entrance or exit only and stairways might be deemed as one way only. Certain high-traffic areas such as Bedsole Commons, lobbies, fitness center, etc., may have limited access. If needed, class dismissal times may be staggered. Entry and exit in the dining hall will be reconfigured.

Reporting: Any student who exhibits COVID-19 related symptoms (see above), tests positive for COVID-19, or becomes aware of being in close contact with an infected individual, should immediately notify ­­­­the campus wellness coordinator. Employees should notify their immediate supervisor.

III. ACADEMICS

Revised Academic Calendar for FALL 2020:

  • First day of traditional Term 1 – Monday, August 17, 2020
  • Last day of traditional Term 1 – Thursday, December 3, 2020
  • Monday, September 7 – Labor Day, UM Closed
  • Remove Fall Break – Wednesday and Thursday, October 7 and 8 (Regular Wed/Thurs classes)
  • Remove Thanksgiving Break for Monday and Tuesday, November 23 and 24Final exams may be given the last day of ground classes on November 23 and 24
  • Wednesday – Friday, November 25-27, Thanksgiving Break, UM Closed
  • Online only final exams – November 30, December 1-3
  • 1st 8-week term would be 7-week term (Term 2)                                                                          Monday, August 17 – Saturday, October 3
  • 2nd 8-week term would be 7-week term (Term 3)                                                                               Monday, October 5 – Saturday, November 21
  • All graduating senior grades due – Thursday, December 3 at 2 p.m.
  • Graduation is scheduled for Saturday, December 5 at 10 a.m.
  • All other final grades are due – Monday, December 7 at 2 p.m.

Method of Instruction: Courses will be offered in one of three formats:  (1) Fully in-person; (2) Fully online; or (3) Hybrid or “Hy-Flex.”  Fully in-person is the preferred mode of delivery and will be utilized wherever social distancing can be effectively employed. Fully online delivery refers to all section 90, 42, 52, etc. courses that require no on-campus presence. The Hybrid or Hy-Flex model will be utilized in larger classes where social distancing is not feasible. The maximum occupancy of the classroom cannot exceed what would allow for social distancing. One example of the Hy-Flex model would have half of a class in person and the other half participating through a synchronous remote link. Faculty members will contact all students before the first day of class with instructions regarding the mode of delivery. 

Final Exams: Faculty have the option to give an in-person final exam on the last regular meeting day of class or an online exam which will completed during the week of November 30 – December 3. No in-person classes will take place after Tuesday, November 24.

Clinical Experience and Internships: Due to required clinical and internship hours, the class schedule for any off-site experiences will remain the same. Access to clinical and internship experiences will depend on the policies of the host institutions. Final grades for the experiences must be submitted on the same schedule as other courses.

Faculty Office Hours: In-person faculty office visits will be scheduled only in unique and/or emergency cases. Students and faculty are encouraged to communicate frequently via email, office phone or video.

2020 Commencement: The Fall 2020 commencement service will be held on Saturday, December 5 at 10 a.m. on campus. Graduates from the spring have been encouraged to participate in this event.

Library: The J.L. Bedsole Library will be open during posted hours. Social distancing guidelines and maximum occupancy limits will be observed.

Travel: All non-essential university travel is suspended for the fall semester.

IV. STUDENT AND RESIDENTIAL LIFE

All students will receive information concerning COVID precautions. Resident students will receive logistical guidelines prior to move-in day and will undergo symptom screening and non-contact temperature checks prior to entering resident halls. Resident students will be required to attend orientation sessions dealing with COVID-19 precautions. Information concerning the time and format of these sessions will be communicated prior to move-in day.

V. ATHLETICS

As a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), all athletic programs will follow guidelines set by the national organization. The most recent guidelines may be found at: //www.naia.org/membership/2019-20/releases/Fall_2020_Guidelines

VI. HUMAN RESOURCES

The university will work with employees regarding all COVID-19 issues. The Human Resources office will follow guidelines in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (//www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave) and other applicable laws. Any employee who has a documented condition that places him/her in a higher risk category should contact their immediate supervisor and HR.

 VII. AUXILARY ENTERPRISES

MMI Dining, National Plant Services, and Signal 88 each have COVID-19 plans in place. Any other vendors and visitors to campus will be expected to abide by the same procedures and requirements as members of the university community.

VII. LINKS FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Centers for Disease Control:  //www.cdc.gov/

Alabama Department of Public Health:  //www.alabamapublichealth.gov/index.html

Mobile County Health Department:   //mchd.org/General/Home.aspx