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'Protect Texas Together' | University of Texas at Austin releases fall 2020 COVID-19 plan

The updated plan comes after the school asked students to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.

AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas leaders gave an updated plan for the 2020 fall semester on Aug. 4, addressing the guidance and principles for students and staff during the coronavirus pandemic. 

UT President Jay Hartzell said nearly 45% to 50% of students elected for exclusively online classes. 

In terms of COVID-19 testing, UT officials said they intend to test nearly 5,000 UT community members per week and said the university's proactive community testing would be free to students and faculty. 

UT officials said the university had also purchased three new rapid testing machines with the ability to turn nearly 100 tests per day with a turnaround time of only 15 minutes.

Fall semester enrollment numbers won't be released until after the twelfth class day, but Hartzell said he was optimistic about enrollment, even calling it "robust" for this time of the year.

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A look at the fall 2020 semester

The fall 2020 semester will start Aug. 26 and in-person instruction will end Nov. 24, two days before Thanksgiving. Most students will attend classes remotely for the remainder of the semester. Students may choose to spend their semester fully remotely. 

Classes will be more evenly distributed throughout the day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to UT's plan. UT said rooms will be assigned to classes so that when all students registered for that class attend, no more than 40% of seats in that classroom will be occupied. 

Wearing masks will be mandatory except when alone in a private office, eating in a campus dining facility, or in a residence hall, according to UT's safety guidelines. Wearing recommended protective face masks outdoors will also be encouraged, UT said. Staff members who are able to perform their job duties from home will continue to do so into the fall with the approval of their managers. 

The updated plan comes days after the university said students would have to quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus and prohibiting parties on and off-campus. The request is part of the universities' plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus as students return.

Staying healthy on UT campus

Wearing a mask at all times when inside university buildings will be mandatory. Wearing a mask while outdoors will be encouraged. 

UT students will use the daily symptom screening tool on the Protect Texas Together app, to be launched by mid-August, before going to class. 

And if you are a UT student exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, you will be able to schedule a test with University Health Services. UHS will bill individual’s insurance plans for this clinical testing, and most insurance plans, including the Academic Blue student health insurance plan, fully cover the cost of testing for symptomatic individuals. For uninsured students tested at UHS, the university is subsidizing the costs for the tests so there is no out-of-pocket expense. If a student tests positive for COVID-19 at a testing facility that is not UHS, the university recommends they share this information with UHS. 

Counseling, support groups, workshops and recreational opportunities will be offered to help students cope with the stressors caused by COVID-19. 

Students looking for more information can visit the students and families section on UT's website here.

How faculty will need to adjust

UT said instructors who have strong preferences about their teaching mode, such as in-person, online, hybrid or schedule preferences will work with their department. Faculty members may choose to hold office hours on campus while adhering to campus safety guidelines. Space that is too small to be used as a classroom is an alternative for in-person office hours. Faculty members should also hold virtual office hours via phone or Zoom if they or students are unable to come to campus. 

Instructors can end a class in which students are present who are not wearing recommended protective face masks and refuse to leave, UT said. Instructors can refer to student violations to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity to initiate the discipline process.

Faculty with a medical condition or other risk factor placing them at high risk for COVID-19 can request a reasonable accommodation using the Americans with Disabilities Act process. Faculty who already have a written arrangement with their department chair to teach online do not need to go through this process. All others can request this accommodation through the Employee Accommodation Request Form. Faculty will use the daily symptom screening tool on the university’s Protect Texas Together app, to be launched by mid-August, before leaving for campus. And if you are a UT faculty member exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, you will be able to schedule a test with UT Health Austin. You can also arrange a test with the health care provider of your choice. UT Health Austin (UTHA) will bill an individual’s insurance plan for this clinical testing, and most insurance plans, including the UT Select employee insurance plan, fully cover the cost of testing for symptomatic individuals. For employees who are uninsured, UTHA will explore the use of federal programs, if available, to help cover the cost. If a faculty member has symptoms or is being tested for COVID-19, they should report that result to the Occupational Health Program. Instructors who have a household member who is in a CDC high-risk group and from whom they cannot maintain social distance will be able to seek flexible teaching arrangements using the Faculty Flexible Teaching Modality Arrangement for COVID Request Form. 

Faculty looking for more information can visit the faculty tab on UT's Protect Texas Together page here.

What UT Austin campus visitors need to know

UT said campus buildings are closed to almost all visitors. When the university reopens in the fall, visitors will be required to comply with the same social distancing and masking requirements as students, staff and faculty. All visitors must wear a recommended protective face mask, covering both the nose and mouth at all times when inside university buildings. Those who enter a campus building and refuse to wear a recommended face covering will be asked to leave. 

No guests will be allowed in university-owned residence halls, according to UT's fall guidelines.

RELATED: 

Here's what Texas Longhorns game days will look like this season; UT releases COVID-19 safety guidelines

UT Austin prohibits parties, on or off campus, for fall semester

According to a new report by the New York Times, UT has had more COVID-19 cases reported than any other university in the U.S. 

UT Austin is also working on developing an app for students, faculty and staff to track their symptoms each day and – based on those symptoms – indicate whether they are cleared to come to campus. The Protect Texas Together app will officially launch in mid-August and will help contact trace positive cases using a QR code system, UT said.

All UT community members will be required to wear face masks at all times indoors, except when alone in a private office, when alone or with a roommate in a residence hall room or when eating or drinking while social distancing.

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