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  • Sept. 4, 2020, Update: Testing availability, data and other updates

    Dear WMU Community,

    Congratulations on completing the first week of fall semester. In any academic year, acclimating to a new semester after a long recess can take a few days. This year has the additional challenge of learning how to operate as an on-campus community amid a global pandemic. Together, we're doing it for the worthwhile purpose of delivering or receiving WMU's quality educational experience while following safety precautions. Thank you for your contributions to making this semester one that is healthy, safe and full of learning opportunities and achievements.

    We also come to you today with another roundup of reminders and important new information for you to know. The latest:

    Additional no-cost COVID-19 tests: Students asked. Leaders listened. WMU is now offering one additional no-cost test for faculty, staff and students who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 but still want to be tested. Asymptomatic individuals can now receive a total of two rapid-result antigen tests for no out-of-pocket cost.

    WMU faculty, staff and students also receive a no-cost test if they have COVID-19 symptoms, answered "yes" to any of the questions on the daily self-monitoring survey or were directed to be tested as a close contact of an infected individual.

    It's important to understand that a COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time. An asymptomatic person who tests negative for the novel coronavirus must still continue to follow all the related health and safety precautions—consistently wearing a mask, social distancing in the presence of others, frequent hand-washing and staying home when ill. Tests are most accurate five days or more after exposure to a positive person, but they do not negate the need for continued quarantine.

    COVID-19 Case Dashboard: To stay informed about the incidence of COVID-19 among WMU community members, continue to visit the COVID-19 Case Dashboard on the University's Safe Return website. Individuals who have a confirmed case of the virus should isolate until a health care provider gives them clearance to circulate again among members of the general public.

    Bronco Student Pledge: We appreciate the overwhelming support for the Bronco Student Pledge—98.9% of students have so far affirmed the pledge, agreeing to follow all of the University's COVID-19-related health and safety requirements for the well-being of all members of the WMU community. Members of the President's Cabinet also have taken the pledge.

    Mask use: There has been some confusion about where one should wear a mask or a facial covering on campus. Please wear a mask indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. For instance, if you are outside and consistently beyond 6 feet from others, it's permissible to take your mask off. When you are within 6 feet of others outside, however, your mask should be covering your nose and mouth.

    As we move through this atypical semester together, we should continue to extend grace and gratitude to each other. Successfully navigating a new life experience often takes resilience, which, in turn, helps to build resilience. That's how Broncos thrive and prosper.

    Please continue to visit the Safe Return website and COVID-19 website for resources and information.

    Be smart. Be safe. Be Broncos.

    Sincerely,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

  • August 28, 2020, WMU's Safe Campus Strategy and the COVID-19 Case Dashboard

    Dear WMU community,

    Thanks to all who joined us for Wednesday's Back to Campus Briefings, where President Montgomery and others reviewed the University's Safe Campus Strategy, the health and safety portion of our Safe Return Plan.

    Some highlights:

    • COVID-19 case counts will be posted in a dashboard on the Safe Return Plan website each Friday—beginning today;
    • Section 14 (Harm to persons) of the Student Code of Conduct has been updated to include sanctions for violating COVID-19 safety rules related to off-campus activities; and
    • All students, faculty and staff are required to complete a daily health survey before arriving on campus and may be asked to show clearance status to a supervisor, faculty member, Sindecuse Health Center staff member or others through the survey's badging system.

    It's useful to think of our Safe Campus Strategy as resting on four pillars—protect, monitor, test and isolate. The University will provide the tools and guidance—examples include the student mask distribution event, which begins Monday, Aug. 31, and the Safe Return Plan itself—but all of us must also do our part to individually stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Please find more detail about each of the pillars of the Safe Campus Strategy below our signatures.

    We are confident the measures outlined in the strategy will mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But each of must make the commitment through our behavior to help keep ourselves, our neighbors and our campus safe—all together, all of the time. In this challenging period, we have the strength and the resilience to thrive and prosper as a community. We can do this.

    Sincerely,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair
     


    Safe Campus Strategy Overview


    Here's an overview of those four foundational strategies, which are detailed on the Safe Return Plan website.

    Protect

    • Wear a mask: Masks are required in indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
    • Practice vigilant hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Maintain physical distance: Stay at least 6 feet away from others while in public spaces.
    • Stay home if ill: If you are experiencing even the slightest COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 for next steps.


