AUSTIN, Texas - Dr. Escott said he wanted UT students to make Austin different when it comes to college towns and COVID-19 breakouts across the nation. On Wednesday, he said he's disappointed with what he's seen so far.
"We need to do better,” Escott said. “We all have to be engaged in this mission together. We have to show that college students in Austin, Texas can be responsible as well."
Wednesday afternoon, the Austin Public Health meeting started with a call for action.
"We may be winning this battle, but the war is far from over,” Escott said. “We got a lot more work to do,"
Escott says he has confidence in students on campus, but also recognizes they are at a higher risk because of the close interaction students typically spend with one another.
"We can forego the usually customary things we do as college students - temporarily - while we fight this very dangerous pandemic," he said.
Classes for the University of Texas at Austin started on Wednesday and in a statement, the university said:
“We expect all UT students and community members to follow social distancing protocols, wear masks as required and recognize their deep responsibility in protecting the health of the campus and the greater Austin community.
The students who were in the photo on social media put themselves and others at risk and should get tested through the university’s Proactive Community Testing program. We are reaching out to the advisors and national offices of the groups whose members were at the gathering to reinforce our expectations and will continue to look to the City of Austin to enforce its orders on public gatherings.”
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden says it's possible to see a spike, or at least a cluster, of cases from students returning. "We are expecting to see an increase, it is just the nature of as you open things up," she said.
College students weren't the only students Dr. Escott focused on though. His recommendation to only open schools at 25% capacity come September 8th for in-person learning still stands.
"We want to ensure the schools, the staff, and the students orient themselves to the new policies in place that make it safe," he said.
He says that, similar to universities, he's not telling them to replace the social aspect of learning and being around friends -- just make it safer.
"They have to social distance, they have to mask - they can still get together in groups, but they have to be safe," Escott said.
If these guidelines are met and followed, Austin/Travis County could possibly see itself in stage two by the middle or end of September.
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