« March 2020 | Main | May 2020 »

5 posts from April 2020

04/30/2020

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (4/29/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

 

It’s Finals Week!  It’s the busiest time of year for our students and faculty, and in the current unprecedented global situation, it is likely to be even more stressful than usual.  If you haven’t watched the fun Finals Week message from some of USciences’ high energy faculty and staff, take a look here - it will cheer up your day!

 

And, in related news, USciences’ Virtual Commencement 2020 is three weeks from today-- Wednesday, May 20th at 1:00 p.m. Plans are underway to make this virtual ceremony as student-focused and celebratory as possible. We will be sharing a link to the ceremony with the USciences community soon, and we will also livestream to the public atyoutube.com/usciences. Graduating students should check their email for more details. We will hold an in-person ceremony at a later date, when it is safe to do so. 

 

Help us congratulate the Class of 2020 today by submitting video messages for the class here!   

 

Future Planning

  • Governor Wolf released his “Process to Reopen Pennsylvania” last week, a plan that outlines a regional approach to reopening businesses and lifting some social restrictions.  

  • The current guidance suggests that areas of the state that have very few COVID-19 cases may begin to relax restrictions as early as May 8.  Given the high number of cases in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, there is no expectation that our region will relax the existing restrictions in the near term, but the Task Force continues to monitor local, state, and federal guidance related to this topic.

 

Financial Resources for Students

  • The COVID-19 Emergency Assistance fund helps with education-related expenses associated with the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.  This fund is reserved for students who are currently enrolled in a program that met on campus prior to the transition to online classes.  We are currently working on a process for eligible students to apply for these funds, and expect to communicate it to students within the next two weeks.

  • All students may access the USciences Student Emergency Fund for urgent financial needs.  This fund is available to all students, including those who may not qualify for Title IV/CARES Act funding (e.g., international or undocumented students).  Interested students should reach out to Joe Canaday, Executive Director of Student Success & Student Ombudsman atj.canada@usciences.edu.  

 

Wellness Resources

  • The Office of Health and Wellness google site has a variety of wellness resources - check out the “Staying Well While Staying Home” tab for links to virtual events like Zoom fitness classes, Friday lunchtime meditation, and cooking demos, as well as useful articles and links. There is a tab specifically for students and one for faculty and staff as well. 

 

Student Leadership Awards

  • Even though our time on campus this semester was cut short, we are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our student organizations and student leaders. We received over 200 nominations for Student Leadership Awards this year! 

  • Since we can’t be together to celebrate, our winners will be announced on theUSciences Instagramaccount by the end of the week. Stay tuned!

 

Reporting COVID-19 Positive Tests

  • The USciences community has been extremely fortunate to have had very few cases of COVID-19, with all known cases making a full recovery.  However, we must continue to be vigilant, especially as planning begins for a return to campus.

  • All students, faculty, and staff should continue to notify SHAC if you have been found to be COVID-19 positive via testing or are presumed positive based on symptoms.

 

USciences COVID-19 Information

  • Information about the University’s status, FAQs, and links to governmental sites are available on our COVID-19 webpage.

  • COVID-19-related campus messages are posted at the USciences Public Safety Emergency Blog.  

  • Status of campus operations, as well as tips for working and studying remotely are posted at the Working Remotely website.  

 

The COVID-19 Task Force

04/24/2020

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (4/22/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

 

One of the most frequent questions that the Task Force is asked (and discussed at our weekly meetings) is how much longer we will continue to be required to stay at home, off-campus, and away from much of our day-to-day routine work.  While some states around the country have already announced plans to reopen some businesses and relax limitations on gathering, there have been no similar announcements in our region yet.  The University is required to follow the guidance of both the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This past Monday, Governor Wolf extended the statewide Stay-At-Home Order through Friday, May 8, 2020 - a little over two weeks from now.  Philadelphia has a similar Stay-At-Home Order and prohibition of Non-Essential Business Operations effective March 23, 2020 and until further notice.  Based on media reports, it appears that near-term relaxation of stay-at-home guidance is most likely to occur in parts of Pennsylvania with very few COVID-19 cases - not in our region.

 

However, even in the absence of a clear timeline for reopening by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, the Task Force and University leadership are working on plans for a phased return to campus-based operations once local government allows us to do so. As with all of our initiatives related to COVID-19, our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and any plans put in place will be designed to maintain that safety.  We expect that there will be continued physical distancing requirements, as well as the need for face coverings/masks for months into the future - at least until a vaccine and/or effective coronavirus therapy is widely available. There almost certainly will be a “new normal” for months, if not years, to come.

 

The Task Force will continue to update the campus community in the coming weeks with any critical information. Today’s updates include not only reminders of procedures related to coronavirus, but also how you as an individual can help others in a time of need.

