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A Message From the President on Dutchess County Phase II Re-Opening

Dear All,

As you have heard, New York State has been opening up, and Dutchess County is now in Phase 2 of re-opening. Unlike many other states, which opened up without a formal plan, New York has moved judiciously and in an evidence-based way. To date, the state has not experienced an uptick in the incidence of COVID-19 cases, and in fact, despite enormous testing, less than 10 new cases daily are being found in Dutchess County.

What does this mean for higher education? As you know, I am part of the Governor’s NY Forward Re-Opening Advisory Committee and have been working closely with state regional and local officials to review guidelines and prepare the plan for higher education. At this point, higher education is allowed to have personnel involved with construction, facilities, cleaning, office work, and research back on campus following a set of health and safety guidelines.

As a result, we are preparing the campus to meet the New York State guidelines, and on July 12, an additional 75-150 non-faculty employees will begin working on campus. The returning non-faculty employees include, but are not limited to, Safety & Security and our Facilities staff, who are working tirelessly to ready the campus for the return of more employees and students. Faculty are also allowed to return to campus to do research, as are some administrators who need to prepare for the fall. As we continue to follow guidelines to keep density low on campus, many employees who are able to perform their work remotely will continue to telework. Supervisors will be in touch by July 1 about non-faculty employees’ schedules for returning to campus. Faculty who wish to return to work before July 12 should be in touch with the Dean of Faculty office for health and safety guidelines. After July 12, please follow the guidelines in this memo.

Thank you all so very much for supporting each other through these difficult and exhausting times since mid-March. In this new phase, we will need to continue working together to ensure our own and everyone else’s health and safety.

Employees who will be on campus for work starting July 12 can anticipate the following guidelines, consistent with national, state, regional, and local public health requirements to keep the community healthy and safe. These guidelines are consistent with those being developed by VassarTogether. Additional guidelines will be forthcoming as we prepare for greater numbers of employees and students expected on campus in mid-August.

New Mask Protocols

  • Everyone is expected to wear a mask or mouth and nose covering, except: when in private/unshared rooms or offices; or when stationary outdoors and able to remain 6 feet from anyone else, or if running or biking for exercise. While in transit (walking from place to place inside or outside), we are expected to wear a mask or mouth and nose covering. The College will provide masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed for employees to safely conduct their job activities on campus. 
  • We are increasing the use of masks and face coverings because, as the campus repopulates, people are apt to come within 6 feet of one anyone throughout the day, sometimes without notice. A mask or nose and mouth face covering is the recommended protection when we must be closer than 6 feet to other people.
  • For PPE and cleaning supply questions, please contact: purchasing@vassar.edu

Daily Self-Health Screen Assessment

  • Employees who experience COVID-19 symptoms must stay home and should consult health services and their own medical provider.
  • As required by New York State, employees working on campus will complete a daily self-care assessment before the start of their work day, reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, and where they plan to work that day. New York State requires the College to review these assessments daily.
  • As of July 12, the self-health screen assessment will be available electronically for completion on both computers and mobile devices.
  • Employees unable to complete the assessment on a personal mobile device will be provided with alternative ways to provide the required information.

New Cleaning Protocols

  • Common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected daily by Facilities (a log maintained by Facilities will be located in common spaces and in each bathroom indicating when they were last cleaned).
  • Facilities will work at establishing collaboration with the end-users of each space where employees are working on campus to optimize cleaning for current needs.
  • Bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily by Facilities.
  • Facilities will vacuum, dust, and dispose of trash in offices on their regular schedule.
  • The College will provide cleaning materials for each office.
  • Questions about cleaning of facilities contact Tommy Zadrima at tozadrima@vassar.edu

Other New Health and Safety Protocols

  • Physical distancing markers will be posted in heavily used spaces on campus.
  • Small spaces (e.g., elevators) should be occupied by only one person at a time. All campus spaces should maintain occupancy of below 50% of maximum capacity. Buildings will be accessible with card access only; Gordon Commons, the Retreat, Powerhouse, the Library, and the athletic facilities will remain closed, although the Library will continue its contactless pick-up service.
  • We are reviewing each HVAC system in all buildings and are optimizing the building systems where we can to meet the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) guidelines. Opening windows for cross-ventilation is recommended when possible.

The return to campus will be coordinated through one’s supervisor in the coming weeks. I will continue to provide updates as the VassarTogether committee continues to develop recommended guidelines for the fall. As always, be sure to maintain good personal care and hygiene, including frequent handwashing.

We have experienced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am buoyed by the warmth, humor, and perseverance of our Vassar community. The example you have all set by caring and supporting one another is remarkable. I share your eagerness to be safely together again on campus and look forward to that day in the not so distant future.

With best wishes,

Betsy

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
VASSAR COLLEGE
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
@EHBVassar