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UT Austin To Require Face Coverings In Campus Buildings This Fall

UT Austin's fall semester begins Aug. 26. People will be required to wear face coverings in campus buildings.
UT Austin's fall semester begins Aug. 26. People will be required to wear face coverings in campus buildings.

UT Austin will require students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear face coverings in campus buildings this fall, interim President Jay Hartzell announced Monday.

The policy is already in place for the summer, but summer classes are happening online due to the coronavirus. The university announced last month students have the option to return to campus in August for the fall semester, though it will look different than normal: Students will not come back after Thanksgiving break until the new year and classrooms will be limited to 40% capacity. 

In a letter to the UT community, Hartzell said the face covering policy is supported by guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and Texas Department of State Health Services. People can remove their face coverings in campus buildings if they’re alone, in a private office space or in their dorm room. Outdoors, masks will be encouraged but not required, especially in places where it’s not possible to keep 6 feet away from others.

UT announced last week it’s working on a plan to test people without symptoms who want to be tested. The goal is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to get an understanding of the presence of the disease on campus. UT is also working on plans for screening people who enter buildings.

The university has also been working to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19, including limiting hiring and freezing some employee salaries. Furloughs have also begun in certain units that bring in their own revenue but haven’t been able to earn enough income in recent months, Hartzell said Monday, though he didn’t say which units.

Texas leaders recently  asked state agencies and universities to find ways they can operate with 5% less funding from the state. Hartzell said UT is working to identify potential cuts and savings.

“I understand that this uncertainty isn’t ideal — I wish we had clearer answers at this time — but we will be transparent and keep everyone in the loop as we continue to make difficult choices for the future benefit of our university,” Hartzell wrote.

People can submit their thoughts on the fall semester to UT  here.

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at mcharpentier@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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