Coming back to campus

Protecting the health and wellness of the Aggie community is important. As an educational institution, we also must support our students as they work to achieve their educational goals. For that reason, every office that directly works with students will need to be operational during regular business hours no later than August 3, 2020. These front-line offices include academic departments, colleges, and student service providers.


 

Faculty and Staff Readiness
(Updated: 06/30/20)

Although offices that serve students will be open, we will lower levels of staffing on campus overall to reduce opportunities for viral spread. Ideally, across campuses, we will have between 25 and 50% of normal staffing levels, in aggregate, as we begin the fall semester.

Decisions about who returns to campus and when they will return will be made at the college and organizational level, with the goal that every office that requires face-to-face interaction with students be open no later than August 3, 2020. Other functions that can operate effectively via telework are encouraged to do so. Employees at risk for COVID-19 according to CDC guidelines will continue to work from home if their job duties allow. We’ve created a decision tree for supervisors who need guidance in planning for the needs of individuals and staffing levels. 

We’ve also developed a new Alternative Work Arrangement (AWA) policy that promotes low employee density on the campus and allows for work to get done productively in remote locations. The options available in AWA include telework, flex time, short-term work modifications, and a compressed work week. Training modules have also been developed to assist managers and employees. Additional resources for telework are available at hr.nmsu.edu

Before returning to campus, staff must have:

  • Authorization from their supervisor
  • Completed the Return to Campus training from Training Central

Faculty are asked to complete the training within 48 hours of returning to work.


 


Research and Creativity

NMSU Research is returning to campus using a phased approach adopted from Association of Public & Land-grant Universities Council on Research. Progress along phases will be based on COVID-19 data from the CDC and New Mexico Department of Health, plus guidance from state, local, and university administrative policies. Research activities conducted under Phases 1 through 4 require review and prior approval from research unit directors, department heads, deans and the vice president for research (VPR). The detailed plan and timeline is available at research.nmsu.edu.


 

Students
(updated: 7/28/20)

Students living on campus and arriving from out of state will begin moving in on Aug. 1 to allow for the 14-day quarantine period. Student arriving from within New Mexico will begin move-in on Aug 14. Classes begin Aug. 19. When students log in to campus technology resources in August, they will see information reminding them about Aggie COVID-19 safety expectations. This information will emphasize health and safety precautions and the importance of personal responsibility critical for the well-being of the NMSU campus community.

Public Health Orders for the state will apply equally to all students, and ASNMSU will play a significant leadership role in promoting safety among our Aggie student community.

At the NMSU system level, no changes are planned to the previously published academic calendar. Any changes on individual campuses will be decided and communicated by local campus presidents.

We strongly discourage any student travel at Thanksgiving. If students choose to travel for the holiday, they should be prepared to follow any applicable state guidelines for quarantining upon return.


 

Workspaces

We are all adapting to a new environment, and we will facilitate employee transition back to campus by providing some guidance. Supervisors will ensure that their office includes, posted in a prominent place, the following information:

  • A daily health self-monitoring checklist
  • Instructions should an employee develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have a positive test for COVID-19
  • New Mexico State University COVID-19 Safety Commitment
  • Office-specific procedures for shared equipment like copiers, phones, refrigerators and water coolers
  • Any additional department-specific protocols for maintaining a healthy environment, including cleaning and waste removal

Some recommendations for department-specific protocols include:

  • Employee break areas may be used if 6 feet is maintained between occupants.
  • Face coverings may be removed for eating and drinking.
  • Employees should be particularly aware of social distancing in restrooms.
  • Meetings in online format should continue, even if all participants are on campus.
  • All in-person meetings should begin with safety and health reminders.

Outside of the NMSU environment, faculty, staff, and students should be aware of their exposure to others. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 should place themselves in quarantine as public health protocols dictate.


 

Using data to understand COVID-19 in our community
(Updated: 08/26/20)

Monitoring COVID-19 is one way to help protect the health and safety of the NMSU community. Three important tools for this monitoring are (1) screening for COVID-19 symptoms, (2) testing for COVID-19 infection, and (3) tracing people who have been exposed to COVID-19. People infected with COVID-19 are contagious before they show symptoms, and some people who have been infected never have symptoms. Thus, because we cannot be certain who is infected with COVID-19, we all need to rely on behavioral interventions like social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask.

Each member of the NMSU community needs to screen their health for COVID-19 symptoms. We have developed a new online self-check and self-reporting portal, available on the homepage and the ready.nmsu.edu site, to help with screening and contact tracing. Students, employees and visitors are encouraged to perform a daily self-check and register locations visited on campus to help Aggie Health & Wellness contact tracers identify additional potential contacts.

