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COVID-19 Update — 10/27/20

UF/IFAS Extension Coronavirus Response Phases Re-Entry into Phase 3 – October 2020 Update

Phasing In Process
The phase of local County Extension programs is dictated by the phase of the total County Extension office. County office resumption of operations is guided by local county policies/ordinances and agreed upon by the County Extension Director, the District Extension Director, and county government administration.

Phase 1: No face-to-face programs or visits. Only virtual programs allowed.

Phase 2: One-on-one appointments are allowed. One-on-one grower visits allowed with permission. Face-to-face group programs of 10 or less with face coverings and social distancing allowed, but virtual programs should take precedence.

Phase 3: Face-to-face group programs up to 50 indoors with face coverings and social distancing. Outdoor programs up to 250; masks required if 6-foot distancing cannot be assured.

Phase 4: Return to pre-COVID operations; face coverings TBD.

Moving Forward in Phase 3
The CDC has recently released an Events and Gatherings Readiness and Planning Tool that could be useful when planning your events. Please see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/COVID19-events-gatherings-readiness-and-planning-tool.pdf

The following Phase 3 guidelines apply to all university-owned, occupied, or controlled lands and buildings. A county extension office and its environs are considered university-occupied.

Approval to host indoor face-to-face programs with more than 10 people may be requested. Approval will depend on appropriate safety measure implementation as described in this document’s “Protocol for All Programs” section. In brief:

Face coverings and social distancing
Indoor events: According to UF’s Events and Gatherings Policies (https://policy.ufl.edu/policy/campus-events-and-gatherings/) face coverings (for those more than 2 years old) and 6-ft social distancing are required at all UF/IFAS Extension in-person, indoor events.

Outdoor events: According to UF’s Events and Gatherings Policies, face coverings and 6-ft social distancing are required at outdoor events as well.

Group sizes
Indoor events: The number of people allowed for indoor events must be one half of the capacity of the facility (typically determined by the Fire Marshall), and must not exceed 50. Therefore, the actual capacity may be below 50. People should remain 6 feet apart.

If you have an indoor venue that normally holds more than 100, you may operate it at up to 50% of capacity if face coverings and social distancing are in place. Depending on the venue layout and space available to ensure 6-foot social distancing, the maximum attendance could be less than 50% of building capacity.

Outdoor events: 250 people maximum, but venue managers have the latitude to set lower maximum attendance capacities for their venues.

Transportation: UF/IFAS Extension programs will not organize transportation to events during Phase 3. All UF/IFAS Extension vehicles must be sanitized after each use. All county-owned vehicles should follow county guidelines for sanitization after each use.

Protocol for All Extension Programs

Before program

  • For indoor programs with more than 10 participants, permission must be secured through the Essential Travel/Meeting Requests portal (https://research.ifas.ufl.edu/resources/request-portals/). This portal (blue button) accommodates requests for both travel and events or activities. The venue (UF/IFAS facility) and other details such as social distancing, face coverings, and sanitization of facilities pre- and post-event must be included in the submission. If available, sanitization details of non-IFAS facilities should be included.
  • If possible, a virtual alternative to in-person programs should be made available for those who are unable or unwilling to participate in a face-to-face setting.
  • All events require pre-registration to avoid walk-ins that may push the participant size beyond the pre-set limit.
  • All event announcements and registrations must include the following statement:

“Face coverings are required for all participants at in-person events. Individuals at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (including older adults and vulnerable people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) should avoid in-person events and gatherings at this time.”

Add an acknowledgement button for any online registration, or a physical checkbox on any paper form, to seek people’s commitment. Having the people write out the statement would be even stronger, e.g., “I agree to abide by UF’s mask policy if I choose to attend this event.”

Note: If a virtual alternative is available you should add “We encourage you to participate virtually” and provide instructions for virtual participation.

  • Prominently display university-approved signage addressing mandatory face coverings and physical distancing on site. Signage is available at: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/screen-test-protect/for-communicators/ready-to-go-assets/ 
    Give attendees plenty of notice in advance of entering the facility. Use multiple signs, including signs close to parking areas to make it easy for people to turn around and get their masks. The sign closest to the event could be the one that includes free masks for those without. Bring copies of the registration forms to the event in case they are needed as a tool in conflict resolution.
  • Be sure that the facility is sanitized, and all commonly touched surfaces are disinfected before and after the event.
  • We recommend having disposable face coverings available for those who come without.
  • Providing meals at face-to-face educational programs is discouraged. For programs where food is an integral component of an educational activity, all precautions including social distancing and sanitizing must be planned prior to and implemented during the program. Food service should include individual servings like boxed lunches. Do not serve food in common containers used by all.

