Chancellor Milliken hosted a Town Hall meeting with System Administration employees to provide updates and to answer questions about COVID-19, working in the UT System Building and the Fall semester.
This document provides guidelines to promote a healthy and safe environment as employees and tenants return to working in the UT System Building.
The following FAQs are intended to provide guidance to UT System Administration employees on the application of policies and best practices related to COVID-19 now that vaccines are widely available. The information on this page is not legal advice and is subject to change. Specific practices may vary depending on each department’s unique circumstances and needs. The UT System will update questions and answers as the situation evolves.
If you have questions that you would like considered for inclusion on this FAQ page, please submit them to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question that requires a direct and prompt response, contact the appropriate System Administration department office.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Information
- Returning to the Workplace
- Employee Travel
- Human Resources
- Employee Benefits
UT Systemwide Resources
- UT System COVID-19 Website
- UT System Office of Employee Benefits COVID-19 Key Benefit Details
- UT System Office of Human Resources Coronavirus Resources
- CDC COVID-19 Website
- CDC Resources for Healthcare Facilities
- Coronavirus Resources and Response – Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott
UT System Administration Resources
- UT System Administration HOPs
Why should I get vaccinated?
Vaccination can protect you from getting ill and spare your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers from the dangers of this disease. When enough people get vaccinated, the spread from person-to-person becomes less frequent and thereby increases protection of the whole community.
Is the vaccine required?
No. Vaccination is voluntary, but strongly encouraged.
Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Please check the DSHS COVID19 Vaccination Information page to find a vaccine provider near you. You may also want to contact your personal physician or local pharmacies to schedule a vaccination.
As a UT System employee, what are the costs associated with getting the vaccine?
Vaccines are provided at no cost to UT SELECT plan members and are highly encouraged.
If you are a member of the UT SELECT health plan, the plan pays for any COVID-19 treatment, including vaccines, for covered employees and their dependents.
Do I have to use sick time if I experience side effects after getting the vaccine?
If employees feel unwell, they may use accrued sick time off or other time off accruals for an absence from work.
Additional vaccine related resources:
- Protect Texas Together
- Texas DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information
- Austin Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine
How and when will employees return to the workplace?
With vaccines now widely available, working in the office for most System Administration staff will become routine again. Employees will return to the workplace based on job duties and managerial priorities. The building remains open, and many employees are returning to the workplace already.
We do not know yet when all employees will be expected to return to working in the building full-time. Employees will be notified well in advance of being asked to return to the building to ensure they can make any personal arrangements needed.
As always, the health and safety of UT System employees and building tenants are the highest priority. Safety precautions, procedures and protocol remain in place to mitigate risks for those working in the office. All building tenants have indicated that they will follow UT System’s directives.
Will returning to the building be optional for all—not just those who have a medical exception?
As a public organization, the UT System is expected to maintain business continuity and provide needed services to UT institutions and the state of Texas.
Now that vaccines are widely available, we anticipate most, if not all, roles will require some physical presence in the building. Working remotely will be a discussion between you and your manager or supervisor and should be in line with our telecommuting policy and procedures.
What about families with K-12 students that are still attending classes from home?
We know there are many issues related to remote learning and available childcare. Supervisors and department heads will take into consideration an employee’s personal situation along with business needs when making scheduling decisions.
Will masks or face coverings be required in the building?
Consistent with CDC guidelines, masks or face coverings should be worn in common areas of the building and where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as elevators.
What do I do if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?
Any occupant of the building who is diagnosed with COVID-19 must immediately report that exposure or diagnosis to their supervisor, and their HR business partner, who will notify appropriate System Administration officials. Employees should not send any medical documentation unless requested by HR. If HR requires further information, they will contact the employee and will keep the information confidential in accordance with state and federal laws related to employee health records. Supervisors and department heads must exercise the same level of confidentiality and treat the information and records they receive from an employee as they would any ADA or FMLA documentation.
Employees who contract the coronavirus will not be allowed to return to the workplace until at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, which is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. Employees who feel well enough to continue working while in quarantine may do so remotely if approved by their supervisor.
What should immediate supervisors do if one of their employees reports they have been diagnosed with COVID-19?
Supervisors should treat the information confidentially and send it to HR. Supervisors and department heads must exercise the same level of confidentiality and treat the information and records they receive from an employee as they would with any ADA or FMLA documentation.
What does System Administration do when there is a report of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the UT System Building or other System Administration location?
