Parameters and Protocols Work When We Work!

As the semester comes to an end, I can’t help but look back on all that has been learned, experienced and practiced this past year in the work world of COVID-19.


Many departments embraced the established university’s parameters and protocols and navigated the virus safely. The Office of Admissions, with a staff of nearly 50, layered on additional protocols and successfully hosted visitors and resumed limited travel without any COVID-19 incidents. A faculty member teaching a hybrid course shared that students attending classes in-person were compliant with the mask requirement and the classroom was safe.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the entire staff of Human Resources. While most worked remotely in the early days of COVID-19, we practiced a phased-in approach starting in July and all have returned voluntarily and safely.

However, consistent with numbers reported in our community, university employees are reporting increasingly positive COVID-19 test results. All have been exposed in the course of socializing outside of work or while at work and not following the parameters and protocols. Employees working remotely also have reported their confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Below is a side-by-side snapshot from actual scenarios on our campus this semester showing what worked and what didn’t work.

Last week, it was reported that 900 Mayo Clinic staff members have gotten COVID-19 in the past two weeks, and 93% of those who have contracted the virus did so in the community – away from the job – and that the majority of those who contracted the virus at work did so while eating in a break room with a mask off.

We get it. Some people are COVID-weary, coupled with the temptation to celebrate the end of the semester and holidays. As cases continue to increase, we need to remain committed to the established protocols.

Parameter and Protocol Reminders

  • Keep your distance and limit time physically meeting.
  • Wear a mask indoors when around others, including when traveling in vehicles together.
  • Rotate schedules; in and out times and breaks/meal periods.
  • Refrain from having meals together when social distancing is not possible. This includes visiting restaurants, department potlucks and holiday celebrations.
  • Keep surfaces clean and wash hands thoroughly.
  • Continue to telecommute when effective and productive.
  • Don’t come to work when ill.
  • Remain in quarantine while waiting for test results and follow medical providers’ instructions.

Employees determined to be a close contact of a co-worker with a positive case of COVID-19 are not following the parameters and protocols.

Connecting Socially While Social Distancing

It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household. Even if you are meeting others in person at small outdoor gatherings, such as yard or driveway gathering with a small group of friends or family members, stay at least 6 feet from others who are not from your household. (Dr. Jean Gispen, staff physician at the employee health center within University Health Services,  recommends 6 feet as the absolute minimum and suggests tables 10-12 feet apart.)

Stay safe and be patient. Vaccines may be on the horizon; however, there is no set time frame for when we can relax the parameters and protocols. But when that does happen, we will celebrate our semesters and holidays with co-workers, friends and family, and we will celebrate big!

Andrea Jekabsons joined the University of Mississippi in 2006 and serves as the interim chief human resources officer.