UTSA has announced the university will be moving to remote learning for the first three weeks of the semester due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
UTSA president Taylor Eighmy and other school leaders sent an email out to faculty, staff and students to inform them that due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio, all courses will be held online for the first three weeks of the fall semester.
"We must temporarily adjust our approach to opening our fall semester—balancing an evolving new normal around in-person learning with additional practical controls—until we see the Delta surge begin to diminish and return to less risky levels similar to what we experienced earlier this summer," the university said in the email. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will adjust the nature and duration of these modified operations based on a number of factors, including San Antonio Metro Health stress level and trends, the potential availability of vaccines for children, the trend in positive cases and the stress level within our hospital systems, vaccination trends locally and in Texas, as well as our campus impact trends around positive tests and vaccinations."
Classes at UTSA are scheduled to begin online Aug. 23 and will be held online until after they can see the "potential impact of the Labor Day holiday."
The following was posted on the university's website:
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, we committed to put the health and safety of our entire campus community first. Over the last year and half, we have learned a lot about managing life under the pandemic and the importance of masking, personal hygiene, vaccinations, contact tracing and quarantining. Our approach to planning for the fall semester involved balancing an open campus with a mix of course and work modalities to optimize learning, teaching and research while keeping our community healthy.
We shared recently that we have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 Delta variant surge here in San Antonio, in Texas and across the globe. We remain in daily communication with our colleagues, including our Public Health Task Force and their expert advisors at UT Health San Antonio, as well as the infectious disease experts at San Antonio Metro Health, UT System and government agencies. Unfortunately, the Delta variant has proven more contagious than previous strains, escalating risk levels to the severe level in San Antonio. This variant is especially impacting unvaccinated and younger individuals. It’s a stark reminder that the very best way you can protect yourself, your friends and family is to get vaccinated.
Pandemic models, like the IHME model, are being used by the CDC agencies to look at this surge’s magnitude, peak impact, arrival time and how quickly the surge may dissipate. A number of models suggest that this surge will peak in Texas later in August and then diminish into September and the fall. Several factors can change the model’s outputs, but it is a good forecasting tool.
Our fall 2021 planning effort and registration process this past spring was informed by student learning needs and feedback, leading to a wider range of course modalities for faculty and students including many that involve in-person instruction. We know from public health data that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is more prevalent in indoor settings, and that large gatherings of people indoors—such as classrooms—pose a higher risk for COVID-19 transmission. Areas with fewer people, especially outdoors, have a much lower risk to human health and safety. Further, the temporary restraining order issued yesterday by Judge Antonia “Toni” Arteaga here in Bexar County that allows a mask requirement in schools is not applicable for a state institution such as UTSA.
Given all this, we must temporarily adjust our approach to opening our fall semester—balancing an evolving new normal around in-person learning with additional practical controls—until we see the Delta surge begin to diminish and return to less risky levels similar to what we experienced earlier this summer. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will adjust the nature and duration of these modified operations based on a number of factors, including San Antonio Metro Health stress level and trends, the potential availability of vaccines for children, the trend in positive cases and the stress level within our hospital systems, vaccination trends locally and in Texas, as well as our campus impact trends around positive tests and vaccinations.
In consultation with UT System, our campuses will be open and the fall semester will begin on August 23 as planned, but with some temporary course delivery and operational modifications. These will be in place for three weeks, informed by surge modeling and to accommodate the potential impact of the Labor Day holiday. Two principle adjustments will be made:
- Most courses will be held online for the first three weeks of the semester.
- We will begin our semester with most scheduled classes meeting online from August 23 to September 12. This temporary change directly impacts the face-to-face instruction portion of those classes scheduled for traditional in-person or hybrid modality, which will be held online at their regularly scheduled times as listed in ASAP. This approach will make it less disruptive to pivot back to the original modality once our operational modifications conclude. See our pages on Fall Classes & Student Experience and Working, Teaching & Research for more information.
- A mandatory COVID-19 testing requirement will be put into place for students, faculty and staff.
- This testing program will be an important step to manage risk of transmission and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the Roadrunner community. As discussed below, the first phase will involve testing of students moving into campus housing. More information about the testing requirement will be released soon, including phased scheduling, policies for asymptomatic and symptomatic testing, testing locations, self-reporting and more.
UTSA will hold a virtual town hall from 1-2 p.m. on Aug. 19 to provide more information on the modified fall plan.