This week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the Safer at Home order has been lifted and that Northern Virginia is entering Phase 2 of the state’s reopening today, Friday, June 12. He has also issued guidance for the re-opening of higher education campuses this fall.
Many of you may be wondering how these announcements affect George Mason University. For most of our community, there will be little immediate change from the last few months. Courses will stay online this summer, and the majority of our faculty and staff will continue to telework in June and July. As we all adjust to the new guidance, I encourage everyone to follow the Governor’s directives and the advice of public health professionals. Wear masks, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick. The evidence is strong that following these basic rules will greatly reduce the risk of additional infections as our communities reopen.
We appreciate the Governor’s encouragement to re-open our campuses when safe to do so and guidance on how best to do so. Our plans for fall are closely aligned with that guidance. We will submit our Safe Return to Campus plan to SCHEV by July 6 as directed and look forward to working with state and local officials in the coming months to implement our plans. Some faculty and staff will gradually begin coming back to campus over the summer, to help prepare the university for our students in the fall, as I outlined last week, and to re-commence research efforts where feasible. Additional guidance for those individuals is included below.
Town Hall Meeting
We know many of you have questions and feedback about our plans to reopen the campus and other aspects of how the coronavirus is impacting the university. I will host a town hall meeting from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on June 24 with university leaders so we can offer clear answers to those questions. If you have questions or comments, please submit them here. The town hall will be livestreamed on GMU TV.
Additional Information for Faculty and Staff
Some researchers, people in operational roles that are directly involved with campus reopening, and other essential personnel may begin to return to our campuses in upcoming weeks. Planning for who will return to campus, and when, will be an ongoing process.
For those who are returning to campus and those who are managing people who will return to campus, the university will have new procedures to ensure a safe return.
A Unit/Department Safety Planning tool will be available to help units and departments determine who should return to campus and when, what workspace or work schedule modifications may be needed, and a process to request safety supplies. This tool will be shared directly with senior leaders across the university, who will be asked to develop plans for their departments.
These supervisors will appoint individuals to complete these Unit/Department Safety Plans for their divisions or functions. If you have not been assigned to complete this plan for your division, please await instructions from your supervisor or department head.
Training for Those Returning to Campus
Anybody coming back to campus will need to complete the Safe Return to Campus Training. This training, with separate employee and student components, will provide important information about COVID-19 illness and transmission, the precautions Mason is implementing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the campus community, and specific faculty, staff and student responsibilities to protect yourself and others while on campus. It is designed to help educate all the members of our community on our new culture.
This training will be shared first with the essential personnel returning to campus this summer, and then with all members of the Mason community.
The campus environment we return to will be much different from the one we left in March. Our Safe Return to Campus requires everyone’s cooperation. Our success depends on everyone adhering to these new guidelines.
Every one of us has a role to play in helping to safely reopen the university. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for your commitment to the health and safety of the Mason community.