FAQs Related to COVID-19

Questions:  Please read the following FAQs first then email if you still have questions:

 

(Updated July 20, 2020)

Frequently Asked Questions for Staff/Faculty
as it Relates to COVID-19

FAQ Topics:


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Standard Protocols For Faculty, Staff Concerning the Coronavirus

(Updated 7-20-2020)
What is the protocol when a University employee shows symptoms/signs consistent with the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Supervisors should follow the COVID 19 Reporting Process. Texas A&M University implemented a new reporting process for students, faculty, and staff as outlined in an email message from Provost Fierke on July 20, 2020. Visit the COVID 19 Reporting Process webpage for all reporting guidelines. 
NOTE:  This new process has replaced the “Ill Employee Protocol Supervisor Checklist”.

Questions regarding the  COVID-19 reporting process may be sent to COVID19Process@tamu.edu.

(Added 6-18-2020)
If an employee is coughing or displaying other symptoms consistent with COVID-19, can a manager require them to go home?

Yes. If an employee is ill, coughing or displaying other symptoms, the employee should be sent home to minimize exposure to others; however, the employee cannot be penalized for being sent home. The employee should utilize paid leave as applicable to their position and situation. For specific information about HR policies and leave associated with COVID-19, visit the Employment-Related Information Concerning the Coronavirus website.

Questions not addressed in these FAQs may be emailed to:
Texas A&M employees Employee-Relations@tamu.edu
HSC employees hschr@tamu.edu

Where can I access official information about COVID-19 confirmed cases in my area?

    • For official information about confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazos County, visit The Brazos County Health District website and click on COVID-19 Update on its site.
    • For updates across all counties in Texas, consult Texas Department of State Health Services
    • The university issued a one-time COVID-19 Timely Warning notification on March 20th as required by the Department of Education. As described in the notification, future updates on how Texas A&M is addressing COVID-19 will be posted on the university’s central COVID-19 page.
    • The university relies on information confirmed by the Brazos County Health District and other county health officials for confirmed cases. Therefore, not all presumptive cases nor confirmed cases if not identified by the health department may be known. All faculty and staff should self-monitor and, if ill, self-isolate as described in the FAQs.


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Telecommuting & Alternative Work Location

What approval is needed for employees to work from an Alternate Work Location (AWL)?
Department heads may approve requests for remote work otherwise known as Alternate Work Location (AWL) in accordance with System Regulation 33.06.01.

  • Each request must be documented in writing and approvals should be maintained at the department level for reporting at a later date.
  • At this time, we have suspended normal AWL procedures (AWL form not required) and are not requiring HR approval. An email will be considered acceptable documentation. Documentation should contain the following statement:
    • To the extent possible, [employee name] agrees to perform all the essential duties in their job descriptions. Other duties may be assigned in an effort to remain flexible. This may involve work that is outside of the employee’s primary responsibilities.
  • Department heads should also consider equipment needs and maintenance, employee safety, communication and supervision, and adherence to state and federal laws.
  • Resources for working from alternate locations

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Faculty and Staff Employees Who Traveled to High Risk Locations

If a faculty or staff employee is returning from travel to high risk locations, should they return to work?

International & Cruise Travel:

  • International and cruise travelers must self-isolate for 14 days prior to return to campus;
  • All international travelers must fill out a form in the international travel reporting portal
  • Guidance for self-isolating is listed in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this web page and on the CDC Care Guide. All international travelers must fill out the international travel reporting portal.
  • The CDC now recommends that travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide.

Domestic Travel:

  • Domestic travelers are required only to self-monitor at this time.
  • Domestic travelers do NOT need to self-isolate unless feeling ill or in a household with someone ill.
  • Domestic travelers do NOT need to complete the international travel reporting portal.
  • Guidance for self-monitoring is in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this web page and on the CDC Care Guide.