During program

  • Maintain 6-ft social distancing between event participants at all times unless small groups of participants reside in the same home (e.g., spouses, siblings, parent/child).
  • Individuals who have special needs that prohibit the wearing of a face covering should contact the program coordinator (typically UF/IFAS Extension Agent) to request alternative means of participation (e.g., virtual).
  • Participants in all programs must sign in with contact information (name, phone number, e-mail) that can be retrieved later if necessary.
  • Avoid providing non-essential food and beverages during programs and activities. Participants forming lines must adhere to social distancing. If necessary, remind participants to adhere to this rule, which will likely increase the time it takes for activities requiring participant queues or lines.
  • Participants should bring their own supplies to educational programs and activities. They must avoid the use of communal supplies (e.g., sharing of art supplies or gardening tools). Agents may provide educational materials.
  • Access to hand-washing facilities with soap and/or hand sanitizer must be readily accessible to participants.

Question: What if a participant, volunteer, or parent is not wearing a face covering at a UF/IFAS Extension event or activity?

Options:

  • Consider having a staff member stationed at the entrance to remind guests of the requirement and handle potential conflicts. This is also the first person who will deal with an individual who refuses to wear a mask. This person is NOT the main educator for the event and should be trained but NOT be the CED. He or she should know the phone number of security to contact if needed (for example, if at a livestock show that already has a law enforcement officer present), and document the incident.
  • Request that the guest wear a face covering. Perhaps it was merely a mistake.
  • If not wearing a face covering is intentional, do not argue over the merits of wearing masks. Rather, indicate it is a compliance issue for you as a UF employees who is following the established UF rules. Make sure you have disposable face coverings available.
  • Do not take an agitated guest to a private location unless there are two UF/IFAS employees present.
  • Listen to the guest, acknowledge that they are heard, and continue to reinforce that UF employees are only doing what the university has instructed them to do.
  • If an attendee still will not comply, he or she should be asked to leave.
  • If the attendee does not leave, you have the option to shut down the event to minimize the exposure of other guests. This action parallels UF expectations to cancel an on-campus class if a non-mask wearing student refuses to leave the class.

Specific Types of Activities

Criteria for the Events Portal

The Essential Travel/Meeting Requests portal (https://research.ifas.ufl.edu/resources/request-portals/) portal will request information, including:

  1. Faculty name.
  2. County, REC, or Department.
  3. E-mail address.
  4. Confirmation that the request has been discussed with and approved by the CED.
  5. Is the request for travel or for an event/activity?
  6. The Extension Program Initiative with which the event is associated (e.g., Initiative 1 for Ag and Horticulture, Initiative 5 for FCS).
  7. The purpose of the event. Is there a virtual option?
  8. Event leader: UF/IFAS or a third party? (Indicate third party name and contact information.)
  9. Event location.
  10. Normal capacity of the indoor event facility.
  11. Target program capacity.
  12. Affirmation that face coverings will be required.
  13. Availability of disposable face coverings.
  14. Availability of hygiene stations (handwashing and/or sanitizer).
  15. Sanitization procedure. If in a UF/IFAS facility, then reference county office procedure. If it is a partner venue, you should include their commitment to sanitization.

Approval Process

  1. Consult with CED about event.
  2. Submit 1-day events through the Essential Travel/Meeting Requests portal a minimum of 10 business days before the start date. Note: Any overnight or multi-day event should be submitted a minimum of 20 business days prior to the start.
  3. The first level of approval (Level 1) is by the DED, and then it will move on.
  4. The second level of approval (Level 2) is by the Associate Dean for the appropriate program area.
  5. Agent will be notified of concerns or final approval via the portal process.

 

FACULTY AND STAFF INVOLVEMENT IN EVENTS NOT ON UNIVERSITY OWNED, OCCUPIED, OR CONTROLLED PROPERTY

Please note: UF/IFAS Extension faculty and staff wishing to participate in events or activities not in or on university owned, occupied, or controlled lands and buildings should continue to use the Essential Travel/Meeting Requests portal to request approval. Examples of these events include county and regional fairs, livestock judging, festivals, commodity group events, etc.

PERSONAL SAFETY CLAUSE
If you have been approved through the Essential Travel/Meeting Requests portal to attend an event but upon entering the event, you feel that it is not a safe place to be due to lack of social distancing, lack of face coverings, etc., then you should decline to attend the event and notify your supervisor. Extension Administration WILL support your decision to decline participation where appropriate safety guidelines are not followed!

ADDENDUM – 4-H Programs

All state-sponsored 4-H Youth Development programs will enter Phase 3 on August 1, 2020. Phase of operation for all county 4-H programs will be dictated by the phase of the local County Extension Office and guided by county policy/ordinances.

While in-ring, participants may elect to remove their mask, however, show participants must wear face coverings when not in the ring competing. During time of competition, physical distancing (6 feet minimum) must be maintained. Competitors who choose to wear a face covering during competition may not be penalized.

Insurance Coverage
In-person face to face meetings and programs that adhere to the University of Florida guidelines as well as those of local public health officials as of the date of the event will be covered under existing Annual Policies or Special Activities. Guidelines include but are not limited to requirements for social distancing, screening, sanitization, masks, and any other precautions deemed necessary. This coverage does not provide illness coverage for COVID-19, but it would negate all of our other coverage if we do not comply.

The Florida 4-H Statewide Policy covers accidents for community club members while participating in 4-H club activities. For illness coverage, counties will need to purchase Special Activities Insurance (.25 and .30 options only) from American Income Life (AIL) prior to the event or activity. COVID-19 would be treated essentially the same as any other illness in terms of how a claim would be processed.

