University of Texas announces 100 cases of COVID-19, clusters in West Campus area

Three clusters of coronavirus cases have been identified in the West Campus area near The University of Texas at Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Three clusters of coronavirus cases have been identified in the West Campus area near The University of Texas at Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Three clusters of coronavirus cases have been identified in the West Campus area near The University of Texas at Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The University of Texas at Austin has announced the existence of three coronavirus clusters in the West Campus area. The approximately 100 students that make up the clusters have been isolated and are receiving medical attention, according to communications from UT on Sept. 9.

The university is working with Austin Public Health to identify others who may have been exposed using contact tracing, reaching out to individuals known to have been within 6 feet of any of the infected persons.

"The university is committed to providing community members with relevant information about significant clusters that pose health and safety risks so they can make informed and healthy decisions in their daily lives," UT's announcement regarding the clusters read.

State and federal law prohibits UT from sharing specific addresses or other personal identifying details about these clusters. However, public scrutiny has been directed toward West Campus since photos and videos of large gatherings held by Greek life organizations in that area began circulating on social media as students returned to campus. UT has not shared whether the clusters are connected to these events, but Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, cautioned students who were considering attending those sorts of large gatherings at a Sept. 9 press conference.

"It’s important our young people realize those activities, those gatherings, those parties are reckless. As a member of this community, the fraternities and sororities have a responsibility to other people. They may not be in danger if they get COVID-19, but other people’s lives will be in danger if they spread it," Escott said.

According to UT's public COVID-19 reporting dashboard, 318 students, faculty and staff have tested positive since students returned to campus Aug. 26. Students are encouraged to have testing conducted by University Health Services; however, UT added 109 cases to its dashboard Sept. 8 after receiving information from APH about students who had tested elsewhere and had not self-reported to the university. UT has said it will regularly communicate with off-campus testing sites to avoid gaps in reporting in the future.

The announcement of the clusters comes days before UT's first scheduled home game against The University of Texas at El Paso at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, scheduled for Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.

UT will allow fans to fill 25% capacity at the stadium, or roughly 25,000 spectators. Escott said Sept. 9 based on Travis County's current COVID-19 testing positivity rate, about 40 to 50 fans could be expected to attend who have COVID-19 and called that "a concern," although he said it is an improvement over the initial plan to allow 50% capacity at the stadium.

"I will be watching on my TV. Folks who are high risk, over 65 [years old], who have other underlying health conditions or who live in a household with someone who is high risk, should really think strongly of not attending," he said.

In Travis County as a whole, statistics health officials examine to assess the risk of the virus continue to improve. The overall positivity rate for the virus is 4.6% as of Aug. 29; the seven-day moving average of daily hospital admissions is 18, and the rolling average of new daily confirmed cases is 82 as of Sept. 10.

At the peak of virus transmission locally July 8, 753 new cases were reported in a day, and the moving average of hospital admissions was 75.1.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Dec. 2 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state of Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First allotment of COVID-19 vaccinations expected to arrive in Texas in mid-December

About 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been allotted to the state of Texas and will arrive the week of Dec. 14.

Frontyard Brewing opened Nov. 14 in Spicewood. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New brewery opens in Spicewood and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community updates from Central Texas.

The proposal from Aspen Heights Partners would place two towers—one residential and one office—on the downtown tract. (Courtesy Austin Economic Development Department)
Two towers, 590,000 square feet of housing and office space on table for former HealthSouth property in downtown Austin

The 1.7-acre downtown tract is among the most valuable undeveloped areas in the city's portfolio.

Traffic moves along the upper decks of I-35 near downtown Austin on Dec. 1. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on a $4.9 billion project to improve the 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT is spending billions to fix I-35 through downtown Austin, but some community members say the state is wrong in its approach

A report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released Dec. 1 said the 8-mile stretch of I-35 from Hwy. 290 to SH 71 is the most congested roadway in the state.

Pravo Construction opened a new headquarters at Two Barton Skyway, 1601 MoPac, Austin, on Nov. 1. (Courtesy CBRE)
Now open in Austin: New coffee shop, offices and medical clinics arrive south of river

New businesses operating in Austin include MilkRun, which delivers dairy, meat, produce and other products from local farmers to customers at home.

Graphic of a coronavirus unit
COVID-19 rates after Thanksgiving have yet to climb, but experts say spike could still be coming

As Austin awaits a vaccine whose first doses could arrive by the end of 2020, health officials say the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the spread of the virus could take time to show up.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a campaign to address declining college enrollment numbers across the state since the pandemic started. (Courtesy Pexels)
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launches campaign to boost college enrollment

The decline in college enrollment across the state of Texas has prompted several agencies to partner up and create online resources for students and counselors.

Photo of a hand dropping a ballot in a box
Candidates for Austin City Council District 10 face off ahead of Dec. 15 runoff

Incumbent Alison Alter and challenger Jennifer Virden are vying for the seat.

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Public safety, homelessness in Austin take center stage in final forum before District 6 runoff vote

Three days ahead of the first day of early voting for the Austin City Council District 6 runoff election, a final public debate was mostly focused on issues of public safety.

Campuses in Austin ISD will be closes to in-person learning the week after Thanksgiving break. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
All Austin ISD classes to be held online through Dec. 4

The district will also be providing free COVID-19 tests to staff and families Dec. 2-4.

Bicycles for public use are docked at a MetroBike station on Lake Austin Boulevard. Austin's $460 million Proposition B will include funding for additional bicycle lanes through the city. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Breaking down Austin's $460 million bond for bike lanes, trails, sidewalks and more

The bond will fun a bridge over Pleasant Valley Road connecting two ends of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike trail, among other improvements.