 General Travel:

  • Until further notice, university-sponsored domestic and foreign travel is suspended unless the travel is deemed mission critical.
    • All such proposed domestic and foreign travel requests must be submitted through Concur so the Office of Risk, Ethics and Compliance can conduct an assessment before making a recommendation to the Office of the Provost.
    • Final approval is required prior to departure, therefore, requests should be submitted at least five (5) business days before the proposed travel to enable completion of the review and approval process.
    • It is advised that no funds are paid on planned travel prior to final approval being granted. Contact Jason Boyle (jboyle@tamu.edu) with the Office of Risk, Ethics and Compliance with any questions.
    • Additionally, the university strongly discourages international travel and domestic air travel outside of Texas.
  • Please continue to check the CDC website for travel updates: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

 
(Updated 4-14-2020)
If a faculty or staff employee has traveled to high risk locations and is self-monitoring or self-isolating as required, what type of leave should they use? 

Faculty and Staff in benefits-eligible positions:

For periods through March 31, 2020, managers should first consider a temporary alternate work location for employees who are under self-monitoring or self-isolation. If a temporary alternate work location arrangement is not feasible for the employee, departments may request approval of Justified Emergency Leave for Other Circumstances in accordance with System Regulation 31.03.03, section 2.5.2. Beginning April 1, 2020, departments should consider whether new leave options under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) might be applicable. FFCRA information can be found here.

  • Vice Presidents or designees are authorized to approve emergency leave for six to ten days due to COVID-19 related absences as appropriate.
  • Vice Presidents (not designees) are authorized to approve emergency leave beyond ten days due to COVID-19 related absences as appropriate.
  • Appropriate documentation of the need for emergency leave should be provided with the request.
  • Emergency leave requests in Workday should be entered as “Other Emergencies” and must include COVID-19 in the comments box. All emergency leave must be tracked and reported in accordance with Tex. Gov’t Code sec. 661.902(d). https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.661.htm#661.902

(Updated 4-24-2020)
If an employee is diagnosed with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) while under isolation, should the employee continue to use Justified Emergency Leave for Other Circumstances?

If an employee is confirmed as diagnosed with COVID-19, the employee may request Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The employee may also take sick leave in accordance with System Regulation 31.03.02 after they exhaust EPSL (maximum of 80 hours for full-time employees; prorated for part-time employees).

 

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Working Hours, Time Off, Leaves, & Benefits (Student Employees including Graduate Assistants)

(Added 5-26-2020)
Where can I find student employment guidance as it relates to the Coronavirus pandemic?
In addition to reviewing the HROE website for general guidance applicable to all employee types at Texas A&M University, student employees should refer to the Jobs for Aggies website for guidance specific to student employees.

(updated 3-30-2020)
What changes were made to A&M Care and/or benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The following updates were announced by the System Benefits Administration for A&M Care health plan members and/or those on the student insurance and graduate student employee plans:

  • The deadline for completing the 2-Step Wellness Incentive Program in MyEvive has been extended from June 30, 2020 to August 31, 2020.  For more information on the Wellness Incentive Plan, see the System Benefits Administration
  • Effective March 16, A&M Care health plan members, as well as those on the student insurance and graduate student employee plan, can receive telemedicine services from their network physicians for medically necessary, covered medical and behavioral health services for a $0 copay through April 30.  The claim must indicate services were provided via telemedicine/telehealth to qualify.
  • As of March 16, all co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 testing consistent with the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been waived by all A&M System health plans, until further notice.
  • Due to the closing of day cares and employers directing employees to work from home, employees are eligible to reduce their dependent day care flexible spending account contributions through a Life Event Benefit Change. They will be able to change their deductions again when they return to work, as it will still be considered a Life Event.

If you have any questions please email benefits@tamu.edu.

(updated 4-14-2020)
If a student employee has traveled to high risk locations and is self-monitoring or self-isolating as required, what type of leave should they use?

Student employees including graduate assistants are not in leave-eligible positions; therefore, they do not qualify for any type of state paid leave in accordance with System regulations. However, beginning April 1, 2020 under the FFCRA, there may be paid leave that would be applicable. See details here.

If a student employee is not self-monitoring or self-isolating and is otherwise able to return to work, but chooses not to, what type of leave should they use?
Student employees, (including graduate assistants) who are not self-monitoring or self-isolating and are otherwise able to return to work, may choose not to return for whatever reason but they will not be paid. Managers should be flexible with student employees and not penalize them if they prefer to avoid campus.

