Dear PI Colleagues, Graduate Students, and Postdocs,
I’m writing to you today to share the most recent COVID-19 information and guidance we have, given the increase in infection rates, both statewide and nationally. University leadership, including our campus health and wellness experts, have been following developments closely. We know you’re concerned, and we are, too.
Please remember that everyone is encouraged to follow current CDC guidelines to protect yourselves, colleagues, and loved ones — particularly those who are immunocompromised or unable to be vaccinated — as the more contagious Delta variant spreads throughout our community. Mask supplies are still available for procurement from the STEM stockroom for those who choose to wear them on campus.
As an important note, we have no plans to reduce workplace density in our research spaces. UT’s medical experts are confident that if we voluntarily wear masks indoors, we can maintain research operations at the current density.
We will also maintain research activities under Research Level 0 for the time being, but please keep the following in mind:
- If you feel sick, stay home.
- If you are not fully vaccinated, make an appointment to get vaccinated as soon as possible. (Visit Protect Texas Together or Austin Public Health for options.) Vaccination is the most effective way to limit coronavirus transmission.
- Resume signing up for regular proactive community testing, regardless of your vaccination status. UT is expanding testing locations in mid-August through September, and you might consider scheduling regular testing days for your entire team or cohort. Additionally, Protect Texas Together also provides COVID-19 testing options if you have symptoms.
- Follow prevailing UT meeting & event and travel guidance. If this guidance changes, the university will communicate those changes immediately.
- Our medical experts confirm we may continue all tiers of human participant research, including Tier D research (immunocompromised individuals and those >65 years). However, it is crucial that all study participants complete UT’s approved COVID-19 rider for study participants before a study begins. The COVID-19 rider includes instructions about contacting UT health officials should a study participant or researcher who has worked directly with participants later test positive for COVID-19.
- Continue to maintain contact tracing logs for your research spaces and your human subjects research. These can be digital or handwritten.
- Notify the HealthPoint Occupational Health Program (OHP) if you or anyone on your team tests positive for COVID-19. OHP will notify Environmental Health & Safety (EHS), who will then assess whether a given space needs to be decontaminated and who needs to be informed.
This year has been challenging, and I understand that the most recent developments have led to feelings of concern about when we might fully emerge from the pandemic. We are not without hope, however: we are in a better place, in many ways, than we were this time last year. We have vaccines that are proven to prevent or minimize the severity of illness, and this — together with choosing to wear masks indoors — is a powerful combination that can keep us safe, healthy, and back on campus. If we’ve learned anything in these last 16 months, it’s that we are all connected and can work together as a community to maintain safe research operations even in uncertain times. Your patience, cooperation, and understanding for each other has helped us come so far. I look forward to working with all of you as we continue pursuing outstanding scientific and creative achievements this fall.