In-person classes are starting at a time when Austin-area intensive care beds are the fullest they’ve been with COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Despite that, UT is trying to have classes look as close to fall 2019 as possible, with a big focus on in-person learning. A majority of classes are expected to be held in-person at similar levels to pre-pandemic times.
“We have to find a way to engage with our lives as safely as possible, recognizing that this is going to be in the environment. And we have to recognize that the in-person experience for our students and for our faculty who teach is also extraordinarily important,” says Art Markman, a member of the university’s COVID-19 executive committee.
The university is not requiring masks, in accordance with the governor’s executive order that bans mask mandates. Instead, UT leaders are strongly encouraging students and staff to mask up when indoors.
UT also wants students and staff to get vaccinated, tested, and be safe outside of class as well.
“As easy as it has been over the last couple of decades to decide that, that 18- to 22-year-olds just can’t control themselves, I think what we found is that the lion’s share of our students really stepped up and did what was needed to protect themselves and their community,” Markman says.
UT asked students to get a negative test before coming back to campus, which proved to be a struggle for some students. The university extended the deadline to Friday to submit test results.
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