2 UT Austin students in on-campus dorms have COVID-19, university confirms

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Austin (KXAN) — Two students living in on-campus dormitories at the University of Texas at Austin have tested positive for COVID-19, the university confirms to KXAN.

This was first reported Monday morning by student newspaper the Daily Texan.

UT spokesperson J.B. Bird confirmed to KXAN that one of those students who tested positive resides in Jester Residence Hall and the other is a resident of San Jacinto Residence Hall.

A sign on a wall at UT Austin alerts students to COVID-19 rules and guidance the university has put in place to avoid the spread of the virus. . August 25, 2020. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

“Following our protocols, the individuals have been isolating and public health professionals have reached out to notify primary close contacts (those exposed for 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than six feet, per the CDC), advising them to get tested and self-quarantine,” Bird told KXAN.

He added that those who may have had casual or secondary contact with these positive cases are asked to self-monitor and keep social distancing. These casual or secondary contacts are also encouraged to sign up to get tested through UT’s free Proactive Community Testing. UT told KXAN last week that this proactive testing program has the ability to conduct 5,000 COVID-19 tests per week.

“The number of cases will continue to be updated on our COVID-19 dashboard and if isolated cases evolve into significant clusters, the information will be shared on our website.”

JB Bird, UT Austin spokesperson

For future positive cases, Bird advised KXAN that the public refer to UT’s COVID-19 dashboard as the university is not in a position to confirm individual cases. The dashboard indicates that since some in-person classes started back up on the university campus on August 26, five students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Two UT Austin students walk on campus on August 25, 2020, the day before classes start for the fall semester with some classes in person. These students are in Austin for the semester but they say they will mostly stay off campus except to go to the gym. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

The Daily Texan reported that University Housing and Dining notified at least two secondary contacts of the infected person who lives in San Jacinto dormitory on Friday evening, according to emails students provided to the newspaper.  The Texan reports that these secondary “casual contacts” were told to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, continue social distancing, and to take their temperature twice daily.  Close contacts of those who tested positive were advised to self-quarantine, according to the email.

The Texan also reported that recipients of the email were encouraged to sign up for a coronavirus saliva test through UT’s proactive community testing program, which is reserved for asymptomatic testing,

Bird said that the university has protocols for isolation in the event of positive cases and that the university has access to off-campus isolation facilities if needed.

UT Austin’s website states that people identified as close contacts of campus community members who tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 14 days and self-monitor. The university recommends that those in group housing situations get tested five to eight days after their exposure and should remain in quarantine for the full fourteen days even if they test negative for COVID-19.

first day of classes fall 2020 ut-austin
The first day of fall classes for the University of Texas at Austin was Wednesday. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)

The university advises those who test positive to continue to self-isolate for ten days after they were tested. If a person’s current housing situation does not allow them to isolate, there is an identified isolation facility where the person can be directed free of charge.

The fall semester started on Wednesday of last week at UT Austin with a  mix of online and on-campus course offerings for students. Students began moving into on-campus residence halls the week prior.

The very first group of students began arriving to on-campus residence halls on August 17. The university told  KXAN at the time that only about 4,500 undergraduate students would live on-campus during the fall semester.

UT projected some students would have COVID-19 at the start of the semester

The UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium released a report at UT Austin’s request on August 21 which projected that between 82 and 183 students would arrive on UT’s campus infected and contagious with COVID-19 on the first week of class. The researchers noted that the risks could be lower if the students completed the fourteen-day quarantine the university had recommended prior to attending on-campus activities. (KXAN Graphic/ Andy Davis).

On August 21, UT Austin’s own COVID-19 Modeling Consortium released a report projecting between 82 and 183 students would arrive on campus infected and contagious with COVID-19 during the first week of classes. 

Bird said that the timing of the two residence hall cases the university confirmed today “would suggest that they are consistent with the projections from that report,” indicating those students arrived on campus already contagious with the virus.

When KXAN first reported on that modeling of UT’s own COVID-19 risk, head for fall academic planning, Professor Art Markman, said “we knew coming into the year that there were going to be a certain number of students who were going to be sick and that’s why we put together the testing capacity and our ability to trace and isolate.”

In an August 21 report, UT’s COVID-19 modeling consortium estimated that the prevalence of COVID-19 among the UT Austin campus community would be higher than the prevalence of COVID-19 among the general population in Travis County by mid-August when classes began on campus. (KXAN Graphic/ Andy Davis).

UT COVID-19 dashboard

A screenshot of UT Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard as of noon CST on August 31, 2020.

UT Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates as of noon today that the university is aware of 304 total positive COVID-19 cases among students and 189 positive cases among faculty/ staff since March 1, 2020. These numbers are made up of both the clinical positive results from University Health Services and UT Health Austin testing, UT’s proactive community testing, and self-reported cases.

According to KXAN’s count of the UT COVID-19 dashboard at noon on Monday, since August 17 when students first began moving in onto campus, there have been documented positive COVID-19 cases in nine faculty/ staff and fourteen students.

A screenshot of UT Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard as of noon CST on August 31, 2020.

UT’s COVID-19 dashboard as of noon on Monday indicates that of the Proactive Community Testing the university is doing for COVID-19, only one person has tested positive for COVID-19 in the month of August out of the 1,189 tested during this month.

KXAN will be updating this developing story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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