Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

Coronavirus Response

The University recognizes that the decision to limit campus visitation and move to an online learning model will create a hardship for some students, faculty and staff, and might challenge the quality of instruction in some classes. However, the decision is judged essential toward the promotion of public health and is in keeping with prevailing state and national trends.

To better prepare our WVU Parkersburg family for this time of change, we are providing you with all the resources you need to be successful in your educational and professional career. Whether you are a new or returning student, we will help you on your path to a great future.

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) Protocols

This message is to update you on COVID-19 protocols and to announce some significant updates to the current protocols. Please review the message thoroughly. Based on a significant decline in current COVID-19 cases and significant challenges students are facing with online instruction, despite the very valiant efforts of faculty and students and support services, in consultation with the leadership of the Board of Governors and the Executive Team, I have decided that we will return to face-to-face instruction since there is a significant portion of the semester remaining and since current projections are for the pandemic to continue a downward cycle at this time.

Very few of WVUP’s academic programs were designated as fully online pre-COVID. Of course, those few programs will be an exception to this requirement for face-to-face instruction since they were always fully online.

I recognize both the advantages and the hardships this will cause–a significant advantage to both students and faculty who favor face-to-face instruction and field experiences and challenges to both faculty, students, and support personnel who have arranged their schedules, childcare, and other personal matters to accommodate a remote schedule. For that reason, we will give as much time to transition and as much support as possible.

1. By November 1, 2021, all instruction should be provided in hybrid format with both a face-to-face and an online option from which students may choose.
2. Beginning October 25, 2021, this transition in instructional format may begin. In other words, faculty may implement anytime between October 25 and November 1, in close consultation with students so that they fully understand the timeline and expectations. Again, this is an attempt to provide everyone with as much flexibility as possible.
3. We hope to maintain as much social distancing as possible, so faculty may stagger face-to-face attendance in large classes, supported by virtual instruction.
4. Since we are bringing more people back to campus, the week-to-week conditional mask requirement will become a permanent, until further notice mask requirement with exceptions only for those with legitimate medical/disability concerns. Masks are the price that everyone must be willing to pay to be able to resume face-to-face instruction, and this protocol is non-negotiable until the pandemic might abate much more significantly.
5. Fully vaccinated, non-symptomatic people who are exposed to the virus no longer will be required by WVUP to quarantine/isolate from campus at this time. Anyone who is notified of exposure by WVUP may be required to show proof of vaccination to J.B. Skidmore, our COVID-19 coordinator, to be excused from the option not to quarantine/isolate. Based on evolving evidence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends fully vaccinated people get tested five to seven days after close contact with a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
6. Since we will be bringing considerably more people back face-to-face, free, non-invasive, randomized COVID-19 surveillance testing will be required with more information forthcoming soon. Both unvaccinated and vaccinated people will be subject to this requirement, because many fully vaccinated people are still getting sick and are capable of being carriers.

The leadership of the Board and the administration believe, despite these difficult decisions, we can move forward at this time and still maintain our primary duty of promoting the health and safety of our community. As with all COVID protocols, these protocols are subject to change according to the trajectory of the pandemic. We understand that it is difficult to live in a constantly changing environment, but we invite you to consider that we are not changing the environment, only responding to it.

The bottom line is that we are here to serve our students, and our students very much need our undivided attention in a face-to-face environment in order to achieve maximum success. Depending on the trajectory of the pandemic, it is our current hope and plan that classes will be face-to-face spring 2022, although as stated earlier, anything is subject to change.

The Board, administration, and I thank you for your resilience and patience, and we thank you in advance for your flexibility and your commitment to excellence as we push forward in this new normal together. We are here for our students. You are our reason for existing.

With our transition to remote learning starting Tuesday, September 7th, I wanted to give you some helpful resources as we transition from in-person learning to synchronous Zoom instruction.

WVU Parkersburg uses the Zoom web conferencing system to deliver online lectures and conduct online discussions. It is also utilized by other campus offices like the Tutoring Center if an in-person meeting is not viable.

Zoom is available for use in your classes inside Blackboard, or you can use it yourself to meet with other students to form study groups, conduct meetings for campus clubs, and other needs as well. Support is provided for both scenarios below:

Using Zoom Inside Blackboard

Using Zoom Outside Blackboard

We know that remote learning may be new to some of you, and we want you to have a positive experience in your courses and with Zoom.