Student workers should contact their supervisor regarding their ability to work. Students feeling ill should not come to work and should self-monitor and seek medical care if needed. Students not ill and not wishing to work in person will not be required to do so and will continue to be paid only if remote work is a possibility per above and approved by their supervisor. If students are unable to work in person or remotely, the student will not be paid.  Departments are encouraged to provide as much flexibility regarding duties as feasible.

Are there any exceptions for student employees on Federal and/or State Work Study financial aid?
University guidance regarding student employment is available here from the Student Employment Office in Scholarships & Financial Aid.  Please direct questions to workstudy@tamu.edu or leave a voicemail at 979-845-0686.

Can student employees work more than 20 hours?
There is no limitation for student employees to work 20 hours per week or less (with a couple of exceptions listed below). Students cannot work during their regularly scheduled class time. If they work more than 40 hours, they are paid overtime. 

Exceptions:

 

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Working Hours, Time Off, Leaves, Childcare (Benefits-Eligible Faculty and Staff)

 

(Added 5-26-2020)
If a faculty or staff member needs to take leave for the death of a family member, can the employee use the leave beyond 30 days from the date of the death?
Emergency leave due to death of a family member usually must be taken within 30 days from the date of death, per section 2.1 of System Regulation 31.03.03. Given the impact on funeral and celebration of life events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 30-day requirement has been waived by the Texas A&M System through December 31, 2020.

(Added 4-6-2020)
What changes were made to A&M Care and/or benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The following updates were announced by the System Benefits Administration for A&M Care health plan members and/or those on the student insurance and graduate student employee plans:

  • The deadline for completing the 2-Step Wellness Incentive Program in MyEvive has been extended from June 30, 2020 to August 31, 2020.  For more information on the Wellness Incentive Plan, see the System Benefits Administration
  • Effective March 16, A&M Care health plan members, as well as those on the student insurance and graduate student employee plan, can receive telemedicine services from their network physicians for medically necessary, covered medical and behavioral health services for a $0 copay through April 30.  The claim must indicate services were provided via telemedicine/telehealth to qualify.
  • As of March 16, all co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 testing consistent with the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been waived by all A&M System health plans, until further notice.
  • Due to the closing of day cares and employers directing employees to work from home, employees are eligible to reduce their dependent day care flexible spending account contributions through a Life Event Benefit Change. They will be able to change their deductions again when they return to work, as it will still be considered a Life Event.

If you have any questions please email benefits@tamu.edu.

Under what circumstances can leave-eligible employees take sick leave?
In accordance with System Regulation 31.03.02, absences that qualify for sick leave are as follows:

  • Your Condition: when injury, illness, or pregnancy prevents you from performing your duty.
  • Care for Immediate Family
    • Who lives in your household (eligible: related by kinship, adoption, or marriage)
    • Who do not live in your household (eligible: employee's child, spouse, or parent; must have a documented medical condition)

(Updated 4-24-2020)
An employee has a child whose school or day care is closed, and they have no other childcare arrangements. What options are available? 
If the employee is able to work from home with an approved Alternate Work Location (AWL) while supervising their child, the employee will be paid for regular hours worked. If a temporary alternate work location arrangement is not feasible, the employee may request Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

What options are available if employees want to self-monitor or self-isolate due to risk factors?
Employees who belong to categories considered to be at higher-risk of getting sick from COVID-19 (adults 60+ OR people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease) should consult with their managers about telecommuting or working from home, where feasible. See more information at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html.  Otherwise, employees may take other paid leaves as applicable to their position and situation. Leave information can be found at https://employees.tamu.edu/benefits/leave.

Can managers ask for a doctor's note from an employee returning from self-isolation?
No. Managers may accept a doctor’s note if it is voluntarily provided by the employee, but they may not require or ask for any specific documentation. However, managers may require that the employee notify them prior to return to work and may also require that the employee be asymptomatic upon return from self-isolation.

If an employee is coughing or displaying other symptoms, can a supervisor require them to go home?
If an employee is ill, coughing or displaying other symptoms, the employee should be sent home to minimize exposure to others; however, the employee cannot be penalized for being sent home. The employee should utilize paid leaves as applicable to their position and situation.

