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Columbia MD, 21044
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Guidelines and Reopening for Fall 2021

Returning to Campus Safely

As we return to campus for the fall 2021 semester, Howard Community College’s (HCC) number one priority is the health, safety, and well-being of faculty, staff, students, and visitors.  

HCC has been consistent with its mask requirement since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic; in light of recent statistics and new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mask requirement will remain in place until further notice

It is critical that we continue to follow all mandated public health guidelines. In addition, the college is taking precautions consistent with the CDC, Maryland Department of Health, Howard County Health Department, and Howard County Government.  

On August 16, 2021, two weeks prior to the start of the 2021 fall semester, HCC began full operations, with all services available during regular business hours. Each area and department has determined staffing to accommodate in-person support.   

NEW: What this means for HCC 

Masking 

  • Masks are required and must be worn indoors in any college building or facility. Masks are not required outdoors, in private offices, or eating while seated in the Café on the Quad.  
  • Face shields are permitted for fully vaccinated individuals only if necessary for instructional or service delivery. Requests for shields will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and approved by your area vice president. If approved, the shields may only be used only while lecturing in a classroom or delivering service. At all other times, masks must be worn for teaching and service delivery.  
  • Please encourage students and other employees to “mask up” if you see anyone not wearing a mask indoors.  
  • Masking noncompliance by students could result in removal from class or campus or in code of conduct violations. For employees, noncompliance could lead to disciplinary action. If there are concerns about compliance, contact public safety. Any other questions about face coverings should go to EOP@howardcc.edu.   

Daily Self-Assessment 

  • Faculty, staff, and students are required to assess their health daily to monitor for the presence of any new health symptoms related to COVID-19 before coming to campus and entering any building. 

Physical Distancing and Space Use 

  • Indoor and outdoor physical distancing as well as gathering and group size restrictions have been lifted; for vulnerable populations and unvaccinated individuals, a distance of three feet is recommended.  
  • Meetings or other gatherings may be held in larger areas to allow individuals to distance themselves if desired. While there is no physical distancing requirement, many classrooms continue to be arranged in a manner that will allow for students to remain three feet apart.  
  • External groups requesting rental space on campus that are existing partners and affiliated with a college-organized event will be considered for approval. Other external rentals are not permitted until 2022.   

Vaccinations 

  • Vaccinations are strongly recommended; they are currently required for special cohorts, including health sciences students/faculty due to clinicals, and student athletes/coaches for intercollegiate sports. 
  • Incentivized clinics for students will be held at the Athletic and Fitness Center every Tuesday from 3–7 p.m. beginning September 14. 

COVID-19 Illness and Exposure 

  • Any positive COVID-19 test results, possible exposures, or other concerns including individuals not wearing masks should be reported immediately to EOP@howardcc.edu.  All reports are confidential.  
  • An “exposure” means being within 6 feet and without a mask for more than 15 minutes. 
  • Contact tracing will continue in coordination with Howard County Health Department. 

Cleaning 

  • Faculty, staff, and students should wipe in and wipe out to keep their areas sanitized. This is recommended for classrooms, laboratories, and shared spaces.  
  • For disinfecting keyboards, the office of information technology recommends using alcohol-based cleaning wipes. The wipes should contain at least 70%+ isopropyl alcohol and no bleach base.  
  • Wipes will be provided for surfaces and equipment in classrooms. If wipes or other supplies are getting low, contact Facilities with the classroom or office number. 

Employee Telework 

  • Telework options are available for eligible staff and faculty positions residing in the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. Employees will need to submit a Telework Agreement to their supervisor for consideration. 

NEW: CDC Guidelines as of August 2021 

If you are fully vaccinated: 

  • Follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses. 
  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic but you will still need to follow the guidance at your workplace and local businesses. 
  • When not on campus, wear a mask indoors if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the Delta variant (please see details about Howard County below).   
  • When not on campus, wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system, if because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. 
  • If you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.  
    • Quarantine:  While waiting for test results, you may continue your regular routine; wear a mask indoors and socially distance for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative.  
    • Isolate at home away from others for 10 days if your test result is positive. 
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. 
  • If you travel internationally, check the destination and country requirements before traveling outside the United States. 
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it. 
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States. 
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel. 
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States. 

If you are NOT fully vaccinated:  

  • Follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses. 
  • Ages 2 or older should wear a mask in indoor public places; in general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. 
  • If you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3 - 5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.  
    • Quarantine at home while waiting for test results, wear a mask indoors and socially distance for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative.  
    • Isolate at home away from others for 10 days if your test result is positive. 
  • If you travel in the United States, you need to:  
    • Get tested before travel. 
    • Get tested after travel and self-quarantine until negative test result. 
  • If you travel internationally, check the destination and country requirements before traveling outside the United States. 
    • You will need to get tested before leaving the United States. 
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States. 
    • You will need to get tested after international travel. 
    • You will need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States. 

Regardless of vaccination status: 

  • Follow the guidance at your workplace and local businesses. 
  • Wearing a mask is still required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance such as open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus. 

NEW: CDC Guidelines based on “Level of Community Transmission” - August 2021 

The new CDC guidelines are based on the Level of Community Transmission, designated as LOW, MODERATE, SUBSTANTIAL, or HIGH. The CDC recommends masks indoors for areas of substantial or high transmission.  Substantial transmission is 50 or more new cases per 100,000 over the past week or an 8–10% positivity rate, while an area of high transmission is 100 or more new cases or a positivity rate over 10%. As of August 17, 2021, Howard County is at a substantial level of COVID-19 transmission.  

