Iowa State's first round of COVID-19 vaccinations arrived in late December, a small batch limited to campus workers providing health care and COVID-19 testing. While it's an encouraging development, patience and diligence remain essential.
Under the Iowa Department of Public Health's statewide vaccination strategy, which is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, recipients of the state's initial supply of vaccines includes health care workers who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19 patients or infectious materials, said Erin Baldwin, associate vice president for student health and wellness.
At Iowa State, that covered health care staff at the Thielen Student Health Center, staff working at the university testing site and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory staff involved in COVID-19 testing, Baldwin said. The first doses were administered Dec. 18, and the follow-up doses, given three weeks later, will be provided in the coming days.
The vaccine's arrival at Thielen Student Health Center was met by a welcoming roar from staff, said Jessica Shannon, the center's assistant director of nursing and patient services.
"There is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel," she said.
Vaccine town hall set
A virtual town hall Jan. 15 (2-3 p.m., via Webex) will focus on COVID-19 vaccines. A panel will address questions about availability and distribution, including Erin Baldwin, associate vice president for student health and wellness; Kristen Obbink, COVID-19 public health coordinator; David Verhoeven, assistant professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine; and Dan Fulton, McFarland Clinic infectious disease specialist.
ISU's public health team is collaborating closely with Story County Public Health on how the state's phased vaccine plan will be implemented on campus and how Iowa State can support vaccine distribution logistics such as transport and storage, Baldwin said. The university does have low-temperature freezer space set aside suitable for the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be at temperatures of minus 94 degrees F to be stored longer than 30 days.
It's not clear when vaccines will be widely available to the general public, but it likely will take several months, Baldwin said.
In the meantime, it's important to continue practicing Cyclones Care behaviors such as wearing a face covering when around others, keeping 6 feet apart when possible, washing hands frequently and staying home when ill. And be ready for your turn when the vaccine is offered.
"When it comes your time for your vaccine, I encourage everybody to get theirs so we sometime -- hopefully soon -- can come to a new normal and get back to what we really want," Shannon said.
University employees who aren't experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 but would like a free test following the winter holidays are invited to participate in a testing day Friday, Jan. 8. Results will be available within 48 hours. Companies, associations and communities in 15 states are participating in the testing event, a collaboration between Johnston-based Corteva Agriscience, which developed the testing process, and financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Iowa State and the city of Ames signed on to participate, so any asymptomatic individual in Story County, 18 years or older, is welcome to be tested.
The university's COVID-19 response team is coordinating the campus testing day, with a goal of testing at least a thousand adults, said team member Julie Kieffer, conference planning and management. A self-administered and minimally-invasive nasal swab, the PCR test used Jan. 8 is similar to the one used by the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and Test Iowa.
ISU employees and students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should use the testing provided through Thielen Student Health Center or a health care clinic.
What do I do?
Testing will be offered at three campus locations, two of which reached their capacity earlier this week:
- Scheman ground floor, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (individuals who don't preregister online must use this location)
- At capacity: 179 General Services Building, 7:30-9:30 a.m.
- At capacity: 136 Union Drive Community Center, 10 a.m.-noon
Those who would like the free test are encouraged to preregister online by noon Thursday, Jan. 7, to expedite the process on testing day. Participants who meet that preregistration deadline will receive either an email or text from Corteva (NoReply@LKNotifications.com) with next steps. The message will contain directions for testing and a unique link to complete their registration in the secure CareEvolve portal. (CareEvolve is a software company that links the testing event with test processing.)
Asymptomatic adults who don't preregister by noon Jan. 7 should go to the Scheman location on testing day and preregister on site.
On Jan. 8, participants will check in at their chosen location and receive their own testing kit. After swabbing both nostrils, they'll place their test swab in the tube, take a photo of their test label with their smartphone and use a web app to upload the photo to the CareEvolve site to marry their test sample and registration record. Within 48 hours, participants are alerted by email or text that their results are available on the CareEvolve secure website.
Secure, private process
Personal data and privacy are protected in this testing event, however positive test results will be reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health. As always, employees and students who receive a positive or "detected" result are asked to self-report to the university.
