AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Texas at Austin is requesting students self-quarantine for two weeks before returning to campus this upcoming semester.
This comes after The New York Times published a survey analyzing COVID-19 cases reported by 6,300 college campuses. It listed UT Austin as having more reported cases than any other college in the nation.
Wednesday, UT reported there have been 456 total positive cases since March 1. That number includes students, faculty and staff tested on campus and off campus as well as self-reported results.
There’s only about one month to go before the university welcomes some students back for the fall semester. Still, concerns over how to keep COVID-19 from spreading have yet to go away.
Pat Heintzelman, President of the Texas Faculty Association, is pleading for the governor to delay in-person learning at college campuses until September.
“We’re scared. We’re going to be in a petri-dish with people, who are asymptomatic, who are going to walk into the classroom, either faculty or students,” said Heintzelman.
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UT officials said the university will continue online learning for some students, faculty and staff this fall semester. Any courses that will not be available remotely will be limited to 40 percent occupancy.
Everyone at UT Austin will be required to wear face masks in campus buildings when not alone, eating or drinking, or in their dorm room. Disciplinary action can be taken if students refuse to wear masks in classrooms.
The university is also working on an app called “Protect Texas Together” to help students and faculty track COVID-19 symptoms. The app will provide campus passes to students who do not have any major symptoms. It will also note their location when they enter or exit rooms, for contact tracing and disinfecting purposes.
Heintzelman said it would be better to have students and faculty tested before allowing them on campus.
“We care about our students, we care about each other. That we might not know until somebody gets sick enough that actually goes to get tested and then has exposed so many people, and it’s like putting a cruise ship down in the middle of the campus,” Heintzelman said.
University officials said they are also looking at limiting capacity at DKR Memorial Stadium during college football games. Originally they announced attendance could reach 50 percent capacity, now they will said scaling it down to 25 percent is also on the table. A final decision is expected in a few weeks.
“Quite frankly, I think it’s going to be a struggle for us to even allow teams to play on a field without the crowd. I think introducing the idea of having 50,000 people in one space is a bit of a reach right now. I think it’s not really living in the realm of reality for what we’re likely to experience this fall,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim public health authority for the City of Austin.
Without a good idea whether the fall will see a second wave of COVID-19 cases, the university will end on campus learning two days before Thanksgiving this year. Students will attend classes remotely for the remainder of the semester.
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