Health and Safety Plan


These plans were created to assist Emory University students, faculty, and staff who are returning to on-campus activity understand the health and safety measures that will be in place beginning in fall 2020. The health and safety of all members of our community is a top priority.

As we are busy getting ready for fall, we should all understand that we remain in the midst of a global pandemic. Our community is not immune to this disease. For that reason, we are providing a range of opportunities to engage in person and online, recognizing that some members of the community might have good reasons to work and learn remotely.

This site will be updated regularly because our policies and guidance will need to evolve as we learn more about the disease and in response to public health guidance and requirements. Additional details are also provided in the FAQs. Thank you for your cooperation in helping keep our community safe.

Please check back frequently, as this information will be regularly updated. Posted June 11, 2020.

Community Values

Emory’s motto—the wise heart seeks knowledge—highlights a signal organizing principle: our purposes here are driven by the heart. Care and compassion are critical to our educational and service missions. And these very values must guide our response to challenging situations, including this one.

Our institutional priorities and commitments are clear:

  • We take the health and well-being of our community and each of its members seriously.
  • We care about each and every member of our community, including our students, staff, faculty, and alumni; we all belong here.
  • We rely on medical and public health expertise in our decision-making, including the substantial expertise at Emory and the nearby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • We know that social stigma runs counter to our values and mission at Emory; moreover, social stigma presents additional health risks that we must address.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes “social stigma in the context of health” as “the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease. In an outbreak, this may mean people are labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, treated separately, and/or experience loss of status because of a perceived link with a disease.”

Social stigma has serious consequences. It undermines the sense of belongingness that we seek as the experience of all members of our community. Additionally, social stigma increases public health risks, including:

  • Driving people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination rather than seeking treatment.
  • Preventing people from seeking health care immediately.
  • Discouraging all persons from adopting healthy behaviors.

Being a part of a community includes certain responsibilities. We all have the responsibility to refrain from social stigmatization and to actively confront it directly when we encounter it.

Healthy Campus Habits

In order to make our return to campus as safe as possible, all members of our community will need to do their parts to keep themselves well and to help keep others well. We will all need to develop healthy habits, diligently practice them, and support each other in doing the things that will make us a healthier community overall. These healthy habits include:

Practice physical distancing—in almost all settings on campus, we’ll need to maintain a minimum distance of six feet from others. Not sure how far is far enough? Spread out your arms and imagine others around you are doing the same. If your hands would touch, you are too close together.

Wear face coverings—whenever on campus and outside of your immediate residence. Where’s “on campus”? The university defines it as all Emory-owned and affiliated properties. If you are outdoors and alone engaged in recreation in Lullwater Preserve, for example, you may not need to wear a mask, but you should have one with you. After all, you never know when you might want to stop to talk with others. Most masks and face coverings protect others from infectious droplets that are released from your nose and mouth. You are most likely to spread droplets when you sneeze, cough, shout, or sing, but just breathing results in releasing droplets that could carry viral particles if you are infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms at all.

To be effective, face coverings need to cover your entire nose, mouth, and chin. For many people on campus, wearing a face covering is a new experience, and it takes some getting used to, especially in the Georgia heat. Wearing a face covering, though, is effective for reducing risk of infection in our community. It is also a sign of respect for others. Wearing face coverings will be required for all persons on campus—this includes while teaching (unless at a distance and behind a shield) and attending class, in your personal office and corridors, and while in residence halls. Remember that your face covering protects others. When you don’t wear yours, you’re demonstrating a lack of concern for others.

Wash hands—for 20 seconds or more, multiple times each day, after using the restroom and blowing your nose, and after interacting in spaces that include frequently touched items such as handles, doorknobs, keyboards, and desk tops. It is best to use soap and water. When you don’t have access to soap and water, use one of the many hand sanitizing stations installed all around campus, especially in academic buildings and residence halls.

