311 COVID-19 concern calls experience spikes in West Campus since beginning of fall semester

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Photo Credit: Megan Fletcher | Daily Texan Staff

West Campus has experienced spikes in 311 COVID-19 concern calls since August, according to the Austin Code COVID-19 complaint cases dashboard. About 67% of these calls resulted in no violations found.

Austin 311 COVID-19 concern calls are routed to Austin Public Health, Austin Code or the Austin Fire Marshal depending on the nature of the call, said Alina Carnahan, city of Austin public information officer. From Aug. 24 to Sept. 28, 319 total coronavirus concern calls have been reported to the three departments out of the 78705 zip code, which encompasses West Campus, according to data provided to The Daily Texan.

Carnahan said responders will verbally issue COVID-19 education to violators and remind them of current social distancing orders.

“The process is intentionally education-first to get people to voluntarily comply where possible,” Carnahan said. “It’s important to remember that cooperative compliance is always our goal, but our priority is the overall safety of our community.”

According to the Austin Code COVID-19 complaint cases dashboard, 86 of the 129 COVID-19 concern calls recorded to Austin Code for 78705 resulted in no violation observed. At the time of publication, the dashboard was last updated Oct. 12. Twenty-five calls were referred to a different appropriate agency to be addressed, and the rest were closed due to duplicates or voluntary compliance. 

COVID-19 education was not provided to any 311 concern calls reported to Austin Code since August in 78705, according to the dashboard.

According to the dashboard, 98 of the 129 calls were placed for residential homes or apartment complexes.

Neuroscience sophomore Annie Jenson said she called 311 last month to report a party at the 21st Street Co-op that violated the citywide mandate restricting gatherings to less than 10 people. 

Two COVID-19 service requests were submitted to the 21st Street Co-op in September. Neither investigation found any violation. The 21st Street Co-op declined to comment.

A violation is considered observed when an inspector arrives at the noted address and verifies the reason noted in the 311 call is currently in effect, Carnahan said.

“If necessary, an inspector will speak to the property owner or venue manager on-site and provide education and information regarding current social distancing orders,” Carnahan said. “Inspectors certainly can, though, interview complainants, witnesses and others similarly situated to provide insight to any violation.”

Terrian Spurs, a communication and leadership junior, said she had seen large gatherings in her West Campus apartment building that exceeded 20 people. She did not report the parties to 311 because she wasn’t sure if any action would be taken.

Spurs said she feels some students in West Campus are not taking the COVID-19 pandemic as seriously as she would like.

“It just continuously seems like people just don’t care about the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Spurs said. “The fact that they would have a party or get-together with people and not wear masks or social distance makes me feel upset and worried.”

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that two COVID-19 service requests were submitted to the 21st Street Co-op in September, not August. The Daily Texan regrets this error.