November 9, 2020
Dear UT Community,
As we near the end of the fall semester, I wanted to update you on the impact of COVID-19 on the Forty Acres and our plans and recommendations for staying safe through the holiday season. The challenges of the past few months have required our community to adapt, but you have answered the call and helped us enjoy the kind of enriching semester that has long defined the Longhorn experience. Thank you for doing your part to get us to this point!
Let’s keep up the positive momentum as we turn our focus to the winter months and spring semester. Cases are beginning to rise again in Austin, and it’s up to each of us to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands and remain vigilant and use good judgment in the days ahead.
We are only a few weeks from Thanksgiving and the end of in-person learning. Let’s finish strong.
The public health experts at University Health Services and UT Health Austin strongly recommend you make a plan to get tested through UT’s Proactive Community Testing or with other testing providers in Austin prior to the Thanksgiving break. If you test off campus, we encourage you to self-report positive results so that UT contact tracers can efficiently begin their important work. Many in our community will be traveling across the state and throughout the nation, and we want to make sure that we are not spreading the virus and putting others at risk. Please be sure to leave enough time between getting tested and your travel date to allow for a one- to two-day turnaround time on results.
It is also important to limit your interactions and closely follow public health guidance to minimize the possibility of infection prior to visiting friends and family. Be extra cautious if visiting individuals at higher risk of infection, like your grandparents.
UT’s Proactive Community Testing (PCT) follows the university holiday schedule. It will be available through December 17 and will resume the week of January 4. Individuals may test on a weekly basis through PCT.
If you leave campus and plan to come back during the months ahead, you should plan to limit your interactions and self-quarantine for seven days prior to your return — and then for the following seven days once you are back. We also strongly encourage you to get tested through PCT, or via another testing provider in Austin, during the week you return and prior to reconnecting with friends, classmates and co-workers.
Residence halls will remain open after Thanksgiving break until December 17 and reopen for the spring semester on January 15. Students who would like to leave before November 30 must email University Housing and Dining — and will receive an adjustment to their housing bill. Students who plan to stay in the residence halls don’t have to take any immediate action and will be given specific directions by University Housing and Dining.
There will still be many dining options after Thanksgiving break until the residence halls close on December 17.
The Texas Union, the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center and select Recreational Sports facilities will remain open after Thanksgiving with reduced hours. University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center will also be providing services to students during this time.
The Perry-Castañeda Library will close for the Thanksgiving holiday and then open again November 29. PCL will be open for faculty, students and staff from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the post-Thanksgiving period concluding December 17. Other library locations will follow their posted schedules.
Lab and Studio Access and Research
Research will continue to operate under the Research Restart protocols during the post-Thanksgiving period and during the winter holiday break. Research labs and studios will need to make sure that undergraduate students have access to buildings during times when they are not open to the public.
Graduate students will continue to have access to labs, studios and other campus facilities.
Staffing During the Holidays
As you know, many students and faculty members will leave campus during the coming weeks as we finish the semester. Staff members who have worked effectively from home will continue to be asked to work from home. As in years past, some staff members will still be needed on campus to help ensure operations run smoothly. If you have any questions about your work assignments during the holidays and winter break, please coordinate with your supervisor.
One question I hear frequently from students and parents is whether we will be hosting commencement ceremonies next spring for the Class of 2021 (as well as the Class of 2020 graduates, who did not get to have an in-person commencement last spring). At this point, we are working hard to find a way to safely host outdoor commencement ceremonies on the Forty Acres during the spring for both of these groups. The details are still being worked out, and they could be fluid as we watch the spread of COVID-19 in the coming months. But it is clear to me and many in the university community that we must make every effort to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of our graduates in a festive setting right here at home. We will keep you looped in as we develop these plans.
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Tomorrow and Wednesday, we’ll be hosting a two-day conference showcasing the groundbreaking COVID-19 work that has been pioneered by researchers from across campus. This event will capture the breadth of talent at our university — spanning numerous departments and disciplines — and show just how quickly our academic community pivoted to take on a truly global challenge. I encourage you to attend and see for yourself the kind of impact we are making on lives in Austin and around the world.
Thank you all for your great work this semester in keeping the university safe and operating at a high level. You have enabled us to continue changing the world in spite of great challenges and uncertainty, and I am grateful for all you’ve done to get us this far.