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4 posts from July 2020


USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (7/30/2020)

Dear USciences Students, Faculty and Staff, 

As we enter August and “back to school” season,  much anticipation is building toward the start of our semester on August 31. Sincerest gratitude to the many faculty and staff who have been preparing for this unique semester for many months now in order to safely deliver the best experience for our students. And thanks to our students for your patience during this challenging time.

Recently the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Health approved our plan to return to campus. Many thanks to our COVID-19 Task Force for putting this together.  Be sure to review the Return to Campus Guidelines published online. Dean of Students Ross Radish will continue regular communications with students to ensure we are all prepared to return to campus safely.

The Leadership Team and I remain committed to our values and to continuing our rigorous, high-quality USciences education, even when offered in some non-traditional ways due to the pandemic. Communications went out to the students last week regarding these plans. Our hybrid approach will include some on-campus experiences, online courses, and coursework that is a mix of the two. All student schedules will be updated in WebAdvisor with information about course modality this week. 

Tuition and fees support a variety of services and expenses at the University, both on-ground and online. These cover not only facility usage, but technology and services that support remote education and other student needs.  While the ultimate cost to deliver all of these services will likely be higher in the coming year, the University has committed to keeping both tuition and fees flat, with no increases for the 2020-21 academic year.

We will continue to monitor state and local guidelines as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization regarding COVID-19. This ever-changing situation requires that we remain flexible and adaptable. 

I had the first meeting with the Diversity and Inclusion Council (David Forde, Ruth Roberts, Tyan Thomas, and student representative Massandje Dosso) last week to charge them with the responsibilities I’ve recently written about. The Council will be engaging multiple internal and external constituencies in this process - students, faculty, staff, student organizations, the Board of Trustees, and our local and regional community - as they launch their work to gather information and solicit input. You will be hearing more from them soon.

On August 19 at 3 p.m. we will be holding an additional virtual Town Hall for faculty and staff. Please be on the lookout for more details as well as information about question submission. 

I’m keenly aware of the toll that the last several months have taken on everyone - it is unprecedented. I hope that in the midst of your preparation for the start of classes and the coming semester you are continuing to take time for self-care and self-reflection. Please try and find ways to separate your work life from your personal life - it’s more challenging while we’re at home, which makes it even more critical that we all commit to doing so.

Finally, the recent death of civil rights icon John Lewis has been on my mind and I’m sure in many of your thoughts. It’s an important time for us to remember the contributions he and many others made to address issues of racism, diversity, and equity, but much remains to be done.

The journey of his casket across the Edmund Pettus Bridge was a memorable moment that I won’t forget.

So for this week’s quote, I chose this:


"You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant."

John Lewis -  "Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America"


Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Stay Connected. 


Paul Katz, MD



COVID-19 Task Force Update (7/30/2020)

 Review the Approved Return to Campus Guidelines

The Task Force has shared an updated USciences Return To Campus Guidelines document available online. This document was recently given support from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Health. 

Appointments at Campus Offices

In an effort to limit in-person interactions at many on-campus offices including the controller’s office, financial aid,  registrar’s office, and student affairs you will be asked to make an appointment in advance, rather than walk-in or drop by the office.  You are encouraged to do this for all offices. More information will be available on the Working Remotely website as the semester approaches.

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

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (7/16/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

Updated “Return to Campus Guidelines”

The Task Force has updated USciences’ Return to Campus Guidelines; the updated PDF and webpages are available at Campus Guidelines.  The updates include recommendations for daily health checks for all campus community members, notification requirements, as well as additional details on contact tracing and testing.  Additional detail is provided on cleaning and disinfection, particularly of high-touch areas, as well as related to building traffic flow and signage.  

International students

On Tuesday, July 14, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement backtracked on guidance announced the previous week that would have required international students return to their home country if coursework were entirely online.  At this point, international students and institutions of higher education will continue to operate under the more flexible guidance provided in March.  

Changes to guidance from the Pennsylvania Governor

PA Governor Wolf released updated guidance on Wednesday, due to the alarming increase in cases both in Pennsylvania as well as nationally.  The new executive order includes the following restrictions:

  • Indoor dining continues to be permitted but is limited to 25% capacity
  • Alcoholic beverages are permitted to be served on-site, but only with full meal service
  • Telework should be implemented wherever possible
  • Indoor gatherings are restricted to 25 people or less (including event staff)
  • Outdoor gatherings are restricted to 250 people or less (note that the City of Philadelphia has restricted outdoor gatherings to 50 people or less)

The full guidance is available here.

Travel restrictions

At this time, the University is following recommendations of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding quarantine after travel to states with high incidence of COVID-19.  The recommendation is for a 14-day home quarantine upon return.  This guidance covers all campus community members.  Please see the PA Department of Health website for the most up to date list.  

New Jersey also has quarantine recommendations, which should be reviewed by individuals residing in that state. Given the escalating cases nationally, travel to any location should be limited to that which is truly essential, and the potential impact of a two-week quarantine should be considered.

