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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

University leaders address spring semester, vaccination plans in townhall

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The LBJ statue wears a protective mask, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, near the Quad on Texas State’s campus.

President Denise Trauth and other university leaders addressed campus vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing and spring class delivery on Jan. 15 in the first university town hall meeting of the spring 2021 semester. 
Following Trauth’s opening remarks, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois discussed the layout of the spring semester. Bourgeois confirmed the semester will accurately follow the published school year calendar, which includes no changes to spring break and final exam days.
Additionally, the university is suggesting faculty members teach virtually for the first two weeks of classes, but it is not a requirement. 
“We’ve said that for the first two weeks of this spring semester, we are encouraging faculty to post and to deliver their classes via Zoom or online and that’s to help us gradually increase campus capacity,” Bourgeois says. “Given the current environment that we’re in, we have moved about 200 classes to larger classrooms to reduce classroom density.”
Seating charts will be required in both face-to-face and hybrid-delivered classes. The university will also continue to enforce its mandatory mask rule throughout the semester. Bourgeois says masks will be required in public buildings, classrooms, labs and outdoors when walking in groups.
While Texas State is only aware of cases self-reported to Bobcat Trace, identified at the Student Health Center or its Curative testing sites, Student Health Center Director Emilio Carranco says he believes following mask regulations and social distancing contributed to the lack of startling transmissions on campus. 
“We learned that face coverings, physical distancing and handwashing really do work,” Carranco says. “We were very happy to see that the university community came together to practice those very effective strategies throughout the fall semester. Because of that, we didn’t see any significant transmission in our classrooms, in our departments or in our residence halls besides roommate transmission.”
Carranco drew attention to the recently required COVID-19 testing for students and staff living in residential housing. Carranco says household transmission is a significant factor to consider due to students and staff returning from their family homes after the break. 
“We saw a significant surge in COVID-19 immediately and during the holidays,” Carranco says. “If that surge continues, we’re probably in the most significant COVID-19 surge that we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic. That’s really significant for us because it means that transmission levels are higher now at the start of the spring semester than they were at the start of the fall semester.”
Carranco says the strategy is to limit transmission and interaction between parties. Because of this, in-person fitness classes, intramurals and sports club activities will be postponed for the first two weeks of classes.
To ensure cases are not increasing or spreading, Carranco says testing will be more adamant this semester and random testing will also occur.
“Testing will continue to be important throughout the spring semester and so we will continue to do proactive random sampling testing,” Carranco says. “What that means is that we’re taking a random sample of faculty, staff and students, and every week, sending out notices asking people to please go get a COVID-19 test.”
Carranco explained Texas State will receive the Pfizer vaccine in what he hopes to be sometime later this month. The vaccine will be distributed in the LBJ Student Center and vaccinations will be regularly scheduled throughout the week.
“Once we get the vaccine, and we know the amount of vaccine that we’ve been allocated, we can look at our priority list and determine who needs to be contacted for an opportunity to vaccinate,” Carranco says. “The way this will look is that you will get an email, and it will tell you that you are part of the eligible group for vaccination. When you get that email, it’s very important that you respond to it quickly. We are going to set up a vaccine registration link and when you get your email, you’ll need to go to the link and then sign up for your vaccination slot.”
People will be able to receive their second vaccination with the university as well — all free of charge. To track vaccination information, a web page is in the works to keep the community updated on how and when the vaccine will be distributed and what priority groups have been selected to receive the vaccination.
“I think it’s important for us to really work together, implement the mitigation strategies that we’ve determined will be helpful to us, and that you continue to practice all the prevention measures that we know have worked,” Carranco says.”I suspect that we will see improvement during the course of the semester. I’m very optimistic that as vaccination starts to roll out, as this search starts to come down, that we’re going to see life start to return to some level of normalcy.” 
Toward the end of the town hall, a question was addressed to Trauth about a $50 million stimulus fund Texas State will receive and how it will be distributed.
“We have verified that we will receive a little bit more than $50 million. We’ve also verified that at least $16 million, a few more dollars, must go directly to students.” Trauth says.
Trauth says she has no other information to provide and cannot accurately confirm the regulations in place on how the money will be spent.
To view the full Jan. 15 town hall meeting, visit the university’s town hall website.

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