Last updated: 6 April 2020
In accordance with Executive Order GA-14 and updates from the Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s office, The Blackland Research and Extension Center will be closed to the public through 30 April 2020. This date is subject to extensions as the situation progresses. Critical operations staff will operate phones and email on a limited schedule, please call us at 254-774-6000 if you have any questions.
Bell County has issued a “shelter-in-place” order for all residents. Please do not leave your home except for essential services. If you do go out, maintain 6ft distance from others, wash your hands often, and return home as soon as possible.
The latest guidance on carrying out our research mission can be found on the VPR website: https://vpr.tamu.edu/covid-19. To be better prepared in the event of a local outbreak, AgriLife units are required to complete a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to describe how units will operate during a Coronavirus pandemic and recover afterwards to be fully operational.
Background Information for Pandemic COVID19
CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 90 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.
Current risk assessment:
- For most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. This virus is not currently widespread in the United States.
- People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
In the event of the COVID19 pandemic, Texas A&M AgriLife and The Blackland Research and Extension Center has four objectives:
- Minimize the risk of pandemic COVID19 to employees.
- Support employees who may be impacted.
- Continue essential functions during a pandemic.
- After the pandemic, resume normal operations as soon as possible.
Employees will have access to this webpage which will be updated as new information becomes available. Due to our joint facilities with USDA – ARS and USDA – NRCS we share guidelines between the federal and state systems as appropriate. Information on COVID19 protocols circulated by TAMU system will also be posted in the AgriLife-Temple breakroom and circulated by email.
TAMUS COVID19 Travel Information – As of 13 March 2020, ALL international travel on behalf ot TAMUS has been suspended and domestic travel is limited to only for mission critical purposes. Mission critical domestic travel must be resported to the Office of Ethics and Compliance with final approval by the Agency CEO or designee BEFORE traveling.
Visiting Scholars & International Visitors
All requests for visiting scholars from a level 2 or 3 country are discontinued until further notice. TAMU ISFS is not processing any visas at this time for visiting scholars or foreign employees.
Per direction from System, and at the recommendation of the CDC, gatherings of 50 or more people should be halted, as soon as practical, for the next eight weeks. Just today, President Trump recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. AgriLife has already started cancelling Vice Chancellor-hosted events and will continue to update you based on the latest information we have available.
If applicable, distance education is encouraged. The Distance Education group will offer webinars this week for those in need of assistance with Zoom and questions related to converting their course or program online in the coming weeks. These will be held March 18 and 20th at 11am. Additional information can be found on their website: https://digitaleducation.agrilife.org/digital-resources-for-employees/.
Flexible Hiring Freeze
Given the short- and long-term uncertainties and impact of COVID-19 on the state economy, we must make every effort to conserve resources that can be called on should the need arise. At the direction of The Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M AgriLife will immediately implement a flexible hiring freeze for positions paid all or a portion from appropriated funds.
- Current requisitions for positions paid from appropriated sources will need to be reviewed by executive leadership to allow time for conversations with hiring supervisors about their needs.
- Requisitions for positions paid from appropriated sources and deemed essential by executive leadership will continue to be posted so that recruiting can continue. All others will be cancelled, and recruiting will be deferred.
- For positions paid on appropriated sources, requests to fill currently posted requisitions and to post new requisitions will require approval.
- Written offers of employment made on or before March 24 require no further approvals.
You may view additional guidelines on the flexible hiring freeze on our website for guidance going forward.
For questions, please contact the AgriLife Office of Ethics and Compliance with questions at 979-845-4789 or 979-845-7879.