August 24, 2020
Dear UT Community,
On Wednesday, the fall semester officially begins. So many members of our university community have worked tirelessly to get us to this point, but I know a great deal of uncertainty still looms as we aim to carry forward our vital learning, teaching and research missions during these difficult times.
If you are returning to the Forty Acres this semester, your actions — both on and off campus — will directly affect the lives and well-being of everyone around you. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to wear your masks, wash your hands consistently, practice social distancing whenever possible and embrace the tenets of the Commitment to Protect Texas Together.
Many students have already returned to campus and its surrounding areas, and the university has been carrying out proactive community COVID-19 tests in addition to the more than 1,300 tests previously administered throughout the summer. When you are contacted for proactive community testing, I strongly encourage you to participate. And if you are experiencing symptoms, please remember to get tested through University Health Services or UT Health Austin. By testing widely during these early days, we will develop a better understanding of the baseline COVID-19 rates within our community and be in a stronger position to limit spread and provide care.
As we carry out thousands of tests in the days to come, we will almost certainly find a larger number of COVID-19 cases and clusters than we have seen in recent weeks. These initial cases will primarily reflect infections that community members developed outside of our campus environment this summer and will mark a starting point for measuring our overall ability to mitigate the spread and impact of the virus. Our goal is to maintain COVID-19 rates that are close to, or less than, what we record during these initial weeks. But, again, our success in doing this is wholly dependent on our ability to adhere to safety guidelines, participate in testing and contact tracing, and show respect for our fellow Longhorns and Austin neighbors. You will be able to track case numbers during the semester via our COVID-19 dashboard and to see information about significant clusters here.
A few other reminders:
If you have any COVID-19-related questions or concerns, please call the recently expanded Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line at 512-232-5050 or submit your COVID-19 questions online.
If you are learning online or in person this semester, I hope you will take full advantage of the Longhorn Connection website, which provides a range of opportunities and activities.
Campus events will be generally limited to 10 participants. If you are planning to host or attend an on-campus event, please review the university’s recently updated Meetings, Events and Mass Gatherings checklist for guidance.
While those employees who are able to work effectively from home will continue to do so, those who are working from campus can find needed information in our employee guidebook.
I want to thank all of the dedicated staff and faculty members who have worked nonstop throughout the summer to prepare us for the semester. Your efforts have been incredible.
Our success in the days ahead will be determined by our behavior; our commitment to wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing; our compassion for our fellow Longhorns; and our sense of shared responsibility. If each of us does our part, I know we will have another outstanding semester defined by learning, discovery, invention and creativity. That’s our goal, so let’s go out and get to work.