As we finish out the 11th week of the semester, I wanted to thank you again for your continued efforts to safely and effectively conduct research, teach classes and provide extension education and services to communities throughout Texas. As you know, COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges continue for our institution, state and nation. As you make plans for fall and holiday activities, please be aware of CDC’s guidance regarding Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday gatherings.
AgriLife staffing guidance will remain at 75% maximum percentage of employees in any given physical work location. Note that this percentage is not a target that must be achieved. If your unit’s current practices are meeting your needs, continue to follow your current practices. Employees should continue to minimize in-person meetings and follow social distancing and meeting size requirements. Should your local health authority implement stricter guidance, please adhere to this guidance.
Additional updates are as follows:
Get walk-up COVID-19 testing on campus
The A&M System will continue providing testing on campuses into 2021 and is working with experts to determine what the testing program should look like beyond the end of the calendar year. More information will be provided in the coming months.
In addition to the ongoing free on-campus testing options for faculty, students and staff, Texas A&M University has added free COVID-19 testing kiosks on campus. Anyone can be tested at a kiosk, including individuals not affiliated with the university. Walk-ups are welcome. The kiosks also offer advance registration and appointment scheduling via the A&M System COVID-19 testing website. The kiosks use the same oral swab test kits as the other on-campus sites.
The kiosks are operating Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the following main campus locations:
- Aggie Express Commons, 676 Lubbock St.
- Mays Business School, 210 Olsen Blvd.
- Memorial Student Center, 275 Joe Routt Blvd.
Please note the CDC updated their definition of a “close contact” for potential exposure to COVID-19, which is used to inform contact tracing and our definition of whether an employee or student may have been exposed. As of October 21, the updated guidance now defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. These do not have to be consecutive minutes.
The contact tracing provided by the Texas A&M University Health Science Center continues to be refined and improved, serving Brazos County and most other A&M System members. This will continue for as long as necessary to keep our workplaces as safe as possible. Please provide information to the contact tracer if you receive a call.
When and how to return to work
Texas A&M AgriLife is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on returning to work and when to quarantine:
- CDC recommends 14 days of self-quarantine if you think you have had close contact to a person who is a positive or presumed positive for COVID-19. Please review the CDC guidelines for the latest information as these may change.
- If you become ill, follow the guidance of your medical provider and/or contact tracer on when to discontinue isolation or quarantine. In general, those with symptoms of COVID-19 should remain home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms and 24 hours without fever-reducing medications and no fever and until symptoms have resolved. If you have severe illness, your medical provider may recommend a longer isolation.
- Those reporting exposure or symptoms through the COVID-19 Report Form or as a result of a positive System-provided test should receive a letter from RedCap stating when they can return to work. The RedCap letter’s recommendations are based on each individual’s situation and information provided as part of the contact tracing. Therefore, this timing may be different from the above general guidelines.
Please see the Guide for Sick/Exposed Campus Members for more detailed information.
Mission-critical travel for international work and study may now be approved on a case-by-case basis by the CEO or designee. See COVID-19 Information for AgriLife Employees for detailed guidance on international and out-of-state work travel, and for international study and field trips.
Units no longer need to manually add Debra Fincher, director of ethics and compliance, to the approval routing in Concur. However, please ensure that supervisors are added to the Concur approval routing. Continue to follow the current process for travel authorization through your direct supervisor, who will ensure that safety protocols are being followed. To assist with this process, each Principal Investigator (PI) should ensure one COVID-19 Domestic Travel Form is completed for each mission-critical research trip for submission into Concur.
Employees who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19 while engaged in business-related and personal travel are required to notify their supervisor and place themselves in self-quarantine in accordance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
Prior to traveling, please review the CDC’s updated travel advice. Within the state of Texas, please review the Texas Department of Health and Human Services page for community transmission of COVID-19 in the locations you will be traveling through or to.
AgriLife Research strongly encourages its employees to keep to one person per vehicle for work travel. But, if you choose to travel with more than one person per vehicle, the Vehicular Travel for Mission-Critical Research acknowledgement must be signed as part of the travel approval process. In these instances, the agency allows for no more than 50% of the maximum vehicle occupancy, while maintaining 6 feet between passengers.
For AgriLife Extension and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences employees, limit the number of people per vehicle to no more than 50% of the maximum vehicle occupancy, as per Texas A&M University guidance. All those in the vehicle must wear face coverings. The ventilation system must be turned on but not placed into recirculation mode at any time. When possible, leave two windows slightly open.
If travel is in conjunction with an overnight trip, temperature checks should be implemented at the beginning of each day.
Travel guidelines specific to AgriLife Extension
- For Extension agents under the supervision of a District Extension Administrator, in-county travel is allowed without prior approval.
- For Extension agents planning out-of-county travel, please submit the travel request form AG-802, approved by the immediate supervisor.
- No international travel is approved at this time.
- Extension specialists and those they supervise should submit travel requests weekly, if possible, through Concur. Specific locations and duties should be noted by day in the notes section.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor, Texas A&M AgriLife
Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research