Faculty and Staff Coronavirus Information

Updated: May 25, 2021

Latest Messages

April 7, 2021

Fall Semester Plans Update from Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz

Dear JTS Community,

As we enter the last weeks of the semester, I want to thank you—students, faculty, and staff—for all you’ve done, in the face of a historic global pandemic, to help us complete the academic year with great success.

Though most of us remain physically separate, we have maintained the connections that bind us. We have found new ways to study and work together, to socialize and celebrate, to bring JTS learning to new audiences, and to serve and care for our community and the communities around us. At the same time, we’ve missed the in-person conversations, the spontaneous exchange of ideas, the experience of being together that enhances our work and study in invisible yet tangible ways.

Thankfully, the arrival and distribution of life-saving vaccines has enabled the hope that we can plan realistically to return to campus. If all goes well, this means that we will open for in-person classes and residential life in the fall, while continuing to take all necessary precautions to maintain the safety of our community. After the past year, we all know that circumstances can change quickly and could yet force us to revise our best-laid plans. But right now, we are in the first stage of preparing for a full campus re-opening, as are our partners at Columbia and Barnard. 

The challenges of the past year, though not welcome, have taught us a great deal. At first our campus was closed to all but essential employees, while all other work and all classes went online. Gradually, we were able to open our doors safely on a limited basis to staff, faculty, and students who wanted to use our campus facilities. This spring, we welcomed back a small number of students to our residence hall. The Library re-opened. And we held a small number of class sessions outdoors. How thrilling it was to see colleagues face to face after so many months of solely virtual engagement. And how wonderful it was to hear the sounds of learning through my office window! Thanks to all of these experiences, I believe we are now well-prepared to oversee a larger re-opening of campus in the fall. I am also heartened to know that we can count on our staff and students to take seriously the health precautions needed to maintain a safe environment.

This is only the first of many communications you will receive about the fall semester. I know you already have numerous questions, and I ask you to please hold them for the moment. We are just beginning to develop our fall plan and to address the myriad issues that must be resolved as part of a safe re-opening. I assure you that we will be in touch just as soon as we know more.

Right now, my heart is full at the thought of seeing all of you in person and enabling everyone in the JTS community to join together on our beautifully renovated campus.

Thank you all again for your resilience, your hard work, and the caring support you have shown one another. You have allowed JTS to thrive during this extraordinarily challenging time.


Shuly Rubin Schwartz

November 6, 2021

Spring 2021 Classes Will Be Offered Entirely Online

Dear JTS Community,

I know that many of you are eager for information about what the next semester at JTS will look like. All of us in the administration share that eagerness and have been working to give you the information you need in a timely way. Further updates will be provided in coming weeks, but we do wish to share the decision that for the spring 2021 semester, all JTS courses will be offered entirely online.

We came to this decision after weighing several factors and, as always, prioritizing the health and safety of our community. Certainly, one important factor we considered was the uptick in coronavirus infections throughout the country and uncertainty about the winter ahead. We also looked closely at our fall semester experience with online instruction. The results show clearly that since beginning classes in September, our faculty and students have displayed remarkable creativity, commitment, and resilience in making online learning the rich and meaningful experience that characterizes a JTS education. Taken together, these factors argued strongly for maintaining a model of full online instruction.

Our faculty members are now planning and designing courses for the spring and continuing to work with education technology specialists to further enrich their classes for the online environment. We are also using the suggestions from students and faculty based on this semester’s course offerings to continue enhancing the instructional experience.

Depending on health and safety conditions in the spring, we will permit small, occasional in-person class sessions on the JTS campus. Whether to hold these will depend on student and faculty interest and availability in any specific course. If such sessions do occur, they will be entirely optional, and all class sessions will continue to be offered online. As during this semester, anyone visiting the campus will be required to follow all health and safety protocols in place at the time.

Over the next couple of weeks, you can expect to receive additional information with details about other aspects of our spring semester planning. We know you are eager for this information, and we will provide it as quickly as possible.

I remind you that spring term will begin January 11, 2021. Here is the spring academic calendar.

I hope you have a successful and enjoyable continuation of the fall semester, followed by a well-deserved winter break. Wherever you are, please accept my sincere wish that you and your entire family are healthy and safe.


