Coronavirus updates: Here’s how UT-Austin, city officials are responding

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Photo Credit: Emma Overholt | Daily Texan Staff

The Daily Texan will update this page regularly with updates about COVID-19 and how UT-Austin and the city plan to respond. Students can also find updates at the websites created by the City of Austin and the University

As of March 31, the city of Austin has reported 244 cases of people who tested positive for COVID-19. Seven UT employees and 38 students have tested positive, been presumed positive or are self-reporting a case of COVID-19 as of March 31, according to UT spokesperson J.B. Bird.

March 31

Cabo spring break trip

Twenty-eight UT students have tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, according to UT spokesman J.B. Bird. The 28 cases are part of a group of 70+ young adults who left for Cabo together via a chartered plane a week and a half ago, according to a City of Austin press release.

Statewide limit on personal interactions

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to limit personal interactions except for essential activities in Texas. Abbott said his order is in line with national guidelines and excludes activities such as working for essential services, going to the grocery store, bank or gas station, being outside for activities such as fishing and hunting and religious services.

March 27

Pass/Fail grading policy

Undergraduate classes can be changed to pass/fail regardless of eligibility and do not count toward the limit on pass/fail courses, according to the resolution letter from the Faculty Council and Graduate Assembly on the recommended grading policy changes. Graduate students may change their courses to credit/no credit.

Tuition reimbursement

UT-Austin does not plan to give any tuition reimbursement for the spring semester and has paused the vast majority of campus research, UT officials said in a briefing. The decision to not reimburse tuition was consistent across the UT System.

March 26

Self-quarantine after travel

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday mandating that those traveling to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans must self-quarantine for two weeks or until the end of their stay, whichever is shorter.

March 25

Virtual commencement

UT will hold a virtual commencement in May and has postponed the in-person ceremony until an undetermined date this year. The virtual commencement is planned to be May 23 at 6:30 p.m., the same week the ceremony was originally set to take place. Researcher, author and speaker Brené Brown will be the commencement speaker for both the virtual and in-person ceremonies.

March 24

Shelter-in-place

Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a shelter-in-place order for the city of Austin through April 13 to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or dwelling unit are prohibited, excluding essential travel and the activities of essential businesses.

March 22

Hospital regulations

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered health care professionals to postpone all surgeries that are not immediately necessary and changed the regulations for hospital rooms to allow more than one patient to be treated per room. Abbott also waived regulations to increase the amount of nurses eligible to assist in hospitals by temporarily permitting graduate nurses who have not yet taken their licensing exam and inactive or retired nurses to practice.

March 20

Closure of dine-in services

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a closure of Texas schools and dine-in services at restaurants and bars due to COVID-19 concerns until April 3. Abbott also ordered health care professionals to postpone all surgeries that are not immediately necessary and changed the regulations for hospital rooms to allow more than one patient to be treated per room.

Community spread

The Austin-Travis County Health Authority confirmed there is evidence of community spread of the coronavirus in Travis County at a press conference.

March 18

UT Community members test positive for COVID-19

Two members of the University community, including a UT student and Dean Brent Iverson of the School of Undergraduate Studies, have tested positive for COVID-19, UT President Gregory Fenves announced in a letter.

Dining locations

University Housing and Dining is reducing the number of open dining locations and limiting the number of dining hours until May 20. From March 30 through May 20, Cypress Bend will be the only dining location open on campus.

March 17

UT-Austin Classes, Residence Halls

President Gregory Fenves said in a letter to the UT community that UT classes will be moved entirely online starting March 30. All students are asked not to come back to campus. UT-Austin campus gatherings of 10 or more people through May 1 are canceled, postponed or moved online. 

UT will close residence halls, and students are required to move out of their dorms, although emergency housing will be provided on a case-by-case basis for students who have “compelling reasons to remain on campus." Fenves said in the letter that housing and dining contracts will receive prorated refunds from the University.

UT-Austin will make a decision about UT’s graduation commencement closer to May, but graduating seniors will receive their diploma on schedule. UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University will ultimately comply with system guidelines.

UT System

UT System Chancellor James Milliken sent a letter to all UT institution presidents instructing them to move courses online, limit campus residence and dining hall use, and postpone spring commencement ceremonies

Texas Athletics

Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte laid out several options for season ticket holders for the two spring sports, including gifting the remaining value to the Longhorn Foundation, having accounts credited for future purchases or requesting a refund for the remaining balance by April 3.

