Fall 2021 COVID-19 Management And Guidance Plans
M. KATHERINE BANKS
August 5, 2021
Texas A&M University is scheduled to continue in-person classes at full capacity for the fall semester. Considering the continued infection rates in the nation and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the university is asking the campus community to do its part by taking important steps to keep Aggieland healthy and safe.
While Texas A&M does not require you to be vaccinated or to wear masks, you are strongly encouraged to do your part to keep Aggieland safe by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask while in public indoor settings and frequently washing your hands. These actions are known to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
We will continue to monitor the situation in all of the communities surrounding our campuses, as well as the state as a whole. As conditions may warrant changes to these guidelines, please be on the lookout for future updates posted on the Protect Aggieland COVID-19 guidance page.
Note four requirements for everyone as we return to campus in the fall:
- Students must confirm they’ve read and agree to adhere to the following guidelines by logging on through the Howdy Portal. Faculty and staff must complete the course assignment in TrainTraq.
- Students, faculty and staff must participate in the mandatory COVID-19 testing program at intervals designated by Texas A&M.
- Students, faculty and staff who test positive for COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had close contact with someone who received a positive test result for COVID-19 are required to log on to this site and complete the COVID-19 Report Form, and are asked to cooperate with the Texas A&M COVID-19 Investigation Operations Center.
- Students, faculty and staff who test positive or have been identified as a close contact are required to quarantine/isolate consistent with CDC guidance.
To encourage vaccination, drawings for students who submit proof of vaccination will be held Oct. 15, 2021; funding for education expenses will be awarded for those students selected. Initial details are provided below; full rules for the random drawing will be announced soon, along with an incentive program for employees.
Based on current conditions related to COVID-19, the following is Texas A&M’s approach to the fall 2021 semester:
Sanctions For Individuals Who Do Not Comply With Mandatory Reporting And Testing
Students reported for failing to comply with the mandatory COVID-19 reporting and/or quarantine/isolation requirements will go through the Student Conduct Process. This may result in a student facing possible separation (i.e., suspension or expulsion) from the university or being considered a student “not in good standing.” A status of “not in good standing” renders the student subject to the following restrictions:
- Ineligibility to hold an office in any student organization recognized by Texas A&M or to hold elected or appointed office.
- Ineligibility to represent the university in any way, including at an official function, intercollegiate athletics or any form of intercollegiate competition or representation both on and off campus.
Faculty and staff who do not comply with mandatory COVID-19 reporting, testing and/or quarantine/isolation requirements will receive a written reprimand, at a minimum, that will impact their eligibility for merit increases and also will be subject to other, more severe, disciplinary action as appropriate.
Mandatory COVID-19 Testing
All students, staff and faculty are required to participate in Texas A&M’s mandatory COVID-19 testing program. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to submit to a COVID diagnostic test, provided by Texas A&M between Aug. 23, 2021 and Sept. 10, 2021. Testing sites, hours of operations and additional information will be updated regularly on Texas A&M’s COVID-19 Guidance page.
COVID-19 testing continues to be widely available at no cost for Texas A&M students, faculty and staff. Texas A&M will offer both saliva testing and shallow nasal swab tests. Lab results will normally be available in one to three days from the time the test is taken, depending on which test is taken. All test results will be provided directly to the individual via email or phone call and automatically will be submitted to the university.
Testing performed by other entities off campus will not be accepted to meet the requirements of the mandatory testing requirement. Effective testing results are one of the factors the administration considers in determining safety protocols.
Sites outside the flagship campus (Galveston, McAllen, School of Law and Texas A&M Health) may have different mandatory testing dates, consistent with their academic calendars. If you are at one of these campuses, please confirm your required testing window with your local campus.
Positive test results will be reported to the Department of State Health Services, Brazos County Health District and the Texas A&M COVID-19 Investigation Operations Center. The operations center will utilize the self-report form, email and phone calls to contact those with positive cases, as appropriate to confirm case exposure and provide additional guidance.
All members of the Texas A&M community – students, faculty and staff – are required to report a COVID-19 diagnosis, regardless of where tested, or if you have had close contact with someone who tests positive. This can be done by completing the COVID-19 Reporting Form. Prompt reporting is required and is important to allow for proper contact tracing, as well as to help limit the potential spread of the virus.
Vaccine Incentive Program and Availability
Vaccination remains the most effective way to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. According to the Department of State Health Services, 99.5 percent of people who died due to COVID-19 in Texas between Feb. 8 and July 14 were unvaccinated.
Anyone age 12 and older is eligible for the vaccine. Vaccines are currently available at Student Health Services at no cost for students and employees, and you can schedule an appointment online. Alternatively, you may seek vaccination through your local health care provider including primary care physicians and pharmacies. Locate a vaccine provider near you on the CDC’s vaccine finder website.
