AUSTIN, Texas — A spokesperson for the University of Texas at Austin on Monday confirmed that two dorm residents have tested positive for COVID-19. This comes just a few days after UT's fall semester began on Aug. 26.
According to J.B. Bird, a spokesperson for UT, one student living in the Jester Residence Hall and another student living in the San Jacinto Residence Hall tested positive for the virus. The two students have been isolating since testing positive.
Public health professionals have also reached out to notify people who were exposed to the students for 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than six feet, advising them to get tested and to self-quarantine.
A third UT student, who lives in off-campus housing, also tested positive for COVID-19.
The Director of Scottish Rite Dormitory, Mary Mazurek, confirmed to KVUE that the student is in isolation and that the dorm is following CDC guidelines for safety.
Susan Hochman is the associate director for communications assessment and data informatics for University Health Services and Counseling and Mental Health Center at UT.
"Whether it's three or it's 10 or, you know, it's 100 ... the most important thing is that we detect these cases," she said.
In its COVID-19 modeling consortium report, UT actually predicted between 82 to 185 infected students would arrive on campus coronavirus-positive the first week of school.
So far, there have been five students who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to UT's dashboard. Bird would not say where the other two students live.
Despite that, Hochman said UT plans to continue its aggressive COVID-19 testing strategies.
"So we will test symptomatic students. We will also test close contacts of that student ... we will do contact tracing. And if those students are symptomatic, then they will first be isolated and brought in for testing. We will also test asymptomatic contacts. So individuals who have been exposed because they've been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive. And so they will be offered testing as well. So those are two of the ways. A third way is also asymptomatic and seeing that. So if somebody has attended a large gathering, for example, then they can come in and get tested as well. And then we have our proactive community testing strategy. And this is what we've been sharing in the email to campus a couple times recently to just share the strategy, and really been promoting it heavily within the last week with students returning. But this is a strategy that we use to cast a fairly wide net," she explained.
Hochman said that although only five have been confirmed positive, don't let that low number fool you. The community still needs to be vigilant with wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines, especially with the Labor Day holiday weekend and Austin ISD starting classes Sept. 8.
Mayor Steve Adler agreed.
"I am concerned as we move into a Labor Day weekend that we can lose that focus. I know after Memorial Day we had a spike after that ... Most communities that get to where we are right now plateau and then end up going back up again," he said.
"The number of cases will continue to be updated on our COVID-19 dashboard and if isolated cases evolve into significant clusters, the information will be shared on our website," Bird said.
According to The Daily Texan, University Housing and Dining notified at least two secondary contacts of the infected person who lives in San Jacinto dormitory on Friday evening.
Elsewhere in Central Texas, Texas State University reports that as of Aug. 31, a total of 197 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 1.
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