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Safe Return to Campus

How was the Plan Developed?

In planning for a return, the College established the Return to NOVA Advisory Group (RNAG) to provide recommendations and operationalize NOVA’s actions in response to the coronavirus. RNAG’s efforts are ongoing and continue with each campus to implement the return to campus plans outlined in this document. This effort includes coordinating and promoting measures for physical distancing, personal health hygiene practices, campus cleaning protocols, and other steps to support student and employee health and well-being. The group represents functional areas from across the College and is chaired by the Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police. RNAG is split into seven primary Task Teams, each charged with a specific objective. Due to complexity of the task, many of the teams are further broken down into subgroups involving additional College staff and functions including IT, Administrative Controls, Human Resources, Engineering, Communications, Planning, Academics, and Campus Operations.
To monitor developing trends and local, state, and national information concerning COVID-19, NOVA maintains an emergency operations center (EOC) staffed with OEMS personnel. This EOC group distributes a daily report concerning the current situation to college administrators to maintain a common operational picture. The daily brief is supported by information compiled from the VDH, VDEM, Johns Hopkins University, and the FEMA National Capital Region (NCR) Watch Desk.


Prior to returning to campus, all students, faculty, and staff at NOVA are required to complete an online COVID-19 training module that includes safety and anti-stigma information. For full-time faculty and staff, the trainings are in the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center (COVLC)/NOVA Academy, NOVA’s online training platform. For students, hourly staff, and adjuncts, the training is accessed through the Canvas learning management system.

Additionally, all faculty, staff and students are asked to check their symptoms daily using the GoCanvas app. Download and use instructions are found on page 8 of this Plan.

Supervisors should continue to encourage their staff to work remotely if that has proven productive and effective. Flexible individual and team schedules, such as staggered work arrival and departure times, should be implemented as we return to campus. If an employee requires some flexibility, the employee needs to speak with his/her supervisor to develop a plan that achieves work goals and meets the employee’s

NOVA continues to offer telework options for employees who can continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs remotely, particularly for employees who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The majority of NOVA courses will be offered through our approved distance learning formatsthrough NOVA Online or through synchronous delivery via Zoom. Courses that require the use of NOVA facilities for hands-on instruction will return to our campuses for a portion of the class. Examples include (but are not limited to) Automotive Technology, Dental Hygiene, Engineering Technology, HVAC, Nursing, and Workforce Development. In addition, NOVA is offering a limited number of other courses in a hybrid format.

NOVA will not hold any campus events for students, employees, or external organizations until it is deemed safe to do so by public health officials. This includes, but is not limited to, social student gatherings or group activities. NOVA’s athletic events are cancelled throughout the spring 2021 season. https://www.nvcc.edu/student-life/athletics.html. The College’s cultural centers, Ernst Cultural and Community Center and the Schlesinger Center, and event areas remain closed for facility rentals and gatherings until it is deemed safe by public health officials.

International students at NOVA must comply with federal regulation established by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). NOVA will not be admitting any new overseas students for Summer 2021, Fall 2021 or Spring 2022. F1 applications will only be accepted for 2021/22 from applicants currently inside the U.S. applying as transfer, change of level or change of status. With the expected arrival of international students back to the United States, NOVA is providing guidance to follow the following U.S. Department of State and CDC websites for COVID-19 protocols applicable to returning students who travelled abroad.

Visit the international student admissions webpage for the latest updates and information.

COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (see links below). NOVA recognizes that some students and employees will be in the higher risk groups identified by CDC. To self-identify and seek accommodations, students may contact Disability Support Services and Faculty/Staff may contact ADA@nvcc.edu.

Various symptoms have been associated with COVID-19, and their impact ranges from mild to severe. Some of the following symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus:

  • Fever above 100.4°F, or feeling unusually hot (if no thermometer is available), accompanied by shivering/chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny nose or new nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea, with or without respiratory symptoms
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Generally feeling unwell, fatigue, and/or muscle aches
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • New foot sores
See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing your mask and wash your hands immediately before and after removal.
There are four types of face masks: cloth face coverings, disposable masks, medical-grade surgical masks, and N95 respirators. Generally, cloth and disposable masks will be seen as required at NOVA. Descriptions of each type of mask and notes on their intended use are found in the Plan on page 11.

