UT Austin students with COVID-19 are expected to self-isolate off campus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin clarified to KXAN Tuesday that all students who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to relocate off campus to self isolate. The university said this applies to students, whether or not they have a roommate.

As of Sept. 1, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard reports a total of 25 UT Austin students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 17, the date which students first began moving back to on-campus dormitories. On Sept. 1, the university reported a total of eight cases among students, the highest number the university had seen since July 5.

UT Austin spokesperson J.B. Bird added these students can either complete their isolation at a location of their choosing off campus or by going to the Austin-Travis County isolation facility. The isolation facility is a converted Austin hotel that has been used since March to house those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or fear they may have the virus. It is free to stay there, and those who do get three meals a day, minor medical care, mental healthcare and WiFi.

When KXAN asked if UT has an on-campus isolation facility where students can go for self-isolation, UT referred us to the previous statement that students need to relocate off campus to self isolate.

A screenshot from UT Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard as of the evening of September 1.

If you want to make arrangements to stay at the isolation facility, Austin Public Health says to call the intake line at (512) 810-7554.

UT Austin dorm residents with COVID-19

Monday, UT confirmed to KXAN that two students living in on-campus residence halls had tested positive for COVID-19: one in Jester Residence Hall and one in San Jacinto Residence Hall. These cases were first reported by UT Austin student newspaper, the Daily Texan. The Daily Texan also reported Tuesday campus community members had received emails about a third confirmed COVID-19 case in an on-campus dorm: Kinsolving Residence Hall.

When KXAN asked about the Kinsolving Residence Hall Tuesday, UT spokesperson JB Bird said he is not in a position to confirm data like that in real-time or on an hourly basis throughout the day. Bird instead referred KXAN to the UT COVID-19 dashboard. He also said he was not able to confirm the total number of students who live on the UT campus who have tested positive for COVID-19 at this point.

Bird said a complication with reporting this data is that on-campus is a “nebulous” term when it comes to describing COVID-19 cases, “once you get beyond the residence halls, since we have a wide array of situations between fully-online students living in Austin or living remotely, fully-online faculty, and faculty and students who divide their time in some portion of online vs. in-person or on-campus activities.”

“We have no definitive way to know where someone contracts the virus, so that student’s positive could relate to campus – or not,” Bird said. “The science doesn’t give anyone that precise of a window.”

The Austin-Travis County isolation facility

Presently, the UT students living on campus who have tested positive for COVID-19 either have to find a location off campus to move to temporarily, or they have to go to the city’s isolation facility.

How would a student without a car get to the isolation facility?

Bryce Bencivengo with the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management explained when anyone calls the intake line to be admitted to the facility, the people on the intake line can arrange transportation either through Capital Metro public transit or through a ride-share option like Uber or Lyft.

Bencivengo said for UT community members who live off campus, there are no additional steps required to admit them to the isolation facility. Those UT community members would just need to call the intake line and arrange transport just like any other Austinite would.

Beds in a room for a patient at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Isolation Facility. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

“The difference is when students are housed on-campus,” he said.

Bencivengo noted currently, UT Austin and the City of Austin do not have a written agreement about the process for isolating UT students who live on campus in the isolation facility. However, he said the city and UT have a general principle for how to make this happen that they’ve agreed upon and are working on a document for both entities to sign.

In the meantime, Bencivengo said the city is still happy to accept any UT Austin community members — whether they live on campus or off campus — at the isolation facility through the normal intake phone line.

The city has one isolation facility that is operational and…

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