AUSTIN, Texas - During an update at the Travis County Commissioners Court, Austin Public Health interim director Dr. Mark Escott said there has been a recent rise in COVID-19 cases among people between 10 and 29 years old.
Following reports of five large parties off campus on Saturday, one of which was shut down by the fire marshal, Escott said Austin Public Health met directly with West campus fraternities and sororities.
"What we really need is for young people to be more engaged in the prevention side, avoiding those large gatherings and ensuring their wearing masks and social distancing," said Escott.
Greek life at UT was warned, if they do throw parties of more than ten people, they could face criminal charges according to Escott. "If there’s a clear and present danger, the fire marshal or code will take further action," Escott said.
"It’s a legitimate concern, even though it’s not on campus, West campus is still a lively part of UT-Austin. We have sororities and fraternities out there, a lot of student housing, students live out there as well, so it’s a legitimate concern," said Devon Whitsel, a first-year student at UT who said the university has done a good job of taking precautions on campus.
Students said they haven't seen that many parties so far and they hope their classmates think twice before throwing or going to any large gatherings.
"It's not thoughtful to do it to people who maybe have underlying conditions or family members that they need to take care of, so just to be more cautious about different people's circumstances," said Brooklyn Johnson, a sophomore at UT.
Tuesday, UT offered community testing at a fraternity house off-campus for the first time. University officials said they will continue to seek out off-campus locations to make testing more available to students.
However, when it comes to enforcing rules off-campus, the university said that falls to the city.
"I’m not really sure what more they could do, considering things aren’t happening just on campus, and, I think maybe it would be an overstep if they were to discipline students for non-affiliated UT activities," said UT sophomore Adriana Taylor.
University officials said because of privacy laws they cannot disclose whether any students have been disciplined for not following Covid-19 guidelines. The university said they have been reaching out to property managers and student organizations anytime they learn about violations of state or local orders.