Safeguard and Risk Management at NOVA

This plan derives its guidance and reports from the Governor of Virginia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), and Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM). The plan outlines NOVA’s safety considerations for limited on-site instruction, services, and operations. This plan is grounded in a commitment to follow all CDC and Virginia Department of Health requirements for COVID-19 safety. The College is prepared to follow Virginia’s guidance on both easing and reinstating public health restrictions as the situation changes.

The Facilities Planning & Support Services (FPSS) department full building assessments ensure that all systems are functional, including the standardized process of "pre-semester checks" which focuses on the functionality and safety of all student-centric spaces (ex: no sharp edges exposed, broken pull-down screens, etc.). Physical barriers (plexiglass) will be installed at service counter locations, to the extent possible, throughout the college. FPSS is reviewing the energy management systems are functioning properly to ensure proper amounts of outside air are being pulled into the buildings. Facilities planning is optimizing air filtration and conducting a comprehensive survey in July to finalize the proposed high efficiency (high-MERV rating) filters. Plumbing systems are exercised on a regular basis to prevent stagnant or other adverse domestic water issues; this includes regularly running water in faucets, showerheads, toilets, urinals and cooling towers.

Gathering in groups increases the risk of viral transmission. As NOVA resumes on-campus work, all are asked to continue to use remote-meeting technology tools whenever possible. If it is necessary to conduct a meeting in person, the number of attendees should be limited so that those present can sit a minimum of six feet apart with all participants wearing face coverings. Others can join the meeting remotely, if necessary.

Anyone using public transportation or ride sharing is encouraged to commute during less busy times and to clean your hands upon arrival at the College or some other destination. Review CDC guidance on how to protect yourself when using transportation.

NOVA anticipates very limited travel, with some easing of these restrictions in the spring of 2021. Individuals who travel outside Virginia, whether personally or professionally, have been advised since spring 2020 that – depending upon conditions in the area to which they traveled – they may be required to self-isolate or self-quarantine for 14 days upon return.

The public health mitigation strategies of physical distancing, health and hygiene practices, and the use of personal protective equipment remain the safest and most sensible way of resuming activities. Additional information about these strategies is located in the Return to NOVA Plan on pages 7-8.

NOVA safety planning surveys of spaces have gathered information on the specifics of what instruction or service will occur and any unique dynamics or considerations involved in the use of the space. Using CDC and VDH guidance for physical distancing, the College evaluated each space, measured distance between seats, reviewed instructional areas, and prepared space plans and configurations to maximize 6 feet of distancing, to the extent possible. In many instances, classroom desks and workspaces are marked with “Stay Safe with Ace” stickers to identify the desks and workspaces available for use to maintain proper distancing. In general, furniture has not been removed from classes and workspaces. Its presence reinforces social distancing. Finally, NOVA has placed diagrams of desk placement and green dot locations in each room as resource guides for those using the space to self-check their physical distance.

Physical distancing concerns in common areas, lounges, and study areas are considerably reduced given the limited number of students, faculty, and staff expected on NOVA’s campuses. Signage, furniture reconfigurations, and physical barriers placed throughout the College will help students, faculty, and staff maintain social distancing when required to use campus facilities. Signage may indicate an area is closed for use; in these instances, individuals are expected to refrain from using the space as it was deemed impractical to properly maintain social distancing in that area.

In general, and in addition to healthy hygiene and behavior practices noted above, individuals are encouraged to wipe down work spaces at the beginning and end of a class or shift and, as possible, throughout the day. Additionally, high-touch areas should be frequently disinfected. Procedures and the respective cleaning guidelines and suggestions for faculty, students and staff are outlined in the Plan on pages 9-10.

You are not required to wear a mask in these locations, provided you are able to maintain specified social distance of at least six feet from others who may be in the immediate area. You are not required to wear a mask when out of doors when you are able to maintain effective social distance.

Most individuals will not need to wear gloves in the course of their everyday duties or instruction. Gloves do not replace the need to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. Gloves may be provided to NOVA staff in some instances where recommended or required by DHRM or OSHA guidance, such as mail handling.

