Coronavirus Q & A

Unless otherwise specified, the following guidance is accurate as of April 1, 2021.

If you have general organizational questions and you don’t find an answer here, please enter it here: MSU Extension Organizational Questions. Questions specific to your situation should be directed to your supervisors, district directors or institute leadership.

Click on each of the links below to learn more about each area. 

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

HUMAN RESOURCES

WORKING REMOTELY

4-H GUIDANCE

IN-PERSON PROGRAMS

VSP

PROGRAMMING, EVENTS AND MEETINGS

PROMOTION OF ONLINE EVENTS

SOCIAL MEDIA

EVENTS CALENDAR TIPS

WRITING ABOUT COVID-19

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY - ZOOM, D2L

 

Physical and Mental Health Resources

Where can I go for help if I’m struggling with stress?

Please visit the University Physician’s Employee Assistance Program for wellness information or to set up an appointment with a university therapist. 

As a reminder, Nurse Call Lines are available for both BCBSM and BCN. These are free to all members and can provide direction for those who may not be sure where to turn.

  • BCBSM Call Line: 1-800-775-2583
  • BCN Call Line: 1-855-624-5214

Human Resources

Can/should I work remotely? 

Updated April 1, 2021: MSU guidance remains that if you are able to work remotely, you should continue to do so until further notice. However, MSU Extension will allow a limited number of MSU Extension professionals to work from their home county office up to three days per week beginning April 1, 2021. To request recurring in-office time, follow the process outlined in the Office Re-entry and Travel Guidelines. This applies to county offices ONLY. Employees whose main office is on campus must continue to work remotely until further notice. 

Additional information about remote working is located at remote.msu.edu. Remember that anyone requesting in-person engagement of any kind must complete the Communicating Through Conflict course.

Can I retrieve equipment or resources from my county office?

You may obtain a one-time travel waiver to retrieve equipment and resources using the one-time/programmatic travel waiver process.

If I take time off (annual leave, vacation, sick, personal, FMLA, etc.) during this period of time when we are working remotely, how do I document it? 

The documentation of time for all employees remains as-is per normal operating procedures. For example, time off needs to be reflected in Outlook calendars, for some employees in PEARS and/or EBS, etc.

What if I contract novel coronavirus and run out of sick time?

Please refer to MSU Human Resources’ Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s website for more information.

As with any illness or medical condition requiring an employee to be absent from work, contact your supervisor, institute leadership and district director notifying them of your absence and inability to work. Additionally, if your illness requires a medical leave or FMLA, please contact MSU Extension Human Resources (msue.hr@msu.edu) for additional information and next steps.

If we get coronavirus, do we need to report that to MSU Extension? 

No. COVID-19 is a reportable disease, but that does not mean that you have to report it to your employer. Local health departments will report information about positive cases, but generally do not reveal names. We ask that you treat this like any other medical condition and inform your supervisor if you will be taking time off. But you do not have to disclose the reason. 

For general HR questions, please visit MSU Human Resources’ Novel Coronavirus Response. 


Working Remotely

Can I travel to the post office, store, county office or other places on MSU Extension business?

Under the current MSU Extension guidance, all in-state travel of any nature requires a travel waiver, which are granted on a limited basis. If you feel these actions are essential, you must apply use the one-time/programmatic travel waiver process

Can I take equipment home during telecommuting/working remotely (e.g., computer monitor(s), printer, scanner, office chair)?

When working remotely, provide a list of items and/or equipment that you would like to take with you. Employees must seek approval via email from their direct supervisor, institute leadership and district director prior to taking work-related equipment home.

How will performance evaluations for academic and non-academic employees be handled?

Performance evaluations will be handled via Zoom.

Will we be reimbursed for internet service expenses incurred as a result of working from home?

Individuals who have not yet opted into the mixed mobile use reimbursement and would now like to, please fill out the form on the MSU Extension Business Office OD website and submit to your institute fiscal officer. 

Individuals who need to increase their home internet data plans to accommodate remote work and are seeking reimbursement for the incremental upgrade should submit the request via email to your institute director/associate institute director/fiscal officer. Please include documentation of the cost (i.e., old plan cost vs. new plan cost).

Individuals who need to add a hotspot and are seeking reimbursement for the incremental upgrade should submit the request via email to your institute director/associate institute director/fiscal officer. Please include documentation of the cost.

