COVID-19 Testing and other Mitigation Strategies for Spring Semester

Dr. Emilio Carranco, Chief Medical Officer and Director, Student Health Center | January 6, 2021

Dear Texas State Faculty and Staff:

Welcome to a new year and a new semester at Texas State University! On a personal note, I want to thank you for your support and flexibility as we have worked together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses over the past several months. 
Current COVID-19 Conditions
While I am confident of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts we have implemented at Texas State, there will be new challenges in the weeks ahead. The surge in COVID-19 cases predicted by health experts after the holidays is occurring in Texas and across the United States.  Much of the virus transmission is occurring due to social gatherings with friends and family and within households. There is a higher risk that persons who do not know they are infected will bring the infection to our campuses. Thus, it is important that we take additional steps to identify and prevent the spread of infection.
Get Tested and Report to Bobcat Trace – critical steps for mitigating COVID-19 spread
Testing and contact tracing are very important tools in the fight against COVID-19. All faculty and staff were notified in December that they would be expected to get a COVID-19 test before returning to our campuses.  Those who have not been tested should schedule a free test at the Curative kiosk on the San Marcos Campus or at a Curative site near you.  Persons testing positive should immediately isolate, notify their supervisor, and Bobcat Trace for instructions on isolation and contact tracing. 
On January 4, Texas State students were sent an email reminding them that they are expected to get tested before coming to campuses for the spring semester.  Since we know household transmission can occur and we want to create as safe a living and working environment as possible, students living in and employees working in on-campus housing are required to get a COVID-19 test within a week of the start of classes.  Proof of a negative test will be required when students return.  The Department of Housing and Residential Life will be sending students details on the check-in process later this week.
Proactive, random sample testing of faculty, staff, and students will continue throughout the spring semester.
Additional Health and Safety Measures through January 31st 
President’s Cabinet has approved additional measures to supplement our COVID-19 mitigation plan during the first two weeks of the spring semester:

  • Provost Bourgeois will be communicating that faculty teaching face-to-face classes may use remote teaching, as appropriate, as much as possible during the first two weeks of the semester
  • Many courses have been, or are in the process of being moved, to larger spaces to reduce classroom density to less than 50 percent where possible 
  • Supervisors continue to be encouraged to reduce workplace density, if possible, while maintaining effective services 
  • Most large social gatherings or events will not be permitted
  • In-person fitness programs, sports club activities and intramural sports will be deferred and weight room capacity at the Sports Recreation Center will be reduced to 25 percent

Continue Effective Prevention Measures 
During the fall semester, we did not see evidence of COVID-19 transmission in classrooms, departments, or residence halls beyond roommates.  Contact tracing continues to show that most exposures are occurring during social gatherings with friends and family and in households.  We must continue to adhere to effective prevention measures—wear face coverings, social distance, wash hands often, and limit close contact with persons outside of our households.
Vaccine Update 
While there are challenges before us, vaccines provide hope for an end to this pandemic.  Texas State has been approved to be a vaccine provider.  I am hopeful that we will begin to receive some allocations of vaccine later this month.  We will vaccinate based on priority groups established by the Texas Department of State Health Services.  A COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Planning Work Group has been working to develop plans for vaccinations.  We are also creating a vaccine webpage that will provide updated information about vaccinations on our campuses.  
The university is planning a town hall meeting later this month to update faculty and staff on our COVID-19 response plan. This will provide an opportunity to address questions you may have about vaccination plans or mitigation measures.
We have proven that we can be successful when we work together and follow the health and safety guidelines established for Texas State.  Let’s continue our efforts to keep Texas State safe and to stop COVID-19.
Dr. Emilio Carranco
Chief Medical Officer
Director, Student Health Center