UT students fear greater spread in densely-packed West Campus

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Texas students living in the West Campus area want to know how to protect themselves as their neighborhood has become a COVID-19 hotspot.

The 78705 zip code, which includes West Campus, has the most cases of any other zip code in Travis County.

The inflated number is largely because 49 students tested positive for the virus after returning from a trip to Cabo San Lucas in mid-March.

The university says 211 students traveled to the destination during Spring Break, with most of them on a trip provided through the travel company JusCollege.

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One student tells KXAN she found out only recently through social media that several of the infected students were living in her apartment complex.

“I know that my neighbors have it. And so it’s very concerning and confusing that if I want to leave my building, I have to walk down the hall and down the elevator and through the lobby,” said the student, who identified herself as Lauren.

She says her apartment management never sent out details about the sick students, efforts to clean the building’s common areas, or how neighbors could protect themselves.

“To not hear that we have active cases in our building and not know what’s being done, preventative measures, what precautions we should take — all of that would be very helpful,” Lauren told KXAN by phone.

KXAN has been looking into how off-student housing companies are protecting students during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Twenty-three percent of students who went to Cabo San Lucas on Spring Break have tested positive for COVID-19.

The school says that number could increase, as not all of the students have been tested.

UT says those students were expected to isolate for seven days and at least two days after symptoms were gone.

For those who tested negative or were asymptomatic, they would need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

A UT spokesperson tells KXAN, “the university relies on students and their families to act responsibly in matters of personal, non-university-sponsored travel.”

KXAN contacted several student apartments in the West Campus area for this story, including Lauren’s.

KXAN Investigators asking about how they’re distributing information to their tenants to help keep them safe. Updates will be shared as they come in.

Since last week, KXAN has also reached out to dozens of people believed to be involved in the trip — but so far, none have been in contact.

Lauren says many of the students who went aren’t saying much because of the public blowback.

She says many vacation posts on social media have been taken down.

“People are definitely not proud now to be going on vacation during this. So posts have been deleted.”

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