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UT Austin Prepares For Online Classes In Case COVID-19 Comes To Campus

A Healthy Horns sign on preventing the spread of germs
Julia Reihs
A sign at the Texas Union on UT Austin's campus reminds people how to stop the spread of germs.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Austin, but if it happens, the University of Texas wants to be ready.

UT Austin President Greg Fenves said Monday the university is putting together a contingency plan in case students or staff become infected with the virus and the university needs to cancel classes on campus.

Fenves said UT will cancel in-person classes only if large gatherings become a public health risk; that would likely be when there are confirmed cases on campus.

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He said his biggest task right now is getting UT prepared for the potential to teach all classes online.

“How faculty think about delivering instruction in a new way, the infrastructure, and then how exams would be handled,” Fenves said. “Those are the main categories for preparing to move courses online.”

He said lab work and staff meetings could still happen, as long as everyone is practicing proper hygiene, like regularly washing hands and avoiding contact with one another.

Fenves said sporting events and concerts at UT facilities will continue as normal and the university is preparing to bring in more hand sanitizer.

With spring break next week, many students and staff will be traveling. UT has advised against international travel. Fenves said he can’t discourage people from domestic travel, but has some guidance: “Just to be thoughtful about when they travel. Probably don’t travel to areas with large reports of the virus. Follow good hygiene."

Universities around the countryincluding Rice University in Houston, have been canceling classes as COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed. Fenves says UT’s situation is much different than many of the smaller schools closing, because the university has so many more students.

He said he has been talking with officials at the University of Washington in Seattle, the only large, public university that has canceled classes because of the virus.

Got a tip? Email ClaireMcInerny at Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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