If an employee is coughing or displaying other symptoms, can a supervisor require them to go the doctor?
No. Managers should encourage employees to seek medical advice but they cannot require an employee to go to the doctor. They can require the employee to be asymptomatic before returning to work.

Does Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave apply to absences due to confirmed cases of coronavirus?
Yes, coronavirus qualifies as a "serious health condition" under FMLA, allowing an eligible employee to take FMLA leave if either the employee or an immediate family member contracts the disease.

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New Employees and Onboarding

On March 26, 2020, President Young announced a new hiring authorization process requiring his approval for all recruiting, selection, and hiring activities for the foreseeable future. 

Details found at New Hiring Authorization Process for Staff (non-faculty) Positions

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HROE Employee Training and Events

What if I am registered for an HROE course? Should I attend; or, will it be rescheduled?

  • Organization Development (previously known as Professional Development) has push the majority of oiur learning and development (training) sessions to Zoom online. We have been communicating directly with registered participants regarding changes to their sessions. If you have not heard from us about your specific session or have general questions, feel free to contact orgdev@tamu.edu.
  • We continue to be Zoom only through August. In September, we will have Zoom as well as reconvene face to face instructor-led for some events. More information for each course / program is available via our course delivery schedule.

  • Questions regarding HR Liaison Trainings should be sent to hrnetwork@tamu.edu.

What if I am registered for a Flourish event? Should I attend; or, will it be rescheduled?
Flourish is going remote for the rest of the semester. We are working hard to pull together programming specifically aimed at supporting staff and faculty as we all navigate how to stay connected to our community, establish new routines, and manage change in the coming weeks. 

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Employee Resources & Questions

Are there Telehealth Services available for employees who want to talk to a doctor remotely?
Yes, MD LIVE Inc. Telehealth Services is available at no cost to facilitate access to medical care for all A&M Care members. Get access to health care 24 hours a day, seven days a week by online video, mobile app or phone. MD LIVE Inc. Telehealth Services provides safe and convenient care for non-emergency medical and behavioral health conditions, including the common cold and flu, ear problems, headaches, nausea and more.  Additional information available online here

  • To use MDLive, have your BCBSTX member ID card ready, and:
    • go to http://mdlive.com/bcbstxand activate your account,
    • download the MDLive app on your phone, or
    • call customer service at 1-888-680-8646.

What resources are available to an employee experiencing emotional challenges (such as anxiety) due to the coronavirus outbreak?
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has been stressful for many people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause a host of emotional responses.  Counseling & Psychological Services has compiled a page with ways to care for your mental health during these experiences and provides resources for more help. It also describes feelings and thoughts you may have during and after social distancing and/or self-isolation.

  • Employees should contact their physician and/or Work/Life Solutions Program by GuidanceResources®. Work/Life Solutions employee assistance program offers a variety of services including consultations with clinicians for anxiety, depression, stress, grief, loss, life adjustments, relationship challenges, marital conflicts, etc.. Additional information about Work/Life Solutions Program by GuidanceResources® available at https://employees.tamu.edu/eap/.
  • Other resources:

If I (or my spouse) are unable to get in or do not want to have an annual wellness checkup at this time, can I (or my spouse) still qualify for the A&M Care Plan Two-Step Wellness Incentive next plan year?
Yes.  For the new A&M Care Two-Step Wellness Incentive, no one is required to complete an annual wellness exam in order to qualify for the wellness incentive next year (Sept 1, 2020 – Aug 31, 2021).  One of the features of the Two-Step Wellness Incentive Plan is that you are allowed to pick any 2 of the 5-6 personalized options in your MyEvive checklist.  Traditionally, the completion of an annual wellness exam was required, but not under the Two-Step program.  All benefit eligible employees and their spouses may select any 2 items on their MyEvive checklist to receive credit so long as both items are completed prior to June 30, 2020. For more information on the incentive program and MyEvive, visit the Two-Step Wellness Incentive Website.

Where should I direct employment-related questions concerning the coronavirus?
Employees and/or managers may send an email to benefits@tamu.edu.

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Employee Return to Campus – Multiphase Plan for Texas A&M:  FAQs & Scenarios

Other Texas A&M ​COVID-19 Guidance