• Health and Well-Being
  • Insights
  • Higher Ed

Sharing Campus Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christine McHugh, Esq.
October 2021
Consider taking these actions if you let hospitals and state and federal agencies use your campus during the pandemic.

As the nation mobilized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities examined how they could can help. Many institutions readied their campuses for possible use by local hospitals and state and federal agencies. As your institution serves its communities in these new ways, institutions should ensure that adequate risk management, liability, and safety measures are in place.

In a op-ed in the Boston Globe, Tufts University President Anthony Monaco called on higher education institutions to assess how their facilities and resources can be useful during this national emergency. His recommendations included:

  • Identify and prepare all usable residential units. Units near hospitals can be used for overflow. Others can be used as isolation spaces for health care workers or discharged patients. Consider especially rooms with private bathrooms and those with external access.
  • Create a university incident command structure to lead the operations and communications of your institution’s response during the crisis. This effort can be led by the university’s trained emergency management staff, in coordination with staff who have expertise in university operations, communications, medicine, or government or relief agencies.
  • Reach out to faculty members whose backgrounds in medicine, military operations, or the government may allow them to be valuable consultants to medical centers or to the university’s crisis operations.
  • Assess the capabilities of your dining services and determine what precautions are necessary to be operational during the crisis, including potentially delivering meals to quarantined people.
  • Review hospital shortages and audit the campus resources to find materials for donation, including personal protective equipment (PPE), laboratory supplies, and cleaning supplies. Search all areas of the university, including science laboratories and custodial storage areas. Medical and veterinary schools may be able to offer ventilators or other hospital equipment. Some institutions have set up a task force to marshal donation of supplies.
  • Offer parking lots, sports stadiums, meeting halls, and other large or open spaces for use as triage and testing centers.
  • Reach out to members of your school community, including alumni and students, for help on specific issues or for financial support as needed.
  • Inquire about your local hospital’s unique needs and assist where possible.

Consider This Before Taking Action

As colleges and universities converse with hospitals, relief agencies, and municipal officials, the institutions should consider the following:

Review all existing MOUs (memoranda of understanding) with local and state emergency services. Create MOUs where there are none and edit existing MOUs as necessary to take into account the national state of emergency and the new services that may be taking place on campus.

If campus facilities or equipment will be used by hospitals or government agencies ─ even when offered for free or nominal amounts ─ enter into a contract to spell out each party’s responsibilities. For example, if a residence hall will be used by a hospital, the contract should cover all leasing details including expectations regarding any payments, length of use, a requirement to leave the facility in the same condition as it was received, and indemnification language that ensures the party using the institution’s facilities or equipment will be responsible for the losses it causes.

The contract also should address responsibility for security, disinfecting and custodial services, staffing, and other needs, especially for specialized facilities.

Review all insurance policies to determine how the new functions on campus will be covered. Ensure that insurance responsibilities are confirmed in all contracts. Ensure your university is added to the recipient party’s insurance policies as an additional insured. Enlist your institution’s broker for help obtaining policies and navigating coverage issues.

Policies and Procedures
For university services that will fulfill a new role, examine what new policies and procedures are necessary. For example, dining services that reopen for service to the community or to patients may need new routines for food preparation, sanitization of the dining halls, and food delivery.

Opening your university to new groups of people may require additional security measures, especially when housing patients or providing free offerings such as food or supplies.

Review your campus law enforcement agency’s mutual aid agreements with surrounding jurisdictions. Work with campus and local law enforcement and your university’s security services to ensure adequate staffing and resources.

Employee Needs
If university employees will be serving new populations, they may require new resources and support. For example, janitorial or maintenance personnel working in residence halls housing patients may need PPE. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers some guidance in this regard.

Additionally, employees who are redeployed in new roles will need training and a supervisory structure. All employees working in this tumultuous time will need access to counseling services or employee assistance programs and possibly additional leave to care for themselves or others who become infected.

Coordinate with Third-Party Vendors
Many university services are operated by third-party vendors, such as dining, security, and custodial contractors. When offering campus facilities or resources, involve these vendors in conversations surrounding any services that would require their participation.

Document Expenditures
Create a process to document expenditures in the event reimbursement from federal or state emergency management agency funding becomes available.

More From UE

COVID-19 Response Resource Collection