About 100 COVID-19 cases reported Thursday in West Campus, UT-Austin says

Neha Madhira and Amanda Figueroa-Nieves

Editor’s note: This is an update to a story that was originally published on Sept. 10.

UT reported three coronavirus case clusters in West Campus with collectively about 100 positive cases on Thursday morning.

The University declined to release the addresses of the clusters, citing privacy laws, according to the announcement. A cluster is defined by Austin Public Health as three or more positive COVID-19 cases in one place, according to the City of Austin’s website.

The people who tested positive are isolated and receiving medical attention, according to the announcement. University Health Services, Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin are actively conducting contact tracing to inform people who have been in close contact with the positive cases. 

“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 announcement said.

Susan Hochman, associate director for assessment, communications and health information technology for UHS, said the information about cases released publicly is limited because the University receives information about positive cases through several testing centers.

“Depending on how UT received the information, it may have to consider the requirements of HIPAA, FERPA and/or its contract with Austin Public Health,” Hochman said. “Notice to the public of these positive cases generally must comply with the ‘minimum necessary’ requirements of these laws.”

UT posted the clusters on a campus announcements page on its website, but did not directly notify students. Multiple students who learned about the clusters through social media posts told The Daily Texan they wished the University had emailed the UT community about the clusters.

Business management junior PJ Chukwurah said the University should tell students where the clusters are for transparency and student safety.

“It’s better than nothing, but the bar’s on the ground if they don’t tell us where the clusters are,” Chukwurah said. “I live in West Campus, and even though I do what I’m supposed to be doing, like wearing a mask, I realize not all my peers are doing the same thing.”

Government junior Hector Mendez said it is clear some students are not taking COVID-19 seriously.

“The University of Texas (is) failing to provide for students having to return to campus because they made the option of reopening the campus at all, which brings greater risk to anyone involved,” Mendez said.