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.

Health

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

If you have symptoms such as a cough, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, or lost/decreased sense of taste or smell, and think you have been exposed to coronavirus, call your local primary health care provider for guidance. Follow their advice. Stay home, except to seek medical care.

Report your absence to your supervisor. You may be asked to self-isolate or self-quarantine (stay home and avoid contact with others) and monitor your health. Most people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. The CDC has information on how to protect yourself and others.

​If your symptoms are escalating, such as progressive shortness of breath, don't wait for your regular doctor to return your email or phone call. Seek emergent care. 

Before you go to your primary care doctor or emergency room, call ahead and notify staff of your condition and travel history. Follow medical providers' instructions to get the care you need while keeping others safe.

Mason has also set up notification guidelines (PDF) for employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, have been tested but don’t have results yet, or have symptoms.

We also have guidelines for students, faculty, staff, and contractors (PDF) for guidance on getting tested, where to go for care, and returning to campus.

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

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

Yes. Individuals who are close contacts of someone who has COVID-19 are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days since last contact. Consult your physician at the first indication of symptoms.

Mason has also set up notification guidelines for employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, have been tested but don’t have results yet, or have symptoms. 

We also have guidelines for students, faculty, staff, and contractors for guidance on getting tested, where to go for care, and returning to campus.

Who should I notify at Mason if I feel ill?

Mason has set up notification guidelines for students, faculty and staff, and contractors (PDF).

These guidelines will tell you what to do if:

  • You have mild symptoms.
  • Your symptoms are more serious.
  • You are awating test results.
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19. 
Who should I notify at Mason if I tested positive for COVID-19?

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 COVID-19 Contact Form.

Benefits will contact the employee after the COVID-19 Contact Form is submitted to collect additional information that is required to determine next steps. Mason’s Environmental Health and Safety Office may contact the employee if they determine additional information is needed. We request a timely response  to ensure the continued safety and wellness of the employee as well as the Mason community. All medical information employees share is considered confidential.

Please review: 

What do I do if my employee reports having COVID-19 or being a contact of someone with COVID-19?

Mason has set up notification guidelines for students, faculty and staff, and contractors (PDF).

These guidelines will tell you what to do if an employee reports:

  • Mild symptoms.
  • Serious symptoms.
  • They're awating test results.
  • They've tested positive for COVID-19. 

Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 must notify Mason by completing the university’s secure COVID-19 Contact Form. If the employee is unable to complete the form, supervisors should complete the COVID-19 Contact Form on their employee’s behalf. 

Please respect employee privacy by keeping any medical information an employee shares confidential. Please share these guidelines with employees who notify you of their positive COVID-19 diagnosis and advise them to complete the COVID-19 Contact Form

Please do not contact other departments or individuals to report the positive diagnosis or to attempt contact tracing. 

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?

For guidance on what to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19, please review the notification guidelines

For guidance on getting tested, where to go for care, and returning to campus, follow our guidelines for students, faculty, staff, and contractors.

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 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND
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  • 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.

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 and surrounding jurisdictions have many low-cost health care resources for those without a primary care doctor or 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. 

I am in a crisis but I don’t have health benefits through Mason. Where can I get help?

For those who do not have Mason benefits, who do not have access to the Employee Assistance Program, or who are experiencing hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, please review the Employee Relations Support page for resources regarding:

  • Housing Assistance.
  • Food Security.
  • Social Services.
  • Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources.
  • National Crisis Resources.
  • Mental/Behavioral Health Resources.
  • Medical Resources.
  • Financial Resources.
I’m uneasy about going out for groceries. Are there guidelines to follow?

When possible, limit non-essential travel outside your home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidelines for people who must run essential errands.

For example, if you need to shop for food:

  • Order and pay online.
  • Use curbside pickup.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others.
  • Shield your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering.
  • Look for a store that has special hours for those at higher risk.
  • Disinfect the shopping cart with wipes.
  • Use hand sanitizer after touching money or a keypad, and when you leave the store.
  • Wash your hands when you get home.

The CDC page provides guidelines how to protect yourself doing other essential errands such as fueling your car, visiting the doctor or picking up medicine, traveling and using transportation, or visiting others.  

If you feel sick, stay home; do not run errands.

I am concerned about protecting members of my household who may be vulnerable to COVID-19.

The CDC has guidelines for households living in close quarters, such as people who share a small apartment, live in the same household with large or extended families, or live with someone with a serious underlying medical condition.

What type of leave should I use?

Human Resources has provided an overview of leave guidelines during this crisis. 

Leave Types Available During COVID-19

Review the COVID-19 Leave Guidance Chart for the type of leave you can use and when you can use it during COVID-19.

