Six UT-Austin students in on-campus, off-campus dorms test positive for COVID-19

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Photo Credit: Sierra Wiggers | Daily Texan Staff

Two students living on campus and four students in an off-campus residence hall have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a UT spokesperson and emails obtained by The Daily Texan.

A resident of San Jacinto Residence Hall and a resident of Jester Residence Hall tested positive for COVID-19, University spokesperson J.B. Bird said Monday morning. An additional four cases have been reported in Scottish Rite Dormitory, a private women’s dormitory located near the north end of the main campus, according to Sunday and Monday communications from dormitory director Mary Mazurek.

Terrance Hines, chief medical officer and executive director of University Health Services, said contact tracers work with infected residents of University residence halls to identify primary and secondary contacts. UHS notifies primary contacts about potential exposure by phone and asks them to get tested and self-quarantine, he said.

“We also want to avoid alarm fatigue, which could result in complacency — when we send notifications, it is because we are asking for extra vigilance in self-monitoring and strongly encouraging participation in Proactive Community Testing,” Susan Hochman, associate director of assessment, communication and data informatics for UHS and the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said in an email. “We don’t want this message to be ignored.”

Hochman said UHS coordinates with University Housing and Dining to notify secondary contacts of their potential exposure. She said they notify a specific wing or floor of a residence hall, but not the entire residence hall. 

“From a public health standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for someone on (the) first floor of a residence hall to be contacted about someone on the (10th) floor,” Hochman said in an email. 

UHD instructed secondary contacts of the infected San Jacinto resident to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, continue social distancing and take their temperature twice daily, according to an email obtained by the Texan. The email said secondary contacts are encouraged but not required to sign up for a saliva test through the Proactive Community Testing Program.

Bird said the University expected COVID-19 cases on campus, citing a UT research study that predicted between 82 and 183 students arriving on campus with the virus.

“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.

Bird said as of Monday morning, he was unaware of any cases in on-campus residence halls other than the two reported. 

Infected residents at Scottish Rite Dormitory returned home or were offered an isolation room, Mazurek said in a Monday letter that reported three COVID-19 cases. The dormitory has asked infected residents to self-isolate until they receive a negative COVID-19 test, Mazurek said.

“Maintaining a safe and healthy environment at SRD and ensuring that the building remains open and operational continues to be a top priority of ours,” Mazurek said in a Sunday email about the first case. 

SRD officials did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

According to the UT COVID-19 dashboard as of Aug. 31, 37 UT students, faculty and staff have tested positive or reported testing positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of August.