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The University of North Texas System and its member institutions are committed to the well-being and safety of our students, faculty and staff. As it relates the Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat, each of our campuses are regularly communicating and coordinating their efforts with the Texas Department of Health and other state agencies. As part of our efforts, we are maintaining and frequently updating a UNT System COVID-19 web page to help keep faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni and community members informed. 

We will continue to adapt to this dynamic situation based on any emerging changes. Please continue to check our UNT System COVID-19 web page for updates moving forward.

We Are North Texas Podcast

WE ARE NORTH TEXAS shares good work and good deeds from the University of North Texas System and its member institutions. We are innovative, diverse, caring and collaborative – we are North Texas. Hosted by UNT System Chief Communications Officer Paul Corliss.

In this episode, Paul Corliss talks to Dr. Jeff Beeson, Vice Provost Academic Partnerships & Initiatives for the UNT Health Science Center and Jessica Rangel, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation at UNT Health Science Center about the UNT Health Science Center's efforts to test first responders during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) has opened an off-campus COVID-19 testing site for Tarrant County area first responders who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus but are not experiencing symptoms.

Available exclusively to first responders, the testing site is intended to keep first responders informed of their health status, and to allow those who test negative to return to their jobs rather than wait out the 14-day self-observation period after a possible exposure. First responders include police, fire, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and constables.

The drive-through testing site is a partnership that includes HSC, Catalyst Health Network, the Fort Worth Fire Department and Keith Argenbright, MD, Professor at UT Southwestern and Director at the Moncrief Cancer Institute.

“Our first responders are on the front lines of this health crisis, working tirelessly to protect all of us from this deadly pandemic,” HSC President Michael R. Williams said. “This new testing site will help protect our first responders and keep those who are healthy out in the community providing their valuable services. We are proud to support these heroes.”

Currently, a first responder who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, but is not experiencing symptoms, is required to go into a 14-day observation period. But by testing those individuals in self-observation about 72 hours after their potential exposure, those who test negative could be back at work much sooner.

First responders who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who are believed to be at extremely high risk of transmission will be tested through other processes.

“Through our partnership, we are able to test first responders and get results back in five days at the longest but possibly within about 48 hours,” said Dr. Mark Chassay, HSC Chief Clinical & Medical Officer. “That means more first responders can decide with their supervisors whether it is appropriate to return to their job duties sooner.”

An Infection Disease Coordinator at the Joint Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the City of Fort Worth is the primary point of contact for first responders. The coordinator will conduct an environmental and clinical assessment to determine if COVID testing is warranted. If so, the responder will be contacted by HSC within 24 to 48 hours to schedule the test.

First responders undergoing tests will remain in their vehicles and be approached by an HSC faculty member who will describe and perform a collection method of nasopharyngeal and swabbing. Test results will be shared only with the first responder, who is then responsible for informing their employing agency of the results.

COVID 19 Town Hall Podcast

As part of our efforts to keep faculty and staff informed, Chancellor Roe held a virtual UNT World Town Hall with all three UNTS presidents – Bob Mong (UNT Dallas), Neal Smatresk (UNT) and Michael Williams (UNTHSC) – as well as Vice Chancellor & Chief Human Capital Officer Barbara Abercrombie. Listen to the full presentation below.

 

UNT World Team Members:

I hope you are well as conditions continue to evolve with the coronavirus threat – the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remains the top priority across the UNT System.

The Dallas-Fort Worth region that all of our institutions call home has reported the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Texas, making it more important than ever to take precautions designed to help reduce the spread of the virus so our hospitals and healthcare clinics aren’t overwhelmed.

In line with Dallas County’s new shelter-in-place rules, which go into effect at 11:59 p.m. tonight, we will be closing all UNT System Administration offices for on-site access – remote working will continue.

Only security staff will remain in the building at 1901 Main Street in Dallas, beginning tomorrow, March 24. Similarly, UNT System Administration offices at the Business Services Center, Woodhill Square and Discovery Park in Denton will limit on-site staff to designated personnel only. To clarify, all UNT System Administration Offices will only be accessible to personnel designated as critical for continued on-site operations as determined by your Vice Chancellor or me – all other system administration personnel will continue to work remotely. With these operational adjustments in mind, any system administration team members impacted should retrieve needed items from their office today.

The 1901 Main Street closure includes the UNT Dallas College of Law library and all other CoL resources in that building – UNT Dallas police will arrange for security in the UNT Dallas Law Center at Old City Hall. In line with the Dallas County shelter-in-place order, UNT Dallas and the law school will be announcing operational updates later today.

