Universities across Texas are preparing for the fall semester and, for some, that means new safety requirements before students can step foot on campus.
Baylor University students must test negative for the coronavirus before being allowed on the school’s Waco campus in the fall.
Test kits, provided by the university, are being sent to the homes of students starting next week. They're required to collect a sample with a nasal swab and mail it back to the lab on the same day. Students should get results in 48 hours.
“I appreciate that they’re doing it. I think it’s an added step,” said Liliana McKean, whose daughter will begin her freshman year next month.
Experts say the plan is not a 100 percent fail-proof for keeping the virus at bay on campus. Still, McKean thinks it’s a good gesture.
“I know you can take the test and later on be positive, but I think the university is showing that they’re doing the best, putting the best foot forward to start the school year,” McKean said.
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Benjamin Waggoner will be a sophomore at Baylor. He supports the plan, but he believes it’s just one aspect of safely returning to campus.
“I think what Baylor’s doing is good for what it is. We’ll see how it all works out. But at the end of the day, we’re college students and everyone just needs to be in the exact same headspace,” Waggoner said.
Baylor says if a student tests positive on campus during the school year, they will be in isolation. If their sickness continues, they will be sent home.
In Austin, the University of Texas announced Wednesday it is asking students to self-quarantine for two weeks before coming to campus for the fall semester.
A letter sent to students asks them to stay home and limit in-person interactions. If quarantine isn't possible at their home, the university is asking they quarantine for two weeks once arriving in Austin.
UT also designing an app to help students track any COVID-19 symptoms. Based on those symptoms, the app will indicate whether they're allowed on campus.
UT says it is capping in-person classes to 40 percent.
According to a New York Times study, UT has reported more COVID-19 cases than any other university in the United States. The school topped the list with 449 positive cases since the pandemic began.
The same New York Times survey reported SMU had 49 positive cases. Baylor reported 42, UT Arlington reported 14, UT Dallas reported 12 and the University of North Texas reported four cases.
This week, the Texas Faculty Association called on Governor Greg Abbott to delay the start of in-person classes at colleges until early September.
Pat Heintzelman is the president of the TFA and is an instructor at Lamar University in Beaumont.
“Either start totally online at the regularly scheduled time — most are starting back around August 18 — or delay the start and reassess before you make decisions and bring people on campus,” Heintzelman said.
Most North Texas colleges, like SMU, UNT and UT Arlington, have mask and social distancing policies in place. The colleges are also offering in-person, online-only and hybrid classes.
TCU also asked students to practice self-monitoring for two weeks before they return to campus.
The Texas A&M University system previously announced it will distribute 15,000 free test kits monthly across its 11 campuses.