Employee Return To Campus    

May 15, 2020

Texas A&M University at Galveston Employees,

Under the direction of President Young and Colonel Fossum, the Texas A&M University at Galveston Office of Human Resources is closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a result of Governor Abbott’s executive order of April 27 (GA-18) which laid out the plan for the reopening of Texas, we have developed a three-phase return-to-campus plan informed by guidance from state and federal officials.

This plan intentionally takes a phased approach so that we can learn from small, incremental movements towards a full return to work on campus. The percentages of employees that you will see associated with each phase are intended to set absolute maximums for the respective phase and are in no way, targets that must be reached. Any percentage below the maximum guidance is perfectly fine and the actual number of employees returning should reflect the unique needs of each Division or College and the employees that work there.

As is the nature with a phased plan, we will carefully monitor the effect of each phase and this guidance is subject to change along the way based upon what we learn. In developing this plan, we have adopted the following guiding principles:

  • the health, wellbeing, and safety of all of our Aggie family members are key priorities;
  • we are committed to supporting the mission of education and research and seek to maintain all university operations necessary to support mission-critical activities;
  • we must remain committed to the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service;
  • to the extent possible, implementation of each phase of the plan should proceed only after careful evaluation to ensure that risks identified in each phase have been mitigated;
  • adjustments to our phased return-to-campus plan will be made as changing conditions require; and
  • employees who can effectively complete their work remotely may remain in their Alternate Work Location (AWL) status. Department heads may continue to approve AWL requests for employees in a manner that addresses departmental needs and in accordance with System Regulation 33.06.01.

While the majority of University employees have transitioned to working remotely as COVID- 19 reached our area, it is important to acknowledge that many essential workers continue to perform their duties on-site to sustain critical functions. We want to recognize and thank them for their significant efforts to support our great university.

 

IMPORTANT DATES
Phase 1:        May 18 – May 31, 2020 (Earliest date non-essential employees may return to campus)

Phase 2:        Proposed June 1 – June 30, 2020

Phase 3:        Proposed July 1 – August 31, 2020

 

HIGH RISK POPULATIONS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain health conditions may increase an individual’s vulnerability to the COVID-19 infection. Some vulnerable populations include:

  • Persons 65 and older
  • Persons with HIV
  • Persons with moderate-to-severe asthma
  • Persons with cancer
  • Persons with chronic lung disease
  • Persons with diabetes
  • Persons with serious heart conditions
  • Persons with chronic kidney disease being treated with dialysis
  • Persons with severe obesity
  • Persons who are immunocompromised

Employees who are instructed to return to work on campus and have concerns about doing so as a result of a medical condition that places them in a higher risk group, those who are caring for someone in a higher risk group, or those who are pregnant should consult with their manager and/or HR to discuss the feasibility of the employee continuing to work remotely.  The employee’s specific medical information should not be shared with managers directly, but rather discussed with HR, to prevent unintended disclosure of Protected Health Information under federal law.

Flexibility from managers and employees is essential as we navigate the process of returning to the workplace. Extenuating circumstances expressed by employees should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. An employee (staff, faculty & student workers) who requires a reasonable accommodation should inform their manager and/or HR. Departments can find support for responding to ADA Reasonable Accommodation requests by contacting the HR Office at hr@tamug.edu or 409-740-4534.

 

RETURN-TO-CAMPUS PHASES
Current mode of operations (including remote work protocols) is in effect through May 17, 2020.  In every phase of this plan, managers/department heads are asked to establish room occupancy limitations to ensure a minimum of 6 feet distance between individuals. In addition, managers are asked to take into consideration those employees:

  • Whose job duties cannot be performed remotely
  • Whose essential job duties can partly but not entirely be performed remotely
  • Who are needed to work on-site based on managerial priority
  • Who would be more productive on-site rather than working remotely

PHASE I: May 18 - May 31, 2020
This Phase Not to Exceed 25% of Staff in Any Area
Current mode of operations (including remote work protocols) remains in effect for the majority of employees. In this phase, a small number of employees (not to exceed 25% of the workforce in a given physical area, inclusive of those already working on-site) may be asked to return to campus based on the unit’s operational needs and managerial discretion. Managers must provide advanced notice to employees outlining when the employee is expected to return (minimum of 2 business days of notice is recommended).

PHASE 2: Proposed June 1 – June 30, 2020
This Phase Not to Exceed 50% of Staff in Any Area
Remote work protocols continue for employees, where feasible. Depending on the results of Phase 1, a second group of employees may be asked to return to campus based on the unit’s operational needs and managerial discretion. The total number of employees on-site must not exceed 50% of the workforce in a given physical area, inclusive of those who have already returned to campus. Again, managers must provide advanced notice to employees outlining when the employee is expected to return (minimum of 2 business days of notice is recommended).

PHASE 3: Proposed July 1 – August 31, 2020
Based Upon the Unique Needs of Each College or Division, This Phase May Include a Full Return to Work on Campus
Remote work protocols may continue for employees, where feasible. Depending on the results of Phase 2, all remaining employees may be asked to return to campus based on the unique needs of each college or division.

