Spring 2022 operations largely determined by Public Health Task Force recommendations

Gauri Raje, News Editor

UTSA’s Public Health Task Force serves the primary goal of “[helping the University’s] tactical teams as they explore how best to protect the health of the UTSA community” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Public Health Task Force include UTSA faculty, as well as representatives from UTSA’s Student Government Association, Faculty Senate and Staff Senate. 

According to Dr. Lynne Cossman, co-chair of the Public Health Task Force and Dean of the College for Health Community and Policy, the main job of the task force is to make “recommendations for public health practices and policies that will best protect the UTSA community,” in light of the pandemic. Relevant recommendations are taken into consideration when deciding on University operations, as was the case for both the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters. 

“The PHTF works closely with the UT System, the State of Texas and public health expert advisors to develop standards and practices specific to UTSA’s operations and needs, including guidance for personal protective equipment, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and more,” Cossman explained. 

The Task Force’s recommendations are based on the state of the pandemic both as it relates to San Antonio and on a national level.

“As part of its role, the Public Health Task Force provides guidance based on real-time public health conditions,” Cossman said. “Recommendations are created on the ground, by working and communicating closely with local public health partners including Metro Health San Antonio, colleagues at UT Health San Antonio, and the UTSA Public Health Expert Advisory Group, and by leveraging the latest guidance from UT System, the state and the Centers for Disease Control. These recommendations are presented to the university’s senior leadership for consideration or further recommendation.” 

While the Public Health Task Force provides recommendations about the best way to conduct university operations, UTSA’s Recovery Operations Team implements these recommendations.

According to Cossman, the Recovery Operations Team is tasked with “operationalizing and implementing the PHTF’s recommendations once they have been approved by university leadership.”

“The Recovery Operations team…implements…[recommended] practices by coordinating the operations necessary to make them happen — for example, by organizing on-campus COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, working with UTSA Facilities to distribute PPE to departments, and managing COVID Case Reporting and contact tracing,” Cossman said. 

Given how the two teams’ work relates, members of both teams, along with external advisors, conduct biweekly meetings to provide “time-sensitive recommendations based on current public health circumstances.”

The Public Health Task Force and Recovery Operations Team, along with other relevant university officials, work to develop and implement recommendations that directly affect UTSA’s operations. 

Cossman explained that several factors went into determining the best way to conduct operations for the Spring 2022 semester as well. 

“A variety of key indicators were considered when determining the need to adjust modalities at the start of the spring 2022 semester. University leadership reviewed feedback from UT System, the Public Health Task Force, the public health expert advisory group, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, the Student Government Association and more,” Cossman said. “Based on public health models, the rising number of cases caused by the Omicron variant, and risk patterns associated with the current COVID-19 surge in San Antonio, UTSA ultimately determined that a change in modalities would help safeguard the health of the campus community and mitigate the spread of cases among our Roadrunners.”