NEW: Howard County Statistics as of August 18, 2021 

  • Vaccination rate for residents ages 12+ is just over 81% which is the best in the state. 
  • Positivity rate 2.3% (slight increase from 2.28%) 
  • Confirmed cases per 100,000 total 8.8 (slight decrease from 8.9) 
  • Hospitalizations remain low with cases seen primarily with unvaccinated population. 
  • Mortality and morbidity rates remain low. 
  • Delta variant represents 75% of cases.  
  • Howard County designated as SUBSTANTIAL under new CDC guidelines, which means masks are required indoors. 
  • Anticipate Pfizer vaccine to be approved by FDA for children ages 5–11 years with vaccinations beginning this fall. 

NEW: HCC Metrics and Operational Status 

Metrics have been established for returning to campus. Moving back a phase or to a virtual environment can occur when two of the three critical indicators are met for two or more consecutive weeks:  

  1. The Howard County positivity rate is above 10% over a seven-day range; 
  2. The Howard County seven day rolling average case rate per 100,000 population increases to greater than 25; or 
  3. HCC’s reported seven-day average of positive cases is greater than 25 unrelated cases. Operational status will be determined based on the data gathered or from the recommendation of the Howard County Health Department. 

The HCC metrics are being tracked regularly and will be updated monthly on the college website at https://www.howardcc.edu/coronavirus/health-dashboard.html

NEW: Classroom-Specific Frequently Asked Questions: Academic Affairs  

Q: Can a student’s vaccination status impact attendance or missed work policies? 

A: No; we can’t ask about vaccination status, unless the student is part of a cohort requiring vaccination, such as a member of an athletic team or certain health sciences students. 

Q: Should faculty treat COVID-19 the same as any other illness, in terms of their syllabus policies? 

A: The vice president for academic affairs is asking for continued flexibility as it pertains to COVID-19 illness. Just as we are flexible with students who have other serious illnesses, we need to continue to be flexible where we can regarding COVID-19. 

Q: Is there a central location for instructors to share student-reported positive COVID-19 tests or symptoms? Is there a mechanism to notify all instructors of a specific student’s positive test?  

A: Faculty should report possible exposure cases and positive COVID-19 test results to EOP@howardcc.edu and should also recommend that the student self-reports. Contract tracing will continue in coordination with Howard County Health Department. 

EOP maintains a health dashboard, which is updated on the college coronavirus webpage: https://www.howardcc.edu/coronavirus/health- dashboard.html. For more information, contact EOP@howardcc.edu.  

Faculty Illness & Attendance 

Q: If an adjunct instructor tests positive for COVID, are they still paid in full during the quarantine period? How is the substitute paid? 

A: Adjuncts should use their sick leave. Substitutes will be paid using federal money.  

Q: If a faculty member is in quarantine, are they allowed to transition from a face-to-face lecture to flexible online or scheduled remote learning? 

A: No; a class can be cancelled once, but if the quarantine persists, a substitute should be  identified and will be paid through federal funds. 

Q: Is a faculty member allowed to send an entire class to the test center for an exam if the class has an exam while the faculty member is quarantining? 

A: No; contact your coordinator/chair/dean to request coverage for proctoring. Federal funds have been set aside for this; each Dean knows how to access this. 

Q: Are microphones available when teaching in a mask? 

A: Yes. Contact your division dean and they can request this purchase if they don’t already have these. 

Q: What should an instructor do if a student is not wearing a mask or is wearing one improperly? 

A: Ask the student to wear or adjust their mask for proper coverage. If the student refuses, call public safety. Students with a legitimate reason not to wear a mask will have a letter from the office of student conduct. Faculty should already be aware (via Code of Conduct Office) if a student with this issue is in their class; these students will be guided toward online options. 

Faculty and students can quickly remove masks to drink water, as this results in an unmasking that is far less than the 15 minutes of exposure concern for being in contact with someone who has COVID. Faculty may want to allow students to take a 5-minute refreshment break during class if they are concerned about the extent of drinking or eating. 

Q: Are faculty responsible for enforcing mask wearing inside campus buildings, even if it’s not their student? For example, a faculty member could approach a student and inform them of the college mask policy and then report them to public safety if they refuse to comply. 

A: Yes; this is true for all employees, and the requirement to wear a mask is there for all  students and employees. Students, faculty, and staff are not required to wear masks outside.  

Cleaning Policies 

Q: Who is responsible for cleaning classrooms and/or labs? How often will cleaning take place, and what will be cleaned? 

A: Faculty, staff, and students should wipe in and wipe out. Cleaning by environmental services happens overnight. Cleaning supplies will be stationed in every classroom; wipes will be provided for surfaces and equipment. For disinfecting keyboards, the office of information technology recommends alcohol-based cleaning wipes with at least 70%+ isopropyl alcohol and no bleach base. If wipes and other cleaning materials are getting low, please contact Facilities with the classroom number. 

Q: Can faculty put in their syllabus that it is the student’s responsibility to clean their workspace (desk in classroom, etc) before and after using it? 

A: They can; it is not required. 

 


 

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