    Monitor

    Take the daily health survey: Students, faculty and staff must complete a self-monitoring questionnaire each day before arriving on campus. Find this health survey at wmich.edu/survey. The survey is integrated into the Sindecuse patient portal, which includes every WMU community member. You can also access it through GoWMU.

    Here's how it works:

    • Login directly through wmich.edu/survey using your Bronco NetID and password—or access the survey through GoWMU.
    • You will answer a series of screening questions.
    • Once completed, you will receive a "badge" that can be visible on your mobile device. You may be asked to show your badge before entering a class or event. Sindecuse staff also use the badging system to admit employees and visitors to the health center.

    Badges:

    Green = Cleared. It's OK to visit campus on the date shown.
    Yellow = Survey is overdue.
    Orange = Quarantine. You answered "yes" to a screening question and should contact Sindecuse for further assessment, or you have been identified as a close contact through contact tracing.
    Red = Isolation. You have tested positive, are being monitored by the health center and may live on or off campus.

    This time-stamped badge is accessible from the main screen of the patient portal.

     

    Test

    • Rapid-result testing: No-cost, rapid-result antigen testing for COVID-19 is available to the WMU community at Sindecuse.
    • Pre-fall mass testing: Ahead of the semester, a five-day, free testing event began Thursday and runs through Monday, Aug. 31, at the Student Rec Center. Call (269) 387-3287 to make an appointment. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, walk-ins will not be accepted. Learn more about the event here.
    • Always use Sindecuse for testing: Sindecuse offers an advantage in our fight against COVID-19 spread through dedicated, highly accurate testing, contact tracing and care exclusively for the WMU community. That means faster isolation of outbreaks. But we only get that protection if Sindecuse clinicians know about all the cases.


    Isolate

    • COVID-19 case communications: WMU will balance communicating information necessary to keep individuals and the community safe while also protecting privacy and abiding by federal law (HIPAA). All four strategies in this plan are designed to limit COVID-19 exposure. Case communication is one of many protections.
    • Chain of notifications: If an individual tests positive for COVID-19 through on-campus testing, Sindecuse will quickly notify the patient and will inform close contacts about their exposure to an infected individual. Those exposed must quarantine for 14 days. Sindecuse staff will also alert local and state health officials.
    • If the patient is a student: The student's name and isolation dates will be communicated to the dean of students and faculty. If the student gives consent, their diagnosis will also be shared with the dean of students and faculty. The director of housing will be notified if the student lives on campus. Sindecuse will direct Facilities Management to spaces that require special cleaning, if needed.
    • If the patient is an employee: The employee’s name, positive test result and isolation dates will be confidentially communicated to their supervisor. Sindecuse will direct Facilities Management on spaces and University vehicles that require special cleaning, if needed. Depending on the circumstances, colleagues who share a space with the employee may be notified that a co-worker tested positive. No other information will be shared.
  • August 21, 2020, Mass testing event set for Aug. 27-Sept. 1; make your appointment today

    Editor’s note: Message updated to reflect an extra day added to the multiple-day testing event. The final day is now Tuesday, Sept. 1.


    Dear campus community,

     

    We're thrilled to welcome you back to campus. WMU is a University in which you can thrive and prosper, and we always want the on-campus experience to be as safe and healthy as possible.

    A critical step toward a safe campus is to test as many of us as possible before we rejoin the campus community. We need your help: Get tested now. We are fortunate to have no-cost, rapid-result antigen testing for COVID-19. Results are typically available within one hour, and these will be posted to your portal account. If you are positive, our staff will reach out to you regarding your positive result.

    We’ve made this as easy as possible for you: Testing is at no cost, and we’re having a multiple-day testing event, Aug. 27 through Sept. 1, at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus.

    To get tested:

    • As a student or benefits-eligible employee, you will not be charged out of pocket for the test. Temporary employees will be eligible for a no-cost test during this event only.
    • Make an appointment by calling (269) 387-3287. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, we will not be able to accept walk-ins.
    • Arrive a few minutes early for your scheduled time, and be sure to wear a mask.
    • Park in Lot 13, which is just east of the rec center across Ring Road South, and check in at the large roll-up door.

    Many of us are a little anxious about the start of school. I want to reassure you that we can have a safe and productive year. As our University's medical director, I cannot overemphasize that testing is a crucial step to fighting the disease and staying safe. Get tested. Encourage your friends to do the same. We can do this. Here are other ways to keep us all safe:

    • Wear a mask: On campus, masks are required in indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
    • Keep your hands clean: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Maintain physical distance: Stay 6 feet away from others while in public spaces.
    • Monitor symptoms and get tested: Even after getting tested next week, if you ever develop symptoms of COVID-19, no-cost testing will be available to all on campus.

