The emergence of COVID-19 is a developing situation with many unknowns, and as you may expect, guidance from the state of Texas and The Texas A&M University System are also rapidly evolving. We will work to keep all updated through regular email communications, and on our new online portal: agrilife.org/coronavirus/. Below is an overview of the latest information we have available:
To support the need for increased social distancing, the System and university encourage skeletal crews with only essential personnel on site. Employees are expected to work either from the office or a temporary alternate work location. Employees who are unable to do either may take other paid leaves as applicable to their position and situation. Unit heads have authority to approve requests for a temporary Alternate Work Location (AWL). Temporary AWL due to COVID-19 may be documented by using the Alternate Work Location Request form (https://agrilifeas.tamu.edu/documents/ag-438.pdf/) or alternative method as determined by the unit head.
- There will be a skeletal crew at administrative headquarters in College Station through March 20, and the remaining employees will work from home until the situation becomes clearer.
- Department Heads, Research and Extension Center leadership and Center/Institute/Core Facility directors have designated essential staff who are needed on-site to maintain critical business operations and continuity during this time.
- County Extension personnel should follow guidance provided by county leadership or, if there is doubt, with the applicable District Extension Administrator.
- Please note that with agency emergency management responsibilities, certain divisions of AgriLife may have exceptions to the above staffing guidelines.
- Student employees are due the same consideration as every other employee. If there is work for a student employee to accomplish, then please allow them to work either remotely or from the office. If there is no work for the student employee, then they should not be scheduled for any hours until there is.
- Guidance for employees who are required to self-isolate due to work-related and personal travel can be found here: agrilife.org/coronavirus/.
- System will re-evaluate the situation on March 19th and further guidance related to staffing will be provided at that time.
IT remote work resources (For AgriLife IT Agency supported employees)
The AgriLife IT service desk will continue operation and provide remote assistance for the majority of computer and software support needs. A skeleton team available to perform hands on computer repair as required. The group has also put together the following reference guide with details on how to access email, files and perform voice, video and chat collaboration with fellow employees and others: https://firstcallhelp.tamu.edu/remote-office-resource-guide/.
For individuals that want to move computing systems to an alternate work location during this time, the department’s property manager would need to file all the proper paperworkthat is required for taking a system offsite as well as update inventory records in FAMIS.
IT remote work resources (For COALS employees)
Information from the university on working from home, as well as VPN support, can be found here: https://it.tamu.edu/work-from-home.php.
New Employees and onboarding
We recommend delaying the start of a new hire if at all possible. If that is not possible, then each unit is responsible for ensuring that all needed services are available to enable the employee to perform work.
If active recruitment is occurring, we recommend you reach out to your candidate pool and advise them of our efforts to conduct recruitment activities with minimal exposure to both the agency and the candidate by either delaying interviews for the next two weeks or conducting virtual interviews.
If a unit has a final candidate and is ready to make an offer, communicate your intentions to the candidate and if possible set a start date on or after April 6. Given the fluidity of the situation, all start dates may have to be adjusted to ensure each person’s safety concerns as well as availability of staff. All recruiting activity currently in process that has not resulted in an offer by Friday, March 20, 2020, should be delayed until further notice.
For additional information and guidance on the recruitment process and new employees, please visit agrilife.org/coronavirus/.
Converting courses online
To support faculty in converting their courses to online format, the college has established an onsite help center in the open access computer labs in the Agriculture & Life Sciences Building. Instructors seeking assistance can log in to a desktop machine with their NetID and password or bring their own laptop. Registration is required so we can maintain social distancing safeguards.
- Faculty are recommended to review the guide at http://keepteaching.tamu.edu/before scheduling time with the help center.
- A full schedule of when the COALS Online Course Transition Help Center is available can be found at https://ers.tamu.edu/event/7926.
- For assistance beyond the help center, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your request or questions.
- Additional information, including FAQs, are online athttps://aglifesciences.tamu.edu/covid19/.
The latest guidance on carrying out our research mission can be found on the VPR website:https://vpr.tamu.edu/covid-19. This guidance applied to TAMU faculty and research facilities; these policies do not necessarily apply to AgriLife Centers outside Brazos County and will be discussed with the Center Directors on Tuesday, March 17.
As of March 13, 2020, no international travel is permitted, and current requests which had previously been approved, will be cancelled. No domestic travel is permitted unless it is deemed mission critical. Mission critical domestic travel should be reported to the Office of Ethics and Compliance with final approval by the Agency CEO or designee.
Any faculty, staff and students returning from international travel on or after March 14 and arriving in-country to clear customs at the Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA), New York City (JFK), Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL), Honolulu (HNL), Newark (EWR), Dallas (DFW), Detroit (DTW) or Washington, D.C. (IAD) international airports should consider themselves as having returned from a Level 3 COVID-19 location and self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival before returning to work. Self-isolation guidance is listed on the CDC Care Guide.
Domestic travelers through all airports and international travelers from non-level 3 countries arriving at airports other than those listed are required only to self-monitor at this time. Self-monitoring guidance is listed on the CDC Care Guide.
Visiting Scholars & International Visitors
All requests for visiting scholars from a level 2 or 3 country are discontinued until further notice. TAMU ISFS is not processing any visas at this time for visiting scholars or foreign employees.
Per direction from System, and at the recommendation of the CDC, gatherings of 50 or more people should be halted, as soon as practical, for the next eight weeks. Just today, President Trump recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. AgriLife has already started cancelling Vice Chancellor-hosted events and will continue to update you based on the latest information we have available.
If applicable, distance education is encouraged. The Distance Education group will offer webinars this week for those in need of assistance with Zoom and questions related to converting their course or program online in the coming weeks. These will be held March 18 and 20th at 11am. Additional information can be found on their website:https://digitaleducation.agrilife.org/digital-resources-for-employees/.
More information/helpful resources
Additional resources, including helpful links, can be found on the AgriLife coronavirus page. For questions, please contact the AgriLife Office of Ethics and Compliance with questions at 979-845-4789 or 979-845-7879.
In closing, we are very appreciative of the work each of you are doing in response to COVID-19. I am proud to be a part of this organization with such diverse expertise and a staunch dedication to live out our mission to educate and reach every Texan—even in such uncertain times. Together, we will continue to manage through the unfolding situation, and do our part to ensure the safety of our community and also maintain continuity of education for our students.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research