The Task Force is looking at these dynamic restrictions in the context of students who may be returning to campus after clinical fieldwork from locations on the quarantine list and will work to formulate specific guidance in those situations. In addition, we are working with both the City and the Commonwealth of PA to better understand options for students who live in high-risk states, and what measures both the university and affected students may need to take to maximize everyone’s safety upon return to campus.  Additional communication to students will be forthcoming.


Cancellation of fall athletic competitions

On Monday, July 13, the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Presidents Council – of which USciences is a member – announced that intercollegiate competition will not occur during the Fall 2020 season “due to safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Additional information is expected from the CACC later this month, addressing potential new opportunities for athletes in fall and winter sports.  At this time, there are no announced changes to the spring sports schedules.


City of Philadelphia event restrictions

Tuesday, the City of Philadelphia announced a moratorium on public events larger than 50 people.  While, as a private entity, USciences is not bound by this moratorium, we plan to continue to adhere to local guidelines, particularly as they relate to public health.  As per the published Return to Campus Guidelines, non-essential visitors are prohibited, and any essential visitors to campus must adhere to safety and hygiene guidelines.  Events on campus will be limited for the remainder of the calendar year in order to maximize campus safety.


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

USciences COVID-19 Task Force Update (7/9/2020)

To: All Staff, Faculty, and Students

As we begin to see an increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, I hope that you and your families are well and safe. This resurgence of the virus serves as a reminder of our need to be vigilant and flexible. 

We continue to be optimistic about our ability to gather again on campus in the fall and are finalizing plans for a hybrid of in-person and virtual courses and activities come August. No matter the medium, we remain committed to continuing to deliver the highest-quality learning to our students. You’ll read more specifics about this in the updates below.

While much is changing day to day, we must continue to be flexible and adapt to the situation as needed. I have seen the resilience of this community during this COVID-19 pandemic and I am inspired by the work our entire USciences family has done to succeed in spite of these challenges. 

Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay connected. 


Paul Katz, MD



The COVID-19 Task Force welcomes our new incoming students!  In addition to the focused updates below, please take a look at the important informational links at the bottom of this message for additional information about USciences' COVID-19 response.


COVID-19 Pandemic Individual Responsibility Statement and Attestation 

To minimize the risk to public health while on USciences’ campus during the pandemic, all faculty, staff, and students are expected to adhere to public health and University guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19.  All parties must work collaboratively to help alleviate the further spread of COVID-19 for these safety purposes. Ensuring the health of our campus community must remain our top priority. 


To this end, notifications and a Qualtrics survey link will be forthcoming to faculty and staff from Human Resources to complete the COVID-19 Pandemic Individual Responsibility Statement and Attestation.  Students currently enrolled in on-campus summer classes or participating in research will receive a similar notification, along with a link to the COVID-19 Pandemic Individual Responsibility Statement and Attestation. The information is to be completed immediately for those currently on campus or, if currently remote, prior to coming onto campus. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. 


Academic Calendar/Fall Semester
The USciences team has been working diligently over the last few months to establish plans for a safe return to USciences this Fall. We plan to begin the semester in late August, holding in-person instruction, conducting research in our laboratories, opening offices, and welcoming students to our residence halls and other facilities, while balancing the health and safety of our community. Our plans are consistent with guidelines established for colleges and universities from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. We are committed to delivering the highest quality learning to our students while assuring the safety of our campus community during these challenging times.

We have made some changes to the academic calendar for the fall 2020 semester. The semester will begin as scheduled on August 31, with classes being held for most undergraduate students on Labor Day. Much of the in-person instruction is planned to be conducted prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. This is to give students flexibility in travel requirements as well as building a buffer in case we need to pivot quickly during the semester because of a rise in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia. Many undergraduate courses will resume after the holiday in an online format for the remainder of the semester, including final exams. Details concerning professional and graduate student courses will be forthcoming in communications from your programs.

Classes will be delivered in a mixture of online and in-person formats for the Fall semester. Laboratory courses requiring a hands-on approach, as well as many smaller classes will have some in-person components designed to accommodate appropriate physical distancing and recommended safety features. Large lecture-based courses will be held online until the time when it is safe to resume these in our classrooms. Because of the way some courses are being scheduled, students will be restricted from switching between sections of their laboratory courses. Programs will soon start sending out communications with more specific course and programmatic details to their students that will answer many of the questions they may have. Those communications will continue as things evolve and we work through creatively scheduling and preparing spaces for in-person instruction.

Return to Campus Training – BizLibrary

Thank you to the 200+ individuals who have completed the online COVID-19 Safety Training programs. Please remember all employees are required to complete the training, available via BizLibrary for all benefits-eligible employees. “The Basics of COVID-19” and “Safe Re-Entry During COVID-19 for Employees” are located at the top of your BizLibrary home page or can be found via the search bar. Please also explore the optional opportunities in your team “Playlist.”  Other instructions have been provided to applicable part-time staff.  In addition to Human Resources, supervisors should track compliance with this requirement via the home page of the HR google drive or via the instructions sent for part-time staff. As a reminder, all individuals must complete this training before returning to campus. 