    Your well-being is paramount at WMU. We put measures in place to safeguard your health and constantly evaluate ways to improve our safety practices. To that end, please continue to read your emails and visit the University's Safe Return Plan website.  You will learn about new developments, enhancements to our safety protocols and our expectations of you as a campus community member. Together, we will make this a great year.

     

    Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Broncos.

     

    Thank you,

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.

    Medical Director

    Sindecuse Health Center

  • August 19, 2020, Fall plans for in-person instruction remain in place

    Dear campus community,

     

    Recently, some universities have made headlines by choosing to move their fall courses online, as Michigan State University did late yesterday. While MSU is maintaining in-person instruction for graduate students as well as for those in its health, law and veterinary colleges and for those in lab, studio and performance-based classes, their decision has led to questions about whether our plans have changed.

    Given that our focus is on the health and safety of our community, we have consistently made decisions based on practices recommended by health professionals, the data about conditions on our campus and in our area, and government regulations. We will continue to do so. As the pandemic is ever changing, we are prepared to, and will, adapt accordingly. Based on these factors, we are continuing to implement our Safe Return Plan.

    Each day we are reviewing data and remain in continuous communication with the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department (KCHCS). Just yesterday, Health Officer Jim Rutherford, who is leading our community response to the pandemic, met with University academic leaders at a Provost's Council meeting.

    I’ve asked for Mr. Rutherford’s current assessment of our situation. He says:

     

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response, the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department has been carefully evaluating data and providing public health guidance based on current trends in our county, state and country. We are applying that same methodology as we consult with WMU on their reopening plans and support their plan to welcome Broncos to campus this fall.

    From a public health perspective, risk cannot be entirely eliminated. So, we focus on reducing risk and providing practical ways to keep risk low. Our guidance is based upon the implementation of risk mitigation measures, which WMU has emphasized in its plan. These measures have proven to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Our health department staff continues to monitor relevant data and case studies, and we will continue to guide WMU based on the data and research as we move through the school year.

    By diligently following the public health recommendations, not only while in school, but most importantly during social interactions outside of school, people are reducing their risk of contracting COVID-19. It takes all of us sharing the responsibility and adhering to all of the public health recommendations.

     

    In addition to the guidance of health officials, we consider state and local information, such as local trends in new cases, state trends in new cases relative to testing and local hospital ICU capacity, to name a few. Yesterday I reviewed relevant data with cabinet members who are advising me on our response. Here are a few data points that you might find helpful:

    • Since mid-June, Michigan’s test positivity rate has remained flat, while testing has steadily grown. Positivity rate is the percentage of all tests that are positive. Among its neighboring states, Michigan has the lowest positivity rate and the second-highest testing rate.
    • Kalamazoo County’s new-cases trend peaked in mid-July and has flattened with a slight downward trend since then.
    • The local number of hospitalizations is low with sufficient capacity for critical cases.

    We also have one of the most comprehensive plans in the state, with every department having a tailored return-to-work strategy. Many of our employees will continue to work from home some or all of the time, and faculty and staff will meet in a variety of in-person, distance education and hybrid formats. We also have available to us highly sophisticated, rapid testing that we’ve made barrier-free for students, faculty members and staff through Sindecuse Health Center. Testing is complemented by a thorough contact tracing program—capacity that most peer institutions do not have available on site.

    As we move forward, I will continue to monitor an array of data and continue to work closely with KCHCS. I am prepared to take actions necessary to manage spread, should it occur, while delivering our mission to the fullest extent our local situation allows. Our community can safely come back to campus if we remain vigilant and continue to follow the plans so many of us have worked hard to develop and that will promote safety in all settings. We will succeed if we work together; I invite you to join me.

     

    Sincerely,

    Ed Montgomery

    President

  • July 17, 2020, WMU releases Safe Return Plan for fall semester

    Dear WMU student,

    Today I am pleased to share our University’s Safe Return Plan. With a month and a half to go before we start the fall semester, we have a strong plan that will allow us to come back together on Sept. 2. Its development demonstrates our shared commitment to this community.

    Many people have been planning the safest and most practical strategies for the academic year. They’ve been consulting the data, working with state and local public health experts and considering options for protocols that will allow you to enjoy an engaging semester while staying healthy and safe.

