UTA community discusses fall COVID-19 protocols, possibilities for the spring

As the end of the semester nears, UTA officials are reviewing its fall COVID-19 protocols and considering how things may operate in the spring. 

The university is also examining all of its testing data, said Lisa Nagy, vice president for Student Affairs. A meeting will occur between UTA’s COVID-19 Executive Task Force and interim President Teik Lim in the coming weeks.  

The university implemented mandatory randomized COVID-19 testing Sept. 8 because of high case numbers in Tarrant County. As of Monday, the university has conducted 23,409 on-campus tests with 861 on-campus positive results since the start of the fall semester, according to the UTA COVID-19 Dashboard.  

“We are still kind of trying to look at all the data to determine what our plan is going to be for [the] spring semester,” Nagy said. “We intend that we would probably make a decision with an announcement to come out after Thanksgiving.”  

Although nothing is confirmed yet, Lim stated at the Tea with Teik event Friday that the university might implement mandatory testing before the spring semester begins.  

Political science senior Alejandra Hernandez has two at-risk family members who can easily catch COVID-19. When leaving her home, she wears a mask and carries hand sanitizer. When she returns, she isolates herself and removes her clothing from the day before socializing with her family. 

Hernandez said it’s an extra step but eventually she became used to it. 

“I tend to make sure I’m good before I really hug and kiss my mom and my family members,” she said. 

Hernandez said she thinks the randomized testing is helpful and it would be good for the tests to continue in the spring. 

One way the university could minimize the spread is to return to 50% class capacity, she said. 

“I don’t think the university should have given the OK at having campus at full capacity,” she said. 

The testing was not designed to be punitive, according to previous Shorthorn articles. Nagy said the university understood it would not have a 100% compliance rate, and they chose to be proactive to try and engage students to participate. 

Hernandez said since the university could not force mandatory testing, it caused her to be concerned for the students who were actually testing regularly. 

“It was kind of disappointing in a sense to just be like, you’re doing your part and you’re trying to help make sure that you’re not spreading it to any other people’s loved ones, but not everyone is doing that,” she said. 

She said getting regularly tested would have allowed her to know immediately if she had caught the virus. 

“I would be able to take preventative measures to make sure it didn’t spread to my family versus if this system wasn’t in place I probably wouldn’t find out until my family started showing symptoms,” she said.  

Faculty Senate chairperson Jacqueline Fay said the Faculty Senate supports randomized testing since it allows the university to have a body of data to monitor COVID-19 trends on-campus. 

Fay said the experiences for faculty members differ since some teach large classes while some may only teach smaller ones. And the number of classes that a faculty member teaches is greatly affected by their rank and their position, she said. 

“The more classes you teach, the more hours you’re in the classroom, the more students you come into contact with, and therefore, the more concerns you are likely to have and the more areas you’re trying to control and manage in relation to COVID,” she said. 

Fay said there were measures that could not be implemented, such as mask and vaccine mandates, since the university follows the state’s directions. 

“The randomized testing of one-fifth of the campus population was a best practices way to be able to see the trending numbers of infection,” she said. “So I think that was the best way to handle that.” 

Hernandez said there are pros and cons to mandatory testing, and there is a fine line between balancing personal freedoms and actions necessary to mitigate the health crisis. 

“It was kind of very much like, take care of yourself because you really don’t know how other people are handling the situation,” Hernandez said. 

@hezelltx @Angie_Perez99            

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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