Colleges Implement New Protocols As Students Return Amid Pandemic

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As some colleges across the nation reverse course and switch from in-person to virtual classes amid a spike in coronavirus cases, a North Texas university is urging students to take personal responsibility seriously.

In a message to students this week from TCU’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Kathy Cavins-Tull encouraged students to "take their lesson seriously and do everything we can to protect an on-campus experience".

The Code of Student Conduct applies on and off-campus, Cavins-Tull wrote. The university expects students to comply with all health and safety protocols.

“Physical distancing, mask-wearing, daily health checks and other prevention methods are not optional. Importantly, gatherings of 10 or more are not permitted,” the message said in part. “In summary, do not attend parties. Do not host parties. Do not come to class if you feel sick. Wear a face covering. Hold your friends and peers accountable for the health of our community. I know some of these are easier said than done. But we need you to step up and model responsible behaviors that #ProtectThePurple.”

Over the summer, the university launched a public health campaign and a “Protect the Purple” pledge campaign urging students to protect themselves and others.

The message sent this week went on to say if TCU faces a significant coronavirus outbreak on campus, they will have to make “swift decisions” about their current learning environment.

Classes began on Monday. As of Thursday, the university is reporting 55 active cases of COVID-19. This includes both direct and indirect on-campus impact, referring to whether or not the person was on the TCU campus within two days of symptom onset or receiving a positive test.

TCU junior Hannah Rice said the protocols are a wake-up call for students to take the virus seriously.

“I know a couple of people just through mutual friends who have gotten it already and school’s only not even a week in. It’s a little nerve-wracking and it’s just a lot more real to think about,” Rice said. “Just because we’re kind of in this bubble of being in college and on campus, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us the same.”

At the University of North Texas in Denton, school officials say they are focused on offering in-person experiences as much as possible while still providing a safe environment during the global pandemic.

Classes begin on Monday. Their latest COVID-19 case counter shows a total of seven active cases, with most being employees. A virtual town hall was held in early August prior to students moving in.

“This next month may be the important and challenging month in our history,” campus president Neal Smatresk said. “We face uncertainties around enrollment, the next round of stimulus funding and of course, the changing impacts of covid and the pandemic around north Texas.”

According to the university’s protocols, face coverings are required inside buildings at UNT with the exception of being alone in an office and when within six feet of others outdoors. UNT is also requiring the use of face coverings by all community in public settings outside, especially where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

At Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth, all students are required to complete an online daily screening COVID-19 symptoms prior to leaving home or their room in the residence hall, including checking their temperatures. Students are also required to wear masks or face coverings in all public spaces and spaces used by multiple people. 

On Thursday, Texas A&M announced the launch of a COVID-19 Random Testing Program (RTP) that will begin on Friday, Aug. 21.

The school sent a memo to students alerting them that they will be randomly chosen and notified to set up a COVID-19 test.

"The RTP is a critical part of the Texas A&M campus protection strategies. It is a time-sensitive process, so it is important that you respond by scheduling your test within 48 hours of receiving the email if you are selected," the memo states.

Schools officials said they are hoping to understand how the novel coronavirus is affecting campus by actively looking for where the virus might be hiding and where it might be moving.

It will also help to identify transmission hotspots and clusters of infections, using real-time analytic strategies and rapid campus communications, according to school officials.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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