Dear FAS colleagues,
In this week’s COVID-19 newsletter from the executive committee, you may have noticed changes in how the university is talking about masking, COVID-19 testing and general health and wellness recommendations.
University Masking Guidance
As stated in the March 21 COVID-19 newsletter, the university is aligning its recommended masking guidance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s guidance explains that individuals in low-level communities like what we are experiencing in UT Austin do not need to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. People may choose to wear a mask at any time for any reason, and it is still recommended that individuals who are immunocompromised or at a high risk continue to take precautions.
University COVID-19 Signage
You may have also noticed signage related to masking recommendations and social distancing is being removed from buildings on campus. Working in alignment with the health and wellness committee, Facilities Planning and Management team members have been coordinating with building managers and facilities personnel to remove outdated signage. Many thanks to all of the FAS team members engaged in that effort.
COVID-19 Testing and the Protect Texas Together App and Phone Survey
The university continues to provide free COVID-19 testing to employees. If you are symptom-free you can participate in our Proactive Community Testing (PCT) in various locations on campus. Please check the PCT website for locations and times. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please visit the UTHA website for information on testing, which is covered by insurance. COVID-19 self-test kits are available to current UT students, faculty and staff members for free at various distribution sites on campus. To obtain the kits, just show your UTID to the staff member onsite. Visit the self-test page for more information. The Protect Texas Together daily symptom tracker app< and phone survey remain available to employees. All employees can receive vaccines and boosters by visiting locations listed on the Protect Texas Together vaccine webpage. No appointments are necessary at some locations.
Employees and managers should continue to report to the Occupational Health Program (OHP) if they have tested positive, have symptoms of COVID-19 even if they have tested negative, or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
Using Flexible Work Agreements (FWA) as an Ongoing Business Strategy
Earlier in the pandemic, flexible work arrangements were viewed as a tool to reduce density on campus; however, as I have stated in previous messages our stance in FAS is to view flexible work more broadly as a powerful business strategy. Those who can effectively perform work remotely may continue to do so in coordination with their supervisors. Work on-site should continue requiring a business justification with remote work being the default and not the exception for those who can perform their duties remotely. By effectively leveraging flexible work, we can better recruit and retain employees while also maintaining a high level of productivity and service as was demonstrated before and during the pandemic. For more information on flexible work arrangements, tools for remote workers and managing remote workers, visit the FAS Human Resources Support Services website.
The university will continue to monitor local and campus data, consult with university public health experts and consider the unique attributes of the UT Austin campus environment in determining future recommendations and guidance. The Protect Texas Together website and weekly COVID-19 newsletters to employees remain your best source of information on university COVID-19 guidance and recommendations.
Many thanks to everyone in FAS for all that you do in support of the university’s mission and support of one another. I wish you a continued healthy and successful spring semester.
Darrell Bazzell (he/him/his)
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
The University of Texas at Austin