The University of Texas at Austin has announced several short-term changes are needed as students and faculty start the spring semester.
According to the university, the campus will remain open, but officials are taking action in several areas to manage density and reduce additional virus transmission.
University officials are asking faculty members to teach remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, with a target date of Jan. 31 to return to the originally assigned teaching modality.
Some faculty may choose to teach in person, while also providing online delivery between Jan. 18 and Jan. 28, the university said.
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The university said students will be notified as soon as possible if any of their courses will be taught with an in-person option.
By Jan. 31, officials said they do not expect that online delivery will be provided for classes listed as in-person or hybrid in the course schedule. Students will be expected to be present for all in-person activities.
According to the university, if a student must miss class for health reasons, the student will need to make up missed work using standard procedures and resources, including student emergency services.
Students who are enrolled in classes that include clinical placements external to UT Austin will be contacted by their schools or colleges regarding expectations during the first two weeks of the semester, the university said.
UT Austin said it encourages students to gradually return to campus leading up to Jan. 31. All students returning to campus for the spring semester should receive a viral test within 72 hours prior to returning to campus or the surrounding community for in-person social activities, events or classes.
Students who will be living in on-campus residence halls, including Dobie, or 2400 Nueces have received a message on a separate process for testing and should refer to that guidance, UT Austin said.
The university said students are also recommended to do routine testing with the UT Proactive Community Testing program throughout the semester.
Residence halls and dining services will be open to accommodate students who want to return earlier to campus on Jan. 14. Study spaces on the second floor of Perry-Castañeda Library will also be available, the university said.
According to UT Austin, unit leadership will work with staff members to determine the level of staffing needed to continue operations and serve the university through Jan. 30, after which the university expects to return to the original plans for the spring semester.
University employees are also encouraged to test via any method that is most convenient before returning to campus. Free testing will continue to be available on campus, which allows the university to reach out quickly to contacts of infected individuals to help stop the spread of the virus, UT Austin said.
The university said employees should report to the Occupational Health Program if they have tested positive, have symptoms of COVID-19 even if you test negative, or if you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
The Office of the Vice President for Research is reaching out separately to associate deans for research, principal investigators, researchers, and graduate students about research laboratories and research facilities.
There will be no change in the Research Restart level or in density requirements at this time, but PIs are encouraged to arrange for a portion of their group to work remotely through the end of the month to allow for a more gradual increase in the laboratory occupancy, the university said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shortened isolation and quarantine guidance for the public.
Your vaccination status determines your guidelines, and you should also note the differences in restrictions for those who are boosted or within two to six months of their primary series, depending on vaccine brand, UT Austin said.
University officials said they continue to recommend wearing masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
The best way to prevent getting the virus and spreading it to others is getting vaccinated or boosted if you are eligible, UT Austin said. The university offers free vaccinations for students, faculty and staff through three locations: University Health Services, UT Health Austin, and the Family Wellness Clinic.
The university said it plans to offer additional pop-up opportunities to receive a booster at the start of the semester.
UT Austin said individuals should minimize gatherings in small, confined spaces for meals or meetings.
Events should be held online or outdoors whenever possible until Jan. 31. If an event must stay indoors, please be mindful of the masking recommendations and consider a larger space to allow for social distancing.
Decisions about whether to go forward with events will be made by college, school or unit leadership, UT Austin said.