COVID-19 protocols on the Texas A&M University campus adjusted after infection numbers increase

Texas A&M
Posted at 6:03 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 12:50:07-05

COLLEGE STATION, TX — COVID-19 protocols on the Texas A&M University campus are being adjusted after infections doubled week over week, prompting administrators to strongly encourage the Aggie community to get tested.

Last week’s campus COVID testing rate increased to 8.1 percent, up from 4.8 percent the previous week, according to Texas A&M.

Data indicate 354 new positive cases among the 4,444 who were tested last week through Saturday. Seventy positive student cases were reported on Friday alone.

Contact tracers linked many of these cases to off-campus social gatherings with no evidence that transmission is occurring in classrooms or at on-campus events complying with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Students in the Artillery Band of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and, separately, staff members with campus Emergency Medical Services (EMS) tested positive for the virus, according to a cluster notification posted Monday on A&M’s COVID-19 page in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy.

Both clusters, as well as other recent active infections, are traced back to off-campus social events and gatherings.

A&M leadership has approved the following measures:

  • All students living in on-campus housing are strongly encouraged to get a COVID-19 test.
  • Visitors to on-campus residence halls are discouraged until further notice.
  • Starting Wednesday, gatherings of more than 10 must be approved by the appropriate dean, vice president or provost.
  • For now, Texas A&M will not further increase the number of employees coming back to campus, keeping most offices at no more than 75 percent capacity.

Testing remains a key component in combating the virus. Free tests for Texas A&M students, faculty and staff are available at the following:

  • No appointment needed: Maroon kiosks at Aggie Express Commons, 676 Lubbock St.; Mays Business School, 210 Olsen Blvd.; and Memorial Student Center, 275 Joe Routt Blvd.
  • By appointment: Testing tent in parking Lot 27 adjacent to A.P. Beutel Health Center; 7 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 2-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Off campus, free testing is available without an appointment between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, as well as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in Bryan.

Other testing: Inside Beutel Health Center, students, faculty and staff who provide insurance can receive a nasal swab to determine an active infection, as well as an antibody test to determine the likelihood of a previous infection.

Health experts advise anyone who is sick, thinks they might be ill or has been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive to stay home and not go to campus or class.

Guidance from Texas A&M and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detail what steps a student, faculty member or staffer should do if sick or exposed to the virus:

  • Isolation: Individuals with a positive or presumed positive case should remain in isolation and not be with others for at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared, and for at least 24 hours without a fever and without medication. Individuals without symptoms can rejoin the campus community 10 days after a positive test.
  • Quarantine: Individuals who have close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive or presumed positive should quarantine by staying home and monitoring their health for 14 days after last contact with the person. The CDC defines close contact as being within six feet of the person for 15 minutes or more.

University President Michael K. Young said the university has been successful in limiting the spread of the virus so far this semester because students, faculty and staff have worked together.

“Even with this increase, there is no evidence of transmission of the virus in the classroom,” Young said. “As a community, we want to continue classes and other activities that advance our important educational mission. In order to do that, we need everyone to limit the size of gatherings, wear facial coverings and practice physical distancing. These precautions serve to reduce the transmission to others in our Aggie community and beyond. By doing this, we are displaying selfless service and protecting the health and wellbeing of our classmates, families and communities. Let’s continue to work together and rise to the challenge in the same spirit in which we started the semester.”

All members of the affected band unit, which is housed in Dorm 12, have been tested and are adhering to quarantine/isolation guidelines. EMS staff members, none of whom live on campus, will not return to work until after the completion of the appropriate quarantine/isolation period.