AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Texas at Austin has announced that it is requesting students to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus for the fall semester.
Interim President Jay Hartzell announced the requirement along with other updates in a letter to the UT community on Wednesday.
"As we plan and prepare for the fall, the university is continuing to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Austin, throughout Texas and across the country," said Hartzell in the letter. "Our goal is to create a safer environment for learning, teaching and research on campus, and that means some students, faculty and staff will remain at home and learn and work online in the fall."
Students are asked to stay in their homes and limit in-person interactions as much as possible for two weeks before coming to Austin. UT Austin says that if quarantining at home is not possible, students can quarantine for up to 14 days before their first on-campus activity once they arrive in Austin. Those already in Austin are asked to quarantine in their home for 14 days before the start of classes or their first on-campus activity.
UT Austin is also developing a Protect Texas Together app for students, faculty and staff to track their symptoms each day, which would indicate whether they are cleared to come to campus, with a proposed launch date of mid-August.
"The app is being designed with privacy in mind," says Hartzell in the letter. "Members of the UT research community have been voluntarily using the beta version of the app to help us learn and troubleshoot so that we can make it as effective as possible."
According to Hartzell, the app will do the following:
- Users can track their symptoms each day and the app will provide a daily campus pass for those without any major COVID-19 symptom
- If the app’s algorithm determines that an individual may have COVID-19 based on the symptoms selected, the app will decline to provide a pass and instead direct the user to either University Health Services or UT Health Austin for guidance or testing. Faculty and staff members can also go to the provider of their choice.
- Users can note their location when they enter or exit any campus room or office. For those using the app, this can replace filling out a room’s paper sign-in sheet and help keep an accurate log of campus activity so the university can quickly identify spaces that might need to be decontaminated or closed if someone later tests positive for COVID-19.
- There will be app-specific QR codes posted outside many campus buildings. If your room has a QR code, you can quickly scan that instead of manually entering your room number into the app.
- Additionally, ITS is developing a call-based app to accommodate users who do not have smartphones or computer access.
Hartzell also reminded UT community members and visitors that they will be required to wear recommended protective face masks at all times when inside university buildings except:
- When alone in a private office.
- When alone — or with a roommate — in an assigned residence hall room
- When eating and drinking while practicing social distancing — including in a campus dining facility
- When an alternative has been approved as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act or religious observance accommodation processes
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Hartzell says that for those who continue putting the community at risk with their behavior, corrective, disciplinary and enforcement action may be taken in accordance with the university’s guidelines for faculty, staff and students.
Students who refuse to follow directives to wear a mask — and force class to be canceled with this refusal — will be referred to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action. Repeat violations will lead to sanctions including suspension from campus.
Hartzell says in the letter that the university has been exploring a range of scenarios surrounding crowd attendance for upcoming football games at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, with a maximum occupancy of up to 50% crowd capacity. However, according to Hartzell, Kevin Eltife, Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, has requested that the university continue to review its policies and specifically explore the logistics, health and safety effects of crowds at 25% capacity, including students.
"The analysis of this new crowd size target is a reflection of the consistent change and uncertainty that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic. As rates in Austin and throughout Texas continue to ebb and flow, we must be agile and work consistently to develop strategies to protect the safety of our student athletes, coaches, staff members, students and all who visit our campus for athletic events," says Hartzell. "As we approach the start of the football season, we will closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and make final decisions based on the guidance of our Board of Regents and state health officials in the coming weeks."
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.