Executive Summary

June 8, 2020

In May 2020 the President appointed a Return to Campus Task Force to provide recommendations and procedures for bringing university operations back to campus in a safe and practical manner.  The Task Force consisted of 26 individuals representing all stakeholder groups and divisions across UTRGV, and included faculty, staff, a student, and administration.  In addition, the Task Force appointed and engaged seven workgroups, to examine Athletics, Campus Auxiliary Services and Student Life, Campus Events, Lecture and Classroom Activities, Instructional Laboratories, Research Laboratories, and Off Campus and Clinical Activities.  These groups involved an additional 80 individuals in the development of specific, actionable recommendations across the spectrum of campus operations.

This Executive Summary will detail at a high level the major recommendations of the Task Force and its workgroups.  Additional actionable detail and specific information is outlined in the full report document, entitled Return to Campus – Consolidated Report of the Task Force.  Further program-specific detail and guidance is offered in each of the individual workgroup reports, which are also available for review and utilization.

The Task Force and all workgroups recognize that the situation with COVID-19 is highly fluid, and it is possible that modifications may need to be made during the academic year in order to continue functioning in alternate formats.  All groups therefore support the development of contingency plans in the case of all instructional activities and operations needing to return to fully online.

Click here for the full Executive Summary

Following is a summary of the Task Force’s Guidance:

  • Health and Safety Recommendations

    • It is critical that the campus community follows good public health practices:
      • Maintaining physical distancing of 6 feet
      • Frequent hand-washing
      • Staying home if sick or having respiratory symptoms
      • Cleaning and disinfecting one’s personal environment
    • The use of cloth face coverings is required on campus when:
      • In all campus buildings, classrooms, libraries and laboratories
      • Face coverings are not required in one’s personal office space, as long as 6-foot distancing can be maintained
      • Face coverings are not required outdoors, as long as 6-foot distancing can be maintained
  • Campus Events

    In order to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 on campus, specific policies must be followed in the scheduling of all campus events.

    • All indoor and outdoor in-person events on all UTRGV campuses will continue to be cancelled throughout the month of June. 
    • The Event Task Force will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and provide updates when available.  Policies around size of and requirements for campus events will be reviewed regularly, as changing conditions would direct.
  • Campus Auxiliary Services and Student Life

    • Campus auxiliary services will begin a phased approach to reopening on June 1, 2020
    • Preventive measures will be required to reduce likelihood of spread of disease, including:
      • Required use of face coverings
      • Social distancing with floor markings
      • Use of plexiglass dividers
      • Reduction of occupancy to 25% capacity
      • Single-occupancy rooms in on-campus housing
      • Use of remote technology where appropriate and feasible
      • Access by appointment to services and facilities, such as University Recreation, on-campus move-in, or Student Union meeting rooms
  • Libraries

    Campus libraries will reopen on June 1, 2020, with specific usage instructions, including:
    • Required use of face coverings and social distancing
    • Books and physical items will not circulate at this time
    • Computers will be available with appropriate distancing
    • Printing will be permitted, but only personnel will retrieve the printouts
    • Available staff can answer questions, but more specific requests should be made and scheduled virtually
  • Athletics

    • Athletics staff will return to campus on an alternating schedule beginning June 8, 2020
      • Staff will have had no symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with COVID-19 positive individuals for 14 days prior to arrival of student athletes
      • Staff will have frequent wellness checks by athletic training staff
    • Domestic student athletes will return to campus beginning July 15, 2020, after self-isolating for 7 days prior to arrival.  International student athletes will return to campus beginning July 1, 2020, and will self-isolate for 14 days on arrival to campus.
    • Clearance for return will be based on review of travel history
    • Students athletes will be required to have negative COVID-19 testing prior to being cleared for participation in athletic activities
    • The Department of Athletics has developed specific housing and training policies that are detailed in the consolidated report
  • Instructional Laboratories

