A third COVID-19 variant of concern known as P.1, believed to have originated in Brazil, has been identified through our campus testing, monitoring and sequencing efforts. As is the case with new variants, scientists are still studying P.1’s transmissibility, resistance to natural and vaccine-induced immunity, and the potential for differential effects, especially among young adults.
The presence of P.1 and the uncertainty over its differences relative to other variants highlight the need for continued vigilance in practicing protective behaviors. Please know that by doing your part to help us reduce transmission, you are helping to prevent the emergence and persistence of new variants.
We also encourage members of our community get vaccinated and continue to strictly follow public health measures, including social distancing, masking, hand washing, and routinely getting tested through UT’s Proactive Community Testing (PCT) program, even if fully vaccinated.
We have an advantage when it comes to detecting even small numbers of variants in our community through our aggressive employment of Next Generation Sequencing of the virus with UT’s state-of-the-art Genomic Sequencing and Analysis Facility. These efforts provide the state and nation with early, essential epidemiological data on the emergence and transmission of variants. Although we sequence only on-campus tests, we assume that these cases are representative of the wider community and are working with local and state health authorities accordingly. Given this, future identification of new variants will be announced on coronavirus.utexas.edu in lieu of a campus-wide email. The individual who tested positive for the variant has been informed. As is our protocol, this individual was previously notified of a positive test result and instructed to isolate.
Thank you for your attention, and for your continued efforts to Protect Texas Together.
Terrance Hines, M.D., FAAFP
Executive Director & Chief Medical Officer, University Health Services
Amy Young, M.D.
Vice Dean of Professional Practice, Dell Medical School Chief Clinical Officer, UT Health Austin
Testing Update and Spring Semester - from President Jay Hartzell
Here are some updates on UT’s COVID-19 testing efforts and how we’re planning to approach the spring 2021 semester:
Proactive Community Testing
The return of our student population has not resulted in wider spread throughout Austin and Travis County or increased hospitalizations.
The amount of confirmed positive cases is within the range of what we had expected given UT’s size.
Our Proactive Community Testing process has been updated and streamlined.
If you are coming to campus, we want you to get tested regularly — as frequently as once every two weeks.
If you get tested through UT’s proactive community testing program and produce a positive result, you will not have to take a second test for confirmation.
We will soon be rolling out a new incentive program for UT community members who volunteer to get tested.
Our plan is to structure the spring 2021 semester in much the same way as we have the current semester. There will be robust online course offerings, hybrid learning options and some purely in-person classes.
The spring calendar will remain the same, with spring break and other key events occurring at the same time they have in previous years.
We have not yet determined what commencement will look like and how much of the celebration will be in person or online.
9/14/2020 – Additions from Testing Before Home Football Game
1,198 students were tested for COVID-19 before Saturday’s Longhorns football game, with 95 testing positive and 1,103 negative.
Some of the positive results were people with previously reported cases, already counted on our dashboard, who were still testing positive but are no longer infectious, which is a known result with some tests. 69 new results are being added to our COVID-19 dashboard.
9/9/2020 - Cluster Announcement
University Health Services, UT Health Austin and Austin Public Health are actively conducting contact tracing as a result of three clusters that collectively have approximately 100 positive cases of COVID-19 in the West Campus area.
The individuals in these clusters are currently isolating and receiving necessary medical attention. Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin are working to identify additional potential exposures. The university’s contact tracing team is communicating directly with anyone determined to have been in close contact with a positive individual. This is defined as someone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
The university is committed to providing community members with relevant information about significant clusters that pose health and safety risks so they can make informed and healthy decisions in their daily lives.
The university cannot broadly communicate details about individual positive cases, including specific addresses, in compliance with applicable federal and state law.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches or a cough, please immediately contact your medical provider, University Health Services (UHS) (students only) or UT Health Austin (staff, faculty and students). Employees should also contact the Occupational Health Program. Visit our Protect Texas Together website for more information on the university’s preparations and university guidelines.
If you have any COVID-19-related questions or concerns, please call the recently expanded Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line at 512-232-5050 or submit your COVID-19 questions online.
COVID-19 Testing and Plans for the Fall - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
On Wednesday, the fall semester officially begins. So many members of our university community have worked tirelessly to get us to this point, but I know a great deal of uncertainty still looms as we aim to carry forward our vital learning, teaching and research missions during these difficult times. Here are a few reminders:
While those employees who are able to work effectively from home will continue to do so, those who are working from campus can find needed information in our employee guidebook available in English and Spanish.
Campus events will be generally limited to 10 participants.
The university has been carrying out proactive community COVID-19 tests in addition to the more than 1,300 tests previously administered throughout the summer.
By testing widely during these early days, we will develop a better understanding of the baseline COVID-19 rates within our community and be in a stronger position to limit spread and provide care.
