AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, leaders from the University of Texas at Austin gave some new insight into its plans for the fall semester.
Interim President Jay Hartzell, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Jaffe, were joined by others to explain the latest on plans for on-campus COVID-19 testing and what in-person attendance will look like.
Hartzell explained that looking ahead to the fall semester, it appears about three-quarters of students have elected to attend online, 20% hybrid, and only 5% have elected to attend in-person — which he called “encouraging.”
Hartzell said this equals to about 45-50% of students who have elected to all-virtual learning. The school’s most recent count lists its total number of students as 51,832.
There are also a reduced number of students choosing to live on-campus, Jaffe explained.
On Tuesday, UT Austin announced its plans for “robust and rigorous” COVID-19 testing throughout the fall semester.
Plans for testing include:
- The university will have a goal of testing up to 5,000 community members each week
- Reliance on in-house testing capabilities
- Having the capacity to test hundreds of symptomatic students each day using in-house labs
- Using three rapid testing machines to administer about 100 tests per day with 15-minute turnaround time for results
“Everyone’s trying to scramble, and the semester is about to start in about three weeks, so they’re doing the best that they can,” said Siarah Mazariegos, an incoming sophomore who elected to have all of her classes online this fall.
While there isn’t a number of cases that would automatically trigger a shutdown of the campus, UT leaders said a shutdown could be warranted if the university lost control of testing and contact tracing efforts or if the activity on campus was having a negative impact on the broader community.
Testing for those who are sick
UT students who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms can schedule tests with University Health Services.
Faculty and staff who are exhibiting symptoms will be able to schedule tests with UT Health Austin.
On July 29, the university announced a handful of changes that included a request students self-quarantine for 14 days before travelling to campus, along with face covering requirements that carry a penalty if violated repeatedly by students.
The university, through an agreement between Dell Medical School and Austin Public Health, will contact trace for UT community members who test positive.
Art Markman, UT Professor of Psychology, says that an in-person student testing positive would not necessarily trigger a shutdown of the school unless it posed a threat to the larger Austin community.
Proactive Community Testing
UT’s Proactive Community Testing program will offer testing to asymptomatic individuals that the university will reach out to for test taking. Requests to participate in this program will not be accepted.
Fall semester precautions
UT previously announced steps it’s taking ahead of its fall semester, including face covering requirements.
The face covering requirement states masks must be worn at all times except for:
- When alone in a private office.
- For students, 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.
The university also encourages masks to be worn outdoors around campus.
Students that refuse to wear a mask, and cause a class to be canceled, will be referred to the student conduct office within the Dean of Students Office for reprimand, the school states.