If you have any questions, please create a ticket at https://helpdesk.wvup.edu or by emailing helpdesk@wvup.edu.

With the transition to remote instruction starting Tuesday September 7th, the college will be providing designated rooms that you can use while on campus to attend your Zoom courses.  You might need to attend a lab and have a Zoom course meeting right before or right after.  These rooms will allow you the opportunity to have reliable internet access and a desk to work on.

Rooms 2215  will be available if you bring your own equipment to participate in your courses. This room is already set up for social distancing and no equipment will be provided.

Room 2203 will have socially distanced computers with webcams, headphones, and microphones.
  This room will be available for you if you do not have personal equipment to participate in your courses.  You are encouraged to bring your own headset devices but some will be provided on a very limited basis.

These rooms will be available on a first come first serve basis and if there is a greater need, more rooms will become available.  The hours for these rooms will be Monday through Thursday 8 am – 7 pm and Fridays 8 – Noon.  We will monitor these times and adjust accordingly.

If you have any questions, please create a ticket at https://helpdesk.wvup.edu or by emailing helpdesk@wvup.edu.

An Open Letter from WVUP President Chris Gilmer Regarding COVID-19

On Friday, August 27, I watched as Governor Jim Justice paid heartfelt tribute to 18 West Virginians lost to COVID-19 in a short period of time, and I felt tears, real ones, in my eyes as he implored all of those listening never to consider them as statistics, or the more than 3,000 West Virginians who have died from this pandemic so far. They are real people with real names, and their absence leaves real holes in the hearts of many.

While far too many people in this nation are making COVID-19 a political issue and a cultural war, it is not a Democratic, or Republican, or Independent issue, a liberal or conversative issue; it is a human issue, a threat that every one of us has in common even if we view it differently. We set aside all of these considerations at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, and whether popular or unpopular, I do what I was called here to do, what I have been trying my best to do every day since this pandemic started. I lead, with proper and diligent consideration, but without hesitation, and I take responsibility for my decisions even as I do not yet know the outcomes of them.

In summary, beginning September 7, 2021, as we return from the Labor Day holiday, WVUP will shift much of its instruction fully online and will implement remote work assignments for more employees. All locations will remain open, and all essential offices will be staffed. We are simply shifting the majority of our class instruction and other faculty responsibilities and some of our staff workforce to remote instruction and remote work assignments to minimize the number of people on our campuses and to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Faculty members will be able to use Zoom rooms and other campus-based tools for instruction, may still meet with individual students and very small groups of students on campus, and will receive professional development opportunities and other needed support to fulfill their absolutely essential role with and for our students. We will take increased measures to protect our staff by minimizing the amount of physical contact and exposure. Students will be able to come to campus to use computer labs, Internet, counseling services, and other needed services. Students should be informed by faculty members prior to September 7 about how specific classes will be taught. We will do our best not to leave any of you unsupported.

Some limited exceptions will be made to allow face-to-face instruction in technical programs and labs, and perhaps in field experiences and clinicals, for which there are not viable online options. The week of August 30 through September 3 is serving as a time of transition. If the pandemic quickly abates, we will consider a return to face-to-face instruction later in the semester, recognizing the considerable challenges that such shifts cause.

Just weeks ago there were about 1,000 COVID-19 active cases per day in West Virginia. Today there are more than 18,000 active cases, growing by 500 to 1,000 cases per day, each one of them someone’s parent, someone’s child, someone’s spouse, or someone’s friend. In fact, during a recent seven-day period the number of in-state reported cases grew by approximately 4,400 people, and during one 24-hour period the number of West Virginia’s active cases grew by 1,328–old people, young people, unvaccinated and vaccinated. While the vast majority of those infected are unvaccinated and the vast majority of those who develop severe or deadly illness are unvaccinated, more and more vaccinated people are getting sick and transmitting the disease to others. My position about the importance of vaccination has not changed, and I continue to strongly encourage everyone to consider becoming fully vaccinated.

While most of WVUP’s students and many of our employees are young, and while the rate of severe illness and death is significantly lower for young people without co-occurring health problems, we are seeing serious illness and death even among young and healthy people, and young and healthy people can actively spread the disease among themselves and to older and more vulnerable colleagues, family members, and the public. For several weeks, all seven counties in our primary West Virginia service area, plus Washington County in Ohio, have been rated high exposures on the tracking map of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with one or two counties occasionally dropping into the substantial category. Once again, all are rated high. Remember that our conditional mask requirement remains in place for all WVUP facilities at any time that either Wood County or Jackson County is rated high or substantial spread by the CDC, and we will continue to update the community each Friday about the protocol for the upcoming week.

