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Modifications to UMMS travel policy (Oct. 15)

UMass Medical School Communications

October 15, 2020

We have made the following modifications to the UMMS travel policy on domestic and international travel to ensure that our approach follows state guidelines, reflects the current state of COVID-19 in our region and keeps our campus community safe.

This revised policy impacts those UMMS employees (e.g. postdoctoral scholars, as well as dually employed physicians who will be working in UMMS locations including the Medical School, LRB, ASC, Biotech 2, Clinical Research Center) in the 14 days following return from out-of-state travel.

Employees and students returning to clinical sites (e.g. dually employed clinical physicians, residents/fellows, clinical year students in the Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine) will not be impacted by this policy change and should continue to follow the UMMHC travel policies.

Students in the three schools will receive a separate communication regarding implementation of these policy changes.

This revised travel policy will take effect Oct. 15, 2020.

The revised UMMS travel policy form should be filled out in advance of any out-of-state travel, any international travel or any air travel. Pre-approval by your manager/supervisor/program director/chair is required to enable planning for the employee’s quarantine period upon return. Frequent changes to the list of “lower risk” states do occur and may take place during travel. Your manager/supervisor/program director/chair will be notified of travel to “lower risk” states upon submission of the travel form, but pre-approval for such travel is not required.

Personal travel to “high risk” states or international locations is highly discouraged. UMMS-sponsored (work- or school-related) domestic or international travel continues to not be permitted through Dec. 31, 2020.

  1. Lower risk states: UMMS will continue to align with the  Massachusetts COVID-19 travel order on lower risk states with the exception of those states which require air travel or overnight stays in “high risk” states:

    a. Travel by air or overnight stays in “high risk” states is considered “high risk” even if the final destination is a “lower risk” state.
    b. Please check the travel order site frequently to know which are lower vs. higher risk states. 
    c. Travelers should check the travel order site before, during and after travel in order to be aligned with the most up to date information.  
  2. Quarantine/test out options upon return from travel (see FAQ for details):

    a. UMMS will continue a hybrid approach that more closely aligns with the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel order on the quarantine/testing approach.
    b. All nonclinical UMMS employees may choose either of the following (with the choice reviewed and pre-approved by manager/supervisor/ program director/chair):

         1. Quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel to a higher risk state, or
         2. Test out option upon return from travel:

1.) Quarantine for seven days after your return.
2.) Obtain COVID-19 PCR test on or after day seven (antigen and antibody tests will not be accepted).
3.) Continue to quarantine, pending EHS clearance.
4.) Submit negative test result to EHS.
5.) Upon receipt of the test result, you will receive a call from EHS and verify no illness.
6.) EHS will notify your manager that you are cleared to return to study/work and your badge will be re-activated.

There are currently two different travel forms at UMMS/UMMHC that are associated with different employee travel policies.

The form that you complete and the policy you follow depend on the location(s) in which you will work in the 14 days following return from travel to a “high risk” area.

The UMMS employee travel form should be filled out by employees who will be working in UMMS locations (e.g. Medical School, LRB, ASC, Biotech 2, Clinical Research Center) in the 14 days following return. Until the 14-day quarantine period or test out option is complete, entry into UMMS restricted research areas (LRB, ASC, Biotech 2) is not permitted and ID badges will be deactivated.

The UMMHC travel form should be completed by school employees who will be working in clinical areas (UMMHC sites, Worcester Recovery Center and other health care facilities) in the 14 days following return. This includes dually employed physicians, residents, fellows and other clinical employees. UMass Memorial and other clinical sites follow the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel order and permit a return to work with a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival or testing on arrival with quarantine until a negative test is obtained.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where and when can I get my COVID PCR test for the test out option?

  • Please obtain your test on or after day seven following return to Massachusetts (day zero is day of return to a “lower risk” state).
  • Please do not come to the usual surveillance testing site for a “return from travel” test.
  • You can:
  1. Obtain a COVID-19 PCR test at UMMS. Employees should contact Gladys Matos (Gladys.matos@umassmed.edu) for instructions on the location and process for testing.
  2. If you are unable to test at UMMS, you can also check the MEMA COVID-19 test site locator for test sites (“Stop the Spread” sites are free).
  3. You are required to submit your test results to EHS, whether you were tested at UMMS or at an outside facility, via email Employee_Health_COVID-19_mailbox@umassmemorial.org

Will my badge be deactivated during travel? When will it be turned on?