While not bound by the same shelter-in-place guidelines as our Dallas County entities, UNT (Denton County) and UNT Health Science Center (Tarrant County), are similarly taking aggressive measures against the spread of COVID-19. Yesterday, UNT announced it will be reducing on-site staff to personnel designated as essential for continued campus operations by 5pm on March 24. UNT’s vice presidents are identifying designated on-site personnel who will be needed to serve remaining UNT students in residence halls and serve critical business continuity functions. UNT Health Science Center has similarly reduced its on-campus staffing to those that serve critical business continuity functions. 

Each campus will determine its own essential on-site services and designated personnel. For UNT System Administration, designated on-site personnel are only those that are required on-site for continuity of operations. Again, employees designated as critical to these on-site operations will be determined by your Vice Chancellor or me. These decisions will focus on protecting the health of our employees and the general population, and will result in the absolute minimum on site population.

UNT System Human Resources has provided faculty and staff with guidance regarding working remotely, paid leave, emergency leave and safe working conditions for those designated as necessary for critical on-site operations – please note this HR guidance will continue to evolve based on the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 threat and its impact on Texas, our system and member institutions. Please visit https://www.untsystem.edu/covid-19 to view these guidelines and other critical COVID-19 updates – this site is updated daily.

Thank you for your continued support of our proactive measures against the spread of COVID-19 as we strive to support public safety at the highest levels, while still fulfilling our missions to serve students. Our UNT World values – service, teamwork, trust, excellence – will continue to guide us through these challenging times.

Lesa B. Roe
Chancellor

Memo on Executive Order GA 08

This memo will provide additional guidance on the continued operation of your institution of higher education in light of the Governor’s Executive Order Number GA 08 issued on March 19, 2020. Educating future generations is a crucial feature of any society, second only to ensuring public safety. In the executive order, institutions of higher education are directed to operate in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. As described in the text of the order, the state is following guidance from the CDC to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent practicable. Please continuously monitor the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education for any updates. Texas’ institutions of higher education have already taken on this responsibility and acted swiftly in responding to this unique crisis. The work your institutions have already done is admirable and for that we are grateful.

It is our understanding that your institutions have already taken numerous precautions to protect your students, faculty, and staff. Those precautions include moving nearly all instruction to an online modality. There will be of course some instruction and operations that cannot be moved entirely online, and we expect that administrators will make the best decision on a case-by-case basis that incorporates adequate social distancing, limits on the total number of people in one space, and includes proper disinfection. This office also appreciates that institutions have made housing and food services available to a limited number of students for whom it is necessary. While we encourage you to use teleworking as much as possible, we also expect that certain staff must remain in their work environment, and specific offices located on campus may need to remain open to ensure the continuity of your operations. Again we ask that you take any and all necessary precautions.

Please accept my gratitude for everything you do for the students and residents of this state. While there will always be unique circumstance specific to each campus, we hope that this memo and CDC guidance for higher education are of assistance as you work through this situation. If you feel there are additional areas in which further discussion is necessary feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

Brady Franks
Deputy Budget and Policy Director
Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott

 

UNT World Faculty & Staff:

As part of our efforts to keep you informed, Chancellor Roe held a virtual UNT World Town Hall with all three UNTS presidents – Bob Mong (UNT Dallas), Neal Smatresk (UNT) and Michael Williams (UNTHSC) – as well as Vice Chancellor & Chief Human Capital Officer Barbara Abercrombie. Watch the full presentation below!

 

If you have any questions that were not answered during the Town Hall, please email them to: communications@untsystem.edu

 

By President Michael Williams and David Mansdoerfer

The science shows that for a vast majority of folks, the symptoms for COVID-19 will be mild and not require any type of medical intervention. Additionally, given that a virus, by nature, cannot be seen, if you have yet to be personally affected by this, the national response to the crisis can feel a bit surreal.

If you are young, healthy and follow general guidelines on hygiene, it might seem safe to continue to live life as you normally would. But living your normal life is exactly what COVID-19 needs to continue to spread.

This might sound counterintuitive, but you can be asymptomatic (feel healthy) and still transmit COVID-19 to folks with underlying health issues or who fall into high-risk categories.

Put a different way, feeling healthy does not mean it is safe to be around people.

At this point, nonessential social gatherings of groups above 10 are irresponsible. While it might feel safe to live life as you used to, it’s not.

