Coronavirus

Image of passport, medical equipmentCOVID-19/Coronavirus

We understand the uneasiness Arkansans may be feeling about the spread of COVID-19 globally, especially with news that individuals in Arkansas are either being tested or are being monitored for development of the disease.

Please follow recommendations from the Arkansas Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control. If you believe you have symptoms start with UAMS's free online screening: https://uamshealth.com/healthnow/

At the Division of Agriculture, the safety of our faculty, staff and the clientele with whom we work is top priority. We are following the advice of the Arkansas Department of Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and, because of our international reach, the U.S. State Department, to ensure we all have safe and healthy environments in which to work. 

On March 11, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a presumed positive for COVID-19 in a patient in Jefferson County. In this statement, he also instituted a 60-day ban on out-of-state business travel for state employees. (The Department of Higher Education noted that this does not apply to colleges and universities.) On the same day, the University of Arkansas moved to suspend all university-sponsored out-of-state travel – both domestic and international – for the next 60 days, effective immediately. The suspension could be extended in the future. The university said appeals may be made to the appropriate vice chancellor.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS 

Effective March 5, Division of Agriculture faculty and staff were not permitted to travel for business purposes to countries designated by the U.S. State Department as Level 4 or Level 3. The State Department now has country-specific information related to COVID-19 and can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html.

These countries are: 

Additional information on Covid-19 and other travel alerts is here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

Effective March 12, the Division of Agriculture is restricting non-essential, domestic out-of-state business travel for the next 60 days (to May 11). However, if there is a compelling reason travel should be considered essential – and these will be rare exceptions – it must be approved by the appropriate senior associate vice president.

I’ve been traveling. Do I self-quarantine?

If you have traveled out of state, we recommend following CDC guidance upon your return. Keep in mind that you may come in contact with the virus in airports, on mass transit or other public transportation such as taxis and ride-sharing services. CDC also has guidance for those who have traveled to high-risk areas.

Consult your physician or try UAMS’s online COVID-19 screening.

Employees who are out of office because of self-quarantine or because of COVID-19-related school closings can be either in a leave status or work in accordance with our current telecommuting policy, unless we receive additional guidance from a higher authority.

Policies related to quarantine

Employees who are absent from the office in an effort to prevent spread of a virus or other infectious disease, but are feeling well enough to perform their work from home, should become familiar with the Division of Agriculture's telecommuting policy for classified and non-faculty, non-classified staff.

Section 3 has a provision for temporary, emergency absences. This would allow employee to telecommute due to medical emergency (short term illness), reasonable accommodation for ADA purposes, or PMGS 17-03 Page 2 of 4 some other type of crisis. Please see Section IV. regarding the approval process if it is a reasonable accommodation. The Department Head/Unit Head must complete a Telecommuting Approval form (PMGS 17-03B). This policy will not permit employees to work at any other locations than their primary residence or other approved specific location. Download the policy here: https://division.uaex.edu/docs/policies/pmgs-17-3.pdf

INFORMATION ABOUT LEAVE

Until further notice the university system will continue to follow the leave use guidelines as provided in Board Policies 420.1, 420.2 and 420.3. Specific to a common question, at this time, authority under state law does not exist for paid administrative leave.

In some cases individuals may be quarantined by the Arkansas Department of Health, their physician or other health care authority.  They may not be ill or experience symptoms of the illness but will be unavailable for work. As practical for each role and as meets the needs of the individual campus, work-from-home assignments (which would include regular job assignments, available campus on-line training, or similar types of arrangements) are encouraged in those situations. If work-from-home assignments are not possible, accrued leave (sick and vacation) and leave-without-pay will be used in the normal manner.

The U of A System will continue to monitor this situation closely.

DIVISION OF AGRICULTURE MEETING GUIDELINES

Starting March 18, we are canceling all face-to-face meetings of 10 or more for the next eight weeks. Please consider using alternate means such as Zoom. We will be reassessing the situation.

Laboratory use

We encourage our PIs to implement protocols to ensure the safety of our employees. Please contact the appropriate senior associate vice president with questions.

Student workers

If you employ student workers, defer to the guidelines issued by the students’ degree-granting institution. 

March 26, 2020 -  STATEMENT FROM THE DIVISION

LITTLE ROCK – A University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture employee tested positive Wednesday for the COVID-19 virus.

“We are united in wishing this employee a full recovery,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture, for the University of Arkansas System. Cochran is head of the Division of Agriculture. “We have been working with the Arkansas Department of Health to ensure those who have been in contact with this employee have been notified.”

In accordance to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the state health department, most employees have been working from home and moving some of their outreach efforts online as part of social distancing.

March 13, 2020 - STATEMENT FROM THE DIVISION ON COVID-19

FAQs about COVID-19

The Cooperative Extension Service has a page that contains frequently asked questions and other important information about COVID-19 that is not included on this page.