More Plans for the Fall Semester - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
Next week, our community will reignite the learning, teaching and research that makes The University of Texas so special. Here are some updates on additional plans and resources for the fall semester and some of the efforts we’re making to keep our students, staff and faculty safe.
Many students have chosen to learn fully online this fall. 76% of the seats taken this semester will be for courses that are completely online, another 19% are for hybrid classes that combine online elements with in-person elements and only about 5% are fully in person.
We officially released the Protect Texas Together App for students, faculty and staff. The app is available to download here.
All students, faculty and staff will be required to complete an online, interactive training program called “Staying Healthy in a Changing Environment.”
While not directly related to COVID-19, safety enhancements made on and off campus in recent years remain in place and will be expanded as we move forward.
COVID-19 Testing for Fall Semester - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
Robust and rigorous testing will be needed to monitor and limit the presence of COVID-19 on our campus and keep our community members as safe as possible as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Here are some of the key elements of our strategy:
Working in collaboration with epidemiologists, infectious disease experts and other health care professionals, our strategic approach to COVID-19 testing consists of three components: testing for individuals who are ill, contact tracing and proactive community testing.
We will have the capacity to test hundreds of symptomatic students each day using in-house labs.
We have a goal of proactively testing up to 5,000 UT community members each week for COVID-19 using a strategic, scientific based approach.
The university, through an agreement between Dell Medical School and Austin Public Health, will continue to conduct contact tracing for university community members who test positive for COVID-19.
UT Staff Member Dies from COVID-19 - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
Fall 2020 Planning Update 6/17 - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
As a university, we are continuing to use all of the talent on our campus, as well as the guidance of epidemiologists and other medical experts, to finalize a strategy for the upcoming fall semester.
We will be finalizing all of our major fall plans at the end of June.
A new complete website that will contain all of the primary information that students, families, faculty and staff need to know will be shared when it is live.
The university is developing an agreement that allows Austin Public Health to contract with Dell Medical School to conduct contact tracing for UT community members who test positive for COVID-19 when we reopen.
The current prohibition on university-sanctioned travel for business or study has been extended through July 31.
Fall 2020 Planning Update 6/12 - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
As we continue to develop a plan for our employees’ return to campus, we are laser focused on both the health of our community members and our vital education and research missions.
Currently, there is no specific day or time for staff to begin returning to campus.
We expect employees’ return to campus to be gradual and phased — based on the needs of individual offices and employees.
Supervisors will assess specific health needs of employees as they make decisions, and we will continue to monitor local school district plans and child care restarts since many staff members have children also facing uncertain schedules.
Once we get past the immediate hurdles for reopening in the fall, we will also more fully consider different long-term options for teleworking and flexible schedules for UT employees.
COVID-19 Identified at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You can find updates from the Wildflower Center about this situation here.
Fall 2020 Planning Update 6/8 - from Interim President Jay Hartzell
As we move through our fall 2020 planning process, we will be sharing updates and decisions leadership is making. To review the decisions regarding face coverings, COVID-19 testing, financial planning and more, please visit Fall 2020 Planning.
Fall 2020 Planning Update 6/3 – from Interim President Jay Hartzell
Thank you & Fall Planning - from Daniel Jaffe, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
Faculty Affairs Update 5/21 - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Fall 2020 Planning Update 5.20 - from President Gregory L. Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell
Fall Semester Schedule
The fall semester will begin as scheduled on August 26, and classes will run until Thanksgiving. Students will not return after Thanksgiving and, instead, will participate in reading days and final exams remotely. With COVID-19 still expected to be active this fall, we hope to avoid the possibility of students becoming infected during the Thanksgiving break and then spreading the virus to classmates upon their return after Thanksgiving. We are still developing the details for how this new schedule will affect course syllabi, residence hall living and other key campus functions. We will continue to provide additional information as we move forward.
In-person Commencement Ceremonies
Since students will not be returning to campus after Thanksgiving, all in-person commencement ceremonies for the fall semester will be postponed. This is another difficult but critical decision, given the continued risks associated with the spread of COVID-19.
Our planned in-person, university-wide commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 will take place on campus at some point in 2021. Spring and fall 2020 graduates will be invited to this in-person celebration. The date and plans for this event will depend on the evolving COVID-19 situation, and we will update our graduates as soon as we have a clear sense of when we can host all of them safely. We thank our 2020 graduates for their understanding and flexibility as we work to provide them with a celebration that is fitting of their extraordinary achievements.
Second Phase of Financial Mitigation Measures - from President Gregory L. Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell
Leadership is grateful for the hard work of Faculty and Staff since the COVID-19 Crisis began for us in March. We’ve experienced both increased costs due to the shifts in how we are teaching and are facing declines in expected future revenue. Because of our current financial outlook, the university is taking a phased financial approach.