  • Badges will be deactivated during travel.
  • Badges will be reactivated following clearance from EHS.

Can I still work while I am quarantined?

  • Yes, you can and should continue to work from home as you are able.

May I come to work while waiting for my COVID-19 PCR results?

  • No. Each employee must quarantine until cleared by EHS.

I’m part of surveillance testing at UMMS. When do I resume surveillance testing after I return from a trip?

  • Surveillance testing will resume for those individuals in the COVID testing program the week after the post-travel COVID-19 PCR test and clearance by EHS.
  • Each individual must be symptom free with a negative COVID-19 test in order to resume surveillance testing and return to work/study on site.

If I submit a UMMS travel form do I still need to submit an online travel form to MA DPH?

  • Yes, everyone must register travel to “higher risk” states as per the Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Order with the Massachusetts state travel form.
  • All UMMS employees to whom this policy applies must also register travel using the newly revised UMMS travel forms on the UMMS travel site.

Why didn’t I receive confirmation of my UMMS travel form submission?

  • You must fill out ALL fields (including all check boxes for method of travel and your email address). Once correctly submitted, you will receive confirmation with a copy of your submission to the email address that you included in the travel form.

When and why do I need to obtain pre-approval for travel?

  • For travel to “higher risk” states, international locations or air travel, the updated UMMS travel form must be reviewed and pre-approved by the manager/supervisor/program director/chair.
  • The manager/supervisor/program director/chair needs to plan for quarantine-related absences from the workplace, especially if the employee is not able to perform their usual work remotely.
  • For travel to “lower risk” states, employees’ manager/supervisor/program director/chair will be notified of their travel plans when the travel form is submitted, but pre-approval is not required.
  • The list of “lower risk” states is frequently updated by the state and may change while an employee is away. If a manager/supervisor/program director/chair is aware of the travel plan, they will ensure that the employee is aware of the need to quarantine. In addition, such a change may lead to a need to assign remote work or find a replacement for on-site work on short notice.

May I test out of quarantine if I am returning from international travel?

  • Yes, those returning from international travel may utilize the test out option (see details above).

Is the COVID-19 rapid antigen test or the COVID-19 antibody test an acceptable test to return to work at UMMS?

  • No, the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel order states that only PCR tests are acceptable. Please ensure that the testing center that you go to offers the correct test.

Is air travel considered a risk if I am traveling to a low risk state?

  • Yes, air travel is considered a risk, even if traveling to a low risk state. Those returning from air travel may use either of the quarantine options available (with or without test out option).
  • According to the CDC, the time spent in security lines, in airport terminals and on crowded flights all bring you into close contact with other individuals for potentially extended periods of time. Air travel can increase your risk of getting COVID-19, particularly if you are close to someone traveling from a high-risk area on a connecting flight.
  • While air travel to a low risk state will not require you to quarantine, please be aware that there is a risk, and that you should follow all usual precautions during/after travel with regard to hand hygiene, social distancing and use of a mask when you are at work or in public.

I am a dually employed physician traveling to a “higher risk” state. My major role is basic research, but I have an outpatient clinic at once a week. Which form do I fill out?

  • You must fill out the UMMHC form to return to work in the clinic (or in the hospital). For clinical work, a negative PCR obtained no earlier than 72 hours prior to return must be submitted to EHS. EHS must approve your return to work in the clinic.
  • You must fill out the UMMS form to return to work in the lab. You must quarantine as outlined in the UMMS travel policy for any work in the research buildings. The “test out” option is available as above. A PCR obtained at seven days after return must be submitted to EHS. EHS must approve return to work in the lab.
  • Your badge will be deactivated only for school locations. You will continue to have access to enter the hospital and clinic areas while you are quarantined from the research areas.

I tested positive for COVID-19, recovered and received return-to-work clearance from EHS. Do I need to get another test to return to work after traveling?

  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are returning from travel, please contact EHS for additional advice on returning to work.

Potential travel scenarios are available on the MA.gov website for additional frequently asked questions.