To be eligible for a vaccine incentive drawing, you must be a student enrolled for the fall 2021 semester at any Texas A&M campus, other than Texas A&M Qatar, and you must provide valid proof of vaccination (either one or two shots depending on the vaccine) in the TAMU Voluntary Vaccination Reporting Portal (which is different from the mandatory COVID-19 Reporting Form portal).
Eligible Texas A&M students will be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win a prize equivalent to one year of undergraduate or graduate resident tuition and fees. Complete rules for this drawing will be made available soon.
An incentive drawing for faculty and staff who show proof of vaccination will also be announced soon. In addition, some colleges may have their own incentive drawings to encourage vaccination reporting. Complete rules for these drawings will also be available soon.
Unrelated to the above incentive program, Texas A&M researchers are participating in Get Vaxxed!, a study that’s part of Prevent COVID U, a National Institutes of Health-funded program.
Adults younger than 30 who have not had COVID-19 and who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 can earn up to $1,000 by participating. Visit this website for more details. The study involves responding to questionnaires, completing symptom screens, daily testing for COVID-19, attending clinical visits with the team, and getting vaccinated. This is an observational study; no vaccine, treatment or exposure is being tested. For questions regarding the study, please contact the team at GetVaxxed@tamu.edu.
Case Investigation, Quarantine and Contact Tracing
In addition to required self-reporting, cooperation with the Texas A&M COVID-19 Investigation Operations Center is required.
The self-report portal will collect vital information to assess your personal situation and guidance for best managing your healthcare experience. All information shared will be treated with utmost confidentiality and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws.
Following self-report, a representative of the Investigation Operations Center will determine if additional interview is required and provide additional guidance to each positive case related to isolation and quarantine. Quarantine/isolation guidance will be updated regularly in concert with local, state and federal public health guidance.
Quarantine/isolation for a close contact, identified by a positive case during the case investigation or as self reported on the COVID-19 Reporting Form, is dependent on vaccination status, symptoms experienced and ability to safely isolate/quarantine. Cases may not have to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated (two weeks since final required dose of their selected vaccine).
Students testing positive for COVID-19 should assess personal needs for missed classes or assignments, consult course syllabi and contact course instructor of record to coordinate arrangements, as appropriate.
Faculty and staff who are unable to perform their assigned duties due to one of nine qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 may be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave afforded by the American Rescue Plan Act. Alternatively, employees may choose to use their accrued leave under normal university policy and procedures.
Contract partners, vendors and visitors should consult their personal healthcare provider and supervisor for best managing isolation and quarantine.
Check-in: No early move-in option is available this fall. Check-in, which is by appointment only, starts Aug. 21 for residence halls; Aug. 18 for White Creek Apartments; and Aug. 1 for The Gardens. All students must be checked in by Aug. 29. Appointments can be scheduled in the myHousing Portal. Students must complete the online Annual Housing Orientation prior to being assigned a room or apartment key.
Students who test positive or have been identified as first-person contacts must isolate or quarantine off campus, unless given approval by Residence Life to remain on campus.
Please note that the extensive remote learning opportunities that were available last year will not be available as the semester starts.
If you must isolate or quarantine, you will need to contact your professors and make appropriate arrangements to complete assignments and stay current in your classes. Such arrangements are expected to be like those offered in the past for students who missed class due to illness or other urgent matters, per Student Rule 7.
Faculty members will be responsible for determining appropriate arrangements.
No eating will be permitted in classrooms.
Employees traveling domestically are following pre-COVID-19 protocols for approvals. All international travel requests must be routed through Concur to obtain the required approvals prior to leaving. For more, read travel guidance outlined by the administration.
Students traveling as part of a student organization must be routed through the Division of Student Affairs; academic-related travel must go through Risk Management once deemed essential by the applicable dean.
Education Abroad program protocol is outlined on its website.
Enhanced Ventilation – HVAC System
Air circulation for each building is evaluated and monitored individually. Facilities Services has increased the amount of fresh air being pushed through the ventilation systems in university-managed classroom spaces, while other buildings may have enhanced filtration or other engineering controls. Where possible with existing equipment, up to six air changes per hour are occurring. Ventilation begins two hours before and continues two hours after classes.
Additional Information For Texas A&M Sites Across The State
For questions about COVID-19 guidance outside Bryan-College Station, please check with the following regarding testing and vaccine locations:
- Texas A&M Galveston: Rebecca Watts, 409-740-4840, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- All Texas A&M Health locations: Direct contacts and regular updates are posted on this site.
- School of Law: Terri Helge, 817-212-3942, email@example.com, or Viviene Crooks, 817-212-4082, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Higher Education Center at McAllen: Adolfo Santos, email@example.com; Texas A&M Health McAllen campus members can find their respective contact on this list.