UT has extended spring break by a week in light of concerns over the new coronavirus that has spread around the nation in recent days, according to an announcement from UT President Gregory Fenves. The school’s athletics department also announced that fans will be banned from all home sporting events until March 22.
Classes will resume on campus on Monday, March 30, according to the announcement. During that time, the university will still be open to give faculty extra time to prepare for “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the virus, such as avoiding group or other mass gatherings. The announcement was posted on the website for the Office of the President.
“COVID-19 represents a serious public health concern,” Fenves said in the announcement. “UT is committed to the well-being of our community members and slowing the spread of the coronavirus while also supporting our students’ educational goals and the needs of staff and faculty members and students during these challenging times.”
Fenves said “social distancing” will allow the school to move many lectures online, reconfiguring classes and developing alternative teaching methods for classes that have to continue to meet. Residence halls, dining halls, recreational facilities and libraries will als continue to help prevent “unnecessary contact and promote better personal hygiene.”
“We will also examine how to support employees and students who have special health needs or are especially vulnerable to the virus,” Fenves wrote.
Athletics director Chris Del Conte in a separate statement that direction came from Fenves and that as the situation is “evolving” that further announcements will be made about sporting events after March 22.
"We realize COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a major concern to everyone, and in an effort to mitigate any potential risks for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans, we will be limiting those in attendance at our home sporting events through the next two weekends," Del Conte said. "We regret that our fans will not be able to attend our events to support our teams, but this decision was made with the health and well-being of our campus community and fans as the top priority.
Texas’s baseball team is currently scheduled to host New Mexico for a series this Friday-Sunday as well as the University of Incarnate Word next Tuesday. Columbia University canceled a trip to Austin to play men’s tennis this Saturday.
Fenves’ announcement also said more details will come in the coming days, and that students who want to return to campus as scheduled on March 23 will still be able to. “Residence halls, dining halls, health and counseling services and other facilities” will be open at that time, Fenves wrote.
Fenves encouraged students and UT employees to stay home from work or class if they are sick or become sick and added that students in self-isolation should request accommodations from the university.
“I know this is not the spring break we had expected,” he wrote. ”Typically, March is a special month, when tens of thousands flock to Austin for South by Southwest and students and community members spend time resting and enjoying new experiences around the nation and the world. I am aware that many of you have had to change your plans, and I appreciate the resiliency you have shown throughout these difficult weeks. We must all come together as a community to make the semester as productive as possible.”