OSU Extension Office COVID Guidelines

Remote Work Options Encouraged Through Spring 2021 Semester (April 30)

The university will continue to offer flexible work arrangements, including remote work options where appropriate, to faculty, staff and student employees through the end of the spring 2021 semester. This practice will support employees balancing home and work responsibilities and help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Leaders and managers are encouraged to provide flexibility and remote work options to the fullest extent, while ensuring that operational and educational needs are met. Continue following the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes protocols and wear masks, maintain physical distancing and adhere to other guidelines to stay safe at work and at home. Read more about working through COVID-19.

Flexibility of County Plans, In-Person Programming Exemptions

The university guidance is in alignment with what we had already anticipated: flexible remote work options through the end of spring semester, when it is likely we will be much further along with vaccinations. As such, I am reminding you that we already have an avenue for these flexible work arrangements and office coverage via our Return-to-Office plans that have been in effect since July. Each office is encouraged to continually review these in the context of local COVID-19 prevalence, local commissioner/administrator and Department of Health guidance, programmatic need, and appropriate employee accommodations.

This week, Governor DeWine identified a general reduction in hospitalizations and was optimistic about our ability to continue this trend with ongoing adherence to safety precautions and remaining vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves and others – although he did remind us that the rate of infection is still much higher in most counties than is recommended by the CDC. We will be revisiting the guidance for RED counties over the next few weeks if we continue to see the improvement in numbers and the uptake of vaccinations. I thank you for your patience as we attempt to maintain the balance between safety and meeting the needs of our communities.

In-person program exemptions are continuing to be accepted by the review committee for those programs that require in-person attendance, are mandated to be in-person by the courts or other state agencies/organizations, or are not viable virtually due to internet inaccessibility. The in-person programming exemption link is available at go.osu.edu/CFAESf2fEventRequest.

REMINDER: If you receive an approved exemption, you MUST take the Scarlet Canvas course. The intent is for this to be viewed BEFORE you perform the programming. It has become clear that many have failed to complete this training in the last few months. If you have an exemption in place and have not completed the training, it must be completed no later than January 31, 2021, or your supervisor will be notified and the exemption could be suspended. Visit the required training course webpage to complete the training as soon as possible.



Full telework requirements will extend through close of business, January 15. At this time, in-person programming can resume after January 15, but it will still need to be conducted in accordance with existing approved exemptions. Contact Jeff McCutcheon (mccutcheon.30@osu.edu) with questions. If you have a new exemption request that has not yet been through the process, the exemption link is available at: go.osu.edu/CFAESf2fEventRequest. If you simply need to adjust the dates of a previously approved program, reach out to Laurie Ward (ward.676@osu.edu) directly.

If you haven’t already done so, please begin preparing your return-to-office plans in preparation for returning to the office the week of Jan 18 (Monday is a holiday). Continue to take into consideration local COVID-19 circumstances, and continue to follow the guidelines around the Ohio Health Advisory System Map (see guidelines below).

Purple Counties and Counties Approaching Purple (as identified by an asterisk on the Ohio Health Advisory map): When a county turns PURPLE or is approaching PURPLE, Extension offices are to be closed and employees will work virtually. Meetings and events need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually until they are no longer in PURPLE status. 

RED Counties: When a county turns RED, Extension offices are to be closed to the public but still staffed according to their Return-to-Office plan (can still offer by appointment only). By “appointment only” means the office is staffed, but the door to the office is locked. Clientele are required to have a timed appointment to be admitted to the office. You should attempt to have a limited number of employees in the office at any one time. You can work this out locally and make adjustments to your Return-to-Office plans. As always, if your commissioners or landlords have closed your building, you should revise your Return-to-Office plans to move to full telework. Meetings and events, if they have received exemption approval, can be held. All other meetings and events still need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually.

Orange Counties and Yellow Counties: When a county is Orange or Yellowthe Extension office can remain open to the public according to its Return-to-Office plan with existing safety protocols in place. You should still attempt to have a limited number of employees in the office at any one time. You can work this out locally and make adjustments to your Return-to-Office plans. Meetings and events, if they have received exemption approval can be held. All other meetings and events still need to be canceled, postponed, or held virtually.

Local Health Advisories: In addition to the guidance from the Governor’s Ohio Health Advisory system requirements: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system, various county health departments are releasing local health advisories limiting activities or encouraging additional caution regarding gathering and non-essential activities. If a county has issued a local health advisory, we expect the Extension professionals in that county to follow the most restrictive guidance (OSU or local). We recognize that there is a lot of room for interpretation of these advisories and that some of them appear to provide conflicting messages about gatherings and essential activities. If you are uncertain about what to do, contact your area leader and he or she will work with our Director of Operations (Jeff McCutcheon) to provide additional clarity.

Keep the lines of communication open locally and with your supervisors, stakeholders, commissioners, and OSU Extension administration. Remember, the community spread remains fluid and ever-changing. We may need to modify this guidance at any time. Be prepared to accomplish things via telework and have signage and communications prepared if your county is approaching purple or as a proactive planning measure in all counties. Again, I truly appreciate your commitment to our mission and one another’s well-being. 

As always, decisions are contingent upon any new data that comes from Governor DeWine in his weekly updates. To those who have suffered or experienced loss due to COVID-19, please know that we care about you and your loved ones and express our sincere condolences. Each of you and the work we do is so very important.

Ohio State Travel Restrictions Extended
Following the public health guidance of local, state and federal officials, the university has extended the current restrictions on domestic and international travel through June 30, 2021. More information will be shared soon about an exception process.