    I hope you’ve been reading the emails you’ve received about your academic schedule. Faculty and staff are still working out the details, so continue to monitor your inbox to see what adjustments might remain for your class offerings.

    By reviewing the Safe Return Plan, you’ll see what we have in place for everything from housing to dining to buying your textbooks. You’ll learn about what’s in store for move-in, how Sindecuse Health Center will handle COVID-19 testing and other services, and what you can expect for any in-person classes or labs.

    As I noted, your WMU faculty and staff are preparing for the fall, but we can’t keep everyone healthy and safe on campus without full participation from all members of our community. You are an important contributor. Please plan to wear a mask everywhere except within your apartment or residence hall room. Practice social distancing in all situations. Wash your hands and keep your living spaces clean. These actions might seem simple (and maybe a little uncomfortable), but they mean everything in keeping everyone healthy.

    Our motto for the year is: Be smart. Be safe. Be Broncos.

    I look forward to welcoming you back to Kalamazoo on Sept. 2. Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, and get ready for a fun and productive fall.
     
    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • July 17, 2020, WMU's Safe Return Plan and the latest updates on personnel, budget

    Dear colleagues,

    Today I’m pleased to share our University’s Safe Return Plan. With a month and a half to go before we start the fall semester, we have a strong plan that will allow us to come back together on Sept. 2. Its development demonstrates our shared commitment to this community. It is the culmination of a continuing effort by a broad group of individuals who have studied the data, consulted with health experts, thought carefully and planned accordingly at a time when we all want answers quickly.

    This effort was enriched, informed and influenced by the questions and suggestions of everyone who participated in town halls, sent emails and made phone calls. Please join me in thanking the Fall Contingency Task Force and the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team for coordinating and leading the effort to develop this plan.

    This data-driven, public health-informed, collaborative approach is important in fostering a safe campus and supporting a strong academic year. The keys to its success are within our grasp with some fairly simple steps. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Treat each other with respect and consideration.

    While we continue to confront a world with great uncertainty, I am looking forward to a great year on our campus. Our teaching, research and engagement will no doubt have a profound impact on our students and community.

    I also want to provide you with an update on several administrative matters. We now have some budget information from the state and, while not complete, we have finalized many stages of our personnel plans.

    Budget Update

    In May, we projected that in fiscal year 2020-21 we would face between a $45 million and $85 million budget shortfall. As a result of the magnitude of these cuts, we began planning for the worst case even as we hoped for better news in the fall. While actual fall enrollment is still unknown at this time, current state budget information and our enrollment trends suggest that our base budget shortfall will be near the $85 million estimate.

    Gov. Whitmer and legislative leaders reached a bipartisan budget agreement for necessary cuts to balance the state’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget. State baseline funding for public universities will be reduced by approximately 11%, which is about $12.4 million to Western’s operating budget. Keep in mind that while this cut is for the WMU fiscal year that ended on June 30, its effect will be felt in our 2020-21 base budget. And, as the state considers its 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, our new appropriation level, with the 11% cut, will likely become our new baseline budget. Further, given the state’s projected deficit, it is quite likely that higher education in Michigan will experience another state appropriation reduction that will impact our 2020-21 budget.

    Despite this bad news with regard to state support for our base budget, we did receive news that we will receive federal CARES Act monies that the state has already obtained to help back fill the 2019-20 cut. It’s important to note that this is one-time money only. CARES Act funding must be spent on COVID-19-related expenses and comes with constraints that our state operational funding does not.

    It remains too early to tell how enrollment will play out. Orientation, one of our key indicators of intent to enroll, is ongoing, and we continue to see movement across all classes as students and families finalize their decisions.

    Personnel Update

    We received 96 applications for the faculty Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program, which closed on June 30. Applications came from every college. While I’m sure we will have formal goodbyes, I want to thank those esteemed colleagues who decided to avail themselves of this plan for their service to our students and to making the world, and WMU, a better place.

    The plan allows these 96 applicants a 45-day window to reconsider and withdraw if they so choose. As a result, we will not know the final number until the middle of August. This potential level of participation will certainly ease, but unfortunately will not eliminate, our budget pressures in meeting the $85 million shortfall. As a result, in mid-May the University took the step to notify all term faculty that they may be affected by a layoff. While no term faculty were laid off, we did not renew a number of contracts.