Since we started fall classes in-person on August 9, we have had 12 reported COVID-19 cases and 319 known exposures on our campuses. Keep in mind that the great majority of these exposures will not turn into active cases, but the number is still alarming. While it was necessary to attempt a typical face-to-face fall semester, it is equally necessary that we now shift to a modified virtual approach. It was necessary to try to have a typical semester because face-to-face or hybrid instruction is generally a richer learning experience for our students, no matter how well we do virtual instruction; it was necessary because we need to be responsive to our students, and the great majority of them seemed to want a traditional, on-campus college experience; it was necessary because many of our students and some of our colleagues have felt isolated through lack of human contact and have developed mental health challenges during the pandemic; and it was necessary because we are residents of a state and local community which has set the norm that providing face-to-face learning is the preferred approach. Since many students are required to isolate from campus due to exposure and will not receive face-to-face instruction during the time of isolation, and since many more students would likely be quarantined if we continued extensive face-to-face learning, many if not most students will actually receive better instruction online until the pandemic abates.

Now it is necessary, even as we pay respect to all of these valid considerations, that we reaffirm the position WVUP has taken from the start: we put public health and safety first, and with the pandemic shifting in a negative direction, new approaches are required. We took deeper precautions ahead of state and national trends in March of 2020, and we are doing so again now. While I consider this decision to be appropriate and necessary, when I am called to judgment for the decisions I have made as a leader, as every leader is invariably and appropriately called, I would rather account for an overreaction than an underreaction when your lives and those of your loved ones are on the line.

I have spoken to the leadership of our Board of Governors, and they are in support of this decision. They join me in thanking you for your unselfishness and your resilience and in applauding this community for moving forward in so many positive ways even in a time of national crisis. We did not choose the pandemic, but we can choose the way we react to it. At WVUP, that reaction will be one of productivity, hope, and unity rather than despair, defeat, and divisiveness.

In closing, students, parents, employees, and community members, we make these difficult choices in an attempt to promote your safety, and we will do our very best to ensure the highest quality education for our students and service to our communities in these difficult times. I know that everyone does not agree with our decisions, and I fully respect each of you who holds a different view. My hope is that we can all rally together around the main point on which we all agree–uplifting our students to help make their dreams come true.

Warm regards,
Chris

Additional COVID-19 Protocols
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
Effective August 30, 2021

