George Mason University

Coronavirus: FAQs for Faculty and Staff

The university is mandating that all employees who can work remotely should do so, except those who must report in person to carry out key university functions, such as critical research, teaching (including online instruction), supporting students allowed to remain on campus, health care, and administrative and other obligations that cannot be conducted remotely.

Is the university still open during virtual instruction period?

Yes. Faculty and staff will continue to work during this period. For some, constraints on their time will increase, particularly as we work to shift classes to virtual instruction.

Mason will be closing our buildings to the general public for the foreseeable future. We also will be mandating telework for all faculty and staff except for those who need to work on campus to continue critical functions for the university.

For more information, read President Holton's message. 

I think I'm sick. What should I do?

If you have a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath:

  • Avoid contact with others. Stay home except when seeking medical care.
  • Report your absence to your supervisor. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, and stay well hydrated/drink fluids.
  • Cover your cough, and avoid close contact with others.
  • Before you go to your primary care doctor or emergency room, call ahead and notify staff of your condition and travel history, especially to China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea. Follow medical providers' instructions to get the care you need while keeping others safe. Follow the instructions of health care professionals.

For more information about Mason's communicable disease response procedures, consult the Communicable Disease Guide (PDF).

What type of leave should I use?

On March 12, 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced the availability of Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) (PDF), which provides employees with leave when the State Health Commission and Governor declare communicable disease of public health threat conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

PHEL will cover cases where telework or the suggested alternatives are not possible. All employees, including wage and student wage, adjuncts, and federal work study positions, have access to a maximum of 160 hours, or pro-rated based on the number of hours an employee is normally scheduled to work.

This additional leave is intended to serve as a stop-gap measure until the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) goes into effect.  Additional information is available in our PHEL Guidelines.

The maximum amount of PHEL paid leave must not exceed the maximum number of hours an employee would normally work each week. 

If you have exhausted this leave, please contact Benefits It is our hope that there will be additional leave relief provided. For the latest information, please refer to our updated PHEL Guidelines.

Employees may use PHEL:

  • To attend to their own medical needs or the medical needs of an immediate family member being tested or treated for COVID-19
  • If they have chronic health conditions or are age 65 or older and there are no alternative flexible work options to maintain social distancing
  • To make alternative childcare arrangements due to closure of day care centers/schools due to COVID-19
  • If an employee’s job is not conducive to telework or other alternatives are not possible

Other types of leave:

  • Employees under the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP) should utilize leave in accordance with Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) policy.
  • Employees under the traditional sick leave program should check information about taking leave on the HR site.
  • The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will take effect on April 1, 2020, which will provide up to 80 hours of paid emergency leave at full salary and provides additional reduced paid leave. This will result in a new category of Family & Medical Leave (FML) for employees who must care for their children as a result of the closure of schools/daycare.  We will provide additional information on FFCRA and its impact on employees soon.

A member of my household is in self-isolation. Should I self-isolate as well?

Yes. Individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate. If someone in your household may have been exposed to COVID-19, you may have been, as well. Consult your physician at the first indication of symptoms.

I do not have any symptoms, but I’m worried about my health or the health of someone else. What should I do?

Call your primary health care provider if you have concerns about your own health or need medical advice.

If a student seeks your advice, tell them to call Student Health Services (703-993-2831) during open hours for guidance. After-hours, there is a nurse advice phone service available.  Students who have returned to their permanent residence should be advised to call their local primary care provider. 

How do I know if I should be tested? How can I get tested?

The Fairfax County Health Department, which does not offer testing, has developed some guidelines.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you’re concerned you’ve been exposed, call your doctor, who will determine if you need testing. Do not go to your doctor’s office without calling first. Infection control protocols must be in place before you arrive.

If you have symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath) and either have a positive lab test or have been directed by your medical provider to isolate at home, continue self-isolation until:

  • At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND
  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (three full days with no fever and no use of medicine to reduce fever) AND
  • Other symptoms have gone away or improved

Do not go to an emergency room unless, for example, you have difficulty breathing. If you have symptoms plus a known exposure, call ahead to ensure infection control protocols are in place.

How can I report a suspected case of COVID-19 on campus?

If you have not been on campus or had contact with Mason staff or students in the past 14 days you do not need to report your condition to the university and your health care provider should report any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 illness to your illness to your local health department.

If within the past 14 days your doctor has confirmed that you have COVID-19 or are suspected to have COVID-19, please report as follows:

  • Faculty and Staff must contact Human Resources and Payroll. if you test positive for coronavirus, are instructed by a medical professional to self-isolate, or have been in close contact ON CAMPUS with someone who has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19
  • Students who test positive or are issued self-isolation instructions must contact Student Health Services (SHS). If you are a student living on campus or have had contact with a student living on campus, call 703-993-2831. All others please use the SHS secure online portal
  • Mason Contractors must contact the Environemental Health and Safety Office at 703-993-8448 if any on-site employees test positive or are symptomatic and have been instructed by a medical professional to isolate. 

When notified, Human Resources and Payroll, Student Health Services, or Environmental Health & Safety will request information about where you were on campus and whom you may have come into contact. 