Avoid touching your face—and if you must or if you forget, be sure to wash your hands before and after doing so. This means it is also important to avoid frequent adjustments of your face covering. Find one that fits and allows you to be as comfortable as possible

Wipe down frequently touched surfaces—using sanitizing wipes and other cleaners. Sanitizing wipes and sprays will be available in all buildings with classrooms, labs, residence hall rooms, and offices, so you can grab one on your way to wherever you’re going. We’re also increasing the frequency of cleanings in teaching and learning spaces, and we’re doing deep cleaning of all classrooms each night.

Take the mandatory training—to learn more about how healthy habits protect us all. Training about our required health and hygiene measures on campus will be integrated in a new onboarding process for all faculty, staff, and students. Some more details appear below.

Monitor your own health—and check your temperature daily. We're providing students with thermometers to make this easy. Anyone with a temperature reading over 100 F should contact Student Health Services via the health portal (students) or the COVID hotline (404-71-COVID) (faculty and staff) for a confidential health assessment.

Stay home—if you feel ill and at the very first sign of symptoms. Everyone on campus will have access to trained health professionals to answer any questions they have. At the very first sign of not feeling well, stay at home and reach out for a health consultation. If you need to be tested, we will help schedule one for you. For students, we’re arranging for academic support services to help you keep from falling behind in your studies if you become ill. For faculty and staff, expanded sick days and other Human Resources policies will make it easier for you take care of yourself when you need to do so.

In addition to practicing these healthy habits, you’ll be able to participate in specialized wellness programs that will support mental health, combat isolation, and fight health and social stigmatization.

Peer educators will be deployed to educate and remind members of the community about health and hygiene habits and requirements, and they will support compliance. Faculty, staff, and students will be provided with hygiene gear to familiarize everyone with the types of supplies recommended for use on campus, including acceptable face coverings and effective sanitizing products.

Physical Engineering and Planning

Our health and safety plan includes organizing physical environments to support physical distancing and provide for better hygiene on campus. This includes the installation of barriers such as Plexiglas, where appropriate, and signage to show people where to stand or which way to walk in and out of classrooms and other campus facilities in order to avoid congestion.

We have increased the volume of airflow in academic buildings to enhance air quality, and classes will be scheduled only in buildings that can support the enhanced health and safety protocols.

Hand sanitizing stations will be strategically located throughout campus, and you will see other hygiene products available in popular areas for students to study.

In addition to these measures, we are planning to minimize risk by reducing density on campus. To achieve this, we’re supporting staff in remote working, when feasible, increasing online learning options, limiting gatherings, etc., so that we will reduce the number of people on campus at any given time. We expect to develop and adjust policies relating to visitors.

Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office is also working closely with planners and facility managers to assess needs for other precautionary measures that might be warranted based on health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OSHA, and other health and safety offices.

Faculty, staff, and students working in labs will receive specialized training, and when indicated, necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided. As PPE has been difficult to obtain at times during the pandemic, we are vigilantly monitoring the supply chain and strengthening our procurement and distribution processes and systems to make sure our community has all necessary supplies.

Supportive Policies

Maintaining a healthy and safe community goes beyond having helpful signage and the right supplies on hand. That’s why we’re implementing new policies that will support the practices designed to reduce risk and promote wellness.

For students utilizing university-sponsored health insurance, we are working to reduce deductible costs for COVID care. This will lower barriers for students so that they may be more likely to access care at the very first sign of illness. To support ill and quarantined students, we are encouraging more flexible attendance policies, and academic continuity plans will help those students stay on track when they are unable to attend classes in person.

The reduction of costs for COVID care also applies to the faculty and staff health insurance plans. Also, staff employees are eligible for additional paid leave days to cover times when they might have a need to quarantine or when they’re ill. The additional paid leave days can also be used by employees who need to care for ill family or other household members.

For faculty, staff, and students, we are expanding our childcare resource options.

