Workplace Guidance for COVID-19

Updated August 2, 2021

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Mask Up for the COVID-19 Delta Variant

Starting August 3, a mask or face covering is once again required for all students, faculty, and staff in University buildings, regardless of vaccination status, due to the increased transmission risk of the Delta variant. The University will continue to follow state guidelines and the advice of our own medical and public health experts to ensure that we support the health and safety of our employees and students. Learn more about University face covering protocol here.

Available COVID-19 vaccines have been proven effective against the Delta variant—we strongly encourage you to "Get the Vax" if you have not already done so, and stay home if you are sick.

Getting Vaccinated

Who is eligible to get vaccinated
All Minnesotans age 12 and older are eligible for vaccination. The Minnesota Department of Health has more information available.

How to find a vaccine:

  • Vaccine Connector from the Minnesota Department of Health can alert you to when you’re eligible to receive a vaccine. 
  • More information available at the Minnesota Department of Health site about the Community Vaccination Pilot Program.
  • Check with your UPlan clinic or local pharmacy to find out how to find an appointment or register. Just remember to bring your UPlan card for a visit to your clinic and your Prime Therapeutics card to the pharmacy. 
  • On the Twin Cities campus, Boynton Health offers both COVID-19 testing and vaccinations by appointment.  

Taking time off to get a vaccine for your or a family member
You can get yourself or a family member vaccinated during your workday—work with your supervisor to make arrangements for the time off as far in advance as possible. 

Several paid-time options are available:

  • Emergency Leaves Available to Employees and Student Workers can be used to get vaccinated or help a family member who needs assistance get vaccinated. Learn more about how to use and how much time you have available for 2021. 
  • If you have used all of your  Emergency Paid Leave time for this year, talk with your supervisor about other leave time that you can use, such as sick time or related time away. If you are Civil Service or Labor Represented, you can use sick time for yourself or to take a family member to get a vaccination. Other leave options include time set aside for Civil Service employees to care for a family member or participate in a Wellbeing Program activity which can be used to get a vaccination. You should check the contract, policy, or administrative interpretation for your employee group.

You will not be charged for the vaccine

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is offered at no cost to you, wherever you get it. 
  • If you and your family members are covered by the UPlan, the UPlan will pay the administrative fee for the vaccination when you use your medical clinic or pharmacy.  
  • If you go out-of-network, Medica will reimburse the administrative fee and there is no cost to you. However, if you are at an out-of-network clinic for an office visit and receive the vaccine in addition to other services, you will be charged for the other services at the out-of-network benefit level. 
  • If you and your family are covered by the UPlan, remember to bring the right card with you wherever you get vaccinated:

If you, or a family member, feel sick from vaccine side effects, time off is available
Like other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine may have some brief side effects such as tiredness, chills, muscle aches, and nausea. 

  • If you feel ill from the side effects and you need to take time off of work, you can use the Emergency Paid Leave for the time off. (This leave can be taken retroactively, if needed.) 
  • If you need to care for a family member who is having side effects, you can also use Emergency Paid Leave for this time. 
  • If you have used all of your available Emergency Paid Leave, sick time should be used.

Vaccination, exposure, and quarantine
Information on how those who have received a vaccine need to handle COVID-19 exposure and quarantine is provided on the SafeU site. 

Getting rewarded through the Wellbeing Program for getting the vaccine
If you and your spouse are participating in the 2020-2021 Wellbeing Program, you can use the Wellbeing My Way pledge to get 25 points for getting your vaccine. Just track your vaccine as preventive care.

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Personal Travel

Current travel guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends delaying travel (domestic and international) until you are fully vaccinated. If you do travel, make sure:

  • You have delayed travel until you are vaccinated, to the extent that it is possible.
  • You know the testing requirements for your destination, and for returning, even if traveling domestically. Many states have current or recent quarantine restrictions that could continue throughout the spring.

  • You test before leaving and test again five to seven days after returning, if you are not already vaccinated, or if required by your destination.

  • For international travel, remember that all air passengers arriving in the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight.

COVID-19 Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is available on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus through Boynton Health to now include all students, faculty, and staff. 

Guidelines for COVID-19 testing before travel are also available from the CDC:

For international travel, CDC recommend that non-vaccinated people get tested before and after travel, upon return to the US, self quarantine, mask while traveling, and self monitor symptoms. Fully vaccinated travelers should still mask, test, monitor.

Returning after travel
In alignment with the CDC travel guidance, the University recommends vaccinated individuals traveling internationally still get tested upon return, self-monitor for symptoms, and mask where recommended, and that non-vaccinated individuals do all of the above as well as take a 7-10 day quarantine period upon return.