As soon as a case of COVID-19 is reported, contact tracing is implemented to identify and notify anyone who may be at risk of exposure. The CDC defines “contact” as spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of an individual within the timeframe they would have been contagious. If not fully vaccinated, those individuals are asked to proactively self-isolate until negative test results have been returned. The areas of the building where the at-risk individual spent time are also proactively cleaned and disinfected.
A confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis is confidential health information. All System Administration employees will be notified in a timely manner if a positive COVID-19 case among staff, tenants, or visitors (including vendors) is warranted by health and safety concerns and if disclosure is consistent with guidance from federal, state and/or local health authorities. Employees identified as having been in close contact with a positive individual will be notified first and asked to continue self-isolating for 14 days at home unless fully vaccinated.
Not all System Administration employees work in the same city, and a confirmed positive case in one building may not warrant a notification to System Administration employees in all locations.
What steps are taken to identify all individuals with whom a COVID positive person may have had contact?
When a confirmed case is reported, a member of the COVID-19 team will interview the individual to determine the dates, times and locations of the person in the building. This includes the individual’s work area, any common areas, lobby, and elevators.
The team member will also ask whether the person had close contact with any individual in the building. For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes within two days of exhibiting symptoms or of being tested.
If any close contacts are identified, the team member will notify these individuals, instruct them to self-isolate for 14 days unless fully vaccinated, and advise them to consult their healthcare provider if COVID-19 symptoms develop. Employees who are notified that they have been in contact with someone being tested for COVID-19 should not return to the workplace until test results have been returned and confirmed as negative.
Employees who may have been in the same area but do not meet the definition of “close contact” are not considered to have been exposed and are not notified.
What is the definition of “contact” in the context of contact tracing?
The CDC generally defines “contact” as being within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more within two days of exhibiting symptoms or of being tested.
What should an employee do before returning to work after a period of self-isolation?
After the 14 days of self-isolation, individuals should contact Human Resources for updated guidance and requirements before returning to work in the building. Employees who are working remotely may be able to continue working during the self-isolation period.
Will System Administration share employees’ reports of suspected or positive COVID-19 cases with anyone outside of System Administration?
System Administration may provide information to local, state, or federal health authorities as requested to facilitate ongoing measures to address and prevent spread of the illness. System Administration will follow the CDC recommendations related to reporting.
Facilities (Including Cleaning, Meetings, and Use of Amenities)
How is the building kept clean and safe?
The building interior is cleaned and disinfected according to CDC guidelines and Occupational and Environmental Safety Office requirements. The custodial staff regularly cleans all common areas, including lobbies, meeting rooms, breakrooms, restrooms, main hallways, and common area appliances and equipment, such as printer keypads. Disinfectant wipes have been provided for employees to use in cleaning their own desks and workspaces and any shared equipment they use.
HVAC, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are regularly assessed and cleaned.
Employees are encouraged to use disinfectant wipes to clean the surfaces of commonly used equipment and surfaces, such as printers and doorknobs, before and after use.
Will meetings and visitors be allowed?
To avoid large numbers of employees congregating in meeting spaces, the use of meeting platforms such as TEAMS, Skype, and Zoom is encouraged.
While in the conference room or other meeting space, attendees should maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet unless fully vaccinated.
Coordinate meeting schedules through the online system and notify Facilities Management whenever a meeting room is used. This will enable the custodial crew to clean and disinfect the room between uses. Thirty minutes will be reserved between meetings to provide time for crews to thoroughly clean and disinfect the rooms.
Inviting visitors and other guests to the UT System Building is allowed but should be limited in number.
What are the guidelines for use of building amenities and common areas?
Elevators: No more than 4 people at a time are allowed in an elevator to avoid close proximity with others. Masks or face coverings are encouraged while in the elevators.
Breakrooms: Dining areas in the breakrooms are open with appropriate distancing. Single serve coffee and water/ice machines will continue to operate but shared coffeepots may not be used. Disposable plates, cups, and flatware will be provided.
Wellness Center: The Wellness Center will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Disinfection and additional cleaning will occur Monday through Friday in the evenings and during the hours of 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Individuals should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from one another unless required for a safety reason such as spotting.
Equipment must be wiped down before and after use by the person using the equipment.
Individuals should also maintain at least 6 feet of distance from one another in locker rooms and shower areas.