Additional policies we are putting in place to help keep our community healthy include:

  • limitations on university-sponsored gatherings,
  • restrictions, limitations, and protocols for on campus visitors and contractors,
  • max caps for on-campus meetings,
  • limitations on off-campus university-sponsored meetings and events, and
  • travel policies: restricting university-sponsored international travel; domestic travel restrictions might extend to areas with widespread community transmission of the disease.

The new onboarding process is required of all persons coming to campus. It involves completing a confidential health assessment, providing essential and emergency contact information, completing the campus training, listing Emory close contacts and signing an acknowledgment of the newly created policies to support a healthy campus.

Finally, a revised academic calendar and the policy modifications necessary to implement it will reduce risks of outbreaks of illness on campus by resuming classes before the onset of the seasonal flu, minimizing opportunities for exposure during travel on breaks, and supporting students in leaving campus for an extended holiday recess. It is possible that the schedule for the spring semester will be adjusted. We expect to be able to relay a decision about that prior to our August start date to the academic year.

Community Health Measures and Monitoring

As mentioned above, a new onboarding process will include an initial, confidential symptom check and COVID-19 exposure assessment for all persons returning to campus or joining our community for the first time. We will follow CDC guidelines for review of symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19.

In addition to reviewing symptoms, all students will be screened further by testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Members of the Emory community who are abroad may face special challenges in returning to the United States and to Emory because of COVID-19 related travel regulations. Emory is committed to the safety of community members returning from abroad and will follow CDC and other appropriate guidance. Special instructions for international students, long-term academic visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and trainees who are presently abroad—and those who have recently traveled to certain areas—will be available in the coming weeks.

Professional health guidance to assess needs for extra precautions should be available through private health care providers or through Student Health Services, including but not limited to those who may be at higher risk for severe illness. Those at higher risk and those who reside with others at higher risk may also confer with Student Health Services, their deans’ offices, and Human Resources for more information about how to implement recommendations for extra precautions appropriate for their situation.

Throughout the semester and the rest of the academic year, we will implement a program of testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that will assist with providing care for persons who need it and help us manage and contain the spread of disease on campus. Testing can be used to inform care for a symptomatic person with illness. It can also be used in combination with other measures to control the spread of disease in the community. Emory will employ readily available testing for both purposes. All members of the community, including faculty, staff, and students, will be required to be tested when presenting with relevant symptoms. Additional testing may be required of asymptomatic persons when warranted through the contact-tracing program Emory will implement. Additional testing will be available on-demand for all faculty and staff.

Emory’s testing protocol will include a community health monitoring and infection mitigation plan that entails testing, augmenting the Public Health Department’s tracing of close contacts of those with confirmed illness, isolating those with illness, and quarantining those exposed to illness but who are not symptomatic. This comprehensive approach will apply to all students, faculty, and staff, regardless of their level of activity on campus or residential status.

For students living in residence halls, our testing-contact tracing-isolation-quarantine strategy will include providing necessary support services on campus such as dedicated housing separate from well students, health care services, food delivery, laundry service, and access to an academic coordinator to help students maintain their studies.

Our health and safety planning has also included hiring additional medical staffing, securing necessary supplies and personal protective equipment, and planning for surges in demands for services. Services will be available to all students, faculty, and staff.

Ongoing and routine health monitoring will include random temperature checks at various locations on campus and technology to support community members in monitoring their own health and checking for symptoms.

Community health education will be integrated into the campus learning experience through orientations, PACE seminars, Health 100 courses, and other programs.

Enhanced cleaning protocols will be implemented across campus, including all academic spaces, laboratories, and residence halls.

Other community health monitoring may include workforce wellness assessments via tracking sick leave across units and sewage monitoring.

The Community Health Monitoring Task Force, established during the summer, comprising faculty and administrative leaders across the university; a panel of Emory-affiliated public health experts; leadership from Emory Healthcare, and Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) will meet regularly to maintain situational awareness; monitor ongoing conditions at local, national, and international levels; and cooperate with local, state, and federal public health authorities.