While quarantine is not required after travel, units can work with employees to reduce potential risks in the workplace:

  • If a vaccinated employee who normally works onsite travels in the U.S. or abroad, they may return to work without quarantining, but should get tested within 3-5 days of returning, and monitor for symptoms. (It is recommended that non-vaccinated employees quarantine.)
  • If a unit needs someone to work after returning from travel due to staffing levels, supervisors are expected to discuss safety practices with the employee—such as handwashing, physical distancing, and wearing face coverings—and ensure that they are followed.

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Employee Health and Wellbeing Is Our Priority

One of the greatest strengths of the University of Minnesota is our workforce and the University is focused on keeping employees healthy, safe, and well. If you feel sick, stay home and report your absence.

When you are on campus, follow the guidelines for physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask or face covering and your campus’ return to campus plan.

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Frequently Asked Questions

All responses are as of March 11, 2021.

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Remote Working





Human Resource Professionals


Remote Work

Q: How long will employees who are able to do so be working from home?

A: Staff and faculty who can work from home should continue to do so through at least August 2, 2021, as shared in President Gabel's March 16 message. We want to empower you all to make plans that support your families while maintaining fewer people on campus. If you have general questions the information on the Working Remotely webpage may be helpful. Please talk with your supervisor if you have further questions. 


Q: What should I do if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: Stay home from work and consult with your health care provider. You may be able to use a virtual care or telemedicine option.

Eligible employees who become sick with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

Q: How long should I quarantine at home after close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case if I have not been vaccinated? 

A: An "exposure" is defined as an interaction less than six feet away for greater than a total of 15 minutes in 24 hours (with or without face coverings) with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Non-vaccinated employees who have been exposed should contact their supervisor and make plans to stay home using existing University and Federal leaves at their unit HR’s discretion.

Quarantining is self-isolation after known exposure to COVID-19. Follow the quarantine guidance provided by MTest to determine the appropriate length of quarantine time for your case.

Q: Do vaccinated employees still need to test and/or quarantine?

A: Fully vaccinated people should still get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and should still self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. More information:

Employees in non-healthcare settings:

  1. Fully vaccinated but experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

  • Fully vaccinated with no COVID-19 like symptoms following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19

    • Fully vaccinated faculty or staff member does not need to quarantine, be restricted from work, or be tested following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, as their risk of infection is low.

    • Continue to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure.

    Employees in healthcare settings:

    • Faculty and staff working in healthcare setting should still monitor temperature and absence of symptoms each day before starting work.
    • If faculty and staff working in healthcare setting develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should either not report to work, or stop working and notify their supervisor prior to leaving work, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and tested if indicated. 
    • If faculty and staff working in healthcare setting is found to be infected with COVID-19, they should be excluded from work until they meet all Return to Work Criteria. Testing results will impact when they may return to work and for which patients they might be permitted to provide care.

    Q: What about staff who have used up most or all of their sick and vacation time?

    A: The University’s Emergency Paid Leave is being continued into 2021 with faculty, staff, and student workers receiving a new bank of up to 80 hours for those who work full time. If you work part-time, Emergency Paid Leave hours are adjusted based on your hours. Time from 2020 is not carried over into 2021. Follow the link to learn more about how to use the Emergency Paid Leave.

    Q: What happens if I am Labor Represented or Civil Service and run out of sick time?

    A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff.and those working part time will receive paid leave hours proportionate to the time they work.  Beyond that time, you can use employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

    Q: What if I am a Faculty member or P&A and need to be out for a period of time due to sickness?

    A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time faculty and staff and those working part time will receive paid leave hours proportionate to the time they work. Beyond that time, you may be eligible for Academic Disability. Please go to the following link for more information.

    Q: Can I use the University’s Emergency Paid Leave to care for my elementary school child while they are doing remote learning?

    A: The University's Emergency Paid Leave can be used to care for a child because of a COVID-19 school or childcare closure, including: children in K-12 remote-only programs, children in hybrid K-12 programs on remote learning days only, and assisting with the relocation of college-age child due to COVID-19.

    Q: Can emergency leave be entered intermittently?

    A: Yes. The employee and supervisor will need to discuss using a consecutive leave versus an intermittent leave, similar to Family Medical Leave. Supervisors can consult with their local HR staff if they need additional information on leaves.

    Q: Can employees donate sick leave?

    A: There is not a sick time donation program available at this time.

    Q: I see that if I'm sick for more than eight days, and I'm enrolled in the short-term disability plan, I should call UNUM. Does time in quarantine count toward the eight days?

