The return of all Texas A&M employees to campus has been postponed until July 20 due to health concerns related to COVID-19, according to university officials.
A multi-phase re-entry plan for campus employees has been in place since May 18. This plan consists of three phases, in which 25 percent of employees returned to campus on May 18 and 50 percent in the second phase starting June 1. Phase Three was scheduled to begin on July 1. However, due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Vice President of the Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Risinger announced on June 24 that all Texas A&M employees, including Health Science Center employees, will now return to campus on July 20.
“This approach has worked well and we have not experienced any major issues. However, some new concerns have arisen with the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas,” Risinger said. “In light of the recent growth in COVID-19 cases, we are suspending the implementation of Phase 3 until July 20. Therefore, Phase 2 guidance will remain in effect until then (up to 50% of employees in any area).”
The phases were created and developed by leadership at the A&M College of Medicine. When the phase approach was approved by university officials, these leaders began to develop a resurgence-for-contingency plan for evacuating campus workers in case of a second coronavirus outbreak, according to College of Medicine interim dean Amy Waer.
“At this point we’re actively looking, I would say day-to-day, and meeting at least weekly with the leadership teams for the College of Medicine, looking at the data, looking at the communities at all of our campuses and all of our sites, working with our five campus deans, who are kind of the boots on the ground. We are looking at our campuses for active numbers and working with our clinical affiliates to determine if and when we need to pull out of any campus, any site, any building,” Waer said.
Concerns for employees at the College of Medicine and Texas A&M Health Science Center have emerged because of their increased risk of exposure to active coronavirus cases, according to chief operating officer and senior vice president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Greg Hartman.
“At the Health Science Center, we are very aware of the dangers COVID-19 presents, but also the importance of our responsibility to train tomorrow’s clinicians and research solutions to the pandemic,” Hartman said. “We support the cautious approach, but are also anxious to get back to work.”
Special precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of College of Medicine and Health Science Center workers, including the provision of N95 surgical masks and virtual class and work options, Waer said.
“We have followed the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations and guidelines as well as the state guidelines,” Waer said. “We have ordered the Plexiglas shields as well as all the protective equipment for our faculty and staff and students, so we’ve been able to provide all of our College of Medicine employed faculty, our staff and our students with proper [Personal Protective Equipment] for what they need in addition to what they may or may not get from their clinical affiliates.”
Waer said she encourages everyone to show perseverance despite obstacles the coronavirus presents.
“These are challenging times in which we all need to try our best to be flexible and resilient,” Waer said.