AUSTIN (KXAN) — College students are heading back to Central Texas universities for the fall semester.

With a surge in cases not just in Austin but around the state, there is concern about how COVID-19 will impact the community as a whole.

Texas State University

In a little over a week, relaxing days under the sun near the San Marcos River will be replaced by studying in classrooms at Texas State for Faith and Saylor Green.

“It’s been about a year since I’ve been back on campus,” Faith said.

“Is everything going to get shut down again? It’s been a big worry for me and one of the big reasons I’ve decided to get vaccinated,” Saylor said.

For them, testing is still key, but they said it hasn’t been easy finding them.

“Our dad had a scare when we were moving in a couple of days ago, and I was trying to find him a place to get tested, and it was so hard,” Faith explained.

A solution now they are on campus: Texas State’s PCR testing through Curative.

The university said it is requiring all students moving into on-campus housing to get a COVID-19 test before move-in. Students will report to a central check-in location on campus and show university staff a copy of their negative test result prior to being approved for move-in. 

For students who are unable to get a COVID-19 test before move-in, the university will provide rapid antigen testing while supplies last. Students with a negative rapid antigen test will be allowed to move in. Students with a positive rapid antigen test will be told to isolate and arrange for a confirmatory PCR test.

Texas State University has free COVID-19 PCR testing available on campus through Curative, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Curative told KXAN it has seen a 635% increase over the last four weeks at its Austin area and Texas regional sites.

The company says it has scaled up in its labs and sites in anticipation of the surge of the recent COVID-19 variants. As it has scaled up, staff has not seen any major backlogs in labs or sites. Test results from the sites are delivered directly to patients within 24-48 hours upon receipt at the labs, according to the company.

For more on Texas State’s protocols, click here.

University of Texas at Austin

KXAN spoke to researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, who say vaccination numbers are critical to forecasting what we’ll see.

“As you increase vaccination rates, you are at a much lower risk of having these larger outbreaks, and we are much more likely to have fewer infections on campus,” said Kaitlyn Johnson, postdoctoral researcher with the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Researchers estimate between 46% and 64% of UT students will have been fully vaccinated by Aug. 25, 2021. They also project:

  • There will be between 187 and 236 infected UT students in Austin during the first week of the semester
  • If 60% of students are vaccinated by August 25, then proactive testing of unvaccinated students two times per week is recommended.
  • If 80% of students are vaccinated, then symptomatic testing alone should help prevent the epidemic from exceeding the highest risk threshold.
  • If 60% of students living in UT residence halls are vaccinated and UT does not require proactive testing, then they project a peak occupancy of 13 to 45 students requiring an isolation room in a single day. If 80% are vaccinated, then the estimated peak demand decreases to between 2 and 11 students simultaneously requiring isolation.

Researchers said the projections show it is necessary for students to continue testing prior to returning to campus, wearing masks, social distancing, frequent testing throughout the semester and self-isolation when they show symptoms.