    A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

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    Q: Will off-cycle checks continue to be mailed?

    A: Yes. These will be mailed out directly from OHR.

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    Q: Do our health benefits with Medica cover the COVID-19 vaccine?

    A: Yes, COVID-19 vaccines will come at no cost to you and/or any spouse or dependent covered on UPlan Medica insurance, no matter where you get the vaccine.

    Remember to bring your Medica ID card if you are getting the vaccine at a clinic or hospital, and your Prime Therapeutics ID card if you are getting the vaccine in a pharmacy.

    Q: Do our health benefits with Medica cover COVID-19 testing?

    A: Yes, copays, co-insurance, and deductibles related to COVID-19 diagnostic lab testing are currently waived. Employees should contact Medica for specific coverage questions.

    COVID-19 testing is available both through the MTest program on University system campuses and at numerous community testing sites. Most campuses offer COVID-19 tests to those without symptoms, but employees should confirm before getting tested.

    Q: Do our health benefits cover the cost of medications proven to treat COVID-19?

    A: Medications for treating COVID-19 that are covered by the UPlan will have standard Pharmacy Program copays. We will continue to work with Prime Therapeutics, our pharmacy benefits manager, to identify drugs that can be covered based on their efficacy in treating COVID-19.  

    Q: The COVID-19 situation has left me feeling anxious and worried. Where can I turn for help?

    A: The Employee Assistance Program is available for all employees.

    A: In-the-moment support is available 24/7 from the Employee Assistance Program provider, Sand Creek. If you have an urgent need, please call Sand Creek at 888-243-5744 to speak with a clinician. If you are experiencing an emergency or are in a violent situation, call 911 or visit your local emergency room.

    Q: Are Regents Scholarship Program benefits affected by COVID-19?

    A: The Regents Scholarship Program is continuing as-is, and is not affected by COVID-19.

    Q: If I'm not currently enrolled in Short Term Disability, am I able to enroll now?

    A: You can apply for coverage, but coverage is not guaranteed. First, you must complete the Voluntary Disability Insurance Enrollment and Change form and submit it to Employee Benefits. Then, you need to complete the evidence of insurability process. Based on the information you provide, Unum will determine if you are eligible for coverage. Please note coverage can only be canceled at open enrollment.

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    Q: How do I help my employees return to campus and feel safe?

    A: Resources for supervisors are available on OHR’s page regarding the Sunrise Plan and return to campus.

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    Human Resource Professionals

    Q: Do we need physical documentation to process I-9s?

    A: The Department of Homeland Security is deferring the physical presence requirements for I-9 employment eligibility verification for employees who are being onboarded remotely and will continue to work remotely. This option is not available for employees who are physically present at a work location. For more information, see the announcement on the I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification page. Information can also be found on the OHR Operations website for those with access.

    Q: If we have an employee currently covered by an intermittent FMLA for a major illness in which they are immunosuppressed, do we need to get further medical documentation for them to work from home for an extended period of time?

    A: It's unlikely, especially if they're working from home during the time that they are also covered by FMLA (even if intermittent). We should treat this as we would anyone else - if we can accommodate a longer work from home option, we should. If the leave extends beyond the current pandemic, perhaps consider an accommodation request through the Disability Resource Center.

    Q: What types of releases and returns to work would be required, particularly for employee groups that often are challenged to provide it? Is there a process in place for soliciting that information and to know who is healthy?

    A: For the novel coronavirus, the University is not requiring a doctor’s note before departure from the workplace, for use of sick leave or medical leave, or for proof of ability to return to work. This is a unique situation and the University is focused on keeping our employees and student workers safe during this period. 

    Q: What should I do if employees who have self-quarantined and have applied for worker's compensation?

    A: Questions about Workers Compensation reporting should be sent to the Risk Management Office at

    Q: Is there any change to the policy on non-renewals?

    A: Non-renewals can move forward as usual pending approval by the Vice President of Human Resources.

    Q: Is there a need to capture pay and other expenses related to COVID in case there is a possible federal reimbursement?

    A: Finance has created a CF2 code to track expenses. Please reach out to your Finance contact with questions about what should be tracked at this time. OHR is also putting tracking mechanisms into place for payroll.

    Q. Will we be allowed to cash out vacation balances if we are over the vacation maximum due to heavy workloads related to COVID-19 preparation and response?

    A: To ensure the University can continue to support as many employees throughout this pandemic as possible, we will not be providing a vacation payout option for P&A and Faculty positions. Civil Service and Labor-Represented employees should refer to their governance documents for vacation payout rules.


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