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COVID-19: Update to AU Faculty & Staff

American University Office of Human Resources letterhead

Dear AU Faculty & Staff,

Important points to know about our current response to coronavirus and flu:


Operating Status

American University continues to monitor closely the progression of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). At this time, U.S. health authorities are working to contain the spread of the virus and there are not definitive projections about how widespread it may become.

Given this uncertainty, and the fact that the seasonal influenza (flu) virus is also widespread, we are taking proactive steps to maintain a safe workplace and encourage practices that protect the health of our community. This includes maintaining an inclusive work environment and avoiding stigma around the COVID-19 virus.

As of today, the university operating status is unchanged, and we will regularly communicate about any changes going forward.

Preventive Measures to Reduce Transmission of Illnesses

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth with tissues whenever you sneeze, and discard used tissues in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid socializing in bathrooms, break rooms and small, confined spaces.
  • Contact your doctor if you’re not feeling well.
  • Remain in regular contact with your manager when needing to use sick leave.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Aramark, AU’s housekeeping contractor, has provided guidance and training to their housekeeping staff, stocked materials and supplies, and continues to enhance their cleaning protocols to help reduce the spread of viruses. AU departments may provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cleaning sprays and wipes for employees to use to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as telephones and keyboards.

If Exhibiting Flu-Like Symptoms

It is important that you not report to work if you are experiencing a combination of symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills or fatigue

If you are experiencing some combination of these symptoms, please let your manager know you are ill and cannot come to work, contact your primary care physician, and remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications (as per CDC recommendations).

Leave Benefits

When you or a family member are ill, utilize the paid leave benefits which are available to you:

  • Staff are provided with accrued sick leave to cover absences for their own illness or to care for an ill family member. Full-time staff also have access to a sick leave donation pool in situations in which they do not have enough accrued sick leave to cover their absence. The pool will be available for documented flu or COVID-19 diagnoses.
  • Full-time staff who have considerable hours built up and would like to help others who may have fewer accumulated sick hours may donate leave to the pool; complete the Leave Share form to donate.
  • Family Medical Leave provides job protection in cases of continuous or intermittent leave for oneself or to care for a family member. • Short-term disability covers extended periods of leave due to one’s own illness (2 weeks to 6 months in duration).
  • Long-term disability provides salary continuation during periods of disability that extend beyond 6 months.
  • In cases of local school and day care closings that require parents to remain home with their children, staff may use annual leave or explore the option of teleworking on a continuous or intermittent basis.
  • Part-time staff and student workers are eligible to accrue sick leave benefits for up to 7 days per calendar year if they are enrolled as full-time students and work 25 hours per week or more.

In order to protect our community from the spread of the flu or other viruses, employees who report to work ill will be sent home. At this time, we will generally not require a doctor’s note from an employee who uses sick leave.

Depending upon the situation, AU’s emergency back-up care for dependents may be an option. Reference the Bright Horizons policy in response to COVID-19 if you are considering using the back-up care service.

Department Contingency Planning

As we anticipate and prepare to react to a wide range of scenarios that could result from this situation, we are asking each department to develop an operating contingency plan that includes the identification of essential functions that must be maintained during emergency situations. This includes identification of staff positions responsible to perform the essential functions.

Steps departments can take now:

  • Take this time to cross train staff to build additional capacity in order to maintain essential functions.
  • Increase telecommuting arrangements by proactively establishing Flex Work agreements with staff, especially those who staff essential functions and test run the arrangements. This includes ensuring that employees know how to use the VPN, and Microsoft Teams for work collaboration and videoconferencing. Visit the OIT telework site for information and learning sessions on these tools.

For now, we urge our community to take the preventive measures that have been shared by the CDC to prevent the spread of the flu virus and the guidance contained in this memo. As a reminder, if you are planning personal travel outside the U.S., please reference the university’s International Travel Guidelines.

We will continue to update the community as the COVID-19 situation develops. If you have questions or concerns, please contact HR at 202-885-3836 or hrpayrollhelp@american.edu.

Sincerely,

Beth Muha
Assistant Vice President of Human Resources