OSU Extension COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

General

Q: How will the results of the return-to-office survey be used?  
A: While each county office (with plan on file) should be back in full capacity by June 1 (necessary density and approved formal accommodations not withstanding), this survey will provide additional information about how people are seeing life/work balance and any additional support and training they might need. The survey is confidential. Results of the survey will be shared with everyone in both a summary and as raw data with any possibility of individual identification removed.  

Face Masks

Q: What are the current guidelines regarding face masks? 
A: Effective June 1, 2021, we have been given university approval to follow local guidance for our statewide campuses with regard to masks. 

What this means for OSU Extension, in general:
- Face masks are not required to be worn inside or outside at 4-H camp (day or overnight) for ALL employees AND clientele. 
- Face masks are not required to be worn inside or outside at any OSU Extension (including 4-H non-camp) programs and activities for ALL employees AND clientele. 
- Face masks are not required to be worn inside or outside at county offices for ALL employees AND clientele. 
- Face masks are strongly recommended for those who are not yet fully vaccinated (strongly recommended means the individual chooses to wear a mask or not). 
- There should be no asking about vaccination status or any sharing of vaccination status except for your own self-disclosure. In other words, you can share your vaccination status, but you are not to share anyone else’s status, even if they self-disclosed. 
​​​​​​- Everyone who feels more comfortable continuing to wear a mask is encouraged to do so; and there should be no stigma attached to this personal choice and no comments, questioning, or shaming of those who are wearing a mask. 

 All other health and safety guidance is still in effect, such as physical distancing and sanitizing.  

Local guidance (i.e., local health department, local landlord or building requirements, etc.) prevails, if there are more stringent requirements. 

Please include this message in your pre-meeting/event/program communications with clientele –Individuals and/or family members may not attend if they or anyone living their household is experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste or smell, or has been directly exposed (confirmed or suspected) to COVID-19 if they are not fully vaccinated.  

You are also welcome to include this message in your pre-meeting/event/program communications with clientele – COVID-19 vaccinations are our best current protection against infection and a fatal outcome. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face mask; however we strongly recommend eligible, but unvaccinated, individuals to continue to properly wear a face mask when social distancing cannot be maintained.  

A reminder: As has been the case to date, know that these guidelines may be modified at any time if conditions change, and/or if the guidance is not followed, and/or if a local health department issues more stringent requirements. 

Contact Tracing and Daily Health Checks

Q: Are the daily health checks and attendance logs still required? 
A:
According to the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website, the daily health check and contact tracing is still required. The “Current Guidance” section of events still requires contact tracing: safeandhealthy.osu.edu/events

- This means that attendance logs for programs are still needed as of June 14, 2021 for both programs and large cohort groups; that might be part of camp for example. 
- Logs for in/out times at offices by employees not needed. 
- Logs for customers in/out of an office are not needed, unless the customer is spending a significant amount of time in the office for a face-to-face meeting (more than 10 minutes). 

Continued use of compass.osu.edu for daily health checks is still in effect as of June 14, 2021. Information on daily health checks can be found at safeandhealthy.osu.edu/daily-health-check. We will continue to monitor for future updates and adjust accordingly.

Interpersonal Relationships

Q: Can we discuss with peers our vaccination status?  
A:
You can share your status with anyone you would like to; but you cannot share the status of others even if they disclose it to you, and you cannot ask anyone else’s vaccination status.

Events, Programming, Meetings

Note: All guidelines can be modified at any time, and if local health department guidance is more stringent. It is important to note that county health departments often operate very differently. 

Q: What about physical distancing while at camp?  
A:
As much as possible, strive to maintain at least 6 feet distance between cohorts; and within cohorts strive to maintain at least 3 feet between attendees as much as possible. 

Q: What about other camp guidelines?  
A:
The updated guidelines that Kirk Bloir and Hannah Epley shared on May 21, 2021 continue to be in effect. These changes are reflected in the documents in the 4-H Professionals BuckeyeBox folder.

Q: Can food preservation workshops occur?  
A:
All programming can occur, but must follow the most recent health and safety guidelines. 

Q: Can there be food consumption at meetings and events?  
A:
Food booths, food-based fundraisers, buffets, and potlucks are permitted. You should follow state/local health department guidance regarding food service, COVID, etc., as well as maintain social distance while eating—at least 3 feet when possible.

The community nutrition program and the Extension director’s office are connecting with university and other officials about how to handle food in regard to activities with SNAP-Ed and EFNEP in-person programs at which food and meals are prepared and shared with participants as part of the program.