    Among AFSCME employees, the reopening of in-person activity has allowed us to recall many of our custodial personnel. As a result, 130 cleaning professionals will be on hand, all year, keeping our campus safe and clean. We were also able to recall many of our maintenance employees to help us prepare for the start of fall semester. We also anticipate a significant recall of dining staff in a few weeks as well. The recall process takes several weeks and can generate a great deal of position transitioning, so a final picture will be available with fall semester.

    Layoff notices for Staff Compensation System—SCS—employees are complete and the bumping process is complete in all divisions except our largest, Academic Affairs. Our best estimate is that all bumping will be complete by the end of July.

    Based on seniority, the layoff notice periods for SCS staff vary widely, from four weeks to a full year advanced notice. Layoffs will take effect on or before the first week of class for about 100 staff members with four weeks to four months of notice.

    The remaining staff have notice periods of six months or a full year before their layoffs take effect. During the fall semester, we will provide updated numbers for staff whose layoff notices are finalized.

    These personnel changes have been extremely difficult for those affected and for our community. None of these difficult decisions were made lightly.  

    Once again, I thank you for everything that you have done and are doing for WMU as we work through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will keep you apprised of further developments as we move into the coming academic year, and we welcome your continuing questions and ideas.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • June 22, 2020, Update: President's message to students and families regarding the fall 2020 semester

    Dear WMU students and families,

    After a great deal of planning, we are very pleased to let you know that on Sept. 2 we will return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.

    Following the start of classes, students will work through the fall without the usual October break, and in-person instruction for most classes will end on Nov. 20, about a week ahead of Thanksgiving. The last weeks of classes and final exams will be conducted remotely and the semester will end on Dec. 19. WMU's faculty voted on and approved this fall schedule on Wednesday, June 17. Forgoing fall break and ending in-person instruction early eliminates the public health risk associated with employees and students potentially bringing the novel coronavirus to campus after traveling to disparate communities.

    Our community will be back together on campus, but not all classes can feasibly be delivered in person. For instance, this will be true of classes that enroll more than 70 people. WMU is therefore prepared to provide instruction through a number of learning modalities, including in-person, hybrid, asynchronous online, fully synchronous online and partially synchronous online. More information about these modalities will be available closer to the start of fall semester.

    A safe campus for all
    Our first thought in every decision is for our students’ health and safety. While we’ve made a lot of progress, I know that there remain questions to be answered, especially around how best to promote health and safety. Increasing our precision on these guidelines is among our top priorities in preparation for fall. We are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available.

    A safe campus for all will require an all-in commitment. We are taking an approach with two pillars: culture and communication, combined with guidelines and enforcement. They will be designed to create a campus where we all exhibit these four behaviors at all times:

    • Masks: Students, faculty and staff wear them indoors if you are not alone.

    • Testing and monitoring: Monitor your health, and get tested immediately at the earliest symptoms. Stay home if you are sick. Sindecuse Health Center has rapid-result COVID-19 testing, which offers results on the same day or next day.

    • Hygiene: Wash hands frequently and correctly; clean workspaces and high-touch surfaces thoroughly and frequently.

    • Social distancing: Try to maintain 6 feet of distance all the time.


    Our goal is to build a community culture that supports shared reliance on the practices that will enable us to limit the spread of COVID-19 and remain open for in-person classes. We’re putting policies in place that will make it easy to support this culture and protect students, faculty and staff. We are keeping an eye toward making sure there is equitable enforcement and that we offer appropriate accommodations.

    While WMU already has a low ratio of students per faculty (16:1), when you return to campus, you will do so to smaller in-person class sizes while practicing 6 feet of physical distancing, using face coverings and studying in indoor spaces that are maintained using heightened sanitation procedures. Student housing and dining have been planned to promote safety and restrict the size of gatherings. We will provide additional information as we move closer to the fall. In the meantime, you can find updates on our COVID-19 website.

    I know that you’ll have more questions about how we are protecting your health and safety, and we are still finalizing policies and procedures. These are our priorities and we are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available. I know that you’ve heard it before, but it is very true that wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequently washing your hands are effective measures for limiting the spread. These are the foundational tools that we are employing to keep everyone safe; but it’s not enough for us to set up these guidelines—it’s incumbent on everyone to use them so that we can protect one another and keep our campus healthy.

    Thank you for your patience as we have painstakingly developed our plans and made these decisions. Individuals across our campus have been working diligently to ensure that every effort is focused on protecting your well-being while providing you with an outstanding educational experience.

