BU to Require All Employees to Disclose Vaccination Status or Plan
Ahead of Wednesday town hall, President Brown says it’s critical to know “how many of our faculty and staff have been or intend to be vaccinated”
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. But an end is in sight. And with the sidewalks of Comm Ave running through the Boston University campus already starting to come back to life, BU leaders say it’s essential, and now mandatory, that they know how many members of the BU community are vaccinated against the coronavirus so they can plan for as normal a fall semester as possible.
In a letter sent Friday to faculty and staff, BU President Robert A. Brown, who will hold a Back2BU Repopulating the Campus Faculty & Staff Town Hall on Wednesday, June 2, at 10 am, focused on back-to-work plans and protocols, said that “all University employees and affiliates are required to disclose their current vaccination status or plan.” (Details about those back-to-work plans can be found on the Back2BU website, and some are outlined below.)
In addition, Brown wrote: “Those who have been vaccinated are required to upload their vaccination documentation unless they were vaccinated at the BU Charles River vaccination clinic.” His letter outlines how employees must, by Friday, June 4, complete a short survey on the Healthway website that asks if the person is already fully vaccinated, intends to be fully vaccinated by August 1, or will not be vaccinated by August 1.
The information will be stored in employees’ confidential BU Occupational Health medical record, and will be used only “to help us make BU community health decisions,” Brown wrote in his letter.
BU has already said that it is requiring students to be vaccinated for the fall semester, joining a growing number of schools and colleges across the country. The Chronicle of Higher Education says more than 430 schools nationwide are requiring students or employees, or both, to be vaccinated by the fall.
The University will continue to adhere to guidelines published by the CDC and state and local health authorities. However, in some cases we will have stricter requirements that allow us to best reduce risk of transmission for our unique community.
However, BU leaders have so far resisted requiring faculty and staff to be vaccinated, hoping the vast majority will do so on their own. With more than 51 percent of its population vaccinated, Massachusetts is the fourth most vaccinated state in the country.
Brown’s letter said he hopes that BU does not have to require faculty and staff to be vaccinated to ensure a safe fall semester and also said the survey results will be key in determining next steps. “We hope to accomplish this goal without mandating vaccination, but this option is still a possibility if we do not reach our goal,” he wrote.
Back-to-work guidelines emerge
Meanwhile, as many BU employees return to campus for the first time since March 2020, the University is issuing guidelines designed for a new normal. Those guidelines, recommended by the University’s Medical Advisory Group, will be explained in Brown’s June 2 town hall. Questions can be submitted in advance and answers to many of the most frequently asked questions are posted on the Back2BU website.
Judy Platt, chair of the Medical Advisory Group and director of Student Health Services, says that BU’s highest priority in making certain decisions around the coronavirus has been to maintain a campus that is as safe as possible for all members of our community.
“The University will continue to adhere to guidelines published by the CDC and state and local health authorities,” she says. “However, in some cases we will have stricter requirements that allow us to best reduce risk of transmission for our unique community. While we have seen rapidly declining citywide, statewide, and campus-wide infection rates and a high availability of vaccines, including our own vaccination clinics for people who still need them, we are proceeding thoughtfully.”
That thoughtfulness means that the 2021 Summer Term will continue using the Learn from Anywhere hybrid teaching and learning framework, and the University will maintain COVID testing, daily health screening, and facial coverings indoors. Social distancing protocols will stay in place in the classrooms for the summer, but not the fall. Plans also include a gradual return to campus, starting with operating at 50 percent occupancy for staff on the Charles River Campus beginning Monday, June 14, and moving to 100 percent occupancy on August 1. Because some University program protocols may vary, Platt says, employees should check with their program for current regulations.
The main protocols that will remain in place for the time being are testing, attesting, and wearing facial coverings indoors, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Platt says that staff who come to campus only two or three days a week will be asked to do their daily health screening on days they come to campus, but not on their scheduled days working remotely or weekends. Individuals with COVID symptoms have a direct line of communication with Healthway nurses and will be prioritized for testing at the Health Services Annex (925 Comm Ave, rear). This allows BU’s clinical lab to prioritize these samples and get results back quickly.
Other good news: masks won’t be required outdoors regardless of vaccination status or ability to distance. Indoor masking will still be required for all settings, with some exceptions: dining halls, private offices, residence hall rooms and apartments, and break rooms and lunch rooms. Staff who work in private offices can take their mask off, but like everyone, must use it in common areas like corridors and conference rooms. Staff who work in a cubicle must wear a facial covering, and department heads are encouraged to allow those workers to use empty offices and conference rooms.
As of June 14, physical distancing will not be required in most areas, although it is recommended in break rooms and lunch rooms when removing masks for eating and drinking. And yes, in-person meetings are OK. Staff who are uncomfortable sharing a conference room or an office with others should talk to their supervisor to see if there is a way to attend a meeting via Zoom or by simply listening through a speaker. Platt says the University appreciates that there may be a level of discomfort among those employees who have worked remotely for the past 15 months, and supervisors are expected to be responsive to individual concerns.
For a more complete guide to the new rules for working at BU, see the FAQ on Back2BU.