Q: Have we heard anything about meeting room capacity limits being relaxed?  
A:
Guidance for university facilities (including conference room meeting spaces) is being considered in advance of fall classes. In our own facilities, we follow the current recommended guidelines (30 square feet per person is still in effect at this time). 

Q: What are some of the benefits we could see with a hybrid learning approach?  
A:
Some technical issues faced with full online learning could be eliminated with the hybrid approach, especially for some audiences with limited internet access. Recording of events and reuse of that content at in-person events could be a win-win for all attendees. This approach can help eliminate county boundaries in some situations where specialized expertise can be shared on-site and online with a wider audience than county-only. 

Office Cleaning, Physical Space Considerations

Q: What is the expectation for sanitizing in an office?  
A:
Guidance from Safe and Healthy Buckeyes recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touchpoint areas and restrooms once a day in FOD-maintained buildings. While a reduction from autumn 2020 and spring 2021 levels, this approach meets CDC guidance. High-touchpoints include door handles, faucets, handrails, and other commonly touched surfaces in high-traffic areas. A detailed overview and FAQs are posted on the FOD COVID-19 cleaning page. Our own safety experts are reviewing the guidelines as well, and they will release more Extension and CFAES-specific information if necessary.

You are welcome to sanitize more often or agree as an office how to approach sanitizing areas like the printers, the kitchen, and other high-touch areas in your particular space.

Office Work Schedules and Expectations

Reminder: No matter what arrangements are made for staffing an office, the needs of the community must be met; and there should be ongoing and effective communication within the office. 

Q: Can you provide any clarification on flexible work arrangements and when it would be appropriate to telework, or when something is professional scheduling especially for educators?  
A:
There is a distinction between flexible work arrangements (FWA), formal accommodations, and professional scheduling. A brief summary is listed below, but more complete information and link to university resources is posted in the May 7 issue of News and Notes. The original message was posted in the April 22 issue of News and Notes.

- Professional scheduling means making adjustments made as needed during a given week. An employee must update his or her supervisor as needed; and any schedule adjustments should be proactively shared with the entire office. Example: There are “peak seasons” for educators when an educator has more evening meetings or extra work time on the weekend. The educator may adjust weekly hours in the office to account for some personal tasks that normally would be handled outside of “normal” office hours but those hours were dedicated to work-related activities (e.g., meetings, trainings, grant writing).

- Flexible work arrangements are more predictable and longer-term situations (e.g., working from home once a week as part of a telework arrangement, or compressed work week). These will be handled in three-month time periods; they must be a formalized work arrangement made with the employee’s supervisor, discussed with office mates, and signed off on by the Director of Operations.

According to guidance from OHR: "Ohio State supports flexible work arrangements to achieve a reliable and productive work environment that enables staff to balance work and personal needs. The university recognizes the growing demands on staff and the increasing challenge of finding innovative ways to provide service and meet university goals. …Workplace flexibility provides a way to successfully manage people, time, space and workload. However, while all staff members are eligible to request flexible work arrangements, not all positions may lend themselves to flexible work."

 Some key aspects of the FWA policy include, but are not limited to: 
- All staff members are eligible to request flexible work arrangements, however, not all positions lend themselves to flexible work. 
- The request for a flexible work arrangement must meet the needs, requirements, and constraints of both the unit and the staff member. 
- Units should be consistent in the decision-making process regarding flexible work arrangement requests. 
- A staff member must request a flexible work arrangement from his or her supervisor. 
- The staff member and supervisor must discuss the flexible work arrangement request. 
- Flexible work arrangements must be documented when they are established, using the Flexible Work Arrangement Proposal at: hr.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/form-flex-work-proposal.pdf or other appropriate document (e.g., email communication). 
- Flexible work arrangements are not guaranteed; they can change or be discontinued. 

Supervisors will follow Ohio State’s Flexible Work Policy 6.12 when engaging with employees in flexible work arrangement conversations. Visit hr.osu.edu/policies/flexible-work/ to see the full policy and process and visit hr.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/form-flex-work-proposal.pdf to see the flexible work employee guidelines worksheet. 

- Formal accommodations are time-limited schedule adjustments for reasons such as certain health conditions, caring for family members, and child-care responsibilities; and they are approved by Human Resources. Formal accommodations require written documentation from one’s health care provider. For more specific human resources and FAQs, visit safeandhealthy.osu.edu/accommodations

Q: How do we handle staffing of the local office during all hours of the week?  
A:
First, your county office is only expected to be open the days/hours that you were pre-COVID. So, if you were open for limited days/hours each week before the pandemic, the same is true now. However, your entire office staff needs to discuss together how to cover the office during the hours you are open.

