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Education

Texas State Moves Forward With Plans For 'Robust' In-Person Experience This Fall

A Texas State student walks on campus.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A Texas State student walks on campus in August 2020.

Texas State University is moving forward with plans for a "robust in-person experience" this fall, the school's provost and vice president for academic affairs said Thursday.

Gene Bourgeois said the university has been preparing for this for a long time and believes it's ready.

"Everything is in shape for a 100% capacity for classes, buses and other venues, events and meetings," he said.

In April, the university said it would return to in-person learning for the fall semester "in full force." The announcement was made at a time when COVID-19 cases in San Marcos and across Hays County were largely on the decline.

Since then, cases have once again skyrocketed, especially among the unvaccinated. Since most Texans who are 65 years and older already have been vaccinated, health officials say younger, unvaccinated people represent a larger portion of the cases and hospitalizations reported recently.

Last week, County Judge Ruben Becerra issued a mask requirement for all public K-12 schools in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott's order banning mask and vaccine mandates.

In response to the recent surge, Texas State officials said they would double down on emphasizing safety protocols to prevent COVID infection and spread.

Chief Medical Officer Emilio Carranco said the university is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors. Texas State officials are also encouraging people to test themselves regularly for the virus and report cases and close contacts with people who have tested positive to the university's internal contact tracing system, Bobcat Trace.

Officials said they can't mandate any of the above protocols, per Abbott's orders.

Bourgeois also said the university would not be pursuing any kind of incentives for vaccinations, citing guidance from the Texas State University System. Other schools in the state have said students who get vaccinated could win prizes and, in some cases, a year of free tuition.

The university will also continue randomly choosing students, faculty and staff to ask them to get tested.

"Not everyone will do it, but enough folks will do it that we can still obtain very reliable information from the testing that we're doing," Carranco said.

Carranco said officials use that information to help them make operational decisions, though they don't have a specific threshold for stricter measures if case numbers or positivity rates continue going up.

Roughly 6,000 new students who moved into campus this week were required to show proof of a negative test before doing so. Of those, about 1,500 were tested on-site and 16 were positive.

"We felt good about those numbers," Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Hernandez said.

Classes begin on Monday.

Got a tip? Email Riane Roldan at rroldan@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.

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