In April we implemented a first phase of measures.
Canceled planned 2020-21 centrally funded merit pool
Limited new hires
Limited large expenditures to only essential needs
Now we are moving to second phase:
Revenue-generating units will now be directed to develop new financial plans with the Provost and CFO’s offices, to contain costs where needed
Furloughs or permanent reductions in force will be likely for specific units where revenues have declined Will likely include furloughs or permanent reductions in force. Additional information will be provided by departmental leadership to staff members.
Emergency leave was extended, but starting June 1 emergency leave will no longer be an option in most cases and those using emergency leave will need to review work options with units and/or begin using paid-leave accruals
The University of Texas has been through hard times before and we’ve always come through them with a strengthened sense of purpose and a dedication to our world-changing mission. Leadership thanks you for your understanding and commitment.
Fall Planning Update - from President Gregory L. Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell
The university is planning for the upcoming fall semester with the goal of having in-person classes. For now, we will continue with limited on-campus operations.
University leadership team is coordinating six campus-wide working groups — Academics, Health and Wellness, Student Life, Operations, Research, and Athletics — tasked with the development of strategies for the fall semester. These will be announced by the end of June.
In consideration of health and safety, the university will need to implement new schedules, policies and approaches to many of our fall operations.
The university is currently working to reopen labs and get our faculty members back to their critical research.
Faculty Affairs Update 5/7 - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Faculty Affairs Update 4/29 - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
President Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell sent a letter to campus to address Governor Abbott’s plans to reopen Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to begin reopening the state of Texas. On Friday, May 1, certain businesses will be allowed to open, with capacity restrictions and social distancing protocols in place
Texas Reopening Order - from President Gregory L. Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell
Effects on UT
The executive order does not include changes describing how state agencies or public universities will be operating in the coming weeks.
We will maintain online learning and limited on-campus operations for now.
Employees who have been working remotely should continue to do so.
We are looking into whether some research laboratories can re-open this spring.
We remain focused on the health and safety of our UT community members and continue to coordinate with city, state, medical and scientific leaders.
Leadership met today with members of the university-wide task force that are assessing our operations for the fall semester
The goal remains to reopen campus in the fall, likely with some courses and activities held in person and others online
Leadership will announce plans for the fall semester at the end of June
Take Care of Yourselves and Others
Continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing precautions whenever you are in public
Leadership thanks you for your resilience, commitment and adaptability in the face of such trying circumstances
Faculty Affairs Update 4/23 - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Today, President Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell sent a letter to campus to address plans for the fall semester.
We will continue to instruct and educate students in the fall
We hope to reopen the campus to do so, but recognize that our nation will still be facing COVID-19 and need to determine the risks and possible mitigations before doing so
Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing, and director of the IC2 institute, will lead a university-wide task force to assess operations for the fall semester
Registration opens for summer and fall courses on April 27. Students will be able to adjust their course selections after the decision about fall is announced
A final decision about plans for the fall semester will be announced in late June
COVID-19 staff update for April 17 - from Darrell Bazzell, Senior VP and Chief Financial Officer
Faculty Affairs Update - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Today, President Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell sent separate letters to faculty and staff and students about financial mitigation and summer session tuition reduction.
UT is developing mitigation plans in anticipation of both reduced revenue for the university and increased emergency needs for students.
- Recruitment and Hiring
- Faculty recruitments that are currently underway will continue.
- Effective immediately, recruitment and hiring of staff members will be subject to an additional level of review.
- Student employee positions will be filled so long as they contribute to the core mission of the university and work can be conducted remotely.
- There will be no centrally funded pool for recurring merit raises, and colleges, schools and units have been directed not to fund recurring merit increases for 2020-21.
In support of students, to ensure they remain on track to degree completion, UT will be lowering summer tuition to 50 percent of the tuition rate for fall and spring semester courses. It is normally at 85 percent of the long semester rate.
- There will be 25 additional summer courses that will include 2,000 seats beyond our usual capacity. Registration will begin April 27.
- The university will return to regular university grading for the summer 2020 term
- Graduate and professional school tuition will remain at 85 percent of the long semester rate.
- Summer orientation sessions for new students moved online.
Compassion in Crisis - from Maurie McInnis, Executive VP and Provost
Faculty Update - from Maurie McInnis, Executive VP and Provost
Faculty Resource Update - from Maurie McInnis, Executive VP and Provost
Protect Your Zoom Meetings from Disruptions - Trice Humpert, Interim Assistant Vice President for Information Technology Services
Mid-Week Check In - from President Gregory L. Fenves
All summer session classes moved online.