 

Coming to campus

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released guidelines for businesses that require all individuals wear masks at all times (cloth masks are fine) and maintain physical distancing.  This guidance applies not only to essential personnel working on campus, but any individuals coming to campus for any reason.

  • Employees needing to pick up mail or other items from campus should first obtain permission from their divisional vice president who, if given approval, will then ask that you notify the Department of Public Safety of the time and location of their arrival on campus by calling DPS dispatch at 215-895-1117.

 

Blood and blood product donations

  • Hospitals across the country are experiencing significant shortages of blood products (whole blood, platelets, plasma) due to the reduction in blood drives nationally, the source of more than 80% of the American Red Cross’ supplies.

  • In addition, individuals who have recovered fully from COVID-19 may have life-saving antibodies in their blood, and could be eligible to donate convalescent plasma to critically ill patients.

  • If you are healthy and wish to donate blood, plasma, or platelets, or think you may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma, please go to the Red Cross website for more information.

 

Reporting COVID-19 Positive Tests

  • The USciences community has been extremely fortunate to have had very few cases of COVID-19, with all known cases making a full recovery.  However, we must continue to be vigilant, especially in the coming weeks, as the region is expected to continue to see significant numbers of new infections.

  • All students, faculty, and staff should continue to notify SHAC if you have been found to be COVID-19 positive via testing or are presumed positive based on symptoms.

 

Student refunds

  • All student credits for housing, dining services, and parking have been posted to student accounts.

  • The quickest way to receive refunds is to use ACH/direct deposit.  Students who have signed up for this service should receive refunds to their bank account this week.  Students who have not yet signed up may do so at Colleague Self Service- Banking Information.

  • For those students who do not have ACH/direct deposit, checks will be issued in batches beginning next week and through early May.

 

CARES Act Funding

  • USciences has been granted federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”).  

  • All initial funding will be made available for any student suffering financial hardship due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Additional information, including how to apply for funds, will be shared with students in the coming days.

 

Student Emergency Fund

  • In addition to the CARES Act funding, USciences is pleased to share that, through a tremendous effort by Institutional Advancement and many, many donors, over $80,000 was raised for the Student Emergency Fund last week!

  • Students who may need emergency funding should reach out to Joe Canaday, Executive Director of Student Success & Student Ombudsman at j.canada@usciences.edu.  

 

USciences COVID-19 Information

  • Information about the University’s status, FAQs, and links to governmental sites are available on our COVID-19 webpage.

  • COVID-19-related campus messages are posted at the USciences Public Safety Emergency Blog.  

  • Status of campus operations, as well as tips for working and studying remotely are posted at the Working Remotely website.  

 

The COVID-19 Task Force



04/15/2020

COVID-19 Task Force Update (4/15/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

As we enter our second month of isolation, we want to remind the USciences community to remain compliant with physical distancing guidelines, wearing masks while in public, and other protective guidance from the CDC and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health continues to track cases – and we are predicted to be entering a period where numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are likely to increase.  

 

Reporting COVID-19 positive tests

  • Because we still have essential staff on campus, we ask all students, faculty, and staff to notify SHAC if you have been found to be COVID-19 positive via testing or are presumed positive based on symptoms.   

  • For those who test positive for COVID-19 and who have been on campus in the 14 days prior, SHAC and the Office of Human Resources will reach out to identify direct contacts and provide additional guidance.

 

PPE Collection

  • USciences was able to make a second donation of  materials to the City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) that will be distributed to local healthcare institutions.

  • OEM expressed their profound appreciation for all of our donations – and we pass these thanks along to all of the departments who made these materials available during this time of need.

 

Homemade masks

  • Thanks to those who have already sent in homemade masks for our essential personnel!

  • There will be an ongoing need for these masks for individuals on campus, so for those with sewing skills, the CDC has provided directions to make homemade masks to be used by non-healthcare providers here.

  • Masks can be dropped off at the Office of Public Safety in Alumni Hall (open 24/7) or can be mailed c/o Michael Lapotasky, Director of Public Safety, 600 South 43rd Street, Philadelphia, PA  19104.

 

CARES Act Funding

  • Several weeks ago, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was signed into law, establishing an aid package for individuals and companies impacted by COVID-19.

  • Higher Education institutions will be provided funds initially designed to support students who have been impacted.

  • USciences has submitted the required application and we expect to hear back soon on the availability of funds.  

  • We will have additional information to share with students and the rest of the community in the coming days and weeks regarding the amount of available funding, as well as how the funds are permitted to be distributed to students.

 

Limited housekeeping services

  • Beginning this week, we have scaled back custodial services to focus only on areas currently in use on campus.   