Stephen Garfinkel
Acting Provost

August 18

No Requirement for Faculty and Staff To Be Tested for Covid-19

Dear Faculty and Staff,

In light of Chancellor Schwartz’s announcement of August 14, specifically that students would not be returning to campus for the fall semester, we have modified our previous requirement for all faculty and staff to be tested for Covid-19 prior to their first return to campus.  

The updated policy statement is as follows:

JTS will encourage each employee returning to campus to get a COVID diagnostic test.

All faculty and staff are encouraged, but not required, to be tested for Covid-19 prior to their first return to campus. There will be no requirement for proof or documentation for such tests.

Please let either Jim Esposito or me know if you have any questions.

Stay safe and healthy!

Diana Torres-Petrilli
Chief Human Resources Officer

James Esposito
Director of Operations, Facilities M​anagement

August 6 

Update on Fall Operations

This message provides details for the gradual return of staff and faculty as well as building and community protocols.

Dear JTS Community,

As we anticipate welcoming students and employees to JTS for the fall semester, we want to let you know about the numerous steps we are taking to help protect the health and safety of the JTS community, our neighbors, and all who enter our campus. We have developed a plan that follows the guidance issued by New York State and the latest recommendations of public health experts. As circumstances change, we may need to amend our protocols, but our priority is and will remain protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and our surrounding community. 

Over the last few months, we have witnessed more than ever what a caring and connected community we share at JTS. This concern for the welfare of others is what makes this community so special, and it is what makes us optimistic that, barring a change in the trajectory of the pandemic, we will be able to implement a gradual and safe return of employees to campus beginning August 17.

Below are the details of our plan. As always, we hope you and your loved ones stay well, and we thank you for the contribution each of you makes every day toward fulfilling the mission of this great institution.


Diana Torres-Petrilli
Chief Human Resources Officer

James Esposito
Director of Operations, Facilities Management

Plan for Fall Operations 

JTS will implement a comprehensive screening and prevention policy to minimize the risks presented by COVID-19

  • All employees and students will be required to self-screen each day prior to arriving on campus (or before leaving the residence hall) by using a smart thermometer and mobile phone app designed to help identify symptoms associated with COVID-19. We will provide this thermometer and a subscription to the accompanying phone app to each member of our community when they return to campus. We will ask you to show the “badge” generated by the app each day to confirm that you are not exhibiting any symptoms. To protect our community, anyone who does not pass this screening cannot enter the campus.
  • We will only allow visitors who have been pre-approved and are here for professional purposes.
  • All visitors will be required to have their temperature taken through a touchless kiosk and to confirm that they are not exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19 before being admitted into JTS.
  • Every employee, student, and visitor entering JTS will be required to sanitize their hands and to wear a mask that fully covers their mouth and nose. JTS will provide a mask to any person who does not have one and will place hand sanitizer stations at our entrances.
  • JTS will provide full-face shields, face masks, and gloves to our security staff. We will apply floor markings to assist with traffic, implement socially distanced bag searches, install plexiglass over the security desk, and handle visitor check-in via computer from behind a plexiglass barrier.
  • All employees, students, and visitors will be required to wear a mask while in public areas, shared spaces, or meetings with others. Masks will not be required if an individual is working alone in an office with the door closed.
  • We will require everyone to abide by certain important behaviors while at JTS. These include: 
    • Not shaking hands;
    • Not holding meetings of more than three people and not holding any meeting in-person if it can be conducted by other means;
    • Not gathering in groups in public spaces; if circumstances allow, these spaces may be used by students for small, authorized academic or student-life programs that follow all health protocols;
    • When possible, using the stairs instead of the elevators;
    • Limiting use of elevators to two people at a time in Kripke Tower and one person in Brush Hall; elevators will be switched to Shabbat mode during peak hours, with each elevator dedicated to certain floors.
  • JTS will post signage reminding everyone about proper hygiene, hand washing, social distancing, and other important health and safety behavior.
  • Where feasible, we will put in place measures to reduce bi-directional foot traffic.

JTS will require each employee returning to campus to get a COVID diagnostic test.

