As the global Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) evolves, we know you are faced with an overwhelming amount of important information. The purpose of this email is to consolidate several important updates and items of information in one message. You can expect more of these types of communications to be sent regularly and as needed.

In this update, please scroll down for guidance from our local and state governments; information and resources on the stigma and anxiety caused by COVID-19; a note on protecting yourself with cybersecurity; information on how University Communications and Marketing is responding to COVID-19 and the current status of the website redesign; and an update from Advancement Services on their process while working remotely.

Thank you for your flexibility, cooperation, and hard work during this unique time. 

Brendan B. Kelly, Ph.D.
President
University of West Georgia

Guidance from State and Local Governments

State and local governments are taking steps on social distancing to stop the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In emergency meetings held recently, the Carrollton City Council and Carroll County Board of Commissioners passed ordinances that limit social gatherings.

Additionally, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order requiring certain individuals with an increased risk of complications from COVID-19 to isolate, quarantine, or shelter in place. The governor’s order also closes all bars and nightclubs in Georgia, and it will ban all gatherings of 10 or more people unless you can maintain at least six feet between people at all times. 

The ordinances uphold the guidance to maintain a distance of six feet between individuals in public spaces and now limits public or private gatherings of more than 10 people. Exemptions to the 10-person rule were given to any employer or employee in a workplace performing work-related responsibilities.

Exemptions will also be made for employees of “anything the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deems essential workforce.” Examples of essential workforces include hospitals, hardware stores, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The measure also stated that any restaurants that remain open may no longer allow consumption on the premises, allowing take-out service, with further provisions to limit exposure during pick-up.

Please follow these ordinances from the local and state governments, as well as the guidance from the CDC and DPH. Thank you for your cooperation as we adjust to this new reality.

COVID-19 Stigma and Mental Health Resilience

We recognize that public health situations are stressful times for communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people and places – for example, associating COVID-19 with a population or nationality or with people who have traveled. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear and anger toward others.

The reality is that diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. For more information, visit the CDC’s webpage on stigma and resilience. Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts and sharing them with others in your community.

Individuals with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms. Visit the CDC for more resources on mental health and coping during COVID-19.

Students may call the UWG Counseling Center (678-839-6428), select Option 2, or UWG Health Services (678-839-6452) if stress reactions interfere with your daily activities for several days in a row. Faculty and staff should contact a healthcare provider or obtain free and confidential support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Contact KEPRO at 1-844-243-4440 or go to www.eaphelplink.com and use the company code USGCares.

Cybersecurity

As we transition to remote working and university-wide online learning, please remain vigilant in your awareness as it relates to scams related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Cyber threat actors know that the added stress of working under new conditions may result in employees responding to a request before fully reading and vetting the request. Remember to take the time to validate any request for information and never click a link or open an attachment without carefully examining the source.

  • Always remember to evaluate email messages for their legitimacy, and use trusted sources of information. Here are some terms to carefully consider:
  • Pretend - Scams may use real logos or appear to originate from people we know and pose as legitimate messages.
  • Urgency - Scams often convey a sense of urgency or a threat of action if ignored.
  • Resemblance - Many scams use email addresses resembling familiar legitimate businesses. Names in a From address are easy to fake, so always double-check the email's From address to confirm the source of the message.
  • Links - By resting your mouse pointer over but not clicking on a link, you can determine if the link matches the text.
  • Spelling - Many scam emails contain spelling and grammar errors.
  • If in doubt, double-check the telephone number and call the individual and confirm the information before taking any action. 
  • Use trusted sources for COVID-19 information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Georgia Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid installing apps that claim to provide coronavirus tracking.
  • Be wary of emails posing as official communications from university personnel offering bogus updates about news related to COVID-19, especially those that include links inviting you to log in for further information.

As always, if you see something, say something. Report suspicious activity to ITS by calling the Service Desk at 678-839-6587.

UCM News and Web Redesign

In light of the preparation for and response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Office of University Communications and Marketing is adjusting its editorial approach during this fluid campus climate. We are temporarily postponing some of our regular news and human-interest stories on the News section of the UWG website and social media channels. 

Instead, we will shift much of our focus to preparing, sharing, and connecting you with accurate and timely campus information and resources related to COVID-19 prevention and updates, which can be found on the university’s Information on COVID-19 page.

Additionally, on behalf of the UCM web services team – in collaboration with Information Technology Services – we have made the decision to delay the redesign of our university homepage along with high-visibility internal pages. Features of the redesign include new, mobile-first navigation and a refreshed look and feel consistent with the evolving Go West brand.

At this time, we believe it is important not to make any changes to our site to ensure all news related to COVID-19 is front and center and easy to find. We look forward to showcasing our new design at the appropriate time. If you have any questions about the web redesign, please contact Ewa Zennerman, director of web services, at ezenner@westga.edu.

Advancement Services

Advancement Services is running payment and reimbursement requests once per week because of the teleworking guidance we've received. As many of you know, we require the proper paperwork and substantiation for every request. We realize that during this remote-work period getting all the necessary signatures, receipts, and other items to our office present a challenge.

For the next two weeks, we are allowing emailed authorizations and scanned forms and substantiations in lieu of your original documentation. Email authorizations must be direct from the authorized signer to Whitney Benefield (wbenefie@westga.edu). No forwarded messages, please. 

We would like original documents forwarded to our office as soon as possible. Please know that this paperwork can be dropped off at the campus mailroom, or mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. We are only processing checks and EFTs once per week. Should you miss a weekly cutoff, your payment/reimbursement will be included in the next week’s batch.

We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding while we adjust to this new environment in which we are operating. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Holly Sailers, executive director of advancement services and CFO of the UWG Foundation, by emailing hsailers@westga.edu.