Austin bars and restaurants

Mayor Steve Adler ordered bars and dine-in service at restaurants to close in Austin and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, effective at noon on Tuesday. Critical infrastructure, including government buildings, schools, groceries, pharmacies, transit, hospitals and medical facilities, are exempt from these orders, said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin Public Health. 

Texas National Guard

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard to assist with the state’s response to COVID-19, the governor announced at a press conference today.

March 16

Texas Senate District 14

Gov. Greg Abbott postpones the special election for Texas Senate District 14 to July 14.

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump recommended avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people and engaging in school from home when possible during a press conference.

University Co-op

The University Co-op is providing free access to textbooks online for all students, according to an email sent to faculty from Michael Kiely, University Co-op Director of Course Materials. 

March 15

Work Study Programs

Gov. Abbott waived regulations so students in work-study will receive financial assistance while schools are moving online.

President Gregory Fenves

UT President Gregory Fenves tested negative for coronavirus, according to an email Dr. Amy Young, chief clinical officer of UT Health Austin, sent Sunday. Young said in the email that Fenves has not experienced any flu-like symptoms since March 12, but he will continue to self-monitor and isolate for 14 days because of his exposure to a confirmed case.

March 14

Statesman Cap 10k

The city of Austin said in a statement that it has canceled the 43rd Statesman Cap10K. In the statement,  Jeff Simecek, Statesman Cap10K race director, said race participants will be invited to pick up their race shirt, bib and finisher’s medal at a later date “after the critical coronavirus period has passed.” 

Large Community Gatherings

Gatherings of 250 or more people are prohibited in Travis County until May to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Steve Adler ordered. The order prohibits indoor or outdoor events where many people are in a single, enclosed space, such as weddings, concerts, conventions, sporting events and religious gatherings, according to a press release from the City of Austin. 

March 13

Big 12 Cancellations

The Big 12 announced it was canceling all athletic competition for the remainder of the academic year and suspended all team-related activities until March 29, according to a statement released on the Big 12 website Friday evening.

UT System

All eight of the UT System academic institutions have extended their spring break or canceled face-to-face classes for a week in response to concerns about COVID-19. 

NCAA Recruiting and Eligibility

Recruiting for all sports is suspended until April 15 due to COVID-19 concerns, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee announced in a statement. In another statement, the committee announced that it will grant “eligibility relief” to Division I spring sport student-athletes.

Declaration of State Disaster

Gov. Greg Abbott has made a declaration of state disaster at a conference for all counties in Texas due to the novel coronavirus. Abbott also announced the opening of the first drive-through testing facility in San Antonio. He said his team is working on opening these facilities in Dallas, Houston and Austin.

President Fenves' Wife

President Gregory Fenves’ wife tested positive for COVID-19. As a result of the test, which came back positive at 5:30 a.m., Fenves and his wife Carmel Fenves, who works in the Office of the President, are in self-isolation, according to a statement sent out by Fenves this afternoon. Another Fenves family member who works at the University is presumed to have COVID-19 and is also in self-isolation. 

UT Cancellations

UT-Austin closes operations and cancels classes on Friday, March 13 and said only “essential personnel” should work. All UT shuttle routes have been suspended through spring break, according to a tweet from CapMetro. UT residence halls and the Forty Acres Pharmacy will remain open on Friday, according to tweets from UT-Austin. Dining halls are operating on a revised schedule, according to a tweet from University Housing and DiningRoundup, the largest annual UT fraternity fundraiser event, has been canceled by the Interfraternity Council in light of coronavirus concerns, according to a statement.

Confirmed Case in Austin

The city of Austin confirmed the first two presumptive positive cases of the new coronavirus in Travis County. The cases did not come from community spread, meaning they did not come from an unknown infected person, according to the release. The two cases in are a male in his 60s who is hospitalized and the other is a female in her 30s who is quarantined at home, officials said at a press conference.

University Health Services 

University Health Services currently has limited capacity to test for COVID-19 and will not test asymptomatic patients, according to the UHS website. Students should call the UHS Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6877 for instructions if they have a fever, respiratory symptoms and have recently traveled internationally or had contact with someone with the coronavirus.

