SAN MARCOS, Texas – School bells are ringing across the country, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, students at Texas State University, like many others, face a new normal with a myriad of new rules and regulations not typically found in course syllabi.
Classes start on Aug. 24 as the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,250 cases of COVID-19 in Hays County. Of the 5,250 cases, 2,565 cases come from the university town, San Marcos. Since March 1, the university reported that 113 students and 27 faculty/staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the state’s statistics, more than 2,400 cases in Hays County are still active.
The spike in case counts from across the state and the country prompted university officials to cancel study abroad trips, extend spring break by a week, implement remote learning models during the spring and summer semesters and cancel in-person commencement ceremonies.
As case counts in Texas spiked, then spiked again following the states’ reopening, Texas State released the university’s own “roadmap to return,” a guide for students, staff and faculty to navigate health and safety protocols during the current health crisis.
Today from 3-4 p.m., #TXST supervisors will hear from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Emilio Carranco; Dr. @RodneyRohde, @TXST_CLS professor & chair; & Work Life Coordinator Ms. Rose Trevino in a webinar about the Roadmap to Return's health & safety procedures https://t.co/TFOaWr0yGH— Denise M. Trauth (@TXSTPresident) June 29, 2020
Included in the roadmap are university officials’ expectations for students enrolled in online, hybrid, flexible and face-to-face classes.
According to the roadmap, all students are required to view a mandatory health and safety video before arriving on campus. On July 29, the university asked all students enrolled to self-quarantine for 14 days before arriving on campus.
Wearing a facial covering is mandatory both indoors and outdoors on Texas State campuses unless individuals are alone, the roadmap states. Additionally, students are asked to pledge to uphold the university’s 10 health and safety measures, which include face coverings, physical distancing and hygiene practices.
Covered in the roadmap is a daily self-assessment for students, faculty and staff to go over prior to attending classes or work, the roadmap states that the Student Health Center can provide medical evaluation for university community members via Telehealth.
In an emailed letter to all students, University President Denise M. Trauth said the university adopted health and safety measures based on local and state resolutions related to COVID-19. Should students fail to comply with university policies related to COVID-19, they may face consequences that include suspension or expulsion, Trauth says.
“You may ask, ‘Why is Texas State enforcing such strict health and safety measures?’ What if we didn’t? You may have seen that Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina, and Michigan State University, to name a few, have reduced their on-campus operations, transitioning to online learning temporarily or through the end of the semester,” Trauth said in her letter. “These universities were forced to take swift action because of COVID-19 outbreaks linked to some degree to off-campus social gatherings that did not adhere to health and safety guidelines. To put it bluntly, the choices of a few students negatively impacted the on-campus experience for their peers.”
In Trauth’s letter, she said she had faith that students would make good decisions and share the responsibility in keeping the university community safe, but students are not buying it.
You know Norte Dame had the same layout and they ended up online after two weeks... I wonder how long #TXST thinks we will last before going virtual because of a rise in COVID-19 cases? https://t.co/OTwwaFAi85— Cat (she/her/hers) 😋 (@catherineewood) August 23, 2020
Next time Trauth emails, it better be them saying they’re putting all classes online— leigha 🌻 (@carson_leigha) August 21, 2020
The fact that president Trauth just sent an email saying our health and safety is her highest priority and is still forcing students to go to class in person is an absolute joke. Be better @txst read the room. This is a huge mistake. @UniversityStar— Alex Mason (@masonator2016) August 21, 2020
I simply cannot read another long winded email from denise trauth stating how important it is that we all die so the school can keep its tuition money or I will perish— void wrangler (@kaitlynnariel) August 21, 2020
Students, faculty and staff members who test positive or are identified as persons who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person should report to the Bobcat Trace program.
The program functions as a web application for reporting positive cases and guides contact tracing efforts on campus.