    There's more information to come. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1, you are invited to take part in a virtual town hall. During this session, we will be sharing additional details about the fall semester. At the appointed day and time, you will be able to access the town hall at wmich.edu/president.

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you on campus in September.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President




  • June 22, 2020, Update: President's message to employees regarding the fall 2020 semester

    Dear colleagues,

    During the town hall session on Monday, June 15, we announced that we will be resuming in-person classes on Sept. 2. Today, I have further details on the timing and process behind our preparations for our upcoming transition to the fall semester and additional aspects of our University operations. Please also see the FAQs generated by last Monday's town hall, covering topics or issues you raised ranging from mask-wearing requirements for campus community members to personnel updates.

    Fall academic calendar
    Students will work through the fall without the usual October break, and in-person instruction for most classes will end on Nov. 20, about a week ahead of Thanksgiving. The last weeks of classes and final exams will be conducted remotely and the semester will conclude Dec. 19. Forgoing fall break and ending in-person instruction early eliminates the public health risk associated with employees and students potentially bringing the novel coronavirus to campus after traveling to disparate communities.

    As Provost Bott shared in last week’s Academic Forum and today in her town hall, our community will be back together on campus for in-person classes. But not all classes can feasibly be delivered in person. For instance, this will be true of classes that enroll more than 70 people. Working with their department chairs/directors and deans, faculty members may determine it is appropriate to provide instruction through a number of learning modalities including in-person, hybrid, asynchronous online, fully synchronous online and partially synchronous online.

    My thanks to the numerous faculty and staff who have worked to make this updated schedule happen, including the members of our Fall Contingency Task Force and the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team, along with great collaboration from WMU-AAUP and the Faculty Senate.

    A safe campus for all
    While we’ve made a lot of progress, I know that there remain questions to be answered, especially around how to best promote health and safety. Increasing our precision on these guidelines is among our top priorities in preparation for fall. We are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available.

    A safe campus for all will require an all-in commitment. We are taking an approach with two pillars: culture and communication, combined with guidelines and enforcement. They will be designed to create a campus where we all exhibit these four behaviors at all times:

    •    Masks: Students, faculty and staff wear them indoors if you are not alone.

    •    Testing and monitoring: Fill out the online health screening questionnaire found in GoWMU before coming to campus each day, and get tested immediately at the earliest symptoms. Stay home if you are sick. Sindecuse Health Center has rapid-result COVID-19 testing, which offers results on the same day or next day.

    •    Hygiene: Wash hands frequently and correctly; clean workspaces and high-touch surfaces thoroughly and frequently.

    •    Social distancing: Try to maintain six feet of distance all the time.


    Our goal is to build a community culture that supports shared reliance on the practices that will enable us to limit the spread of COVID-19 and remain open for in-person classes. We’re putting policies in place that will make it easy to support this culture and protect students, faculty and staff. We are keeping an eye toward making sure there is equitable enforcement and that we offer appropriate accommodations.

    While WMU already has a low ratio of students per faculty (16:1), when students return to campus, they will do so to smaller in-person class sizes while practicing 6 feet of physical distancing, using face coverings and studying in spaces that are maintained using heightened sanitation procedures. Student housing and dining have been planned to promote safety and restrict the size of gatherings. We will provide additional information as we move closer to the fall. In the meantime, you can find updates on our newly revamped COVID-19 information site.

    Return to campus
    When it comes to returning to work on campus, each unit is putting together return-to-work plans and University leaders are assessing which buildings will and will not be open this fall. Keeping buildings hibernated is essential to addressing our financial challenges.

    Although we will work remotely whenever possible, the needed preparations for fall return and the adaptations departments have made to accommodate remote work have supplanted the need for limited work schedules. Therefore, essential/conditional essential employment status for SCS staff will end on July 1. But employees should consult with their supervisors on how and where they will continue their work through the summer and into the fall. I want to emphasize that working remotely is still encouraged whenever it is feasible. We remain in Limited Operation Status and are continuing to consult with state and federal leaders and follow public health and safety guidelines.

    Reduction in Force notices nearly complete
    As we announced in May, the budgetary challenges brought on by the global pandemic have forced us to make some difficult decisions with regard to operations and staffing. Every part of the University was impacted and the choices before us were gut-wrenching. We have tried to approach each of these decisions with the utmost care and compassion.