Questions about the testing event may be emailed to email@example.com, or call 294-1775.
COVID-19 testing will resume at Johnny's lounge on the east side of Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 11, with a focus on spreading the workload more evenly across the university.
Testing support staff, many from targeted departments, will fill three roles during the spring semester -- testing site staff, contact tracers and case investigators.
"We approached the fall with more of a sign-up mentality," said senior human resources partner Craig Hamerlinck, who is coordinating the staffing plan. "This spring, it is more structured with set schedules. We learned from the fall and are making data-driven decisions for our staffing needs in the spring."
Covering the various roles focuses on assigning staff consistent hours.
"Our success in the fall came from having staff that were consistent for the duration of the semester," Hamerlinck said. "We want consistent staff that are working a consistent schedule. That way they get really efficient and competent at their work."
Statisticians are analyzing data from the fall to forecast when potential rises in coronavirus cases may occur to allow for proper staffing and scheduling, Hamerlinck said.
Support staff have a variety of roles at Johnny's, including appointment setup, line managers to greet patients and checking in patients at the registration desk. In the fall, those responsibilities were handled primarily by finance service delivery teams.
"They really stepped up in a time of need at the university," Hamerlinck said.
Printing Services employees will take over the bulk of the staffing responsibilities at the testing site this spring. Support staff will continue to perform their normal work in addition to their efforts at the testing site.
"With the spring, we are trying to bring in people to relieve the staff who had committed so much in the fall so they can return to their jobs and take care of their needs," Hamerlinck said. "Some areas are affected by COVID more than others. Areas like study abroad programs and conference planning and management were able to provide support staff."
Identifying departments that are less taxed by the pandemic and working with their leaders helped fill positions. Supervisor approval is required to ensure workloads are managed. In some cases, someone moving into a testing site rotation has their "home" work picked up by a coworker in their department.
Testing center hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The site also assists with testing for athletes and may adjust hours to accommodate them.
Associate vice president for finance and support services Heather Paris served as the testing site manager during the fall. Recreation services director Mike Giles and study abroad advisor Peter Cruz will act as co-managers this spring.
"They did an amazing job throughout the entire fall semester," Hamerlinck said. "It is my understanding that no one contracted COVID-19 from working at the test site in the fall."
Tracers and investigators
Just before the winter holiday break, university senior leaders assisted with the effort to piece together the necessary hours to fill seven days a week for contact tracers and case investigators.
"President [Wendy] Wintersteen and the senior vice presidents sent a message to their faculty and staff to express how important this was," Hamerlinck said. "It went smoothly over really a matter of days if you take out the holiday break."
Hamerlinck said support staff come from across campus, some taking time away from full-time jobs while others are picking up hours lost because of the pandemic.
As a result, Hamerlinck expects to have base staffing needs filled this week. The individuals conducting contact tracing or case investigations work remotely -- from their homes or offices -- to limit large gatherings of people.
All testing site support staff go through basic training before they begin working. Training includes an online contact tracing course through Johns Hopkins University that addresses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and in-person training. Training for those at the testing site teaches staff how to use the Iowa State registration programs.
"The staff that did this work in the fall are available to support the spring staff to ease the transition," Hamerlinck said. "Everyone will have gone through the basic training before they begin, but the actual experience of doing the work is where the training continues."
Some of the fall support staff will continue in their roles this spring and will assist new support staff as needed.
Earlier this week, 52 individuals and teams learned they received one of 12 COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards, announced in October to recognize the extraordinary and innovative ways Iowa Staters strived to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
Following the Nov. 20 nomination deadline, a central review committee of 21, representing all university divisions and employee representative bodies, worked its way through an astounding 647 nominations. While the original intent was to recognize up to three recipients in nearly all categories -- five in the exemplary team/unit award -- the volume of nominations compelled award organizers in the provost's office to expand the recipient list in most categories.
Individual recipients receive a certificate and $500 stipend in their January paychecks. Units or teams selected for an award receive a certificate and $500 award to support a priority need. The award stipends were made possible by private donations in support of the university.