The primary responsibility for ensuring that the office is open belongs to the support staff members. However, when support staff are off work because of work arrangements, scheduled time off, personal needs, the other office colleagues will need to provide that coverage. You also need to be clear about how coverage will be handled in each office before it is needed.

Q: How do we work SNAP-Ed or EFNEP staff into the office plan-of-work right now?  
A:
Although community nutrition professionals did help with a few more general office things during telework, they have historically not been allowed by the grant to do much general office work and we expect that will return more to the pre-pandemic level over the next few months. 

Q: How do we handle office coverage during lunch?  
A:
Everyone is expected to take a lunch break, and offices are allowed to be closed for a lunch hour. Note that Human Resources does expect all employees to take a lunch break, because it is provided for a reason. Those in the front office in particular are not required to cover the front door during a lunch break. Staggering lunch hours among staff is allowed. You are also allowed to put a closed sign on the office door, as long as there is a drop box or other method for people to leave items for office staff, if necessary. 

Q: Are main campus and regional campus offices operating on a different return-to-office timeline?  
A:
Yes, main campus and the regional campuses are working toward having everybody back in place when the students come back in the fall, so most offices in those locations are seeing people return for a few days here and there, but they are not expected to be back in the office full-time until about mid-August. Again, this follows university guidelines, so those dates may change as campus expectations for fall are adjusted and shared over the next few weeks. 

Q: How do we handle computer, other equipment that was loaned or assigned to us during telework?  
A:
OCIO will be working with everyone to determine strategies for returning any extra equipment if you're returning to the office and your approved plan does not include working from home on a regular basis. If you have a second computer or laptop computer, for instance, and you had a desktop at the office and you just want to work with your desktop when you get back, then you would return the extra equipment. If you want to switch out to a laptop because you found that useful, this will entail a discussion with your supervisor and OCIO, especially to determine potential additional costs for your office. The college has been covering extra equipment costs during COVID-19 full telework requirements, but after the next 30 to 60 days, extra equipment would then become a local unit cost. 

Reach out to the CFAES IT Service Desk for any IT-related issues. Phone, email, and self-service request support is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Travel Guidance

Q: What are the new business-related traveling guidelines? 
A:
 New travel guidance has been issued by the university and can be found at the Office of Business and Finance website

Effective July 1, 2021, the university will allow business-related travel in line with updated health and safety requirements and our continued focus on fiscal responsibility.

Faculty and staff are expected to exercise prudent fiscal management when considering FY22 travel arrangements to determine whether in-person or virtual attendance at any event, program or other circumstance will be most effective. Travel has been restricted since March 2020 because of the pandemic, and we should utilize the lessons learned about our ability to conduct business in flexible and efficient way. 

Q: What does the new travel approval process include?  
A:
 Please refer to the items below.

1. Traveler confers with supervisor to determine if the travel is necessary and in line with the guidance above.  Departmental/unit financial resources should be considered as part of the decision. 

2. Traveler or designated department staff person enters a Spend Authorization at least two weeks prior to departure date for domestic travel (out-of-state), six weeks prior for international travel. International travelers are required to sign the International Acknowledgement of Understanding Form and attach to Spend Authorization prior to submitting a Spend Authorization for approval. 

3. Spend Authorizations will automatically workflow to all required travel approvers (e.g. cost center manager, department/unit leader, etc.). 

4. Once the Spend Authorization has completed workflow, the traveler will receive a confirmation email noting the approval and health, safety and risk responsibilities.  

Note:  The university will continue to monitor compliance of Spend Authorizations for international travel and/or locations experiencing elevated exposure rates.   

Q: What are the most recent travel policy updates? 
A:
 The university updated travel policies effective January 1, 2021. The complete travel policy is located at Travel Policy 2.11. 

- Updates to ensure university and traveler compliance with IRS tax laws (Procedure I.A, p. 3). 
- Updates of parameters regarding travel expenses for spouses, partners, children, and guests of university employees (Policy Details II, p. 1, Procedure XI, p. 5). 
- Requires the use of contracted travel suppliers (Procedure I.B-C, p. 3). 
- Updates travel rewards and incentives guidance (Procedure VI, pp. 4-5). 
- Updates personal travel in conjunction with business travel (Procedure VII, p. 5). 
- Does not allow use of PCards for airfare (Procedure XVIII.A—Payment options, p. 6).