People with symptoms must remain at home or in their dorms and contact a health care provider or Aggie Health and Wellness at 575-646-7375.

Another important aspect of dealing with COVID-19 is to understand its spread on our campus. We have created an extensive plan for this by leveraging faculty expertise, partnerships with private companies and funding from New Mexico Department of Health. This plan looks at multiple aspects of COVID-19 and includes:

  • modeling COVID-19 prevalence and spread based on data from TriCore Laboratory, with later data from campus testing,
  • measuring the spread of COVID-19 at specific locations through wastewater sampling,
  • and a partnership with Electronic Caregiver© related to self-reported COVID-19 symptoms.

NMSU leadership closely monitors daily reports from the New Mexico Department of Health to understand, down to the level of ZIP codes, the trends of COVID-19 in the community. An online COVID-19 data dashboard has been created to provide a snapshot of that data for each week. These reports help us understand trends in things like new infections, recoveries, and hospital capacity.

Prevalence testing is another way to understand COVID-19 levels in the community. Prevalence is the proportion of people who are infected with COVID-19 at a certain time. Because people are infected with COVID-19 before they show symptoms, understanding its prevalence in the general population is a good way of understanding trends in infections before people start getting sick. NMSU Las Cruces has already participated in two testing events on campus; by participating in these events, we helped the Department of Health understand the effects COVID-19 has on our community. NMSU Las Cruces has also partnered with NMDOH to provide on-campus testing for most out-of-state resident students within days of arrival to identify and address asymptomatic cases.

Testing for COVID-19 infection is available daily through the New Mexico Department of Health. In the Las Cruces area, tests are available at the Department of Health Office and other sites

Because COVID-19 is contagious, the New Mexico Department of Health traces contacts of people who have tested positive. This means they reach out to people who have been exposed so that they can also be tested. At NMSU, we are also assisting in tracing contacts to ensure that our community members understand the implications of an exposure.

Through notification and collaboration between Aggie Health and Wellness Executive Director Lori McKee and NMDOH Director of Border Health Travis Leyva, NMSU’s Las Cruces campus has been assigned a rapid response team that will coordinate rapid response testing for impacted employees and students, if needed. This plan includes electronic sign-up for testing, coordinated testing locations and times, timely follow-up on testing results, and assistance with contact tracing.

Each of the NMSU system’s community college campuses has identified its own contact tracing protocol, with support from Aggie Health and Wellness Center for training, database setup and dashboard metrics for the entire NMSU system. Each campus will identify a NMDOH contact in their county that will support rapid response testing, if needed.

Community college employees and students should report a positive test to the main COVID-19 contact point for their campus: 


 


 

Responding to a surge in cases
(Updated: 7/7/2020)

We are counting on all Aggies doing their part to reduce spread of COVID-19 in the NMSU community, and part of the role of NMSU leadership is to closely monitor daily reports from the New Mexico Department of Health, down to the level of ZIP codes, to understand the status of COVID-19 in the community. These reports inform us about critical trends in metrics such as new infections, recoveries, and hospital capacity.

Under certain conditions, the NMSU administration is committed to severely limiting campus activities to reduce viral spread. Possible triggers include:

  • levels of COVID-19 that are statistically higher on campus than in the age-matched population in Doña Ana and El Paso counties.
  • local hospitals approach capacity for ICU beds. In this case, we could not assure that sick students or staff could get the care they need.
  • a cluster of positive cases associated with a particular campus setting, such as within a building or multiple buildings; within residence halls; within athletics, band, or other units or groups of students; and within on-campus employees.

In addition to daily monitoring, NMSU leadership will meet weekly, or more frequently as needed, with campus experts to assess trends in critical metrics. These meetings could trigger actions and data collection to better assess the situation. Examples of these actions may include:

  • increased testing for COVID-19 for specific groups of students, faculty and staff, with contact tracing for positive cases;
  • investigating outbreaks to understand contributory factors such as social events or decreased vigilance regarding social distancing or face coverings, and taking corrective action as needed;
  • closing campus buildings for disinfection in concert with NMSU Facilities & Services;
  • reviewing related rules and policies;
  • closing buildings to instruction and restricting campus activities; and
  • communicating with the campus community as needed.

NMSU could pivot to fully online course delivery and stay-at-home restrictions based on expert guidance, even if a statewide school and business closure order has not been reinstated. Student services such as residential life and dining would continue as essential services.


 

Maintaining flexibility
(Added: 7/7/2020)

Pedagogies such as hybrid teaching allow faculty to switch from face-to-face to online environment quickly. NMSU’s Alternative Work Arrangements policy facilitates telework and is supported by a decision tree for managers. Every department must review and revise continuity of operations plans to include plans for a return to telework.