Congratulations to all 647 nominees, including these award recipients:
Excellence in Face-to-Face Instruction
This award recognizes a faculty or staff instructor who has made exceptional efforts to successfully modify the learning experience during the fall semester to engage students creatively and safely in a face-to-face classroom, studio or lab setting.
Jeramy Ashlock, associate professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering
For exceptional simultaneous delivery of in-person and online instruction through innovative use of technology and training and support of other faculty.
Claudia Lemper-Manahl, assistant teaching professor, plant pathology and microbiology
For leadership and creativity in ensuring the safety of students and staff in undergraduate in-person microbiology labs.
Chad Sonka, assistant teaching professor, and Jodi Goble, associate teaching professor, music and theatre
For the "Dido Project," which created a multi-location, multi-performer, cinematic version of "Dido," overcoming logistical obstacles to rehearse, edit and execute.
Excellence in Remote Instruction
This award recognizes a faculty or staff instructor who has made exceptional efforts to successfully transform courses into engaging and accessible remote teaching platforms while maintaining an exceptional standard of quality.
Alice Alipour, associate professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering
For not only transforming but improving the delivery of CE 332: Structural Analysis I, one of the most challenging courses in the structural engineering program.
Locke Karriker, professor, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine
For seizing the opportunity to become a leader in remote instruction for clinical teaching.
Alejandro Plastina, associate professor, economics
For adapting ECON 330: Advanced Farm Business Management to an exceptional hands-on, but entirely online, format.
Grant Thompson, assistant professor, horticulture
For outstanding virtual delivery of HORT 240: Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines, and for enduring improvements to student accommodations.
Graduate Student Teaching Impact
This award recognizes a graduate student who has made exceptional efforts to support student learning through innovative and high-quality approaches to teaching, whether through online, hybrid or face-to-face modalities.
Caroliena Cabada, English
For providing a seamless transition to online delivery for ISUComm foundation courses.
Nicole Hayes, psychology
For promoting student engagement in social psychology and fostering an inclusive and supportive environment.
Jameel Kelley, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering
For becoming a trusted and indispensable resource for students with limited coding experience.
Trevor Kliever, interior design
For exceptional performance transitioning to online and hybrid teaching in interior design.
Excellence in Instructional Support
This award recognizes a faculty or staff instructor who has made exceptional efforts to support the creative and successful redesign of a course or curriculum for remote or hybrid delivery through instructor training or instructional support.
Ryan Arndorfer, teaching lab specialist, chemical and biological engineering
For supporting students and instructors in virtual lab courses through timely creative innovation and trouble shooting.
Lesya Hassall, instructional technology specialist, Center for Excellence and Learning and Teaching
For effective leadership of CELT's Course Design Institute program.
Michael Renze, information technology support, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering
For exceptional technological support to the department's faculty and staff.
This award recognizes an individual or team that has contributed to ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 through research in any disciplinary area.
Nicholas Gabler, professor, animal science
For delivering practical science-based solutions to pork producers in order to overcome the challenges of packing plant shut-downs.
Jacob Meyer, assistant professor, kinesiology
For transformative research into the behavioral and psychological associations of COVID-19-related alterations to society.
Lily Wang, professor, statistics
For research of COVID-19 dynamics in order to understand and improve forecasting of the spread of infectious diseases.
Next Generation Mask project team, associate professor of materials science Jun Cui and scientist Julie Slaughter, Ames Laboratory; and associate professor Bryan Bellaire, veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine
For research leading to the delivery of the next generation mask/respirator that enhances efficiency and is capable of self-sterilization.
Graduate Student Research Impact
This award recognizes a graduate student who has contributed to ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 through research in any disciplinary area.
Ryan Andrews, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology
For important discoveries in the functional annotation of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
Amanda Bries, food science and human nutrition
For tireless efforts to support nutritional research and undergraduate student lab experiences.
Emma Helm, animal science
For selflessly leading two impactful research studies of pandemic effects on the swine industry.