  1. Existing protocols remain in place unless anything in this document conflicts with existing protocols, in which case this document supersedes earlier protocols.
  2. The week of August 30 through September 3 will be used to transition most of WVUP’s classes and some of its employees into virtual learning and remote work assignments. All locations of the university will remain fully open for business. This is in no way a “shut-down,” and it is not a full return to exclusively online education.
  3. All people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, are subject to quarantine/isolation from campus if exposed, until a negative test result is provided. This protocol exceeds current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is being instituted because public health data begin to confirm an increase in infection, illness, and the capacity to spread the disease among fully vaccinated people.
  4. Test results derived from over-the-counter or home-based test kits will not be accepted as definitive test results.
  5. Upon receipt of a positive test result, contact tracing will go back for two days from either the positive test result or the presence of symptoms, or will follow guidance from local health authorities, whichever is the most cautious.
  6. The week of August 30 through September 3 will be used to transition most of WVUP’s classes to virtual learning. Additional information about which classes must transition, support available for faculty and students in transition, and minimal expectations for virtual learning will be provided by the Office of Academic Affairs as early in the week as possible.
  7. Faculty and students will be able to access campus-based resources such as Zoom rooms, faculty offices, Internet, student support services, and computer labs in a socially-distanced manner. Faculty may keep office hours virtually and may work remotely except when required to provide limited face-to-face instruction or to participate in any essential on-campus function.
  8. The week of August 30 through September 3 will be used to transition many of WVUP’s administrative and staff employees to remote work assignments under the direction of the Vice President of each division of the college. Employees whose functions are judged on-campus essential will continue face-to-face, although some offices may operate on staggered face-to-face shifts. Information from your Vice President will be provided as early in the week as possible.
  9. Any employee or student required to test for COVID-19 by WVUP may seek reimbursement for insurance copays incurred (receipt required) if free testing is not available in your area. According to the WV.Gov webpage, free testing is available at the following locations:
    – Fruth Pharmacy, 1506 Elizabeth Pike, Mineral Wells, WV 26150
    – Walgreens Pharmacy, 3400 Dudley Avenue, Parkersburg, WV 26104
    – Walgreens Pharmacy, 2300 Grand Central Avenue, Vienna, WV 26105
    – Fruth Pharmacy, 509 South Church Street, Ripley, WV 25271
    – Walgreens Pharmacy, 635 Main Street, Ripley, WV 25271
    – Walgreens Pharmacy 406 Washington St, Ravenswood, WV 26104
    – Ritchie Regional, 138 S. Penn Avenue, Harrisville, WV 26362
    – Roane County Family Health Care, 146 Williams Drive, Spencer, WV 25276
    – Sistersville Rural Health Clinic, 305 Clay Street, Sistersville, WV 26175
    – Middlebourne Health Clinic, 100 Fair Street, Middlebourne, WV 26149
  10. On first exposure, any employee required to quarantine/isolate from campus who is able to fulfill his, her, or their duties will be considered working remotely and will not be required to use sick or personal time. Any employee who is ill and unable to fulfill his, her, or their duties will be required to utilize sick or personal time until all such time is expended. On subsequent exposure, employees may be required to confirm exposure to the satisfaction of the Vice President of their area to avoid a requirement to use sick or personal time.
  11. All proposed face-to-face gatherings of 10 or more people within or upon any WVUP facility, including outdoor events, must be approved in advance by the Office of the President through the Chief of Staff and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if they are essential. Any off-site official gatherings conducted under the auspices of WVUP or affiliated with WVUP will be held to the same standard. Private gatherings unaffiliated with WVUP are not subject to this condition.
  12. Internal meetings should be shifted to Zoom whenever practical, particularly meetings involving more than 10 people. Any face-to-face meetings should follow social distancing.
  13. Employees and/or students should not congregate in public areas within WVUP’s facilities more than is necessary, and the removal of masks in public areas, when masks are required, should be confined to the actual period during which one is eating or drinking.
  14. When required, and unless an exception has been granted, masks must be properly worn to cover both the nose and the mouth.
  15. Official travel will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and any out-of-state travel must be approved in advance by the President. Any official in-state travel must be approved in advance by the Vice President of an employee’s area. Official travel should be determined essential in nature before seeking approval.

Additional COVID-19 Protocols
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
Effective August 18, 2021 until Further Notice

All people entering WVUP’s facilities are regarded as designated COVID-19 reporters and are required to report the illness or exposure of any person on our premises to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President through J.B. Skidmore: reportcovid@wvup.edu, phone 304-424-8386.

For fully-vaccinated individuals (defined as those who have been fully-vaccinated for at least two weeks, both doses of those vaccines requiring two doses):
• To avoid quarantine/isolation from campus if you become exposed, you may voluntarily present a copy of your vaccination card to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore.
• Upon approval of the vaccination status, the individual is not required to quarantine/isolate unless experiencing symptoms.
• For those who opt out of this protocol, you must follow the protocol for those people who are not fully-vaccinated. See below.
For those who are not fully-vaccinated as defined above, quarantine/isolation from campus for the required period cannot be avoided if you become exposed.

For Faculty
• Promptly report illness or exposure to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore.
• If on campus, leave immediately.
• Notify the Dean of your Division and the Provost.
• Notify all students in your courses by email that you will be providing content remotely until further notice.
• Day of exposure is counted as Day 1 and earliest day for required testing is Day 5.
• Places for COVID Testing: https://dhhr.wv.gov/covid-19/pages/testing.aspx
• Guidelines for Quarantine: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
• You cannot return to campus until a negative test result is presented to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore or until you have quarantined for 14 days.

For Staff
• Promptly report illness or exposure to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore.
• If on campus, leave immediately.
• Notify your immediate supervisor. Supervisors, notify the Vice President of your area.
• Day of exposure is counted as Day 1 and earliest day for required testing is Day 5.
• Places for COVID Testing: https://dhhr.wv.gov/covid-19/pages/testing.aspx
• Guidelines for Quarantine: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
• You cannot return to campus until a negative test result is presented to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore or until you have quarantined for 14 days.

