Free COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students among announcements in recent town hall

Josh Peck, News Editor

UTSA will be offering free COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students in the fall. The funding will come from the CARES Act’s emergency coronavirus relief funds and is one of a variety of policies being implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. 

The testing is being conducted through Quest Diagnostics and will have a turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours, according to Dr. Beth Wichman, director of Student Health Services (SHS). Uninsured students will have the cost of the test covered by CARES Act funding, and students with insurance may have their insurance billed rather than using CARES Act funding. UTSA was granted $29.7 million in federal funding through the CARES Act at the end of the spring semester.

UTSA is also looking to potentially introduce point-of-care testing on campus; these tests would produce results within 15-30 minutes of being administered. 

68 classrooms and 16 buildings will be in use in Fall 2020. Around 2,000 students are enrolled in around 200 face-to-face classes, which is less than 7% of the student population and less than 4% of all classes taught at UTSA, respectively. 4,000 classes will be held online. Any students enrolled in face-to-face classes may opt to take them virtually for any reason. 

All students, faculty and staff will be receiving a free reusable mask from UTSA in the mail, but masks can also be purchased on campus. Dining locations on campus will sell disposable masks for $1.69 and reusable masks for $4.19. The Rowdy Campus Store will offer 5-packs of disposable masks for $7.49, single reusable masks for $8 and 2-packs of reusable masks for $11.95. 

Wearing face coverings will be mandatory for all people on campus, whether or not they are a member of the UTSA community. If an individual violates the rule, community members are asked to follow the “Ask, Offer, Leave, and Report” method. According to the method, if an individual is not wearing a mask, students, faculty and staff should ask if the individual is aware of the mandate, then offer to provide them one if available, leave or ask the individual to leave, and, finally, report them using the compliance hotline if they continue to violate the policy. Disciplinary action will be handed down through the student code of conduct or the employee handbook if it is deemed necessary for students and university staff, and individuals not affiliated with the university will be asked to leave the premises of the campus.  

During the town hall, Associate Vice President for Facilities Paul Goodman said there will be more sanitizing wipes stations and dispensers spread throughout the campus and that his team has placed plastic barriers in high-traffic areas of campus where social distancing is more difficult.

The university is also planning to increase the number of air exchanges within buildings, classrooms and labs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said that increasing outside air circulation can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces. There will be four air exchanges per hour in classrooms and eight exchanges per hour in labs.