Urminder Singh, genetics, development and cell biology
For breakthrough research into the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on orphan genes of African American populations.
This award recognizes an individual or team that has demonstrated innovation and resilience to successfully carry out impactful extension efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Julie Naig, extension youth coordinator, Palo Alto County
For innovation and resilience in leading impactful extension efforts in fabrication and distribution of personal protective equipment in the state of Iowa.
Marc Schneider, industry extension specialist, Center for Industrial Research and Service
For leading the CIRAS emergency response and for overcoming challenges to global trade and shipping to continue serving organizations across Iowa.
Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program educational efforts
For successfully transitioning food education programs to meet the needs of communities facing food insecurity during the pandemic.
Principles of Community Champion
This award recognizes an individual or team that has shown commitment to Iowa State's Principles of Community and was effective in supporting faculty, staff and students impacted by campus climate issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cris Broshar, program specialist, child care and family services, university human resources
For creating "family forum" to share strategies and assist learning to overcome child care and remote working challenges.
Social Media + Diversity and Inclusion teams, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
For intentional collaboration during the pandemic leading to the creation of the #CALScommunity social media campaign.
Student Counseling Services
For incredible empathy, care and compassion to help students practice self-care through therapy and counseling.
Exemplary Team or Unit Effort
This award recognizes a team or unit that has gone above and beyond expectations to support the university in navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impact can be universitywide or focused on a specific program or cohort of employees or students.
Academic Success Center
For mass communication efforts and effective tutoring services, coaching teams and supplemental instruction.
Athletics Training Staff
For leadership in strategic planning and implementation of protocols to protect the health and welfare of Cyclone student-athletes.
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
For essential contributions to the efficient and effective shift of teaching and learning across campus.
Cyclones Care Development Team
For a creative and highly effective communications campaign that inspired behavioral change during the pandemic.
Thielen Student Health Center
For the heroic efforts of all these essential workers to step up and work around the clock to care for our students and community.
Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
For dramatically increasing COVID-19 test processing to respond to testing surges.
Exemplary Operational Support
This award recognizes an individual or team that has demonstrated a resilient commitment to operational success.
Mark Coberley, associate athletics director for sports medicine
For the design and implementation of effective protocols in the care and safety for our student-athletes.
Michelle Lenkaitis, senior manager, custodial services, facilities planning and management
For the successful creation and execution of enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Brian Vanderheyden, director, student wellness
For exceptional leadership and development of ISU’s detailed public health plan.
Environmental Health and Safety
For providing exceptional support, communication and follow-through to ISU's COVID-19 response efforts in the face of unpredictable circumstances.
ISU Dining Services
For responsiveness and flexibility in refocusing services to provide meals to campus, to students in isolation and to those in need in the campus and Ames communities.
For innovation and partnership which helped to provide face shields and protective barriers across campus.
Office of Risk Management
For untiring operational support of students, faculty and staff from the very first stages of the pandemic outbreak through to current contact tracing logistics.
Exemplary Student Support
This award recognizes an individual or team that has demonstrated a resilient commitment to student life and success.
Ben Chamberlain and Nate Dobbels, academic advisors, agricultural education and studies
For providing exceptional face-to-face instruction and supervision, alongside student peer mentors, that assisted new students during their transition to ISU.
Michelle Grawe and Ryan Braga, lab coordinators, materials science and engineering
For dedicated efforts to enable crucial lab-based instruction to continue through enhanced safety measures and extensive redesign.
Jenny Macken, academic advisor, sociology
For dedication to student success and retention through creative online learning communities.
Virginia Speight, residence life director, residence
For managing the logistics for students needing quarantine and isolation spaces, comforting nervous students and responding to anxious parents.
Course Material and TechCyte teams, ISU Book Store
For providing unrelenting assistance through increased technology support and enhanced procedures to meet the needs of students and parents.
Undergraduate Programs Office, Ivy College of Business
For increasing high-touch advising and extending Learning Community enrollment and instruction in support of new students.
This award recognizes a faculty or staff member who has shown extraordinary work and whose contributions went above and beyond expectations and directly contributed to the ability of the university to fulfill its mission.