 

Office of Health/Wellness 

  • Stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit!  Check out the Office of Health and Wellness google site for tips, group fitness classes, contact information, and more.

  • Join Heidi Freeman and Patti Vanston on Fridays at noon for a weekly mindfulness break (Zoom link available on the Office of Health and Wellness site).

 

Student Leadership Awards

  • The Office of Student Activities is soliciting nominations for student leadership awards through this Friday, April 17.  Awards will be announced on Wednesday, April 29.

  • Please see Tricia Purcell’s email from Monday (4/13) with the list of awards and how to submit nominations.

 

USciences COVID-19 Information

  • Information about the University’s status, FAQs, and links to governmental sites are available on our COVID-19 webpage.

  • COVID-19-related campus messages are posted at the USciences Public Safety Emergency Blog.  

  • Status of campus operations, as well as tips for working and studying remotely are posted at the Working Remotely website.  

  • Additional information about COVID-19 and links to governmental sites is available on our COVID-19 webpage.

  

 

The COVID-19 Task Force

 

04/08/2020

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (4/8/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

Following our weekly COVID-19 Task Force meeting Monday, we have a number of reminders and updates.  

Congregating on Campus

  • The University takes its responsibility to protect and maintain the health of our community and the public at large very seriously.

  • The CDC and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have both released recommendations regarding social distancing, including avoiding gatherings and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

  • We are aware of a number of instances where groups have been congregating on campus over the past several weeks.  Going forward, individuals found gathering on campus and disregarding the social distancing guidelines will be removed by USciences Public Safety Officers. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Donations

  • Last week, USciences was able to donate a significant amount of materials to the City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management that will be distributed to local healthcare institutions in need.

  • The Department of Public Safety will continue to collect any additional items for donation throughout the pandemic event.

  • Process for donation

    • Departments with surplus supplies should package and bring them to the Rosenberger Gymnasium at Alumni Hall (open 24/7) for donation. 

    • Please call ahead to the Public Safety dispatch at 215-895-1117 when ready. An officer will meet donors at the Alumni loading dock on Woodland Avenue (where DPS patrol vehicles park)

    • PPE type, manufacturer, model and quantities among other info should be entered by the donating department’s representative in the Google tracking sheet here.

    • Please note that OEM is not accepting any home-made PPE at this time.

Cloth Masks – calling all tailors/sewers!

  • Pennsylvania Governor Wolf and the CDC have recommended that all individuals wear cloth masks when leaving their homes.  In order to preserve surgical/N-95 masks for healthcare providers, the CDC has provided directions to make homemade masks to be used by non-healthcare providers here.

  • To facilitate the University’s essential employees to comply with this guidance, we are asking anyone in our community who is able to do so to sew and donate masks for our employees’ use.

  • Homemade masks can be dropped off at the Office of Public Safety in Alumni Hall (open 24/7) or can be mailed c/o Michael Lapotasky, Director of Public Safety, 600 South 43rd Street, Philadelphia, PA  19104.

Mailroom

  • There is a significant amount of departmental mail in the campus mailroom at 4619 Woodland Avenue.  The mailroom remains staffed Mondays and Wednesday 10:00am to 4:00pm. Individuals coming to the mailroom during this time should knock on the door to obtain entry.

  • Individuals needing to access departmental mail outside of these hours may contact Public Safety at (215) 895-1117 to obtain access.  Departmental mail is marked and on a shelf in the main lobby of the mailroom.

COVID-19 related fraud

  • Technology Services would like to remind everyone to be careful when accessing their email.  A widespread email scam taking advantage of fears related COVID-19 has been reported by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. 
  • We are seeing an increase in emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites designed to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. 
  • Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19. 
  • Verify a charity's authenticity before making donations.
  • If you realize you may have revealed your password, immediately change it at https://usciences.onelogin.com/profile and do not reuse the password in the future.
  • For more information please see the Working Remotely website.  
  • As always, contact the Helpdesk if you are uncertain about the authenticity of a message.

Zoom safety/security

  • There has been some publicity regarding “Zoombombing” – disruptions of Zoom meetings by uninvited guests.  Academic Technology has put together guidance on best practices for Zoom, including prevention of this disruption, available at the Working Remotely link (more details on zoombombing here).

 

USciences COVID-19 Information

  • Information about the University’s status, FAQs, and links to governmental sites are available on our COVID-19 webpage.

  • COVID-19-related campus messages are posted and archived at the USciences Public Safety Emergency Blog.  

  • Status of campus operations, as well as tips for working and studying remotely are posted at the Working Remotely website.  

 

 

The COVID-19 Task Force

 

04/01/2020

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (4/1/20)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

 

We have a number of important updates and reminders for the campus community today, following our weekly COVID-19 Task Force meeting earlier this week. 