UT Austin Policy Changes

Principal Investigators can decide whether to keep their labs open or not over the next two weeks, according to an email to faculty from Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost, If a lab remains open, McInnis said faculty cannot penalize students who are not present.

UT-Austin Closings

Bass Concert Hall has canceled all events starting March 12 through 30, according to the Texas Performing Arts Website. The Office of Admissions has suspended campus visits, Admission Welcome Center tours and in-person events until further notice, according to the University of Texas website. The LBJ Presidential Library announced Thursday they would be closed to the public beginning Friday evening, according to a press release. All LBJ Library events have also been canceled. 

March 12:

LBJ School and Butler School of Music 

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs will move its courses online starting March 30, according to an email Dean Angela Evans sent to LBJ students. The Butler School of Music is canceling all public events and in-person classes starting March 23 through the end of the semester, Mary Ellen Poole, director of the Butler School of Music, said in an email sent to music students.

UT Press Conference

Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost, said large lecture hall classes will be required to go online but not all courses will be required to do so, such as performing arts classes that require in-person attendance. She also said students will not make up the extra week of spring break at the end of the semester. 

NCAA Tournament

The NCAA has officially canceled its annual March Madness tournament because of increased concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The decision was based on the evolving public health threat and the "impracticality" of hosting, the NCAA said in a statement. The NCAA has also canceled all remaining winter and spring NCAA Championships.

Athletic cancellations:

Texas softball’s weekend trip to Alabama for the T-Town Showdown tournament, several Longhorn tennis matches and various other athletic events have also been canceled.

Frank Erwin Center:

The University of Texas is postponing all events at the Frank Erwin Center in the immediate future in response to concerns over COVID-19, UT Athletics Director Chris Del Conte announced in a press release.

Study Abroad

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated the entire world to a level 2, Texas Global has suspended all education abroad programs, according to an email to study abroad students. Sonia Feigenbaum, senior vice provost for global engagement, said in the email that students studying abroad are required to return home by March 30 and self isolate for 14 days upon return. University-sponsored travel, both international and domestic, has been suspended through April 30. 

Big 12 News

The Big 12 announces the “immediate suspension of all Conference championships until April 15, resulting in the cancellation of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championships.” The conference tweeted that “Conducting future Big 12 championships this season will be evaluated by April 15.”

March 11:

Extended Spring Break

The University extends spring break for students by one week in response to COVID-19 concerns, according to a  press release. In the release, UT President Gregory Fenves said the University will remain open during the extra week and on-campus classes will resume on March 30.

Large sporting events

NCAA president Mark Emmert said the upcoming Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will only allow “essential staff and limited family attendance.” Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be limited to 125 tickets starting on March 12, Big 12 comissioner Bob Bowlsby said during a press conference.

March 10:

UT Press Conference

UT-Austin announces that undergraduate travel, including Maymesters and summer programs, is suspended for all countries with Centers for Disease Control Warning Levels 1, 2 and 3. The countries on the list include China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong. 

Students cominng back to the U.S. from UT study abroad programs in Spain, France, Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan and China are also required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Larry Singell, senior vice provost for resource management, also said UT-Austin accelerated the process of getting student and faculty access to Zoom, a video conference software, in light of coronavirus concerns.

March 9:

President Fenves Q&A

UT President Gregory Fenves said since there are no confirmed cases in Travis County, classes would not go online earlier than spring break. He said “multiple confirmed cases” would be a strong indication that UT-Austin needs to move to more isolation.

Austin Cancels Large Events

The City of Austin prohibits events with an expected attendance larger than 2,500 people in light of the local state of disaster declaration. On March 10, Travis County commissioners indefinitely extended the declaration and ban on large events. In an earlier Q&A, Fenves said the University does not have to abide by citywide regulations because it is a state university, but is abiding by similar guidelines. 

March 6:

Explore UT

After the City of Austin declares a state of local disaster, the University cancels Explore UT, an annual campuswide event hosted by UT where guests can participate in activities, watch performances and listen to talks.

SXSW and Disaster Declaration

Austin Mayor Steve Adler declares a local state of disaster in Austin and cancels South by Southwest for the first time in 34 years. Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said the cancellation was based on several factors, including the size of the event, nature of the venue and the potential for close person-to-person contact.