Spencer Braly, systems support specialist, information technology services
For ensuring that videoconferencing technology for major institutional functions was well-designed, programmed, set up and secure.
Arne Hallam, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
For unparalleled leadership of both the university and college response teams to address a multitude of challenges presented by the pandemic.
Kristen Obbink, lead public health veterinarian, Center for Food Security/Public Health
For her achievements in the role of acting COVID-19 public health coordinator.
Jessica Shannon, assistant director of nursing and patient services, Thielen Student Health Center
For inspirational leadership, expertise and compassion in successful management of the Hilton Coliseum COVID-19 testing site.
William Spratt, supervisor, Central Stores
For his efforts in procuring and managing personal protection equipment distribution to campus.
With some faculty continuing to instruct during Iowa State's first winter session and others resuming their responsibilities Jan. 11, this represents a unique time before spring semester begins Jan. 25.
Inside checked in with the Center For Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) for suggestions on how faculty could use the extra time to recharge and improve their future instruction.
Starting last March with the transition to virtual learning, a lot has been asked of faculty and staff. This may be the ideal time to turn focus inward.
"Part of what you give back is coming from how much rest you have inside," CELT instructional technology specialist Lesya Hassall said. "Instructors understand that unfortunately, a lot of what was happening last semester is trauma driven. We are teaching students who are one way or the other touched by it. Some might have experienced deep personal tragedies."
Being able to help students begins with instructors taking care of themselves. Taking time away from the computer and technology can be beneficial. For those teaching a hybrid class or completely online, screen time may have been a daily constant.
"I have been digital all this time, so going analog for some time is a very good idea," Hassall said.
CELT has suggestions of activities to help faculty appreciate their downtime:
- Visit a local attraction like Reiman Gardens.
- Write thank you notes to those who helped during the fall semester.
- Freshen up your workspace.
- Take virtual tours of places of interest.
- Most of all, it is OK not to be productive during this time.
Celebrate the successes
Instead of rushing to evaluate the fall semester, Hassall suggests focusing on the little things that worked.
"Don't ignore what didn't work, but write down the things that did work and how you can incorporate them going forward," she said.
This time also gives instructors a chance to work on their Canvas course design for the spring semester. It also allows them to consider how they may continue to use Canvas post-pandemic. Working on course design now will help reduce the spring semester workload, and CELT has a checklist to help instructors through the process as well as professional development opportunities on a variety of topics.
"Instead of disassembling everything, I would just look at the sticking points," Hassall said. "Think about how you can amplify what worked and minimize what didn't."
Incremental changes often have a more significant impact for students than big changes, Hassall said.
This is a good time to ask a colleague from your department -- or even from another discipline -- to review Canvas pages, syllabi or assignments.
"Enroll them into your course in Canvas and have them walk in the students' shoes," Hassall said.
Instructors also can reach out to students from their Canvas courses in the fall semester to get their input.
"There is value in connecting with the student and acknowledging that their participation has shaped how the student views the course going forward," Hassall said. "It also helps the instructor understand how they can better forge that connection with students going forward."
Faculty and staff will continue to have additional time off options for absences related to COVID-19 under a new set of policies that went into effect Jan. 1.
The university established the time off programs in response to the Dec. 31 expiration of expanded time off and paid leave options created under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a federal COVID-19 relief bill passed in March, vice president for university human resources Kristi Darr said in a Dec. 18 message sent to employees.
Under the new program, full-time employees have up to 80 hours of paid sick time off to use if they or a family member contracts COVID-19 or is forced to isolate or quarantine. This bank of time off is separate from and in addition to an employee's other accrued time off balances.
Full-time employees also will be able to use up to 80 hours of their existing bank of accrued sick time off to care for their children if COVID-19 causes disruptions to their school or child care. A similar program was in place from Sept. 1 through the end of 2020. Sick time off used in 2020 for child care or school closures doesn't count against the 80 hours available in 2021.
The amount of time off available under both programs will be prorated for part-time employees. The options are available through June 30, but are subject to change based on new information from the state Board of Regents, the enactment of a new federal time off program or the state of Iowa no longer being in a state of emergency.