Individuals who need to obtain a hotspot through a separate device (e.g., jetpack) please speak with your supervisor/district director/institute director/associate institute director/fiscal officer first, as there may already be some options available.

As this expense is related to the novel coronavirus, please use project code COVID19.

For MSU employees, the MSU Benefits Plus portal contains information on discounts available. You will need your MSU email and ZPID to create an account.

Should I be tracking other expenses related to my changing work habits as they relate to novel coronavirus?

When making purchases related to a change in work habits because of the threat of COVID-19 (e.g., extra power cord to work from home, a cancelled conference fee that is not being refunded, etc.), please use the project code COVID-19. The university is tracking this cost. Please contact your fiscal officer with questions.

Should I set an out-of-office message on my email when working remotely?

No. We are still open for business and operating as an organization. However, if you know you need to step away from your work space at a specific time each day, or you cannot be reached during certain hours or days, you may choose to set up a message. Please look to your supervisor for further guidance.

What can I do to ensure that I’m presenting a professional image when working remotely?

When offering virtual programming, staff can consider several options for maintaining professionalism:

4-H Guidance

Can 4-H clubs meet?

Updated April 1, 2021: MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H professionals are working diligently to chart a path toward resuming in-person programming when it is safe to do. A limited number of in-person activities may currently occur; the list of approved activities can be found at extension.msu.edu/approved4hactivities. Unless expressly permitted on this list or approved by MSU Extension leadership, in-person 4-H club meetings or activities are not supported at this time. This includes cohorts that typically meet in the name of 4-H, and are attempting to meet outside the 4-H name.

4-H clubs are highly encouraged to meet virtually at this time. This includes cohorts that typically meet in the name of 4-H, and are attempting to meet outside the 4-H name.

When can 4-H clubs begin to meet in-person again?

Due to the changing nature of the pandemic situation, we do not have a definitive date at this time. We will keep staff, volunteers and youth informed. See Approved 4-H Activities for updated information. 

Can staff continue to offer 4-H clubs, councils and boards the opportunity to meet via Zoom that we set up for them? 

Staff should encourage the 4-H community to meet virtually and assist in identifying options for virtual meeting spaces. If an MSU Extension staff person will be on the call, the MSU Zoom rooms can be utilized. If an MSU Extension staff person will not be on the call, please direct community members to create their own Zoom meeting space. They can sign up for a free account at https://zoom.us/signup. Additional useful tools include How to Host a Zoom Meeting and Zoom training videos. It is highly recommended that staff, clubs and volunteers use a password for the Zoom meeting that is shared only with participants, for security reasons.

Our 4-H program hosts many fundraisers. Can these still be done?

Face-to-face fundraising cannot take place. If you would like to host a virtual fundraiser, please connect with your supervisor and institute leadership.

In-Person Programs

Is there a date when it’s OK to schedule face-to-face programs and meetings again?

Updated April 1, 2021: It’s imperative that we continue to build on the momentum and success around virtual programming where it makes sense for the audience and the content.

However, beginning on May 3, 2021, MSU Extension professionals may begin conducting limited in-person programming. Our return to in-person programming will be slow and intentional. These programs must be approved through the in-person event waiver approval process well in advance; this form will be available on this website starting on April 19. This waiver process should only be used by MSU Extension staff.

Use the Event Preparation Recommendations and Guidelines as a resource to help consider safety requirements for potential in-person event considerations. Remember that anyone requesting in-person engagement of any kind must complete the Communicating Through Conflict course.

Can I participate in a partner’s face-to-face program or meeting as a speaker or guest?

Updated April 1, 2021: Beginning April 5, 2021, MSU Extension professionals may begin entertaining requests to participate in partner programs. Staff can submit requests to attend in-person meetings or events being hosted by outside organizations through the one-time/programmatic travel waiver process. Remember that anyone requesting in-person engagement of any kind must complete the Communicating Through Conflict course. Staff must be assured that CDC and MDHHS guidelines regarding masks and social distancing is upheld. No staff member will be required to attend such events until the public health crisis is deemed over.

Further, MSU Extension administration will support any employee who chooses to leave an event if they feel uncomfortable about lack of adherence to CDC and MDHHS guidelines by the partner organization or other participants. If this happens, please notify your supervisor, district director and institute director immediately.

What is the MSU Community Compact?