If you are at home, stay at home. Notify your supervisor or instructor, contact your physician, and follow instructions. If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 or feel ill at work, report this information immediately to your supervisor. NOVA has established a quarantine period of 14 days for anyone self-reporting or exposed to the virus through a documented investigation. Refer to NOVA’s Contagious Disease Policy for more information: https://www.nvcc.edu/policies/policies.aspx?num=111.

Persons may have been exposed if they have “close contact” with someone who is infected, which is defined as being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time (defined as 15 minutes). Potentially exposed persons who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and follow CDC recommended steps available on the CDC website. Potentially first-hand exposed persons who do not have symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice physical distancing for 14 days.

In cases where accommodations need to be made for students, seek guidance from Disability Support Services to arrange seating and include any specialized equipment or memorandum of accommodations. Employees instructed to return to work on-site and have concerns about doing so due to a medical condition that places them in a higher risk group should contact ADA@nvcc.edu to request a reasonable accommodation.

NOVA recommends you place your disposable mask in a closable paper or plastic bad and dispose of in outside trash receptacles or at your home.

You should not assume that someone not wearing a mask is disobeying NOVA policy; that person may have been granted an accommodation for medical reasons and you may not ask that person about the nature of his or her accommodation. If you believe someone is failing to obey NOVA policy, you should maintain a physical distance of at least six feet. Please do not call the police or local health department for this purpose.

Specific steps are outlined in the Plan on pages 13-15 and the College’s Contagious Disease Policy (#111, cited above in this FAQ). NOVA will distribute COVIDWISE, an app under development by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for exposure notification. VDH will also manage all contact tracing and exposure investigations for NOVA. NOVA will distribute educational messages to individuals about steps to take if they become ill; report suspected and confirmed cases to the VDH; implement VDH guidance on public health follow-up and cleaning and disinfection, as appropriate; and assist in outreach to members of the NOVA community.


The majority of student services will continue to be delivered remotely with the expansion of call center support, virtual advising, and virtual student support programming. Limited services, such as computer labs, libraries, bookstores, business office, and parking, will be open to limited numbers of students to provide necessary services while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. For more information, visit https://www.nvcc.edu/coronavirus/students.html


For their protection and to limit occasions of incidental contact, employees are encouraged to bring meals from home during this uncertain time. NOVA will have limited dining service during the spring semester with pre-packaged food available for purchase from NOVA’s cafes, vending machines, and Barnes and Noble Bookstores. The food service providers are offering practical services such as boxed meals and grab-and-go options. The use of seating areas in cafés is limited with modified furniture configurations, social distancing signage, and other safety controls. Eating in groups is discouraged with many seating areas marked for limited seating only. When not eating or drinking, individuals are required to wear face coverings in dining areas on campus. NOVA’s food service and vending operations are contracted to outside vendors. All contracted vendors and their employees are expected to comply with the COVID-19 safety considerations and requirements outlined in this plan (see Visitors and Contractor section above).

NOVA’s custodial contractor will continue enhanced cleaning in offices, classrooms, labs, restrooms, common areas, cafes, elevators, etc. throughout the spring semester. Cleaning will follow CDC and OSHA guidelines, along with other pertinent guidance and regulatory controls. Additional information about different levels of cleaning (i.e., regular, enhanced and deep cleaning) is found in the Plan on page 9. Questions should be directed to Facilities Planning and Support Services.

Contact Facilities.

NOVA shuttles are operating for the spring semester. NOVA has worked with its shuttle service provider to ensure cleaning of the passenger areas. However, passengers should be prepared to wear face coverings and practice social distancing and good hygiene.

The College will provide masks in specified settings, when required by health and safety officials or regulatory agencies. When you are sitting in your office or an enclosed private workspace alone, you do not need to wear a mask or face covering. Faculty, staff and students who need a face covering can pick up a cloth face mask at any campus NOVACard or Parking office.

For those who may need a clear face shield, NOVA has acquired a supply and will make these available for distribution, if requested. Direct requests to the Director of Campus Operations or the Office of Emergency Management and Safety.