Types of leave include:

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

The Commonwealth of Virginia has granted an exception to the Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) policy effective March 26, 2020, to permit up to 160 hours (Pro-rated for <100% benefited part-time employees and non-benefited part-time employees) total of this paid leave. For more information on how to use PHEL, please review the documents below:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

FFCRA, which took effect on April 1, 2020, and expires on Dec. 31, 2020, provides up to two weeks of Emergency Paid Sick Leave and expanded Family Medical Leave (FML) to faculty, classified and wage employees who have worked at least 30 calendar days prior to their leave request.

For more information about Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FML, including the eligible circumstances, how to apply, and FAQs, please review the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Details document.

Can I get some guidance on Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)?

Instructional / Research Faculty and Administrative /Professional Faculty and Classified Staff

  • If you can telework, report your time worked in PatriotWeb as usual.
  • If you can telework but not enough to meet your FTE hours, speak with your manager.
  • If you are designated as essential, you are required to work at your normal work location. Report your time worked in PatriotWeb as usual.
  • If you cannot telework, report your normally scheduled hours in PatriotWeb as PHEL up to the maximum number of hours normally worked during a pay period.
  • If you are unable to work because you or an immediate family member is being tested or treated for COVID-19, report your normally scheduled hours in PatriotWeb as PHEL up to the maximum number of hours normally worked during a pay period. You must also apply for VSDP (if eligible) and/or FMLA. Contact the Benefits Team.
  • If you are unable to work due to an illness that is not COVID-19 related, you must apply for VSDP (if eligible) and/or FMLA. Contact the Benefits Team.
  • If you are making alternative child care arrangements because your child’s day care center or school is closed due to COVID-19, you may use PHEL for the hours spent seeking alternative childcare arrangements.  PHEL cannot be used for hours spent caring for your own child.

Adjunct Faculty

  • Continue to work remotely and deliver instruction online.
  • If you are unable to work because you or an immediate family member is being tested or treated for COVID-19, report your normally scheduled hours in PatriotWeb as PHEL up to the maximum number of hours normally worked during a pay period.
  • If you are making alternative childcare arrangements because your child’s day care center or school is closed due to COVID-19, you may use PHEL for the hours spent seeking alternative childcare arrangements.  PHEL cannot be used for hours spent caring for your own child.

Non-Student Wage Employees

  • If you can telework, report your time in PatriotWeb as usual. 
  • If you are designated as essential, you are required to work at your usual work location. Report your time worked in PatriotWeb as usual.
  • If you cannot telework, discuss with your manager the number of hours you should enter for each pay period in PatriotWeb as PHEL.  Please contact Payroll, if you are not sure of your PHEL balance.
  • If you are making alternative child care arrangements because your child’s day care center or school is closed due to COVID-19, you may use PHEL for the hours spent seeking alternative childcare arrangements.  PHEL cannot be used for hours spent caring for your own child.
  • Wage and temporary employees are limited to working 1,450 hours in a 12-month period. The measurement period starts May 1 and ends April 30 of the following year. During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency situation, wage and temporary employees will be allowed to work up to the Commonwealth limit. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that employees do not exceed this limit. 

Student Employees

Student Wage Employees
  • Non-Federal Work Study Student Employees (paid hourly):
    • If you are can telework with your manager’s approval, report your time worked in PatriotWeb.  
    • If you cannot telework you can use PHEL available up to the maximum number of hours normally scheduled during a pay period. 
    • If you have been given the opportunity to work (or telework) and choose not to work (or telework), you are not eligible for PHEL.
  • Federal Work Study Student Employees
    • If you can work remotely and have your manager’s approval, report your time in PatriotWeb as usual.
    • If you cannot work remotely, you can use PHEL up to the maximum number of hours normally scheduled during a pay period.
    • If you have been given the opportunity to work (or telework) and choose not to work (or telework), you are not eligible for PHEL.
    • Supervisors of students on Federal Work Study should work directly with the Office of Student Financial Aid as there is additional documentation that will need to be filed (contact dkroll@gmu.edu to submit that paperwork.)
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)

GTAs and GRAs should contact their faculty advisors/supervisors to discuss their work.

  • If you can telework, as determined by your faculty supervisor, you will be paid as usual for the period of your existing commitment as a GTA/
  • If you have been given the opportunity to work (or telework) and choose not to work (or telework), you are not eligible for PHEL.
  • If you cannot telework, you can use PHEL.  Submit the PHEL timesheet to record the number of hours.
Can I Use My 403(b) now?

