UTA nearly doubles COVID-19 case count since start of fall semester

UTA's COVID-19 cases have almost doubled since in-person classes began on Aug. 26.

The university started the fall semester with 21 cases dating back to March 14. Now, about two weeks later, 20 new cases have been reported.

As of Friday, nine of the total cases reported are active, meaning they require isolation, university spokesperson Joe Carpenter said in an email. Four of those are students housed in UTA’s designated quarantine space, Lipscomb Hall.

Many across the country are watching as universities reopen their campuses and outbreaks are reported. Although health and safety protocols are in place, much is still uncertain about how the reopenings will affect the spread of COVID-19.

An increase of reported cases was anticipated given the campus’ reopening and repopulation, but each positive diagnosis has been taken seriously, Carpenter said.

The university will consider a number of factors including decisions made by public officials, COVID-19 case trends, testing capabilities and trends among similar institutions before making a change in course modality or campus operation, he said.

In Texas, universities have taken varied approaches to COVID-19 testing and how cases are reported.

UTA currently reports its cases online with information limited to the case number, the date the university was notified and the type of individual — whether student, faculty, staff or contractor/vendor.

UT-Austin, which reports significantly more cases of COVID-19, has a dashboard on their site with case trends and community testing results.

UT-Dallas has a similar approach as UTA but also shares where the individual has frequently been on campus. UTA does not provide this information.

As for COVID-19 testing protocols, UTA does not require a negative test from individuals coming to campus. Instead, the university has asked individuals to self-monitor for symptoms and report any positive COVID-19 test results or known exposure to the virus.

UTA has focused its on-campus testing efforts on surveillance testing of some students, based on the nature of their campus involvement or their living situations, and symptomatic testing of the general student population, Carpenter said.

Those getting tested periodically will be high-risk groups, including intercollegiate athletes, marching band, spirit groups, adapted sports athletes and residence hall assistants, he said.

“This approach is based on the university’s testing capacity and available guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other health organizations,” Carpenter said.

UTA provides on-campus COVID-19 testing at no cost to students and has repurposed the North Texas Genome Center to process test results rapidly, he said.

The center is building up to test 750 students per week, with the goal of eventually having the capacity to test 1,500 per week in October, Carpenter said. As testing capacity expands, the university may increase the scope of its asymptomatic surveillance. 

@rocio_mhdz

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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