ADDENDUM – FNP/EFNEP

All programs will transition to Phase 3 effective August 1, 2020. All programming requests must be approved by the CED and submitted through the Events Portal for approval by the DED and the Level 2 approver.

Current State of Florida guidance strongly encourages individuals 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions (e.g., chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immune- compromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease) to avoid crowds. To avoid encouraging this vulnerable population to congregate, FNP and EFNEP will not provide face-to-face programming to groups where a majority of participants fall into this category.

Hosting partners are expected to provide enough masks for participants. It is the responsibility of the partner to ask participants who refuse to wear masks to leave. FNP and EFNEP staff are responsible for enforcing this policy.

No food demonstrations at any programs.

Frequently Asked Questions for Phase 3 Programs During Covid-19

Food and Food Related

What is permitted in regard to offering snacks and beverages during break periods during a multi-day class. If the snacks are individually packaged are they OK. What about a common coffee pot? Do I just need to stick with separate bottles? Can there be sit down meal (e.g. banquet?)

Eating and drinking (which require removing a mask) should only be done under conditions which permit appropriate social distancing; if at all possible, eating and drinking should only be done outdoors. Eating and drinking is strongly discouraged, as it requires removal of a mask. If there is eating or drinking, it should be outdoors, rather than inside a closed room.

There are fewer concerns about the packaging than about eating and drinking. Separate packaging is good, but is not critical, if physical distancing is maintained. Use of a common coffeepot is acceptable if physical distancing is maintained. All participants must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after eating or drinking.

When conducting canning classes in a small kitchen, how do I handle the 6 feet apart? The kitchen at our office will hold 2 maybe 3 if we follow the 6-person guidance.

Masking and physical distancing need to be maintained. If it is a small kitchen area, would recommend doing canning classes by video.

Can we do food demos/cooking classes if they don’t eat the food, we are distanced and no one shares utensils? We would be wearing masks while prepping. Masks?

Masks and physical distancing are required, and hand sanitizer should be readily available. We have less concern about use of common utensils, as long as hand sanitizer is used after contact with a common utensil.

What risks need to be addressed when providing samples? Or completely omit providing samples? Is it best to give samples “to go” so everyone keeps their mask on?

Eating and drinking is strongly discouraged, as it requires removal of a mask. Providing samples “to go” is reasonable.

Sanitizing/Shared Resources

Do I need to continue to sanitize surfaces, etc. while conducting an interactive class of 6 to 12 persons? (Canning classes, Electric Instant Pressure Cooking, etc. These classes can last up to 3 hours)

Less concern about surfaces – just encourage frequent use of hand-washing or hand sanitizer, and caution against touching the face. Of course people should still be wearings masks and maintain social distance.

Is it acceptable to share any materials or equipment between uses? Is sanitizing it sufficient? Are sanitizer solutions less than 70% effective? I see a lot for sale with 60+.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol are acceptable. Sharing of materials and equipment is OK, if there is hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer after contact with common equipment. If this cannot be facilitated, than there should be no shared equipment during event.

Social Distancing/Masks

Do I limit my enrollment and if so, how many? (pre-COVID, I limited the class size to 12)

Key is the ability to maintain mask wearing and 6 feet physical distance between all participants; actual class size is of less concern. Thus, if the room allows for proper distancing, then 12 may still be the correct number. But we must adhere to UF policy on distancing and size limits.

Are there any concerns with plant sales if social distancing is maintained, everyone wears masks? Cannot sanitize plants but volunteers could also wear gloves?

Gloves are not necessary. Key is use of masks and social distancing. Frequent hand washing or sanitizing for volunteers should be facilitated.

If the event is outside, are masks necessary if everyone is social distancing? If that distancing cannot be assured, because of large crowds (100-250) should masks be required?

Masks are necessary. In our experience, with larger groups the group tends to cluster together as a program continues, negating the physical distancing. Consequently, we would recommend maintaining the mask requirement, even if the event is outdoors. Even with masks, would encourage maintenance of physical distancing of 6 feet.

“All visitors, faculty, staff, students, patients, volunteers and vendors are required to wear a face covering when outside on all UF and UF Health property unless a distance of 6 feet or more is maintained at all times.” https://policy.ufl.edu/policy/masking-and-physical-distancing/

Is there a way to mitigate risk for multiple youth to sleep in one camp cabin? (cabin layout included)

No. Sleeping together in a cabin is clearly a high-risk activity. We know that COVID is readily transmitted among family members inside a home, and having kids together in a common sleeping area would generate the same type of risk.

What if a class attendee does not want to wear a mask nor follow the 6 ft. guidance? (I know I can place the disclaimer on Eventbrite, but what if they register and refuse to follow current guidance)

Mask wearing and physical distancing of 6 feet are mandatory. This needs to be made clear on registration materials, with a statement that the person will be asked to leave if they don’t comply. In practice, if they don’t comply, we recommend that the instructor shut down the class and leave the premises. See Additional Guidance at the end of the new Phase 3 document.

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