 

As you’ve likely heard, federal and local government officials have announced the coronavirus stay home order is now in place through April 30, 2020.  While we previously announced classes would remain online through the remainder of the Spring semester, USciences non-essential faculty and staff will continue telecommuting practices through April 30, 2020, or until further notice. 

 

Reporting COVID-19 

  • As discussed in prior communications, persons with positive COVID-19 symptoms and/or test results should continue to report their health situation to the University. 
    • Faculty and staff should contact their direct supervisor and Ruth Roberts.
    • Students should contact Dr. Barb Siebert at students-healthinfo@usciences.edu. Dr. Siebert is available to assist with student’s healthcare needs. 
    • Going forward, contact tracing and notification will only occur in instances when contact was made in the 14-day window (this will be rare given the large majority of the University has been off campus since 3/16/20 or before). Notification to clinical sites will also continue to occur, when applicable.  
  • Anyone affected by COVID-19 should continue to follow updated CDC guidelines and once in the recovery phase of illness should review recommendations for discontinuation of transmission-based precautions. Please continue to observe proper social distancing, handwashing, isolation and quarantine procedures accordingly.

 

Protecting Ourselves and the Community

  • As recommended previously, we all should be behaving as if we are already infected: isolating as much as possible, practicing rigorous hygiene, limiting travel outside our homes, and following the external guidance from the CDC and other reliable sources that has been provided to us.

 

USciences Policy on Intolerance

  • We again remind all members of our community that COVID-19 can cause infection in anyone, regardless of race, nationality, or ethnicity. USciences will not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including discrimination or harassment associated with concerns about COVID-19. 

 

Requests for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Thanks to the generosity of the USciences community, we have gathered more than 32,000 items of PPE to donate to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management to be distributed to healthcare institutions in need. Items collected by various University departments include gloves, N95 and surgical masks, Tyvek suits, booties, and safety glasses.
  • The response thus far has been tremendous but please take one more look in your departments to see if there is anything more to offer.  For those on the front lines of this crisis, every one of these items is critical. 
  • Process for donation
    • Departments with surplus supplies should package and bring them to the Rosenberger Gymnasium at Alumni Hall (open 24/7) for donation. 
    • Please call ahead to the Public Safety dispatch at 215-895-1117 when ready. An officer will meet donors at the Alumni loading dock on Woodland Avenue (where DPS patrol vehicles park).
    • PPE type, manufacturer, model and quantities among other info should be entered by the donating department’s representative in the Google tracking sheet here.
    • Please note that OEM is not accepting any home-made PPE at this time.

 

Student Credits 

  • The University is going to issue ​partial credits for on-campus housing, parking, and meal plans. The Student Accounts Office at USciences will be applying a credit to the Spring 2020 student account for those who qualify. If you have a balance due on your account, the credit will be applied to the balance and any excess funding will be sent to you.
  • ​Proportional adjustments will be made to Housing Grants for students that received one as part of their ​Financial Aid award package.
  •  If you have funds remaining on your Declining Balance (DCB) plan (DCB250, DCB450, DCB850) and are a returning student, the balance will be available to you for the next academic year. If you have remaining DCB funds and are graduating, a credit will be applied to your account.
  • Direct Deposit is strongly recommended. All students are encouraged to participate in the electronic direct deposit program for their student account refunds and club activity reimbursements. Should there be any disruptions in mail or other services as a result of developmentssurrounding COVID-19, direct deposit will ensure a quick and reliable method to receive payments in a timely manner. Students who are currently receiving a paper check (who are NOT already signed up for direct deposit), can access the following link to sign up for this service, Colleague Self Service- Banking Information. 

 

Census 2020: Where Do You Count?

  • Students, even if you have returned home during COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau officials say that students who are living away from home should be counted at their on-campus or off-campus college address.
  • An accurate count of students is critical for Philadelphia. Student populations factor into disaster planning and emergency response, public health analysis and planning, infrastructure planning, government funding allocations, and many more policy and program decisions.
  • If you live on campus USciences will send information directly to the Census Bureau and there is no need for further action.  Students living in on-campus housing should not complete the census online or by telephone.
  • Students who live off-campus, but who have returned home should use their Philadelphia address and follow theCensus Bureau instructions for Responding to the 2020 Census without a Census ID number. Students still living at their off-campus residences should have received Census information in the mail.

As a reminder, all of our COVID-19-related campus messages continue to be posted at the USciences Public Safety Emergency Blog.  Status of campus operations, as well as tips for working and studying remotely, are posted at the Working Remotely website.  Additional information about COVID-19 and links to governmental sites is available on our COVID-19 webpage.

 

Thank you for your attention and stay safe, 

The COVID-19 Task Force