COVID-19 Response Plan

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dear HBU Community,

As we continue to see more and more news about the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), our mutual concern motivates us to be vigilant and proactive. As you know, the situation is changing daily and will remain very fluid over the next several weeks, perhaps months. Please be assured that Houston Baptist University takes this rapidly evolving situation very seriously. You should plan to check this website frequently for updates. This is an update to the University Community to the health bulletin that we issued on March 5, 2020.

It is important to note that there are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 on the HBU campus.

There have, however, been a limited number of cases identified in and around Houston. Until yesterday, according to all reports, all cases involved foreign travel. Yesterday, the City of Houston and Harris County announced the first case of community spread of COVID-19.  As a result, the City of Houston issued an emergency health declaration and Harris County placed the County under a public health disaster declaration.  Both declarations will be in effect for the next seven days to control the spread of COVID-19.

Our University leadership has made the following immediate decisions:

Classes

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, HBU will not hold any residential classes for the week of March 16-21, 2020.  Online classes will continue as scheduled.  

The residential class schedule will resume remotely (online or alternative format) beginning March 23 until further notice. We will continue to monitor the conditions around COVID-19 and a future decision will be made as to when face-to-face instruction can resume.

Additional information regarding specialized course situations, such as off-site cohorts, dual credit classes held at high school locations, clinical teaching or nursing experiences and internships will be distributed by the Office of the Provost and posted to this website.

Faculty should use next week (March 16-20) to prepare for remote course delivery beginning Monday, March 23. The University will use the learning management system, Blackboard, as the primary means for delivering content. HBU has created a resource guide for continuity of instruction (login required)  to prepare faculty for potential transition of courses into Blackboard. The continuity guide includes contact information for help with Blackboard setup and administration. HBU will also be providing training for full-time and part-time faculty during the week of March 16-20 within your departments. Dates and times will be forthcoming.  The presentation will also be recorded and made available to any who cannot attend in-person training.  In addition, the University has tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom remote conferencing which may be used for alternative delivery of classroom material.  The Office of the Provost will provide additional information and resources to faculty.

Faculty and Staff outside of course instruction, all University operations will continue as normal and faculty and staff are expected to continue their normal work schedules and activities.  If you or a member of your household falls into one of the high-risk groups as identified by the CDC, such that you may be advised by a health authority not to come to work, please contact Human Resources.

On-Campus Housing and Dining

Students who have the option to stay at home should plan to do so.  The campus is open for students who need to come back to retrieve personal items or study materials from the residence halls, as long as you are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.  University housing and dining services will be open for student residents who need it. Sanitization and hygiene protocols have been escalated and will continue. HBU’s housekeeping services have increased the frequency and depth of cleaning and disinfection in residence halls, dining halls, Moody Library, the M. D. Anderson Student Center, Bradshaw Fitness Center, common spaces and common contact points, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches and bathrooms. The University has added more hand-sanitizing stations in high-traffic buildings and dining halls.

As students think about and make decisions on returning to campus, please consider the CDC’s criteria for people considered to be at high risk, including older adults and people with chronic medical conditions: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html.

Student Activities

All student meetings and activities have been suspended until it is determined that face-to-face instruction can resume.

Campus tours for prospective students and families will continue as scheduled.

Students who return to campus should exercise social distancing and cough etiquette.  As recommended by the CDC:

  • wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or elbow
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • stay away from campus if you are sick

Bradshaw Fitness Center

The HBU Bradshaw Fitness Center is following protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the International Health and Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).  Additional measures taken to further ensure member and visitor safety include going touch free as much as possible in our facility.  An example is our check-in process.  The Front Desk will no longer handle membership cards for the purpose of check-in.  Members are able to self-scan their cards upon entering the facility.  Our contracted cleaning services have increased cleaning measures for high touch surface areas and a free-standing hand sanitizer station is provided at check-in.  In general, we encourage members to use their own discretion during this time, particularly if you are a member of a high-risk population.  For any additional questions concerning membership or facility operations, please email fitnesscenter@hbu.edu.

Travel

For individuals who traveled internationally during Spring Break, Harris County has placed a 14-day quarantine on individuals returning to Houston.  The return to work date would be the 15th day after return, providing you are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. If you traveled internationally during Spring Break and are subject to mandatory quarantine, you must notify the University by registering here.

HBU has implemented Required Mandatory Reporting following international travel.  HBU is requiring all students, faculty and staff traveling from or through any location that has been designated as Level 1, 2 or 3 by the CDC for COVID-19 since January 31, 2020 to notify the University by registering here.

Self-isolation requires that you do not come to campus including work, residence halls, on-campus apartments, residential classes, athletic events or other social gatherings until 14 days after leaving the Level 1, 2 or 3 country in question. Likewise, please avoid public places and gatherings in the community.

The 14-day clock starts on the day a person leaves one of those countries. You may only return to campus following self-quarantine after emailing COVID19info@hbu.edu and receiving written approval.

The University is working to accommodate the classes and work schedules for students and personnel who self-isolate or are ill.  More information about these accommodations will be posted over the next week.

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, it is important to consult with your medical provider, or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.  Be sure to call in advance to inform the medical provider of your recent travel and symptoms.  DO NOT report to the campus health clinic in the Hodo Residence Hall.

Upcoming Travel
As of today, HBU is suspending all university sponsored international travel for faculty, staff and students until the CDC’s travel restrictions and guidance regarding student travel have been lifted.

All domestic travel has been restricted to essential business purposes only through April 30.  This restriction includes academic and administrative conferences.  We encourage you to seek alternative mechanisms to participate in conferences and professional meetings as much as possible, e.g. Zoom. Any mission-critical exceptions must be approved in advance by the appropriate vice president.

Events and Athletic Competition

All on-campus events, public gatherings and parties of more than 100 people are prohibited through the end of March to minimize close contact among large groups of people as recommended by the CDC.  The situation will be monitored to determine if the date should be extended.  Updates will be posted at hbu.edu/coronavirus.

All attendees at events with 100 people or less must be provided with information about practicing proper handwashing as suggested by the CDC (for example, regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and staying home if sick).

Home athletic competitions will continue pending receipt of additional guidance from the NCAA and Southland Conference. Enhanced cleaning and communication procedures for these events have been implemented.

We encourage you to act responsibly as a community member if you are sick. If you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath or other symptoms of contagious illness, you should seek medical attention to ensure it is safe for you to be on campus.

We recognize that this is a challenging situation for the HBU community. Please be assured that our campus remains safe and open.  The health and safety of our campus community remains our central focus at Houston Baptist University.  As mentioned above, the situation is changing daily and will remain very fluid over the next several weeks. Please refer to hbu.edu/coronavirus frequently for updates.

A Final Word

In the midst of these challenges this is still God’s world.  We encourage prayer for world leaders, our churches, families and communities.  We continue to trust in God’s goodness and mercy in all things.

Robert Sloan
President

© 2020 Houston Baptist University