The MSU Community Compact provides specific expectations of MSU employees regarding face masks, social distancing, hygiene and related issues. Strict adherence to the compact is expected of all MSU Extension employees. Failure to follow these expectations may lead to revocation of travel waivers and exception privileges and possible discipline through the HR process. 

VSP

Can I conduct VSP interviews via Zoom?

While we practice social distancing, video conference volunteer interviews are allowed. As always, when there are criminal history hits or other concerns raised when reviewing an application, MSU professionals should engage their VEST coach for further direction. 

When should the COVID-Leave of Absence activity status be used?

MSU Extension volunteers are required to complete an annual compliance process to remain in an Active Gold or Active Silver volunteer status. Annual compliance consists of authorizing a background check and agreeing to the volunteer code of conduct. Volunteers who are unable to complete the annual compliance process at this time, but intend to volunteer again in the future, may qualify for a COVID-Leave of Absence. This could be because of personal reasons related to the pandemic or issues related to technology access or skill. Staff should request permission to use this status from their VEST coach and properly document this change of status. Volunteers must be informed when they are in a COVID-LOA status. They cannot volunteer on behalf of MSU Extension until they successfully complete annual compliance and are approved to move back to an active status.

How can a volunteer complete annual compliance when they do not have access to the necessary technology?

In rare occasions, it is acceptable for staff to use the Annual Compliance Proxy Authorization to assist volunteers in completing annual compliance. We recognize that volunteers may not have access to technology or sufficient internet access, or that they may lack the technical skills to complete annual compliance digitally. If they choose, they can authorize an MSU Extension professional to log into Volunteer Central’s eRecruiter on their behalf of to complete the annual compliance process. At no time should you develop or accept paper forms for this process. Gathering information to complete the annual compliance process can only be completed over the phone following the instructions for annual compliance proxy authorization.

Programming, Events and Meetings

How can I help promote my colleagues' programming?

MSU Extension staff have been transitioning more and more resources and programming to virtual spaces. One of the most important things you can do is leverage your community networks to promote these resources and events. As we curate and create more online resources, found here on our Remote Learning and Resource Center, we encourage you to electronically share them with: 

  • Parent-teacher organizations.
  • Schools.
  • Parenting, grandparenting and caregiving groups.
  • Churches and places of worship.
  • Neighborhood organizations.
  • Area social groups.
  • Community leaders.

Do we have any memes or infographics we can share on social media to help promote our colleagues’ programming? 

Yes. MSU Extension staff have access to easy-to-use social media templates that are well branded and highly customizable. Currently, six templates exist: three each for MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H. Complete step-by-step directions are included. Note that you will need an account with Canva in order to access these files. Canva accounts are free. 

If you would request that your event be promoted on statewide social media accounts for MSU Extension, Michigan 4-H or other CANR channels, you may request this on the social media request form.

How should I post virtual events on the MSU Extension calendar?

All events, regardless of delivery method, must be posted on the MSU Extension calendar. Learn how to enter your events directly through dotCMS with these step-by-step instructions.

  • If you are entering an online learning opportunity that runs between 1-5 consecutive days (no longer), regardless of audience, please enter the following tag in dotCMS: virtual
  • If you are entering an online learning opportunity that runs longer than 5 days, regardless of audience, please enter the following tag in dotCMS: ongoing virtual
  • If you are entering an online learning opportunity for youth, please ALSO enter the following tag in dotCMS: virtual youth
  • Using these tags will help us to build out important informational sites that we circulate in response to current circumstances.

Recurring events should have a separate listing for each unique occurrence. Please note that the recurring event option in dotCMS is not currently functional. 

If you have already added a virtual learning opportunity to the calendar, please email your communicator with the name and link to the posting and they will update it for you.

I'm recording a video on my phone or through Zoom. How do I make sure it's high quality?

Please refer to the Best Practices for Recording Video webpage for tips and guidance on everything from framing your shots to which video settings to use. Also be sure to use this branded resource at the beginning and end of any videos you create.

I'm recording audio on my phone. How do I make sure it's high quality?

Please refer to the Recording Audio With Your Mobile Phone webpage for tips and guidance on recording audio on iPhone and Android devices.

What if I need to cancel an event?

In the event that you need to cancel an event and need assistance with contract cancellation or other event cancellation related items, please feel free to reach out to Event Services at events@anr.msu.edu so they can assist you in navigating those concerns. You should also contact Event Services if you are cancelling an event that has been posted in the Events Management System.

The following are the responsibilities of the person or team who scheduled the program. In some cases, Event Services can help you.

