Texas A&M ‘Street Team’ Handing Out Free Face Coverings, Encouraging Safe Practices
Students on campus at Texas A&M University are receiving free face coverings and on-the-spot education from a “street team” comprised of students and staff who are promoting the best ways to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Texas A&M University Division of Student Affairs is coordinating outreach events aimed at encouraging use of face coverings, physical distancing and other COVID-19 prevention behaviors. The Health Promotion team, which is spearheading the effort, distributed face coverings to students last week outside the Student Services Building. As part of the effort, student staff with the Department of Recreational Sports are visiting playing fields and other campus areas where students congregate to play sports.
“We were all really excited to interact with students and commend them for wearing face coverings and physical distancing,” said Suzanne Swierc, Health Promotion specialist. “As health educators on campus, we take our jobs seriously. We are a resource to students and we want to help them understand the power they have in keeping campus safe.”
The campus community may report individuals and groups not following guidelines – failing to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing or gathering in groups over 10 people – by filling out a Campus Community Incident Report. If filling out an incident report is not feasible in the moment, campus members are encouraged to respectfully remind others to follow the guidelines and/or report violations to a Texas A&M staff member in the vicinity.
In the coming days, Health Promotion, which is part of the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, intends to host events at various times and locations around campus and will post details on its website when available. It plans to distribute roughly 500 face coverings per week. In doing so, staff hope to engage more students in conversations about the importance of following COVID-19 guidelines as a means of protecting each other and the campus community.
Recreational Sports student staff is going out on golf carts nightly to engage with students and encourage physical distancing and wearing of face coverings. If a face covering is needed, Rec Sports is offering them during these peer-to-peer interactions. Rec Sports has also expanded its program offerings to include online options like eSports and virtual live Group RecXercise classes and is giving out 1,000 face coverings to students who participated in Rec-a-Palooza or who have downloaded the Rec Sports App.
“Students are our greatest asset when it comes to prevention,” said Lauren Dorsett, director of Health Promotion. “We want students to feel empowered to make informed choices for themselves, but also to protect our Aggie community. Our goal in getting this outreach team together is to mobilize our students, share how important these guidelines are and model that for others.”
Anne Reber, dean of Student Life said it is up to each individual to help keep the community as safe as possible and that students must do their part by wearing face coverings and maintaining social/physical distancing.
“Some students believe that because they are outside, they don’t have to wear a face covering, but unless you can maintain at least 6 feet between you and other individuals, you need to wear your face covering outside,” Reber said. “We want our students to connect with their peers, but they have to do it in a way that is respectful of the entire campus community.”
In addition to distributing supplies as available, Health Promotion is developing COVID-19-focused bystander intervention strategies. These materials will equip students and staff with tools to encourage their peers to engage in COVID-19 prevention measures.
“Much like our GreenDot Bystander Intervention training, the skills for identifying and responding to COVID-19 are similar to the skills used in other areas of prevention work,” Dorsett said. “We hope students and staff can use these to advocate within their circles of influence, make informed decisions, and create that culture of care and compassion on our campus.”
Health Promotion also plans to make presentations, individual consultations, and other resources available via live Zoom and other virtual platforms so that students have access to wellness information relating to COVID-19 as well as all of the ways health and wellbeing intersect with a successful academic experience.
“We must not forget about the other important aspects of wellbeing—sleep, stress, physical activity, violence prevention, alcohol and substance abuse to name a few. All of these things are still on our radar, and they may be amplified by the impacts of a global pandemic,” Dorsett said. Other educational campaigns will be shared via Health Promotion and Offices of the Dean of Life social media accounts.
For more information, visit the Health Promotion website and follow @tamuhealthpromotion on Instagram or Twitter, and on Facebook.