For the world to continue, certain parts of each person’s personal life need to continue (work, grocery shopping, etc.) But nonessential gatherings of 10 or more in various locations such as coffee shops or restaurants need to stop.

Before you walk out the door for a nonessential issue, think about your family member, neighbor or coworker with cancer or child with asthma, and consider what you would think if someone else took that approach and it impacted the lives of the people you love.

Be safe, practice good hygiene and continue to follow the public health guidelines outlined by the CDC and state and local public health agencies.

COVID-19 needs YOU to spread, but YOU have the opportunity to stop it.

HSC prides itself on developing healthcare’s future leaders. Now is the time to lead.

Dr. Michael Williams is President of HSC and David Mansdoerfer is Special Assistant to the President of HSC and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

UNT World: I’d like to begin this update with a simple question: How are you doing during this unusual time?

Our work worlds have been turned upside down – most of our faculty and students are preparing to teach/learn through technology, while most staff members have begun to work remotely (or will soon). Faculty and staff with school-aged children have the added stress of managing their child(ren)'s activities and education at home, against the strange backdrop of social distancing, closed businesses and supply/food shortages at many local stores.

It’s understandable if you’re stressed, frustrated or nervous. This crisis is like nothing we’ve seen. With that said, it’s more important than ever to support one another.

Supervisors – I encourage you to have daily video conferences or calls with your staff. Share information, talk about your challenges, and bring questions to our leadership team if you need help. I encourage all of our team members to take time away from the news. Walk around periodically. Exercise and eat healthy. Avoid crowds, but don’t isolate yourself. Talk to friends, family and yes, share with your co-workers. We’re all in this together.

These are unusual and challenging times, but we can help each other reach the other side by supporting one another and showing compassion. If you or your family need additional support, I encourage you to consult our free, confidential, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – available to help employees at all UNT System locations with stress, depression, family, legal or financial issues, substance abuse or other stressful events. EAP programs are available to retirement-eligible employees, their household members and dependents.

Employees may self-refer to EAP, or managers may refer an employee. EAP consultations (up to six per year, per personal session) are free and confidential. All EAP benefits can be accessed 24/7. Full details are available on our EAP web page.

Thanks to all of our faculty and staff, system-wide, for continuing to focus on our missions and service to students during this challenging time. We appreciate your flexibility, adaptability and commitment to find and execute innovative solutions.

HR FAQ for COVID-19

Do you have HR questions related to COVID-19? We have posted an HR FAQ for COVID 19 on the UNT System web site. Additionally, we are maintaining a full COVID-19 Informational web page.
These sites are being updated frequently and also directly link to our university COVID-19 web sites for UNT, UNT Health Science Center and UNT Dallas. Please visit these sites often, and if you have specific questions that aren't addressed, please contact your respective HR team via email by clicking the appropriate link in the footer of this email.

Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Threat

UNT System's Organizational Development & Engagement (ODE) team recommends two LinkedIn Learning courses to help team members smoothly transition to remote working/supervising:

Additionally, ITSS has provided cyber security tips for working at home.

On the lighter side ... The Dallas Morning News published several fun thoughts and ideas for those of us that are new to the world of telecommuting in Robert Wilonsky’s recluse guide to working from home in the age of coronavirus.

Updates from UNT System Institutions

Each unique UNT System institution has its own set of dynamic circumstances to navigate, so there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to mitigating the risk of COVID-19. With that in mind, each of our universities are updating their campus communities regularly through their respective institutional web sites.

For the latest updates from our universities, please click the logos:

          

Questions for Human Resources?

If you have specific questions that aren't addressed in our HR FAQ for COVID 19, please contact your respective HR team via email:

With additional COVID-19 cases reported in North Texas over the weekend, we are taking additional measures to protect our employees while maintaining core operation of our system and member institutions.

We are making preparations to further reduce the number of people working on our campuses and office sites. Your supervisor will be communicating with you today regarding plans for your position. If you, or an immediate member of your family that lives in your house, are high-risk to COVID-19, per CDC guidelines, please communicate with your supervisor to make arrangements to allow for social distancing at work or telecommuting.

We are continuing to update our UNT System COVID-19 web site https://www.untsystem.edu/covid-19 and have added additional human resources guidance and remote working information. Please visit the site for frequent updates and feel free to email HR@untsystem.edu if you have specific questions that aren’t addressed on the site.

Thank you for your understanding, your compassion for others, and your willingness to navigate these many disruptions to protect the health and safety of UNT World.

Lesa B. Roe
Chancellor