Most individuals will not need to wear gloves in the course of their everyday duties or instruction. However, gloves may be provided to NOVA staff in some instances where recommended or required by DHRM or OSHA guidance, such as mail handling.

Testing is not being provided by the College.  NOVA recommends individuals seek appropriate medical attention from their primary care physician should a potential COVID-19 exposure occur or if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. For those seeking testing locations, the Virginia Department of Health has a searchable database at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites/

As a non-residential institution, NOVA partners with local health districts but does not provide care for symptomatic individuals.  If you believe you are symptomatic, consult a medical professional and notify your supervisor.

Communications and Information

Access to class attendance rosters, schedules, names of potential exposures, and other protected information will be governed in accordance with applicable laws such as FERPA.

NOVA recognizes the need to provide ongoing information and guidance pertaining to its COVID-19 response efforts. A comprehensive public health communication campaign to educate the NOVA community on their responsibility for reducing the spread of the virus is critical to a safe reopening of the College’s facilities. Accordingly, the RNAG’s Communications Task Group is using a strategic communications plan to provide clear and relevant information to students, faculty, and staff in a variety of formats. The following forms of communication will provide students, faculty, and staff COVID-19 related information prior to and during the Spring 2021 semester:

The Daily Flyer newsletter, which is mailed to all employees NOVA website: updates, FAQs, videos will be prominently placed and noticed on the College’s website, which includes a page dedicated to information regarding the pandemic: nvcc.edu/safety-campus

  • NOVA social media pages
  • Flat panel display screens throughout the hallways of the College
  • Several types of specially-designed signage placed in high-traffic areas outside and inside each NOVA location to remind students, faculty staff, and visitors of social distancing, PPE availability and requirements, health hygiene, and other related messaging. These signs will be posted in parking lots and other locations before entry into a building.  Once inside, additional signs will be visible in hallways, on doors, inside classrooms, in dining areas, bathrooms, and other places throughout the buildings.

To expand upon the information in this Plan and further empower the NOVA community, NOVA will provide documents to faculty, students and staff prior to the start of the fall semester. These documents will contain safety information on self-health screenings, social distancing, cleaning protocols, face covering requirements, hygiene best practices and related materials.

  • For COVID-19 general questions, contact the Office of Emergency Management and Safety at OEM@nvcc.edu
  • For student specific inquiries, contact Student Services staff at studentservices@nvcc.edu or call the Call Center at 703-323-3000
  • For employee questions relating to employment issues, contact the Office of Human Resources at HRAdmin@nvcc.edu

Decision Making and Access

NOVA’s decisions regarding dismissals or temporary shutdowns will be made in consultation with local and state public health officials. The parameters outlined in this document will help guide decisions about the need and duration to close offices, buildings, or campuses. Upon becoming aware of a known or suspected exposure, an evaluation of known facts, including but not limited to location(s), duration, use of PPE, proximity, will be assessed and the respective room, building, or campus will be shut down, as deemed appropriate and in consultation with local health officials. NOVA will be prepared to move more individuals back to or away from our campuses as Virginia public health restrictions and the local situation change. Changes in campus activity status will be communicated through the NOVA Alert system, the College website, social media pages, and public communication channels.
While limitations are placed on gatherings, NOVA will limit access into buildings it owns or controls. NOVA’s electronic door access system on exterior doors limits entry into buildings where classes or in-person services are occurring. Other buildings may be locked with limited access to faculty and staff or remain closed if use is not required. The determination to unlock additional doors and exceptions will be made by the Return to NOVA Advisory Group. As long as gathering limits exist and access is controlled, faculty and staff desiring entry into the buildings for short periods of time to retrieve items or work must have prior approval. Approval is granted through a request to the employee’s Administrative Council representative. Upon approval the request is forwarded to the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police, or designee, reviews all requests to assess if gathering size will be exceeded for the requested space. If access criteria are met, the requestor’s information, with approved date and time, is placed into the OEM database system (VEOCI). When the requestor is granted access, it is with the condition that while at the College, the individual adheres to physical distancing and complies with the College’s face covering requirements. Upon arrival, individuals must call police dispatch (703-764-5000) and, upon confirming the access request in VEOCI, the door will be remotely opened.