Coronavirus Update for Educational Institutions

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The CDC, American College Health Association, and Department of Education have all issued recent guidance regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Concurrently, colleges across the country have taken steps to move classes online or cancel classes altogether.  Our team is paying close attention to the guidance from relevant government entities and to media reports as we think critically about how to best protect our clients against the risks posed by this public health crisis.

CDC Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education

  • CDC issued guidance to help institutions of higher education understand how to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and react quickly should a case be identified.  
  • Institutions that do not have COVID-19 identified in their community: 
    • Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans.
    • Develop information-sharing systems with partners including faculty, staff, student health centers, and local health officials.
    • Plan for absenteeism.
      • Review attendance and sick leave policies for students, staff, and faculty.
      • Make accommodations as possible for individuals who are unable to attend class or work to incentivize staying home when sick.
      • Cross-train staff and faculty on critical job functions.
    • Establish procedures for students, staff, and faculty who are sick.
    • Ensure clinics are prepared for COVID-19.
    • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
    • Create plans to communicate accurate and timely information to students, staff, and faculty.
  • Institutions that do have COVID-19 identified in their community: 
    • Determine if, when, and how long to suspend classes and postpone or cancel events and activities.
    • Seek guidance from local health officials regarding scope and duration.
    • Ensure continuity of education and research through online infrastructure.
    • If a student, staff, or faculty member attended class or was active on campus prior to being confirmed as a COVID-19 case: 
      • Work with local health officials to determine necessity of class or event suspension or cancellation.
      • Work with local health officials to communication possible COVID-19 exposure.  However, institutions must ensure the confidentiality of the student, staff, or faculty member as required by the ADA and Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. 
    • If COVID-19 has been identified in on-campus housing, affected individuals (including close contacts) may need to be moved to temporary housing locations to self-isolate and monitor symptoms.
    • Ensure continuity of meal programs.
      • Discourage gathering in groups through strategies such as “grab-and-go” bagged lunches or meal delivery.
      • Consider how meals can be provided to residents that have been relocated to temporary housing.

CDC Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education with Students Participating in International Travel of Study Abroad Program

  • Consider postponing or cancelling upcoming student international travel programs.
  • Consider asking current program participants to return to their home country.
  • Consider asking participants in study abroad programs to return to the United States.  

ACHA Guidelines: Preparing for COVID-19

  • Provides guidelines for student health services, campus preparation, communications, business continuity, and preparing for arrivals from COVID-19 affected areas. 
  • Students returning from countries assigned a Level 3 Travel Warning by the CDC should be subject to self-quarantine and symptom monitoring for 14 days.  Currently, China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy have received Level 3 Travel Warnings. Updates can be found here.  

Federal Student Aid Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to Coronavirus

  • Addresses concerns about compliance with Title IV, Higher Education Act policies for students whose activities are impacted by COVID-19 either directly because of quarantine or indirectly because of recall from travel-abroad experience, suspension of internships or clinical rotations, or suspension of campus operations. 

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Student and Exchange Visitor Program: 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Potential Procedural Adaptations for F and M Nonimmigrant Students

  • ICE intends to be flexible to temporary adaptations to curriculums as schools have suspended operations and/or moved courses online.
  • Foreign students on F visas can only take one online course per semester to maintain legal status.  Foreign students on M visas for vocational training are barred from taking any online classes. However, ICE stated that it would forgive those requirements temporarily so long as universities provide written notice within 10 business days of changing their practice.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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