Those teams will connect with Environmental Health & Safety, which will assist in evaluating if other members of the Mason community are at risk of exposure and coordinate a thorough cleaning of university spaces as necessary. Students, faculty, and staff will be notified if quarantine is recommended based on the information gathered. 

What do I do if I don’t have insurance or a regular doctor?

If you’re concerned that you  have symptoms of COVID-19, contact Herndon Health Works (703-443-2000). A member of their team will determine if your symptoms warrant testing.

If you have symptoms, and you are not already using Herndon Health Works as your primary care provider, the person you talk with will guide you on your next steps. It might be to have a test, or it might be to contact your local emergency room.

Fairfax County has many low-cost health care resources for those without health insurance. (PDF)

You can also call the health department’s Coordinated Services Planning service at 703-222-0880, TTY 711 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to receive advice on services available to you. 

Will student evaluations of instructors still be conducted?

Mason is suspending student evaluations of teaching this semester. Proceeding with course evaluations at this time would lead to anomalies and skew results, making the data unusable. With this suspension, this semester's evaluations will not be expected to be reported by any faculty member during subsequent renewal, promotion or tenure materials, nor in contract renewal for term faculty.

Suspending the evaluations also means Mason won’t be able to pilot the new questions at this time and will need to push that activity to the fall semester. Because the pilot questions address a number of important issues and concerns, it will be necessary to regroup with the Teaching Effectiveness Committee and make alternative plans.

How do I advise students during this time?

Faculty and staff who are advising students should visit Mason’s Keep Advising page.

What if I have a Mason-related trip planned?

On March 12, Governor Northam declared a State of Emergency and within that declaration, he has halted travel outside of the state for all state employees. Mason has suspended all university-sponsored or university-related domestic and international travel for students, faculty and staff until further notice. This does not include business travel to other campuses or within the DMV and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Because some planned business travel might already be scheduled, Fiscal Services advises travelers to cancel their flights and request a full refund. It that’s not possible, cancel the flight and request a credit for a future date.

Please monitor individual airlines’ announcements about policy changes, as you might be able to make a change without incurring a fee.

You should also make a reasonable attempt to receive a refund for all other travel-related expenses. Trip- related expenses that cannot be refunded may be reimbursed with department approval.

Can I get some guidance on teleworking?

There are some jobs and assignments that require onsite presence and cannot be done remotely. Employees should work closely with supervisors to make decisions and accommodations for their specific situation and responsibilities. HR & Payroll has put together Telework Guidelines (PDF) for employees and managers to help navigate this process. If you are currently teleworking, or will begin teleworking, please complete a telework form.

Teleworking will require flexibility and could mean modifications to an employee’s scope of work. Where alternative duties cannot be identified, supervisors should contact Employee Relations.

Student employees (i.e., student wage workers, graduate assistants) are not required to telework, but those who want to continue working remotely should follow guidance provided for faculty and staff. The University Flexible Work Policy will be expanded temporarily during this time to include student workers.

What telework tools and technology are available?

In this new remote environment, many employees will need to use new tools or use familiar technology in an unfamiliar way.  Information to help employees stay connected with workplace is available at Working Remotely: A Guide to Maintaining Continuity

Most Mason applications—Office 365, Patriot Web, Blackboard/myMason—are available via the Internet with just your NetID and Patriot Pass Password. Some select services, including MESA and Banner Admin, may require the Virtual Private Network (VPN) when teleworking.

Webex Meetings and Webex Teams accounts have been established for every employee, and Windows Virtual Desktops will be available to provide access to Blackboard and Microsoft Office 365 applications on personal, non-Mason computers, by the end of the week.

 Call forwarding to an external line, such as a cell or home phone, is available. Contact your department’s Telecom Coordinator or Telecom Administration to coordinate getting this service. Update your email signature, out-of-office and voice mail greetings as necessary to provide your updated contact information and availability.

We’ve also compiled remote-work toolkits:

The HR & Payroll team is continually working to create and update these resources and tools to help you navigate remote work; please check regularly, as more resources will be added.

What if I can't do my job through telework?

Human Resources and Payroll is working directly with the unit/area leaders to assist them in addressing these situations and ensuring continuity of operations. Employees and supervisors must assess together whether key on campus duties (e.g., building maintenance) can be conducted safely in this environment, in accordance with all safety and public health requirements. This may necessitate new protocols, altered schedules, or other considerations.

Think broadly around the many ways an employee’s strengths and talents may be utilized in this environment. Employee Relations is available as a resource in finding alternative duties, and additional resources are available at our Telework Guidelines (PDF) and ITS’ Working Remotely guidelines. 

Should we cancel in-person interviews?

Consider alternatives such as delaying the in-person interview if the start date is flexible and candidates are receptive, or conducting follow-up interviews via videoconferencing such as WebEx interviews.

Are HR services still available?

Yes. All our services will be available virtually. Check the HR website priodically for updates, or contact us:

What if I need to travel somewhere? Can I return to campus?

Employees who travel must contact Human Resources and Payroll to discuss their return to campus.  If you have questions about symptoms or the need to quarantine, please contact your health care provider.