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June 5, 2020

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

Though this message is intended to update the community about news, decisions, and guidance related to COVID-19, I want to call your attention to President Monaco’s message about Monday’s university-wide gathering in response to racial injustice and upcoming related programming. It is my hope that all members of our Tufts community can join in these activities and work together to turn our words into meaningful action.

Though I recognize that portions of the digest below will only pertain to certain groups within the community, I urge you to read the entire message.

Phase 1 Reopening Plan

Earlier this week, Deb Blackie from Human Resources and I wrote about what the official Massachusetts four-phased approach to reopening the commonwealth means for Tufts.

The first phase of limited reopening of general office space in the commonwealth began May 18. For most of us, that will not change our status. Faculty and staff who are currently working remotely should continue to do so until they receive specific instruction from their dean, vice president, or division leader to return to work.

Starting May 25, colleges and universities have been allowed to resume some of their research and laboratory operations, subject to significant restrictions and safety requirements. The reopening of Tufts laboratories will be guided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR); those in the research community have been receiving communications from the OVPR on plans to return to the laboratory.

Any faculty or staff who may be eligible to resume research or laboratory work during Phase 1 will be contacted by their respective dean or department chair about their anticipated return date. Faculty and staff should not report to work in laboratories until they are told to do so.

The reopening plan also allows medical, dental, and veterinary clinics to resume some of their patient services. The reopening of the Cummings Veterinary Clinic in Grafton and the School of Dental Medicine clinics will be guided by available public health guidance and best practices. Any faculty or staff who may be eligible to resume clinic work during Phase 1 will be contacted directly with information about returning to work.

The university is actively developing a phased approach to resuming all campus operations. Return-to-work dates may vary depending on your school, unit, work location and job function.

To help faculty and staff begin to prepare for an eventual return to the workplace, Tufts has prepared a Return to Campus guide (PDF) with helpful information about what to expect when returning to campus. Please note that this guide will change as new directives and information become available. Check the Tufts COVID-19 website for the most current information.

We understand the continued uncertainty we all face right now, as state-level guidance about COVID-19 continues to change week by week. Whether you are returning to campus or continuing to work from home, we at Tufts are here to support you. Thank you for your unwavering commitment and dedicated service to the university.

A Helping Community

Every week, we learn of more efforts by the Tufts community to help others by direct action and by shining a light on important issues as we make our way through this pandemic.

A Tufts dental professor and his partners, for example, put their business venture on hold and took a mask that had been invented for dentists to protect their eyes and donated their entire inventory to health-care workers in early April, when need was at its peak.

A Tufts biologist who studies stress in wild animals explains that the discomfort we are all feeling due to the pandemic isn’t unique to us. And the lack of affordable housing, a stress point for many people, has been made more difficult by the pandemic, according to a Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning faculty member.

Phase 1 Research Ramp Up Begins Next Week

Tufts will initiate Phase 1 of research ramp up on Monday, June 8. It is important to note that not all schools and centers have been approved to initiate research ramp up by the Integrative Safety Committee. Please refer to specific guidance from your school and center about when your school or center can initiate Phase 1.

As a reminder, Phase 1 is limited to minimal on-campus operations. Please see the OVPR’s May 20 communication for guidance on what this entails. These restrictions are in place to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 and keep the community safe.

Faculty and staff—including postdoctoral scholars and doctoral students approved to complete on-campus research activities in Phase 1—need to complete the following university requirements before coming to campus for the first time: 1) read the Return to Campus Guide [PDF] and 2) take the Return to Tufts Campuses Course [Tufts login required], which includes an acknowledgement form that you have read the Return to Campus Guide.

Essential employees who have continued on-campus research activities during research ramp down must also now complete the two steps above as well.

Additionally, prior to arriving on campus each workday, faculty and staff (including postdoctoral scholars and doctoral students) will need to complete a daily health screening survey to attest that they are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently come into contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19.

Upon completing the survey, individuals will immediately receive an email confirming whether they can come to campus. Those approved to come to campus may be required to show the email to a school administrator, supervisor, or building security guard upon arrival. The survey can be accessed via https://covidscreening.tufts.edu, the Tufts mobile app, or the Healthy @ Tufts portal.

Research-specific policies and procedures related to research ramp up can be found on the OVPR website. Please be mindful that there may be additional guidance that is specific to schools or centers.

New Accrued Vacation and Maximum Balances for Staff

Under a new policy related to the pandemic-impacted university budget, the maximum amount of vacation time that a staff member will be able to accrue will be capped at the total amount of vacation time they can accrue in one year based on their eligibility. This new accrual limit will take effect January 1, 2022. Once the maximum balance is reached, vacation time will stop accruing until the balance drops below the maximum allowed.

This change, which reduces the maximum vacation accrual rate from two years to one year, saves the university’s budget from having to absorb the cost of unused balances above this new cap, and will take effect over the next 18 months, giving staff time to draw down their vacation balance to get to the new limits.

Staff members with vacation balances that exceed one year’s worth of accruals will be expected to reduce their balances above one year’s worth of accrual by two-thirds before June 30, 2021, and to use the remaining one-third of their balance by December 31, 2021.

Questions? Please visit this page to see the answers to a series of frequently asked questions on the topic of maximum vacation balances.

Frequently Asked Questions

The university’s redesigned FAQ pages around COVID-19 are updated regularly. Please visit the site if you have questions.

Your Health

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please contact your doctor for guidance. If you have had a positive COVID-19 test, please immediately notify covid19@tufts.edu so we can communicate with others who may have been exposed. If you have other questions or concerns, please contact the crisis communications center, which covers all campuses, at covid19@tufts.edu

A reminder for anyone who needs to be on campus: Following CDC recommendations, face masks are required for those on all campuses at Tufts.

Please keep in mind that university and school-based decisions are being made on an ongoing basis with great care and consideration. As we slowly ramp up activities, we continue to be grateful for your cooperation, understanding, flexibility, and commitment to the mission of the university.

Best regards,
Mike Howard
Executive Vice President