Please follow all City of Austin Orders and Guidelines
There will be no tolerance for harassment and bigotry in classrooms — online or otherwise.
Any member of the UT community who disrupts or interferes with university classes or meetings will face discipline.
The university is improving security across all digital platforms.
In the first two days of online learning:
Thousands of students participated in more than 9,000 classes, logging a total of over 13 million minutes online.
Students can visit Keep Learning for remote learning tips and tech support to help them thrive.
Online Classes Grading Policies: Undergraduate students will have the option of taking all classes Pass/Fail, and graduate students will have the option of taking all classes Credit/No Credit. Students have until May 29 to make this choice.
Student Emergency Services is providing technology resources for students with financial need and supporting students in need with food and housing. If you still have to retrieve belongings from a university residence hall, you can schedule a day and time here.
Learning from Home: As you study and learn from home, there are services available to assist you, including Keep Learning.
Continuing the Spring Semester Online - from President Gregory L. Fenves
May 21-23 commencement and graduation ceremonies are postponed.
A virtual commencement will be planned for that week. Details are forthcoming.
The future plan includes celebrating students on campus later this year for the full array of graduation and commencement ceremonies.
Helping UT Students During the COVID-19 Crisis - from President Gregory L. Fenves
What you need to know when classes start - from Maurie McInnis, Executive VP and Provost
City of Austin “Stay Home – Work Safe” Order - from President Gregory L. Fenves
City of Austin Announces ‘Stay at Home – Work Safe’ Order
Individuals must remain in their homes with exceptions for essential work and activities. When conducting an allowed activity, people must maintain at least six feet of social distancing. The Order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 24 and will last until April 13 unless modified.
Grocery stores, hospitals and other critical infrastructure to remain open.
Non-essential businesses to close.
Students should stay where they are. Do not return to campus. Dorm move out information will be provided soon.
Students who have been approved for temporary emergency housing will be moved to San Jacinto Residence Hall in the weeks ahead.
On-campus markets and food halls will close and housing staff members will deliver food to individual student dorm rooms.
All work taking place on campus must meet social distancing requirements, however, there are exceptions. Supervisors will provide this information directly to affected employees.
Updates - Faculty Resources - from Tasha Beretvas, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Reimbursement for services no longer available - from Darrell Bazzell, Senior VP and Chief Financial
Dear UT Community,
I just wanted to share a short video message with you on this Friday afternoon. I hope you are keeping safe during this challenging time. We will get through this together.
Working Through These Remote Days Ahead - from Soncia Reagins-Lilly, VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
UT Austin moves all spring semester classes online beginning March 30th - from President Gregory L. Fenves
COVID-19 — transition to online instruction - from Maurie McInnis, Executive VP and Provost
Employee roles, support during university’s online model - from Darrell Bazzell, Senior VP and Chief Financial Officer
Starting March 16, 2020, all campus buildings will require UT ID access to enter. Separate protocols are in place for the Student Services Building, parts of which serve as a health care facility. Staff, contract employees and deliveries should use the north doors on the first floor or ground floor. Visitors and most patients will use the south entrance on Dean Keeton, and patients being directed to the UHS respiratory clinic will use the east doors.
Employees attempting to enter a building should enter via the building’s celebrated entrance using their UT ID card. A celebrated entrance is typically a main entrance, but employees should look for the ID card swipe pad and words “Celebrated Entrance” printed on the doors to locate the building’s celebrated entrance.
Any questions or concerns related to building access can be directed to email@example.com.
Through March 30, students are on spring break and UT will be dedicated to three efforts. Faculty and staff members needed to support these priorities have been notified by their departments and are continuing to work either on campus or remotely.
Providing continued support to UT’s education and research missions in preparation for the transition to online learning;
Maintaining critical mission services on campus such as public safety, utilities, core administrative functions, IT support for online learning, business operations and vital research functions; and
Supporting students who are on campus, living in residence halls and relying on university services.
UT Operations Update - from President Gregory L. Fenves
President Fenves COVID-19 testing has been reported negative - from Dr. Amy Young
Admissions has suspended campus visits, Admission Welcome Center tours and in-person events until further notice and will soon be announcing a number of online and virtual options for prospective students and their families.
All events at the Frank Erwin Center and Bass Concert Hall are postponed for the immediate future.
Worldwide recall of all university-sponsored travelers: this includes faculty, staff and students
Cancellation of all education abroad programs through August 18 (includes spring and summer programs)
Suspension of all university sponsored international and domestic travel through April 30 with the possibility that this date could be extended
Restricted Regions requests will not be accepted. Faculty/staff who require travel approval for COVID-19 pandemic research must contact Global Risk & Safety in Texas Global for further direction.
Cancellation of all visiting delegations to UT until April 30 with the possibility of date extension