A dedicated COVID-19 Resource Office will be established to provide a single point of contact for questions or concerns related to COVID-19 on campus.

Classrooms and Learning Spaces

Robust health and safety measures will be in place in all classrooms and learning spaces on campus.

  • Class sizes will be reduced and/or rescheduled for spaces large enough to support physical distancing. In cases in which it is not possible to reduce the class size, we may schedule classes in larger venues that are not normally used for instruction.
  • Class scheduling will be adjusted to allow for more time for students and faculty to travel from one class to another, since ingress and egress may take longer due to the need to maintain physical distancing. Some larger spaces may have staggered entry times.
  • Air flow volume will be increased in academic buildings, and some classes may shift to outdoor locations.
  • When feasible, dedicated entrances and exits will be designated to minimize congestion during class changes.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be placed in all academic buildings, and sanitizing wipes will be available at classroom entrances and exits for students, faculty, and staff to sanitize space for their personal use.
  • Academic buildings and classrooms will have more frequent cleaning schedules.
  • All classrooms will be treated with a deep-cleaning process
  • Facial coverings will be required in classrooms and hallways. Faculty may wear facial coverings or shields. Some classrooms may also have Plexiglas barriers to accommodate faculty who prefer to teach that way.
  • There will be an increased availability of high-quality online options. Students residing on campus and those commuting to campus may also integrate online courses in their plans. Faculty will also develop academic continuity plans to help meet the needs of students who are ill or in quarantine and to support continuous instruction and student progress in the event that the faculty member becomes ill.

Residence Halls, Campus Programs, and Dining

In planning for a return to residential learning, Emory’s leadership team consulted with health experts, reviewed guidelines and other reference materials from health authorities. The team also consulted relevant professional associations and explored various scenarios for housing and on-campus learning density. Decisions about residence hall capacity were made with the understanding that some housing must be reserved for students who are ill or need quarantine and in the context of limitations on transportation, parking, and other factors that impact the full 29,000+ faculty, staff, and student community.

In addition to the healthy hygiene habits and supportive policies detailed above—all of which will apply in residential housing on the Atlanta and Oxford campuses, the following housing guidelines will be applied:

  • A maximum of 2 students per room will be applied without exception.
  • Communal bathroom spaces will have enhanced cleaning protocols and schedules.
  • Single rooms will be available, and students who request those rooms because of medical conditions or circumstances requiring special precautions will be prioritized for single room assignments.

As indicated above, we expect that students planning to live in residence halls will be screened by testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Again, for students living in residence halls, our testing-contact tracing-isolation-quarantine strategy will include providing necessary support services on campus such as dedicated housing away from well students, health care services, food delivery, laundry service, and access to an academic coordinator to help students maintain their studies. Students living off-campus will also have access to health care services and an academic coordinator. 

Whenever possible, the Campus Life team will engage in virtual programming, and all in-person programs will follow physical distancing guidelines and COVID-related university policies.

Officially approved student clubs and organizations should conduct meetings virtually, and any social gatherings should follow occupancy guidelines and observe physical distancing. All in-person campus events should comply with physical distancing guidelines.

Campus dining will be available and meal plans will be fully supported. To reduce risks for transmission of disease, we will make more dining available outdoors, and students will have more grab-and-go options.

We are also closely monitoring the supply chain that supports our food service operations to ensure we have sufficient stock on hand to meet student needs as well as those of the larger campus community. 

Food service workers will have specialized training and will comply with all health and hygiene requirements on campus. Additionally, food service workers will have access to enhanced hygiene gear and any specialized personal protective equipment when warranted.

Athletics and Recreation

Given the special risks associated with athletics and recreation programs, we are still in the process of assessing our ability to safely support these programs. We anticipate sharing more decisions as they are made. For organized athletic programs for fall sports, we expect to make a decision by July 15.

Please check back frequently, as this information will be regularly updated. Posted June 11, 2020.