How Austin-area colleges and universities are protecting against coronavirus

Coronavirus
University of Texas at Austin fountain

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the world continues to grapple with how to address the outbreak of respiratory disease caused by novel coronavirus, colleges and universities are reassessing travel protocols and planning for how to prevent potential spread of the virus on campuses.

Many Austin-area colleges and universities have created web pages to specifically address this risk.

All the institutions KXAN heard from Wednesday are trying to educate their campus communities about the symptoms of and preventative measures to guard against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Additionally, all the institutions KXAN heard from said they are monitoring the latest developments of COVID-19 as well as the latest recommendations from local, state, and national government entities.

As the disease continues to spread in the U.S. and internationally, Austin-area health officials said Wednesday that “today, the threat of community spread in Austin is low.”

The University of Texas at Austin

  • UT Austin has a web page breaking down information related to coronavirus.
  • The university says no University Health services patients have met the criteria for coronavirus testing. They explain that if a COVID-19 case was confirmed on campus, those who have had close contact with the patient will be monitored by Austin Public Health.
  • Students, faculty, staff, and visitors returning from CDC Level 2 (Japan) and 3 (China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea) Travel advisory locations for coronavirus (including airport layovers) will be required to self isolate for fourteen days before returning to campus — both for university-sponsored travel and personal travel. During isolation, these UT community members will be expected to report their health status daily to university health staff.
  • UT is canceling all study abroad programs for spring and summer 2020 to CDC Level 3 Countries. All undergraduate travel to CDC Level 3 countries is suspended
  • UT has placed Japan on the “restricted regions list” as high risk. All faculty, staff, or graduate students who want to go to restricted regions have to submit a request.
  • For those traveling over spring break, UT is advising precautions such as checking emails daily and traveling with key documents like a passport and health insurance information.
  • For campus community members who have visitors coming from a region under a travel advisory, UT says to reach out to their department or University Health Services for guidance
  • The Counseling and Mental Health Center will be available for students and the UT Employee Assistance program will be available for faculty and staff, both of which can arrange telecounseling appointments

Texas State University

  • Texas State has a webpage dedicated to the latest coronavirus information.
  • No cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Texas State community, the university says.
  • Last week, Texas State canceled study abroad programs in South Korea and Italy for the spring 2020 semester as well as programs in China for the summer of 2020.
  • University-sponsored travel to China, Iran, South Korea or Italy is not allowed at this time. Texas State University System actually has a policy that says the community is not allowed to travel to regions with a U.S. Department of State Level 3 or Level 4 advisory.
  • Faculty, staff, and students returning from countries with U.S. Department of State Level 3 or 4 warnings are required to self-quarantine for fourteen days before returning to campus.
  • Campus community members returning from countries with U.S. Department of State Level 2 warnings are recommended to self-monitor for fourteen days.
  • Students with extenuating circumstances that prevent them from traveling home for quarantine can be housed in an on-campus isolation facility. If their symptoms significantly worsen, they could then be transferred to a hospital.
  • Medical surveillance will be carried out each day at the Student Health Center to assess patients with fever or signs of illness.

Austin Community College

  • Austin Community College District has a webpage to inform ACC community members about the coronavirus.
  • ACC says there are no known COVID-19 cases or patients among ACC students, faculty, or staff.
  • ACC has an emergency management team who is monitoring the coronavirus situation.
  • The college will post reminders about washing hands as well as healthy habits to prevent the virus
  • ACC’s custodial staff is sanitizing facilities each day and night, including high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and handles.
  • Hand sanitation stations are already available on ACC campuses, but the college says more will be set up across the district. ACC is also working to provide sanitizing wipes for computer keyboards.
  • The college is reminding community members who experience fever, cough, or difficulty breathing to contact their doctor and remain home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the help of medication.
  • No ACC international study abroad programs for the summer of 2020 are impacted but ACC is prepared to make adjustments if need be.
  • ACC says that at this time no additional or new evaluations are required related to admissions as a result of the coronavirus.
  • “At this time, ACC is not requiring additional testing for incoming students who have been living in areas impacted by COVID-19,” an ACC spokesperson wrote in an email. “The college follows all local, state, and federal health and safety procedures and protocols. ”
  • ACC is also not monitoring or restricting ACC community members’ travel at this time.
  • ACC says it does not have essential travel to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
  • “However, the college encourages anyone planning international travel to check the status of COVID-19 alerts and precautions at all destinations, including layovers, and continue to do so until their return,” an ACC spokesperson wrote in an email.

St. Edward’s University

  • St. Edward’s University sent out a release to the community on Monday related to coronavirus.
  • University study abroad programs in China and South Korea have been suspended for spring 2020. St. Edward’s says students in those programs have been redirected to other programs or have had their travel delayed for a later semester.
  • Due to travel warnings by the U.S. State Department for the Lombardy region of Italy, students studying abroad in Milan have been recalled from their study abroad travels.
  • A travel component of a graduate business program in Japan has been canceled, though the on-campus portion of the class will begin as scheduled.
  • All university-sponsored employee international travel planned for spring or summer 2020 will be reviewed to determine coronavirus impact in those places.
  • A St. Edward’s spokesperson explained that for all university-sponsored travel, the university is following the CDC recommendations and requiring that employees, staff, and students self-quarantine for two weeks following travel to countries with serious travel advisories related to coronavirus.
  • Student Health Insurance at St. Edward’s allows students access to telehealth resources.
  • St. Edward’s has a Risk and Emergency Management team that approves all campus-wide emergency plans and is communicating daily about the latest updates regarding coronavirus. This emergency management team has formed workgroups to talk about university business and study abroad programs. The emergency management team has also been talking about ways that employees may be able to work remotely or that students may be able to take classes remotely if necessary.
  • St. Edward’s is telling employees that they should not report for work if they have respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or body aches. Students who are ill with those symptoms are asked to contact their professors about finishing their work outside the classroom.

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