UTD’s proactive testing and isolation programs will continue this fall, but on a reduced scale, as the University plans to rely on vaccinations to drive down case count.
Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Grief, who oversaw University Housing’s COVID testing and response program last year, said that due to CDC restrictions on international travel, COVID testing will be mandatory upon arrival to campus for all international students. With regards to the isolation program, 10 fully-furnished 1-bedroom University Village apartments are currently set aside as on-campus quarantine residences.
“We were using those as isolation spots last year, in addition to the spots in Canyon Creek Heights North, and we’ve decided to keep those units offline and use them strictly for quarantine and isolation if necessary,” Grief said. “Now, our hope is that students will continue to get vaccinated and we’ll see a decline in caseload level. Even with as many students as we had on campus at the end of last year, we didn’t really see a large number of cases at one time except for early on in the semester when we did all of the testing and nobody had the vaccine.”
The procedure for any student who needs to isolate will be near-identical to last year: local Comets have the opportunity to quarantine at home, but those who stay on campus will have meals, laundry and waste disposal services provided to enable total isolation over the allocated time period.
But with only 10 residences available for quarantine, there is a valid concern over what would happen if more than 10 students needed to isolate on campus at a time.
“We’ll have to kind of evaluate that,” Grief said. “Our hope is that more students get vaccinated, and if we do start seeing an increase, unvaccinated students who get sick might be living with vaccinated folks already and we could leave them in place close to those students and not have to isolate them.”
If any on-campus housing goes unfilled, Grief said that it could be converted into additional isolation housing. However, with the exception of freshman overflow housing, on-campus apartments are currently about 99% booked. Regardless, Grief said, UTD is not going to merely cross its fingers with regards to student vaccinations.
“There will be a mass campaign for vaccinations in the fall,” Grief said. “The on-site vaccination center with UT Southwestern worked out really well, so we’ll be working to get students ease-of-access again to continue that effort so students can keep themselves and each other safe.”