Increase in COVID-19 Cases on Campus: Aug. 2021    

August 7, 2021

Dear Campus Community:

In just a few short weeks we will begin the Fall 2021 semester with in-person classes at full capacity and I couldn’t be more excited. I firmly believe that being on campus is essential to imparting our unique Aggie experience, one that many of our students will experience for the first time as sophomores.

You are all critical in sharing the values we hold so dear: respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service. You have demonstrated them repeatedly as we have navigated multiple historical events over the past 18 months. In essence, you have served as our 12th Man, by standing up to serve others and proven that when times get tough, so do Aggies.

Unfortunately, the tough times are not fully over. Much like the rest of the nation, our community is experiencing increases in the cases of COVID-19 among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Galveston County’s current bi-weekly positivity rate has jumped over 40 percent after several months of declining cases and the percentage of breakthroughs is also increasing.

This is true on our campus as well. In the past two weeks, 18 vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students have tested positive for COVID-19. Our contact tracing indicates that we may have had transmission from vaccinated individuals to other vaccinated individuals on our campus. For additional context, the most cases we have had on campus at any given time during COVID-19 was 28 cases in January 2021.

Much like this time last year, we do not have enough information available on this current situation to allow us to better tackle this challenge; we do not know if the current situation is isolated to our campus or if it is more widespread, nor may we implement all of the mitigation tools, such as required face coverings, that minimized on-campus spread in the past year.

We do know what worked for us in the past: face coverings, physical distancing, good health hygiene, staying home when sick and timely reporting when symptomatic or in close contact. We also know that vaccines are the greatest tool in our arsenal to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the severity of symptoms and hospitalizations.

Additionally, we know that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is more contagious, and I personally am committed to wearing a mask indoors and physically distancing where possible. I recommend you do the same.

At this time our primary concern is to protect our campus community by slowing the spread on campus and serve our students, faculty and staff in maintaining business continuity. We are implementing the following actions immediately and will provide an update on Aug. 13, 2021. Information will be provided weekly as the situation evolves.

We expect additional actions to be taken as the environment continues to evolve and we are fully committed to continuing with our plans to have in-person classes this fall. We also remain equally committed to the protection of our campus community to the best of our ability.

I am asking each of you to make a personal decision to support our mission to teach, learn, train, discover and innovate by choosing to follow most of the mitigation strategies that were so successful in the past year.

More information will become available in the coming days and will be provided to you by university email and on the Galveston Campus COVID-19 website. Please review the following information carefully. 

Sincerely,
Col. Michael E. Fossum

IMMEDIATE ACTIONS

Testing & Vaccination Options

  • On campus testing will be available beginning Monday, Aug. 9, through Friday, Aug. 13. Details on appointment scheduling, location and times will be communicated on Sunday, Aug. 8 via Aggnews and on university social media channels (@aggiesbythesea).
  • Vaccines remain widely available in our region.
  • The Galveston County Health District has complete information on where and how to obtain a vaccine.

Contact Tracing & Close Contact Protocols 

  • Contact tracing and close contact protocols are determined by vaccination status and county requirements. Please review the information here to aid you in determining the appropriate protocols to follow.
  • Students, faculty, and staff who are symptomatic, have been in close contact with a presumptive or known positive case of COVID-19, or received a positive test result for COVID-19 must complete the reporting form. They will be contacted by a campus case manager.

Staff 

  • Supervisors have authority to develop staff rotations to ensure business continuity through Aug. 13, 2021.
  • Emergency leave is available for anyone who is required to isolate or quarantine. Contact Galveston Campus Human Resources for additional information.

Faculty & Graduate Students 

  • Faculty and students conducting research in laboratories are encouraged to reduce the density in laboratories as well as vehicles during field trips.
  • Faculty supervising research activities have authority to develop assignments to ensure business continuity through Aug. 13, 2021
  • Emergency leave is available for anyone who is required to isolate or quarantine. Contact Galveston Campus Human Resources for additional information.

Students 

  • There are currently no changes in the completion of Summer Session II this week or the start of the Fall 2021 semester at this time.
  • Students should monitor university communications for additional updates and details in the coming week.