Colleagues and Friends,
The rapidly evolving COVID-19 epidemic is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we will face in our lifetime. I wanted to reach out to share that you, your family and your friends are in our thoughts during these uncertain times. Each day has brought new information to digest as we learn more about the impact of the novel coronavirus on our valued colleagues, the stakeholders we serve and indeed our nation.
Our top priority is the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and employees. We’ve put in place measures to keep those affiliated with AgriLife safe while also slowing the spread of the virus. We’ve encouraged remote work and put in place public health practices for those who must be present in the workplace. We’ve suspended all non-essential travel, and we’ve postponed events and large gatherings. We’re navigating this situation carefully.
While we may not be in our usual workplaces, we’re
still operational, still serving the state of Texas through our research and
extension that has been classified as essential. We still remain committed to
our 158-year land-grant origin. We are proud
of how the AgriLife community has responded to these challenging times.
AgriLife members are continuing to fulfill our mission
of education, research, extension and service—whether responding directly to
COVID-19, continuing to support those we serve,
or performing work that is required to sustain our long-term vision.
In a little over a week, the dedicated and resilient AgriLife community has:
- Adapted courses for remote learning so that students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences may continue progress toward their degree without interruption. To put it into perspective, over 1,250 sections for more than 460 courses were converted by over 330 instructors with help from support staff.
- Transformed AgriLife Extension’s typical face-to-face educational programming to an online format to continue to meet the needs of Texans from afar. Instructional offerings include resources on disaster, safety, preventive health, nutrition and activities for families staying home.
- Found new ways to engage with Texans on social media. Texas 4-H created live virtual experience videos on their Facebook page for youth, with 25.6K total views in just four sessions, and Aggie Horticulture provided a Facebook live video on home gardening that was viewed more than 16,000 times and reached 33,126 people. These are just two in a long list of successful efforts.
- Mobilized Operation Face Mask to respond to the shortage of personal protection equipment across the state. Extension agents have enlisted 4-H members, 4-H Ambassadors, Healthy Texas Youth Ambassadors, Master Clothing Volunteers, and Master Wellness Volunteers in this endeavor. These groups are actively involved in producing homemade face masks meeting CDC guidelines requirements.
- Helped with disaster assessment and recovery. AgriLife Extension Disaster Assessment Recovery agents are actively sending updates about their counties to the Texas Division of Emergency Management State Operations Center, the state’s 24/7 warning point, while also keeping Texans informed with the latest on COVID-19 and disaster preparedness resources through texashelp.tamu.edu.
- Supported the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). Texas A&M Forest Service has worked alongside TDEM to organize and prepare shipments of personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 outbreak response items. The agency has also assembled team members across Texas to work with local responders in documenting COVID-19 incident activity and maintaining the status of resources and equipment at their districts.
- Supported animal health. Because animals need veterinary care no matter the circumstances of the world, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) is maintaining its normal business operations and test turnaround times despite a limited number of staff in the workplace. Last week, TVMDL provided all the tests needed to help with the diagnosis and treatment of 3,140 sick animals.
- Collaborated to test whether compounds recently developed at AgriLife Research to target malaria, Chagas disease and tuberculosis will have activity against COVID-19.
- Continued time-sensitive studies at AgriLife Research centers across the state to advance understanding of nutritious foods, production sustainability, natural resource protection and the health of the population. COVID-19 has highlighted how important the entire ag value system is to the economy and to public well-being.
- Offered expertise on a number of topics and challenges related to COVID-19. Our experts are providing science-based advice on everything from the biology and detection of COVID-19, to concerns the virus poses for producers, to self-care tips for consumers in this “new normal.”
The responses enacted across our agencies in this short time have been extraordinary, but they represent a scratching of the surface and a glimpse of what is possible. We will accomplish much more together in the coming weeks, as we focus the full resources of Texas A&M AgriLife toward helping all Texas communities through the unique challenges presented by the novel coronavirus.
In closing, the AgriLife community is full of heroes that have risen to the occasion in these times of uncertainty. I encourage you to view this a short video about prevention tips that you can share with family, friends and colleagues. Please take care of yourselves and be well.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.