Under the CARES Act (PDF), Mason 403(b) plan participants financially impacted by COVID-19 can:

  • Take early withdrawals up to $100,000 without the usual 10% early withdrawal penalty and 20% mandatory tax withholding, effective April 1; these distributions are called “CARES Act Distributions”
  • Delay 403(b) loan repayments due between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020, for one year
  • Access increased loan amounts

For more detailed information, visit the HR & Payroll website. If you have questions, please email Benefits.

Operations

Is the university still open during the 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.

Are HR services still available?
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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.

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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.

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

Employees who travel to campus should work out the details with their supervisor or unit. To request a letter showing that travel is required under Executive Orders, supervisors should email Human Resources.  If you have questions about symptoms or the need to quarantine, contact your health care provider, and complete the Mason Employee COVID-19 Travel & Possible Contact Form.

Our department has jobs posted. Can we proceed with the interview/hiring process?

A hiring freeze took effect on April 2 for all state-funded classified and wage positions other than those listed in § 4-7.01(e) (public safety and public health).

To ensure that resources are deployed as effectively as possible, we have instituted new hiring processes. 

The Critical Vacancy Review Committee (CVRC) will review most new hires.

  • The committee consists of members of Human Resources and Payroll; Strategic Budget & Planning; Office of the Provost; and the Office of Compliance, Diversity & Ethics. 
  • CVRC review and appropriate senior leader review will be completed within five business days
  • Requests that are subject to the Commonwealth’s hiring freeze will be sent to the Commonwealth Secretary of Education for exception approval. We expect that Commonwealth review will be completed in approximately one business day.
  • Units will be notified by Human Resources and Payroll upon position approval or denial.  

Refer to the Employee Hiring Guide to better understand the process for specific employee categories. For positions requiring submission of a newly created Critical Vacancy Request Form, the workflow has been updated to include the requirement for dean/vice president approval.

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     Critical Vacancy Request Form for each position to be filled for tracking purposes only.
  • Research Faculty and Staff, Postdoctoral Fellows and Wage Employee positions supported by sponsored projects or from other non E&G sources (such as GMUF linked funds, Indirect orgs, Pool orgs and funds that are continuously available) are not subject to the Commonwealth’s hiring freeze and are not subject to review by the CRVC. Hiring units must submit a Critical Vacancy Request Form for each position to be filled for tracking purposes only.
  • Administrative/Professional Faculty positions are not subject to the Commonwealth’s hiring freeze but are subject to review by the CRVC. Hiring units must submit a Critical Vacancy Request Form for each position to be filled for review by the CRVC as an internal control measure, in light of the additional financial pressures on the university.
  • Student Wage, Non-Student Wage, and Classified Staff positions supported from E&G sources are subject to the Commonwealth’s hiring freeze and review by the CVRC. Hiring units must submit a Critical Vacancy Request Form to the CRVC, and approved requests will also be sent to the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Education for exception approval.
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A similar review process is being developed for any actions that would result in increased personnel cost including in-band or stipend adjustments, voluntary transfers, and all other adjustments in compensation. We will provide more information about this process shortly. Instructional and Research Faculty will still automatically receive pay increases commensurate with promotion and tenure.

What if we've made an offer to someone?

All offers made on or before April 2 are to be honored.  For offers extended after April 2, the Office of the Provost will review and reaffirm approval of instructional, administrative and research faculty positions. Similarly, the Office of the Senior Vice President will do the same for all non-academic and administrative positions, including professional faculty positions.  

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.

I'm a faculty member anticipating a promotion. Is that still possible?

The hiring freeze would not preclude a faculty member from getting a promotion (i.e. from assistant professor to full professor) or the related pay increase.

What if our department needs to make a purchase?

We are requesting that all university faculty and staff slow spending, defer costs, and eliminate, reduce or delay non-critical expenses for the remainder of FY2020 and into FY2021. The shift in our work and our work environment will also create opportunities to adjust our spending, based on revised needs. Additional guidance is available on the Fiscal Services Site.

The Office of Strategic Budgeting & Planning will soon be providing a template with specific instructions on how to identify and plan for cost savings, budget reductions and deferrals, and critical investments for your FY2021 budget. Department and College/School finance directors should plan to work with their assigned Budget Office analyst if they have any questions about the guidance provided.  

Working Remotely

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 flexwork.gmu.edu regularly, as more resources will be added.

Should I submit a new flexible work agreement?

If you are currently teleworking, or will begin teleworking, you should complete a Flexible Work Agreement form.

 If you have already submitted a form for working remotely during COVID-19, HR & Payroll will automatically extend any agreements to coincide with the date that we are cleared to return to regular operations. 

Don't try to amend your current Flexible Work Agreement or submit a new one; the current agreement will be valid through the remainder of the COVID-19 quarantine. 

 Contact HR if you have questions.

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. 

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.

 

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, providing 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.

How do I advise students during this time?

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