February 17, 2021
Dear UT Community,
Many in our community continue to struggle with some of our most basic needs – power, water, warmth and food, among others. The stories are heartbreaking and scary, even as we hear of some heroic efforts to help those most in need. The thaw is now in sight – but, unfortunately, not until the weekend. Given these circumstances, the potential for more winter precipitation, and the continuation of below-freezing temperatures, we have decided to remain closed until at least 8 a.m. Monday, February 22. The safety of our community remains our top priority, and we wanted to let everybody know now of our plans, so their focus rightly can remain on the most pressing issues without worrying about whether classes or work will resume this week.
We will announce a reopening when we are certain that conditions have been determined to be safe. All classes and events, including those that are virtual or online, are canceled through at least 8 a.m. Monday. Only core essential staff members will report to work during the remainder of this closure.
We will continue to assess campus conditions in the coming days, including accessibility of streets and buildings. Supervisors may request additional employees report to campus or work remotely to assist and support efforts to ready our roads and buildings for a safe reopening. We can also imagine that some campus activities might resume over the weekend if they can do so safely.
Mitigating the Aftermath
If students can safely access campus, they can get warm and charge their devices at the facilities listed on the emergency website. The page has the most up-to-date operational information for campus warming centers and dining venues, as well as Student Emergency Services.
If faculty or staff members need to use their office spaces for heat or charging devices, they should feel free to come to campus if they can travel safely.
Supervisors should allow employees time off as needed to care for themselves and their families, and to restore their routines that have been so significantly disrupted by this event. Employees should be working only if their tasks are necessary for the health and safety of the community, and to support a safe reopening.
Speaking of the health of our community, I also want to make it clear that we are NOT considering using Spring Break to make up for the lost time this semester. Spring Break 2021 will happen as planned, and given what we’ve been through this academic year, such a break will be welcome and well deserved.
Continued focus on slowing COVID-19
While we are focused on recovering from this historic winter storm, please remember how important it is that we maintain our vigilance in stopping the spread of COVID-19. As a reminder, the university now recommends double masking.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, it is essential that you isolate from others until you can get tested when campus reopens.
For resources and support related to isolation, please call the Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line (BCCAL) at 512-232-5050, option 2, or submit COVID-19 questions online.
For students’ health-related questions, contact the University Health Services’ 24-Hour Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6877. UHS plans to have limited telehealth appointments available on Friday. The advice-line nurses can schedule (between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. only) these appointments for students they determine need to be evaluated by a health care provider prior to Monday’s reopening.
Employees and graduate students with Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS TX) UT Select or Academic Blue health insurance can access online telemedicine visits for routine medical conditions and behavioral health concerns through MDLive with zero co-pay. Access MDLive online at MDLIVE.com/bcbstx or 888-680-8646.
The 24/7 UT Select BCBS-TX Nurseline is available to employees and their families provided by BC/BS TX at no additional cost through your UT Select medical plan. Get answers to your health care questions, information about major medical issues, chronic illness support, and lifestyle change support. Call toll-free: 1-888-315-9473, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Proactive Community Testing and COVID-19 vaccine operations will resume on Monday, February 22. Individuals whose vaccine appointment was canceled will be contacted directly to reschedule. If your second dose was delayed due to the closure, you are still within Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended timeline for receiving it. It is not necessary to start the series over again, but be sure to receive both doses for maximum effectiveness. Our vaccination teams are capable of expanding capacity to fully utilize all available vaccine supply.
Once again, I am amazed how this community comes together to accomplish great things. Surviving a prolonged weather event like this one, combined with the work of the pandemic, has demonstrated your resilience far beyond my expectations. Thank you for your continued dedication and strength.
Stay warm, be safe, and take care.