  • Each employee must submit to the director of Human Resources documentary proof of a negative COVID-19 test no more than 14 days prior to returning to campus this fall. JTS will reimburse the employee for any out-of-pocket expenses associated with the test.
  • Employees who have been working on campus this spring and summer do not need to provide such documentary proof.

JTS will grant supervisors discretion in deciding when their employees start returning to campus.

  • We will allow supervisors to determine the frequency with which their employees will work on campus this fall.
  • We will consult with employees and take into consideration any logistical challenges related to their return to work.

JTS will conduct heightened cleaning and safety protocols throughout the campus.

  • We will clean our facilities frequently each day, with high-touch areas such as bathrooms, elevators, the security area, railings, and doors given particular attention.
  • We will place hand sanitizer stations on each floor and disinfectant wipes and tissues near photocopiers, elevators, railings, and classrooms.
  • We will temporarily remove or turn off shared food and beverage devices, which includes shared water fountains, refrigerators, toasters, microwaves, water coolers, and coffee makers.
  • We are making changes to the HVAC units throughout the campus to comply with recommended filtration upgrades and increase use of outside air where feasible.

JTS will phase in the return of employees to campus safely and gradually.

  • We will conduct a phased return for all employees coordinated through the office of Human Resources over the course of the fall. Unless essential to students or facility operations, most employees will not be expected to come to campus in a full-time capacity.
  • Those employees who do come to campus will be provided staggered start and end times. As more employees return with more regularity, we will continue to adjust staggered work times to minimize the number of employees entering campus at the same time.
  • There will be plexiglass barriers in workspaces that are used by more than one employee at a time.
  • There will be dedicated space for any employee who exhibits symptoms associated with COVID-19 until the employee can safely leave JTS.

JTS will be prepared in the event an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • Any employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19 must inform their supervisor and the director of Human Resources as soon as possible. An appointed representative at JTS will coordinate with local public health authorities regarding the employee’s case, if necessary.
  • JTS will cordon off the immediate and adjacent area(s) where the employee spent at least 15 minutes that day and subject the area(s) to a deep cleaning.
  • The area(s) will remain off-limits for 24 hours.
  • JTS may ask the infected employee to identify other individuals with whom they were in close contact, including during the 48-hour period prior to the employee experiencing symptoms. If necessary, JTS may use work schedules and other materials to identify close contacts. JTS will communicate with other individuals who were in proximity with the employee; however, the name or other identifying details of the employee will not be disclosed.
  • The employee will not return to JTS until a doctor’s note is provided that confirms the person does not pose a risk of infecting others in the JTS community.

JTS will be prepared in the event an employee exhibits COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Any employee who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, as defined by the CDC, will be sent home immediately. We will follow the above procedures regarding cordoning off work areas and potential contact tracing.
  • We will permit the employee to return to work when they have satisfied certain conditions that indicate they don’t present health risks to the JTS community.

JTS will ensure that all organizations housed at JTS are similarly prepared.

We will require that each affiliate organization housed on campus establish a COVID-19 action plan for its employees and workspaces before those employees are permitted to return. This includes:

  • A symptom testing policy similar to that of JTS.
  • Policies that address infected or potentially infected employees, employees who exhibit symptoms while at JTS, contact tracing, and reporting protocols to JTS of actual or suspected instances of COVID.
  • A description of the measures it is taking that address shared workspaces, employee meetings, shared equipment, and other measures to minimize the likelihood of infection.

JTS will consider additional steps for members of vulnerable populations.

We are aware that according to public health authorities, some populations are more vulnerable than others to becoming severely ill if they contract COVID-19. For those employees deemed more vulnerable, their circumstances will be considered for accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Employees should consult with their supervisor, who will consult with the office of Human Resources.

Safeguarding Your Health

You have an important role to play in maintaining a safe workplace and community, and we ask each employee to do their part. Please remember to follow the health and safety practices listed below. We will also invite you to watch a video with information about these practices to help guide you as you return to campus. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. (If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.)
  • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or use the inside of your elbow. (Used tissues should be thrown away immediately, and hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent infection.
  • Stay home when sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Share responsibility for surface cleaning.

Contact your medical provider immediately if you are experiencing the following known symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell 

Go for a flu shot if you are not already immunized.