    • Instructional Labs will open for face-to-face educational activities with the fall semester, 2020
    • All laboratory spaces will be surveyed for their capacity, recognizing the requirement for appropriate social distancing
      • The size of laboratory classes will be determined based on these capacity assessments
    • Instructional laboratories where student objectives can be achieved without face-to-face contact should be conducted online
    • Instructional laboratories with hands-on requirements will be offered in a hybrid or reduced-seat-team approach, which will rotate users into the space to conduct in-person experiences, yet maintain social distancing for each section
      • Rotation of students into labs will reduce the number of students in educational spaces and promote safe distancing
      • The maximum size of student working groups, defined as activities with learners in close working proximity, will be four (4) students
      • Multiple student working groups are allowed depending on size of lab and appropriate distancing
    • All participants in activities in the instructional laboratories will follow routine campus safety and social distancing policies, with enhanced precautions including the use of masks and gloves, and will be screened for symptoms prior to entry using the UT Health RGV screening questionnaire
  • Lecture Courses and Sections

    • Lecture courses and sections will open for face-to-face educational activities with the fall semester, 2020
    • All lecture courses with more than 50 students will be delivered online
    • College deans will work with UTRGV Facilities to determine the safe capacity of each classroom or space
    • Face-to-face instruction will occur using hybrid or reduced-seat-time formats, with compliance to rules of physical distancing
      • Under no circumstances will classes meet with over 50 students
    • All synchronous class interactions will be recorded and available on Blackboard
    • Training will be made available for all faculty in optimal online instructional methodologies
  • Off-Campus Activities (Clinical, Teaching, Internships)

    • Off-Campus Activities will resume beginning July 1, 2020 and will continue to expand at the beginning of the fall semester, 2020
    • Individuals participating in off-campus activities will arrive in the Rio Grande Valley at least 14 days prior to beginning the activity
    • Individuals will self-screen daily using the UT Health RGV screening questionnaire
    • Individuals will follow all requirements of the off-campus facility for social distancing, hygiene, and use of face coverings
    • All learners participating in clinical activities must have a negative COVID-19 test within one week of beginning the activity
    • All clinical learners will have specific education around the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and best clinical practices to mitigate exposure to and spread of COVID-19
  • Research Laboratories

    • Laboratory directors (LD) and principal investigators (PI) are responsible for all research conducted within laboratories under their supervision
    • All laboratory users must follow UTRGV health and safety protocols, which may be expanded to the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as indicated
    • Research activities should be scheduled to comply with physical distancing of at least 6 feet
    • Research laboratories will maintain sign-in and sign-out sheets to be used on entry to and exit from the laboratory
    • Additional health and safety requirements may be required in research laboratories, as directed by research administration and environmental health and safety
  • Testing Centers, Incubators, and Business and Agricultural Centers

    • All users will participate in these activities by appointment only
    • All users will complete the UT Health RGV Screening Questionnaire prior to arriving on site
    • All services will be offered with appropriate social distancing and at safe numbers based on capacity of the specific space
    • Cleaning of spaces will be completed daily and between each group of participants
  • Travel Guidelines

    • Current guidelines restrict all non-essential business travel for UTRGV employees
    • Travel outside the State of Texas and the border cities in Mexico is strongly discouraged
    • On return from travel outside these areas, all members of the campus community must complete a required screening form
      • Individuals may be asked to self-isolate based upon their travel history
    • Travel guidance will be updated as conditions warrant
  • Screening for Illness

    • Screening will be conducted when indicated using the current version of the UT Health RGV screening questionnaire
    • Any individual exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for a period of 14 days
      • Students who become symptomatic should be tested in UTRGV Student Health
      • Employees who become symptomatic should be tested in UTRGV Employee Health
    • Any individual testing positive must self-isolate and will not be permitted to return to in-person activities until:
      • 10 days have passed since their first positive test
      • Are symptom-free for 3 days without fever
      • Have 2 negative COVID-19 tests, 24 hours apart
      • Are cleared for return by UT Health RGV personnel
    • Contact tracing of all positive individuals will be conducted by UT Health RGV personnel