Hourly student employees and temporary and seasonal employees also are eligible for up to 20 hours of paid time off under the policies effective Jan. 1. Time off is available to employees unable to work their scheduled hours due to COVID-19 illness, isolation or quarantine.
Since an early December announcement that the university needed to pare its CyBox data storage to 1.2 petabytes (PB) by July 1, individual and department account holders have gone to work. From a vast 1.8 PB in November, Iowa State's collective CyBox storage is down to 1.45 PB -- more than halfway to the goal -- and a series of storage quota deadlines scheduled to start this month is on hold.
Box -- a Cloud data storage service branded internally as CyBox -- last winter announced the end of unlimited storage for its education customers and gave them a year to meet storage quotas or incur additional fees.
Faculty, staff and information technology (IT) professionals around campus stepped up to either delete data or move it to another service, such as Microsoft's OneDrive, Google's Drive or, for research files specifically, university large scale storage.
"With the help of IT staff campuswide who have facilitated data cleanup, we're well on our way to our CyBox contract quota of 1.2 PB," said Jason Shuck, manager of the systems operations team in information technology services (ITS). "As a result, rather than focusing on individual and departmental quotas, we changed our focus to simply getting under the university quota."
We're not there yet
With another 250 terabytes (TB) -- approximately 40% of the university's necessary storage reduction -- to remove or move and avoid Box overage charges on July 1, Shuck encouraged CyBox users to continue cleaning their storage files. He said IT staff will contact high-volume users such as departments and research teams to discuss options and assist them. He offered these storage tips:
- CyBox is not intended to serve as a backup tool. ITS recommends that employees work with their IT professional or review Google Backup and Sync as an option.
- CyBox is for storage only of ISU data. Personal files, including photographs, videos or documents, shouldn't be stored on university resources. See the university's Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources policy.
- Files shared by many across a unit should live in a department/unit account, not an individual account. Whenever possible, units are encouraged to keep their data in CyBox.
- Check with your IT professional before moving data to another service to minimize the chance of lost data and address concerns about insufficient bandwidth during a transfer.
- Storage limits are coming to CyBox, Dec. 3, 2020
Completing an I-9 form to establish an employee's identity and eligibility to work in the United States is a required onboarding step for new hires. A recent procedural change has heightened the urgency for new employees and their supervisors to promptly complete the federally mandated hiring document in Workday.
Effective Dec. 1, university human resources (UHR) runs a report every Monday to determine if any new employees didn't complete an I-9 as of the previous Friday. Noncompliant employees and their supervisors receive a message Tuesday warning that the new hire could be separated if they don't complete an I-9. If an I-9 isn't finished within three days of the Tuesday notice, the employee is dismissed from Iowa State employment the following Monday. The new policy shortens the separation timeline by one week.
The new procedure notifies supervisors of the separation warning earlier, which helps speed up the process, said Ed Holland, UHR benefits director.
"Campus is getting much better at this and there is no need for multiple communications," he said. "Employees should have the I-9 completed before or on their first day of work and, at the latest, within three days of hire. This action gets us much closer to this standard."
Submitting an I-9 is a three-step process that begins when the employee fills out the form in Workday. Next, employees must bring qualifying identification documents (a U.S. passport or a driver's license along with a social security card, for instance) to the UHR service center. International employees instead bring their documents to the international students and scholars office (ISSO).
The final step is in Workday, where employees select the to-do item in their inbox indicating they have visited the service center or the ISSO office to show their identification documents. Employees must click the orange "Submit" button and the orange "Done" button to finish.
When hiring new employees, supervisors should remind them they will have onboarding tasks in their Workday inbox, including the I-9. Hiring managers can run an "onboarding status summary" report in Workday to view the onboarding progress of a new hire.
Supervisors also should make sure that the hire date listed in Workday matches an employee's actual start date. If a generic placeholder hire date is entered for an employee who won't begin working by that date, it could cause issues for the newly hired employee's I-9 and when eligible benefits go into effect.