    As part of addressing the anticipated budgetary shortfall, staff who will be affected should receive their layoff notices by July 1, as we move forward with planning to address the anticipated shortfall. The Reduction in Force process will now move into the bumping process, as required in the RIF Policy. However, we are likely to remain in a period of fluidity as units move through their reduction plans and more in-person operations resume on campus. For example, the bumping process still must be completed and some previously laid-off employees, such as maintenance workers, are being recalled. Moreover, final fall enrollment numbers are still unknown, state funding is in flux and the results of the faculty early retirement program are yet unknown. We should also keep in mind that the disease has not run its course, so there may yet be more government restrictions or actions.

    As we methodically work toward the "new normal" operation status on campus, I wish that I could tell you that our greatest challenges are behind us and that we are not facing further pandemic-induced stresses on our campus, but that would be disingenuous. Instead, I’ll tell you that I know that we can face whatever lies ahead because of the talent, the caring and the dedication of those in the WMU community. Thank you for everything that you are doing for our students and for each other in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President


  • June 1, 2020, Update: WMU remains on Limited Operations as governor lifts some stay-at-home restrictions

    Dear colleagues:

    Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer loosened some of Michigan's stay-at-home restrictions, but there are still significant limitations in place as part of the state's COVID-19 response. For example, while the governor's updated directives now permit outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people practicing social distancing, office work capable of being performed remotely must continue to be performed remotely to the maximum extent possible.

    WMU's campus remains on Limited Operations Status. President Montgomery communicated in a previous message that the University's restoration to normal operations would come in stages to ensure we have the appropriate and required public health protections in place, in compliance with government directives and campus safety. Thus, WMU employees will continue to work remotely until otherwise notified by their supervisors. Access to campus remains restricted to certain essential work only, and building access remains limited to those who have approval to return to authorized essential activities.  

    Several units have begun developing return-to-work plans that specify safety procedures and other processes that ensure appropriate and compliant measures are in place to protect public health. They are being reviewed for approval by the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team, in consultation with the Kalamazoo County Health Department and, ultimately, the President's Cabinet. While some requests have been submitted, reviewed and approved, most offices remain closed with work assignments being completed remotely. All University operations must be approved before restarting.

    In instances where a building remains closed or a supervisor directs employees to fulfill work assignments remotely, full-time, benefits-eligible SCS staff may continue to use available COVID-19 allowance balances in the absence of a work assignment.
     
    Later this week, we will be communicating more information to University leaders who oversee their operations and provide more guidance for developing and submitting plans.


    Thank you,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

  • May 28, 2020, Update: Sindecuse now offers rapid-result COVID-19 testing

    Dear WMU community,

    Rapid-result COVID-19 testing is now available at Sindecuse Health Center, one of the few sites in Kalamazoo County with this capability. Results are typically available on the same day and will be posted in the center's patient portal. Patients may also call Sindecuse to learn test results by phone.

    Currently, testing is available to WMU students, faculty, staff and eligible retirees. At this time, we will prioritize symptomatic individuals, as well as faculty and staff working on campus in areas such as, for example, Dining Services, the Department of Public Safety, Facilities Management, Residence Life and Sindecuse.

    To schedule an appointment at the center, call (269) 387-3287.

    Testing procedures
    If you have active COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, or if you previously tested positive and have become symptomatic again, call to schedule a telehealth appointment for further instructions for in-person testing. Telehealth visits are covered by many insurance providers.
     
    If you do not have symptoms, call to schedule a nursing appointment to discuss in-person testing. Insurance may not cover testing that is not determined to be medically necessary. If you have questions about coverage, consult your insurance provider.
     
    As a reminder, COVID-19 symptoms may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, lessened sense of taste or smell, gastrointestinal issues, headache, chills, muscle pain or sore throat.

    After a positive result
    Testing that indicates a positive case of COVID-19 will be accompanied by contact tracing to determine and notify those who may have been exposed to the ill individual. If the patient lives in Kalamazoo County, Sindecuse staff will work with the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department to assess the patient's close contacts. If the individual lives in another county, that community's agencies will be notified to carry out the necessary contact tracing.

    For more information about rapid-result COVID-19 testing at Sindecuse, including cost and payment procedures, visit wmich.edu/healthcenter/clinic/covid-19/covid-testing.

    We are here for your health needs, and same-day or next-day appointments are typically available. We strive to serve all WMU students, regardless of whether or not they have insurance; anyone in need of care should call for help.

    Thank you,

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center