AUSTIN, Texas - College campuses are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases as classes get underway, including the University of Texas at Austin which reported 85 new cases since Monday.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to the university to find out where the students who tested positive were staying, but officials did not answer any questions about which residence halls may have been affected.
Students said it's that same lack of communication that has them concerned and that's why they are petitioning the university for more transparency.
"Maybe we shouldn't be here, maybe they shouldn't have opened campus in the first place," said Yliana Roland, who created the petition after learning someone in her residence hall may have tested positive for COVID-19.
Roland said she knew it was inevitable that COVID-19 cases would pop up once the university opened back up this fall, but she didn't know how many people would follow safety guidelines, how quickly the virus would spread or how much information she would receive from university officials.
"There needs to be notice, there needs to be transparency, especially with a health and safety issue like this," said Roland.
Just one week into the fall semester, there is an alarming trend when it comes to the number of positive test results; five were reported on Monday, 17 on Tuesday, 42 on Wednesday, and 11 on Thursday.
"I was actually speaking with my mother last night, I might end up having to go home, because she doesn't feel that it's safe here," Roland said.
In a statement, Chief Medical Officer at University Health Services, Dr. Terrance Hines writes,
"Some of these numbers reflect case increases the university anticipated as students arrived in Austin. The numbers also appear to reflect increased local transmission since the start of classes. This underscores how vital it is for all members of our community to comply with health protocols and with local and state orders on gatherings and social distancing. This is especially critical at this early stage in the semester and heading into the Labor Day weekend, as people make important health decisions about gathering with friends and family. Anyone who has had difficulty being consistent with safe social distancing, masking or other preventive measures should be especially cautious about visiting loved ones or other people vulnerable to the disease over the holiday.
We continue to urge students to take part in testing, contact tracing and quarantining or isolating to help us slow the spread of the virus. Testing on campus is offered at no cost to students, and it is one of the best ways they can help each other and our community. Any one of us can get and spread the virus, and every one of us can help fight it. We are safer when we work together as a community."
That's not enough information to silence UT students worried about their own health.
Roland said that's why she created the petition asking the university to contact all students and staff living in residence halls where positive cases have been identified. In just two days it already has more than 690 signatures.
"I don't want students to be scared, but, at the same time, they need to know the reality of the situation. You need to know the full gravity of the situation. We don't know where these cases originated. We don't know who has it," said Roland.
"We all use the same doorknobs, we all use the same elevators, same dining halls. If you have in-person classes, you're going to class with these kids. There needs to be transparency," she added.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.