Universities Continue to Monitor COVID-19, as Some Report Growing Number of Cases

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Universities across the country, including North Texas, continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 as some report a growing number of cases.

Texas Christian University officials are reporting 360 total active cases of the virus as of Thursday with the majority of those cases being students.

The total active case count one week ago was 55.

“A lot of people just aren’t wearing masks when they’re walking around and stuff, which I get. It’s hot here, but it sucks for people who are trying to stay on campus,” TCU freshman Kate Builleumier told NBC 5.

According to the university dashboard, there have been 641 positive cases reported since March 2020 and 280 recovered cases. In a statement regarding the recent case increases, TCU vice-chancellor for student affairs Kathy Cavins-Tulls said the university is ‘dedicated to supporting a healthy community’ and following CDC guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“We are proactively testing, contact tracing and providing student support, as well as monitoring multiple aspects affecting the health of our community in partnership with Tarrant County Public Health. We identify positive cases that are connected by events, organizations or frequent close contact through contact tracing. Our plan takes an aggressive stance on prevention measures by asking our community to be tested, take classes online and quarantine or isolate as necessary.” the statement read. “TCU’s COVID-19 reporting has been consistent and transparent since the pandemic began its aggressive U.S. spread in March 2020. It is our goal as a community to keep our students, faculty and staff safe, and continue our prevention and mitigation efforts.”

The university’s FAQ portion of the website was updated this week, including a question pertaining to what factors could result in TCU moving fully online.

“The TCU Health center stands ready to test, treat and conduct contact tracing for our students; as well as support students in quarantine or isolation. A combination of multiple factors could result in the TCU experience moving fully online. Factors include but are not limited to the number of active cases on campus,  isolation capacity, local hospital and ventilator capacity and other factors and information from state and federal health authorities,” the answer portion reads. “Our connected campus experience means that all courses allow for maximum flexibility and readiness should the campus have to move all online.”

Students NBC 5 spoke with said most of their classes are already online. Freshman Kimball Gogel said she would not mind taking all of her classes online, but she remains hopeful.

“I’m actually really happy I have two in person classes, because that’s why I’m here. To take classes,” Gogel said.

Like TCU, officials at Southern Methodist University in Dallas say there is not one item alone that would drive decisions related to university operations. Dianne Anderson with SMU’s marketing and communications department said they use an assessment tool,  which helps guide discussions and decisions related to the appropriate level of campus operations.

The university has 23 active cases as of Thursday, according to Anderson.

“It includes factors such as the number of cases and positivity rate for Dallas County and SMU, student isolation capacity on campus, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the current state guideline,” Anderson wrote in an email.

This week, SMU launched two new tools to assist in contact tracing efforts. One of the tools is a daily symptom tracker while the other works similar to a personal location diary.

Both are optional, according to Curt Herridge with SMU’s data and application services team.

“It runs on your phone in the background and records your location but sends it nowhere. It sends it to no one or any other place until you might test positive. If you test positive, then you have the option to upload it to a contact tracer confidentially,” Herridge said, referring to the second tool. “These tools can certainly make it easier to track and to have a better understanding of active cases versus non-active cases and track over time with trends.”

At Texas Wesleyan University, President Fred Slabach confirmed they have had five reported COVID-19 cases in the campus community. That figure is compromised of four students and one employee.

Classes are currently “hybrid style”, meaning those which are held three times a week are now meeting twice a week in person and virtually once a week.

“Our small class sizes allow us to maintain social distancing in in-person classes and all students, faculty and staff are required to wear a mask when on campus. We’ve also converted larger spaces that were not previously used for classes into classrooms and study hall spaces, and added a large outdoor dining area to make social distancing that much easier,” Slabach wrote in an email. “Any decision we make is done so with the health of our students, faculty and staff as our top priority and will utilize the advice of public health professionals. If there is a sudden spike in cases, university leadership will meet to determine the best course of action.”

Nationwide, some schools have announced their decision to switch to all-virtual classes. This includes UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame, and Michigan State University.

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

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