Mask pickup

The University will provide cloth masks to all employees and students, coordinated through the Department of Public Safety.  Departmental leadership should send requests for employee masks (number requested, department name, and departmental representative who will pick up masks) to Michael Lapotasky (m.lapotasky@usciences.edu).  Masks will be packaged by Public Safety and prepared for departmental pickup promptly.

Student masks distribution will be coordinated through the Office of Student Affairs and, for students participating in summer research, through the Provost’s Office.

Plexiglass barrier installation

The Facilities Department will be installing plexiglass barriers across campus over the coming weeks in high-traffic locations and where physical distancing is difficult.  Installation will be completed by the beginning of the fall semester.

Reporting Positive COVID-19 tests / Daily Health Checks

As a reminder, all faculty, staff, and students should check their temperatures at the beginning of each day, prior to arrival on campus.  Those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees or having symptoms associated with COVID-19 (fever, shortness of breath, chills, unexplained loss of smell or taste, diarrhea, muscle aches, sore throat or headache) should not come to campus.  

All students are to notify SHAC of their illness symptoms at student-healthinfo@usciences.edu, and await further instructions from the SHAC clinician.  Students are also encouraged to notify their primary care provider of their illness symptoms. While symptomatic, students are not permitted to attend class on campus, but may attend class via distance learning if able. Faculty and staff should notify their department head or supervisor (who should report this to the HR Director), and notify their primary care provider of their illness symptoms. 

Individuals who believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should remain at home, contact their healthcare provider or SHAC, and together determine whether self-quarantine is indicated.  Employees should notify their supervisors and Human Resources.

Individuals can also take the CDC Self Checker for additional guidance at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html


USciences COVID-19 Information

  • The University’s Return to Campus Guidelines are available on our website and will be updated periodically as state and local guidance changes.
  • 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

A Message from President Paul Katz - 6/25/20

Good afternoon, everyone.  I trust this message finds you well, safe and hopeful.

As you’ll read in this week’s COVID-19 Task Force’s message below, we remain cautiously optimistic about our region’s transition to the (not really back to the old “normal”) GREEN phase in late July. Coupled with this plan are our Return to Campus Guidelines and the myriad of actions that need to take place in order for us to return to campus safely. You all know the information regarding the uptick in new cases that is being seen in some regions - this worrisome change mandates that we remain vigilant regarding the projected course of the pandemic.

Despite growing and compelling data about reduction of the spread of the disease associated with physical distancing and the use of masks (The Lancet), adherence to this guidance remains quite variable in the U.S. As we return to campus and to Philadelphia, let us commit as a community to a “social compact” where we pledge to protect ourselves and each other by following our Guidelines and the national and local recommendations and regulations whether we’re on or off campus. Our first pandemic-related goal of ensuring the health of our campus community must remain our top priority.

The other topic that must go on as a focal point for USciences is how we plan as a campus united to address issues of racism, social justice and equity.  I want to thank those of you who have taken time following my message from last week to complete the survey we created regarding actions we can take. To date, we have received some great suggestions from students, faculty and staff. We will keep this survey open at least until July 3rd, so please take time to share your ideas. I was on a Zoom call yesterday where a leader of one of our higher ed neighbors opined regarding the challenges in planning a return to campus that “…if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority”. The truth in that statement cannot deter us from addressing this most critical priority.

I haven’t done so recently, but I will close with a quote:


Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Barack Obama

Thank you for your commitment to each other, our University and our community.

Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay connected.


Paul Katz, MD



If you haven’t yet had a chance to review the COVID-19 Return to Campus Guidelines, please do so at USciences.edu/CampusGuidelines.  All employees are required to review this information and will be required to complete mandatory training (available via BizLibrary or other instructions provided or forthcoming if part-time) prior to coming on campus.

 All supervisors should have received an email from Ruth Roberts, Director of Human Resources, on Monday, with additional information on departmental planning for returning to campus.  In addition to those directions, supervisors should assess their departmental needs (faculty and staff) for cloth masks for employees and email requests to Mike Lapotasky, Director of Public Safety (m.lapotasky@usciences.edu). The Department of Public Safety is working with the Office of Purchasing and Auxiliary Services to package and distribute branded cloth masks to all employees who will be on campus through their departments.  Information on student mask distribution will be communicated shortly.

The City of Philadelphia is currently in a modified YELLOW phase of reopening, with some additional activities permitted as of June 26, and with potential plans to transition to GREEN phase later in July.  Please note that the University guidelines may be more restrictive than either the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania guidance (but cannot be less restrictive).  The GREEN phase is not a return to “normal” but is intended to establish and maintain an environment with a lower risk for disease transmission. Information on guidance for the City of Philadelphia is available here.

USciences COVID-19 Information