  • Notify participants as soon as possible. You may consider using this language: “Out of an abundance of caution, we have opted to <cancel/postpone> this <program/event/etc.>.” You can find helpful templates here.
  • If it is a closed event (e.g., you must register to attend) that does not permit spectators, you are only required to notify those who are registered. If the event is open to the public, you may want to consider posting it on social media and, if time allows, notifying local media.
  • Offer full refunds of out-of-pocket registration costs to all registered participants.

Cancelling, postponing, rescheduling or changing events to online environments that are already posted in dotCMS:

May I write articles about COVID-19?

MSU Extension professionals should not write anything that reinterprets information about novel coronavirus, as we are not the experts and information regarding the subject is ever-changing. Instead, direct people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

However, articles about the current social and/or business circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are welcome. Some examples include how families practicing social distancing may experience stress, science activities for youth that are not in school, why handwashing is important or how agriculture workers are adapting to PPE guidelines.

If I’m not writing or updating articles about the novel coronavirus, is it business as usual?

Please consider the current social circumstances when writing or updating any articles, even those that may not reference the novel coronavirus. It may not be an appropriate time to post certain information or to reference certain examples that would not be good practice under current social distancing recommendations. For example, an article about proper handshaking or gathering in person with groups of friends should not be posted at this time. If you question if your article is appropriate at this time, please have it reviewed by institute leadership.

All articles submitted to the msue.news@msu.edu inbox must still follow normal news article protocol, including correctly citing sources in AP Style, mentioning Michigan State University Extension in the story and being reviewed by a peer. Please note that given current demand for communications support, articles may not be posted in the standard 24-48 hour time frame. However, every effort to do so will be made.

What if I don’t have the option to teach from home?

There are countless professional development opportunities to take advantage of. See the resources below and reach out to Anne Baker, talent and learning development specialist, with questions:

  • The OD website’s Professional Development webpage lists our most commonly requested online training resources.
  • New events are constantly being added to the OD website, PEARS and the OD News email.  We highly recommend that all MSU Extension professionals gain access to PEARS for purposes of viewing and tracking professional development.

Gwyn Shelle has also developed a robust set of tutorials on-how to move your programming into online formats.

General resources for integrating technology into Extension programming:

  • Zoom and D2L Requests: Please submit requests for assistance with Zoom or D2L to msue.online@msu.edu. This is a shared mailbox for Gwyn Shelle and Alan Pilkenton.
  • MSU Extension Digital Strategy Team: Staff can self-enroll in the following MSU Extension Team MSUE Digital Strategy to share ideas and questions for offering content online (webinars, online courses, blended courses, podcasts, etc.). JOIN TEAM

Zoom Resources & Training:

  • Zoom Training Series Recordings (recordings will be added as they are recorded and closed captions will be ordered):
    • Zoom Scheduling for Meetings & Webinars: RECORDING
    • Zoom Polls, Chat & Managing Participants:  RECORDING
    • Zoom Reporting for Meetings & Webinars: RECORDING
    • Zoom Breakout Rooms: RECORDING
  • Zoom Office Hours: Drop-in office hours for assistance with Zoom are available Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 11 a.m. to noon.
  • NEW ONLINE COURSE - Best Practices for Designing & Delivering Zoom Meetings/Webinars: This is a comprehensive, self-paced course where participants will learn everything they need to know about Zoom (best practices, engagement strategies, hosting and recording with Zoom, sharing a link to a recording). REGISTER
  • General Zoom resources (templates, instructions, and training for staff): Zoom Resources & Training.
  • For upcoming Zoom training, visit the OD Calendar and search for Zoom.

D2L Resources and Training:

  • Requesting a Course Site: To request a D2L course site and receive assistance with setting up the course, fill out the D2L Course Request Form.
  • NEW TRAINING SERIES – Designing Online Extension Programs Series: Have you thought about developing an online or blended course for your program? Register for this self-paced, four-session online training to get started on the right path! Each course is listed below. REGISTER
    • Designing Online Extension Programs 101: Design & Organization
    • Designing Online Extension Programs 201: Instructional Content
    • Designing Online Extension Programs 301: Activities & Assessment
    • Designing Online Extension Programs 401: Implementation Strategies
  • General D2L Resources: D2L quick-start guide and training options: D2L Resources & Training
  • For upcoming D2L training, visit canr.msu.edu/od and search for D2L