Grab-N-Go: The Grab-N-Go on the 19th floor is open. Food, drink, and snack options will be limited through the early phases of returning to the building. The 19th floor dining area is open with appropriate distancing.
Could you confirm that the building meets recommended air filtration standards?
The air filtration system used in the UT System Building is actually rated higher than the systems typically required for comparable buildings. It uses a MERV 13 air filter, which blocks bacteria, smoke, and other microscopic particles. We also have increased the frequency of filter inspections and associated change-out of filters.
The building’s air handlers are equipped with UV bulbs, which also help kill a variety of bacteria, mold and viruses within the bulbs’ “line of sight.”
Additional related safety measures include increasing the outside fresh air flow to 50% to dilute and remove contaminants and air particles, and increasing our preventive maintenance inspections and cleanings of the HVAC systems.
Are employees permitted to travel for business?
For Human Resources-related questions not addressed below, supervisors should contact their HR Business Partners. For leave-related questions, employees may email email@example.com.
What are the expectations for employees who continue to telecommute?
Telecommuting employees are expected to complete their job responsibilities as established by their supervisors and to work their regular total number of weekly hours. Supervisors may allow employees to perform work outside of regular business hours and must approve flexible work arrangements in writing (email) with the employee.
Employees who continue to work in the building based on business needs, and in consultation with their supervisors, should take whatever technology and/or materials are needed to work remotely home with them daily. Employees who need to take a sick day or wish to take a day off should request the use of personal leave as they typically do.
What type of paid leave is available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) enacted on March 18, 2020, and effective on April 1, 2020?
Employees should refer to UT System’s Coronavirus Leave Guide for detailed guidance on the FFCRA.
When primary/secondary schools and/or childcare centers are closed, can employees who are parents or caregivers take time off from work to care for family members impacted by the school closure?
If possible, the employee could telecommute according to System Administration guidelines.
If the employee cannot work or telecommute due to school closures or the unavailability of childcare, the employee may be eligible to use paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or may use accrued vacation or compensatory time. Employees should refer to UT System’s Coronavirus Leave Guide for detailed guidance.
If an employee is confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in the course and scope of employment, is the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?
Any UT employee who believes he or she has suffered an on-the-job injury or illness should contact their WCI Representative to report the injury or illness.
Will UT SELECT provide coverage for COVID-19? What out-of-pocket costs should a member expect to pay?
- Effective immediately, the UT SELECT, and UT CONNECT plan will not require prior authorization and will waive member copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles associated with testing for COVID-19 when medically necessary and consistent with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.
- With regard to treatment for COVID-19, UT SELECT and UT CONNECT will cover medically necessary services at 100%including network physician services, hospitalization, and emergency services.
- No primary care physician copayment will apply for medically necessary COVID-19 treatment delivered to a patient who may be quarantined under CDC guidelines in a setting other than inpatient.
- For specific questions about your UT SELECT coverage, members should call your Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Advocate at 866-882-2034. For UT CONNECT please contact the CONNECT customer service team at 888-399-8889.
- Telemedicine and telehealth visits for medical and behavioral health care will now be covered for patients seeking non-COVID-19 related care through their providers office. A copayment will apply. This will assist our members to maintain social distancing and stay-in-place requirements.
- Virtual doctor visits through MDLIVE continue to be available with no out-of-pocket costs and can be used when appropriate.
- Members seeking step down post-acute medical care will not be required to obtain a prior authorization prior to moving to post-acute care. This allows hospitals to move and clear non-COVID-19 patients appropriately and timely. Prior Authorization continues to be required for behavioral health post-acute care.
- Any person experiencing illness should contact their doctor or MDLIVE.
- Should members need to access an early refill of prescription medication, they may do so through their UT SELECT and UT CONNECT prescription benefits. Express Scripts, our pharmacy benefit manager, has lifted the “refill too soon” limitations to accommodate early refills for prescription medications up to a 90-day supply.
- All other UT Benefits programs will continue to operate according to the plan specifications outlined here. This includes dental, vision, Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability and Life Insurance. For disability and life insurance purposes, COVID-19 will be considered just as any other illness.
Does UT System plan to provide COVID vaccines or will we need to receive one from an approved provider?
There is not currently a plan to provide COVID-19 vaccines. If you are a member of the UT SELECT health plan, the plan will pay for any COVID-19 treatment, including vaccines. Providers may be located through the Blue Cross and Blue Shield provider link.