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.