I hope you are well. As you are likely aware, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents recently announced their guidance for universities and agencies to reopen campuses and instruction in the fall. Today, I would like to update you on the impact of the latest guidance, as well as a few additional operational items for your awareness.
We will continue to follow staffing guidance outlined in a memo from May 14, with most employees working remotely via alternate work location (AWL) and individuals coming back in a waved approach over the next few weeks and months. Returns in the first two waves have gone well, and we will continue our return to the workplace in a careful, intentional and gradual manner that prioritizes the safety of our faculty, staff and students.
As employees return to the workplace, we should continue to follow social distancing and meeting size requirements provided by state health authorities. When feasible, we should minimize in-person meetings as much as possible. Should your local public health authority have implemented stricter guidance, please adhere to this guidance.
In addition to existing requirements that face masks be worn in laboratories, new guidance from the University requires face masks in indoor spaces and on public transportation, even if no one else is present. Outdoors, masks are required when a six-foot social distancing radius cannot be maintained. All employees must follow the TAMU guidelines, effective June 15. Helpful FAQ from the University can be found on their website. You may request an exception due to disability by contacting Jennifer Hobbs.
Additionally, per System guidance, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to bring their own water to minimize touching of common water fountains.
On the Texas A&M University campus, SSC Services continues to prioritize cleaning measures to prevent spread of the virus. This group is also continuing to provide disinfectant wipes and other supplies that support healthy hygiene. In off-campus AgriLife locations, hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment should be sourced locally. If you need help sourcing personal protective equipment or other supplies, contact David DeLeon.
The college and agencies must continue to limit external guests to those considered critical to the mission of the university or agency. All visitors should be expected to observe safety requirements and recommendations established by local health authorities and university/agency policies in effect at the time of the visit (e.g., meeting size, physical distancing, face coverings, etc.) and declare they have not been determined to be COVID-19 positive, do not have COVID-19 symptoms, and have not been in the presence of anyone they knew to be COVID-19 positive in the last 14 days.
Use of Facilities by Outside Groups
Use of university or agency facilities by outside groups must be approved using already established university or agency approval processes. We are revising our approval processes in light of the current environment to fully consider the safety of students, faculty, staff and third parties. Use of facilities by outside groups should only be approved if the use advances the mission of the university or agency. Safety requirements and recommendations established by local health authorities and university/agency policies in effect at the time of the event should be observed (e.g., gathering size, physical distancing, face coverings, etc.), and visitors will certify they have not been determined to be COVID-19 positive, do not have COVID-19 symptoms, and have not been in the presence of anyone they knew to be COVID-19 positive in the last 14 days.
Completion of Training and Self-Certification
All employees have been assigned a required training in TrainTraq that must be completed before returning to work at our locations, or by August 15. Employees will need to complete the training again in January 2021.
The training helps ensure that prior to returning to work, employees self-certify that they:
- Have not been determined to be actively infected with SARS-CoV-2.
- Do not have a fever, cough or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- In the previous 14 days, have not been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have tested positive for COVID-19.
- In the previous 14 days, have not traveled through an area that requires quarantine upon return home, according to state or local travel restrictions.
This self-certification requires the employee to notify the applicable university or agency official if the answer to any of the questions over the course of time becomes “no.” For Texas A&M AgriLife, that official is Debi Fincher.
If you have questions related to returning to work, please contact the AgriLife Human Resources Office at 979-845-2423. Other questions may be directed to the AgriLife Office of Ethics and Compliance at 979-845-4789.
We will continue to keep you informed through email communications and on our Coronavirus resource webpage for employees.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor, Texas A&M AgriLife
Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research