For Students
• Promptly report illness or exposure to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore.
• If on campus, leave immediately.
• Notify each of your faculty members by email.
• Day of exposure is counted as Day 1 and earliest day for required testing is Day 5.
• Places for COVID Testing: https://dhhr.wv.gov/covid-19/pages/testing.aspx
• Guidelines for Quarantine: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
• You cannot return to campus until a negative test result is presented to the Office of the Chief of Staff through J.B. Skidmore or until you have quarantined for 14 days.

Caperton Center Information
The Office of the President is in close and regular contact with the Wood County Public Schools related to the shared use of the Caperton Center. The President of WVUP and the Superintendent of the Wood County Public Schools have agreed that Wood County Public Schools personnel and students will follow WVUP’s protocols while physically located on the WVUP campus. Specifically, as with all other persons, they will be required to wear face coverings, when face coverings are required by WVUP’s protocols, within the Caperton Center and within any WVUP facilities except when they are within closed classrooms exclusively used by the Wood County Public Schools. Within those classrooms only, the Wood County Public Schools may follow whatever rules it determines related to face coverings. Personnel of the school district are expected to enforce WVUP’s protocols in all common areas of the building.

Contact Tracing and Notification
WVUP is following state guidance to report all exposures to the local health department and to follow whatever protocols we are given by the local health department. WVUP has been told that the local health department will carry out all contact tracing activities, and we will fully cooperate with them in doing so. WVUP is not required to carry out contact tracing itself, but in an abundance of caution and concern for its students and employees, will continue to notify people known to have been located within an area of exposure to the possible exposure. This is above and beyond what the university is required to do, but the administration judges it to be an appropriate public health measure in support of our employees and students.

Effective immediately, but with a transition period for full enforcement to begin on Monday, August 16, 2021, the following protocols governing face coverings are in place for all WVUP facilities without exception, unless or until they are repealed by order of the President who is authorized by the WVUP Board of Governors to make updates to existing COVID-19 protocols. These requirements will be enforced:

1. The wearing of masks is strongly encouraged indoors in all WVUP facilities by all people at all times until further notice.

2. The wearing of masks is strongly encouraged outdoors at all WVUP facilities until further notice, when groups of people congregate.

3. WVUP will not issue a comprehensive mask mandate at this time, but will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that masks should be worn indoors by all people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, in areas of “high” or “substantial” spread as measured by the CDC. When either Wood County or Jackson County, West Virginia, or both, are rated “high” or “substantial,” since all of WVUP’s facilities are located in these two counties, masks will be required indoors in all public spaces in all WVUP facilities. This requirement will be enforced with employees, students, and guests. Until further notice, the administration will review CDC’s map before close of business each Friday and will issue through multiple communication channels before close of business each Friday what the face coverings protocol will be for the following week. Changes in protocol, if any, will go into effect at the opening of facilities on Monday of each week. At present, any changes of mask protocols will be made at one-week intervals, and WVUP will be pleased to relax the mask protocols at any time that the public health guidance discussed herein allows. Today, all counties in our primary service area, including Washington County, Ohio, are rated “high” or “substantial” except for Ritchie County.

4. Faculty members may choose to teach their face-to-face classes wearing clear face shields instead of wearing masks.

5. Exceptions for masks at times when masks are required will only be made, on a case-by case basis, for those people who have a legitimate medical reason documented by a medical or behavioral health professional or through a properly filed Americans with Disabilties Act (ADA) accommodation request.

6. “Public spaces” are defined as any space within any facility on WVUP property which is not a private, one-person enclosed work area inhabited by only the one person assigned to that area.

7. Violations of these protocols should be reported to the Office of the President, to any Vice President of the university, or to campus security. If any employee is placed in the position of enforcement with any student or guest, call any executive officer or campus security for assistance.

8. Signs will be posted at each main entrance of campus facilities indicating the current protocol level: “Masks Required” or “Masks Suggested.” Anyone entering our facilities will be required to comply with posted guidance.

9. Anyone entering WVUP’s facilities at a time when masks are required should provide his, her, or their own mask. The administration reserves the right to approve or to disapprove of any mask or face covering based on current public health guidance regarding efficacy. Alternative masks will be made available by WVUP as needed.

Questions or concerns about these protocols may be referred to the President or to any Vice President. It is always my wish and my commitment that our facilities are as welcoming as WVUP is serving the educational needs of our students and communities, but protecting the health and safety of those who work and learn here, as well as the public health of the communities we serve, is an even more paramount concern. As stated, these protocols, based solidly on the best available public health guidance, will be fully enforced beginning with the opening of facilities on August 16, 2021.

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