 

INFECTION PREVENTION PROTCOL
In order to satisfy the requirements set forth by Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-21 as amended by GA-22, employees will be required to complete two TrainTraq courses before returning to work on campus (regular worksite). This requirement also applies to employees who have continued to work onsite.

2114131: Safe Practices for Returning to the Office During the COVID-19 Pandemic
2114130: Protocol and Certification for System Member Employees

In all phases of this plan, all activities on Texas A&M University at Galveston property will follow social distancing measures and good hygiene practices consistent with guidelines from state and federal officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health officials.

Employees will:

  • Return to campus when advised by their manager/department head
  • Not come to campus when ill
  • Self-screen daily for possible COVID-19 symptoms before coming to campus. Consult the CDC’s online self-checker
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and/or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Practice good respiratory etiquette by covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Maintain a minimum distance of 6-feet from other individuals

 

Managers/Departments Heads will:

  • Develop and communicate their return-to-campus plan to each employee (considerations: jobs that can telework, jobs that must be performed in the office, flexible hours, alternating work days, etc.)
  • Evaluate employee extenuating circumstances for returning to campus on a case-by-case basis
  • Promote physical distancing with visual aids and/or markings (hallways, elevators, stairways, conference rooms)
  • Evaluate meeting spaces to determine the maximum capacity based on a 6-foot social distancing requirement
  • Use virtual meetings whenever possible and limit all in-person meetings and gatherings of faculty, students, staff, or others to 10 or fewer people
  • Communicate social distancing and other expectations for common areas and individual interactions
  • Leverage staggered shifts and lunch breaks
  • Make adjustments to workstations to increase separation
  • Implement one-way traffic patterns throughout the workplace where feasible

As recommended by the CDC, employees are highly encouraged to wear face coverings (such as simple cloth face coverings) when interacting with individuals, attending in-person meetings, or using common areas (restrooms, breakrooms, conference rooms) to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Although masks are not required, we know the wearing of masks does have an impact on disease transmission and it is highly-recommended to do so in certain situations.  We are thus appealing to all to use the safest of precautions in order to favor a return to safer work conditions throughout the Summer and for the Fall.

There are several scenarios to consider. These all assume you have been self-monitoring, have no reason to believe you may have been exposed to COVID, and have no personal underlying health condition which places you at elevated risk.

  • In a private office. If you are alone in a private office, there is no need to wear a mask throughout the day while you work. If face-to-face meetings are required, consider using a conference room instead of your personal office and maintain the distance between participants to greater than 6 feet.
  • In your office suite. If your private office is part of an office suite with no more than 10 people, it is reasonable to move through your normal work area while maintaining social distancing with co-workers, for instance to use the copy machine or access a coffee pot. Supervisors may mandate the wearing of masks by everyone in their office suite if anyone in that area is known to have a health risk from COVID. In this case, signs should be posted on all entrances stating that the wearing of masks in these areas is mandatory.
  • Indoor public spaces. This would include places like restrooms, hallways, elevators, cafeteria line, and bookstore where you encounter people from different areas of the campus. Masks should be worn at all times.
  • Outdoor public spaces. When walking in sparsely populated areas of the campus with only incidental encounters with other persons, masks are not required.
  • Visitations to the office or office area of another unit. When employees visit another unit, they should wear masks as should those they are visiting. If someone has been called to an area to provide a service, such as maintenance or IT support, they may refuse to perform that service unless the person they are assisting is taking precautions, including wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate distance.

 

EXTERNAL VISITORS
Visitors may be invited to physically attend meetings at the university no earlier than June 1 and should be expected to observe guidelines related to social distancing, meeting size, face coverings, which may be in place at the time of the visit. The return of external visitors is also following a phased approach. Guidance on the phases for a return of external visitors will be distributed soon from the TAMU Office of Risk, Ethics, and Compliance.

 

TRAVEL
Prior guidance regarding University business travel remains in effect. No international travel is permitted through May 31 unless it is directly critical to the ongoing international efforts to deal with COVID-19 or a waiver is granted by President Young. No domestic air travel is permitted through May 31 unless deemed mission critical. All University business travel must be approved by university central administration in advance. Travel requests approved prior to COVID-19 will need to be resubmitted for review and approval 30 days prior to departure.

Additional guidance, which may include an extension of the travel ban, will be forthcoming prior to May 31.

 

We encourage all employees to visit our website for employment-related resources concerning COVID-19 including frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The past couple of months have presented a variety of challenges resulting from the global pandemic. As Aggies, we have responded the best way we know how – with courage, confidence, and resolve! Better days lie ahead of us. We look forward to your safe return to campus and wish you well!

Jeffrey A. Boyer, SPHR, SHRM - SCP
Executive Director of Human Resources
Texas A&M University at Galveston
ph: 409.740.4503
fax: 409.740.5005
boyerj@tamug.edu