The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

COVID-19 cases rise as university makes on-campus return

COVID-19 cases rise as university makes on-campus return - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

(File Photo) Students participate in the Week of Welcome block party in the CAB Courtyard August 19, 2021. This was also the first day of the fall 2021 semester. Photo by Clarissa Martinez

Although some local colleges and universities have temporarily switched in-person classes to online this fall, Texas A&M University-San Antonio students, faculty and staff can expect classes to resume as planned, university officials said.

A&M-San Antonio will encourage the community to take precautions against COVID-19 amid the return to campus.

“We’re going to be promoting vaccines and asking folks to mask up and to do it voluntarily as members of our campus community,” Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president for student success and engagement, said in a Zoom interview Aug. 12. 

A&M-San Antonio cannot mandate masks or vaccines. Because the university is part of the Texas A&M System, the campus has to follow the guidance of the A&M System and the state, Fuentes-Martin said.

Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order July 29 blocking local governments and state entities from requiring masks and vaccines. A Bexar County judge granted San Antonio’s request for a temporary restraining order August 10 to require masks in schools.

The restraining order does not apply to A&M-San Antonio because the university is a state institution.

Dr. Mike O’Brien, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said he has faith students will do the right thing by masking up and following all recommended precautions to keep the campus community safe.

“None of the outbreaks we had on campus last year occurred in a classroom. That tells you quite a bit,” O’Brien said.

University provides accessible vaccines, testing

 

A&M-San Antonio will offer on-campus community opportunities to receive the vaccine and get tested for COVID-19. 

In an email from the university, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered Aug. 25 and Sept. 1. To register, complete the online registration form

On-campus COVID-19 testing continues at the on-site Test Center. The testing center is open for free testing from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will close at 3 p.m. after Aug. 20.

A&M-San Antonio athletes will receive COVID-19 tests and require negative results prior to participation in games and events. 

Students living in Esperanza Hall will be subject to COVID-19 tests upon arrival, then periodically.

 

Testing is also mandatory for those who are regularly on campus, according to a university communications email sent Thursday:

  • Students who attend in-person classes.
  • Faculty who teach in-person classes.
  • Staff who work on-campus.

If a resident of Esperanza Hall tests positive, the facility will accommodate them with isolation rooms, meal delivery and case managers, although it is recommended they consider going back home to recover. 

“We have case managers that help us communicate with students and their faculty to make accommodations to their time they’re supposed to be limited in contact,” Fuentes-Martin said. 

Students, faculty and staff who test positive for, have symptoms or have had exposure to COVID-19 will be asked to refrain from coming to campus and self-report information in the online COVID-19 Reporting Portal, which can be found on the university homepage by clicking on the Community. Safety. Together widget

More classes to return in-person

 

According to the Office of the Provost, 5,589 students are expected to return to campus this semester for in-person and hybrid courses, with additional students registering throughout the upcoming week.

Face-to-face courses have increased from the spring semester, with 420 traditional face-to-face and 351 hybrid course sections offered, according to university officials. In spring 2021, 82 face-to-face courses were offered and 148 hybrid courses. There were 910 online courses offered in the spring and 497 in the fall.

Faculty must teach their class in the method they chose in the spring unless they have a medically verified reason to change it.

Only three classes have switched from in-person or hybrid to fully online, at the request of faculty, O’Brien said in a Zoom interview Friday, Aug 14

Faculty wishing to update their class method of delivery can do so through a process with their department chair, the office of the president and human resources.

O’Brien said the university considered the option to change in person classes to online, but made the decision to keep previous plans in place to ensure consistency and prevent confusion.

“Either go A or go B,” O’Brien said, adding that many faculty members had already been preparing their classes for face-to-face instruction. 

“You’ve prepared your course for in-class and now you gotta go online for three weeks,” O’Brien said. “I’m willing to bet that when they switch back, a lot of students aren’t going to come back. I may be wrong about that, but it’s so confusing that we just decided we don’t want to go there.”

Campus replaces wellness checks, continues sanitation 

 

Wellness stations will no longer be present. Students can conduct virtual wellness checks daily in the Jaguar App. Before arriving on campus, students are required to complete the self-wellness screen and present the confirmation screen to the instructor when arriving to class.

The app also allows swift access to campus updates, useful departmental links, the university calendar in addition to a campus map and a listing of upcoming events. 

According to the latest update on the campus Community.Safety.Together website, previously applied safety and health protocols remain in place this fall, such as rigorous routine cleaning of frequently used surfaces and classrooms.

Additionally, sanitation carts will continue to be provided in each classroom and large gathering areas. 

If there is a surge in COVID-19 cases and a shift back to virtual is needed, the university is prepared to adapt, Fuentes-Martin said. 

That includes providing a free laptop to students who complete a digital literacy seminar in the LIFT program, Fuentes-Martin said.

The LIFT program will remain open to students until Sep. 3, with 24 seminar dates available. 

“If (the call to shift back to virtual) gets made, we’re going to pivot and switch and it will be much simpler and easier than it was the very first time we did it,” Fuentes-Martin said. 

Students are eager to return to campus and the university wants to do so safely, Fuentes-Martin said.

“I know people are nervous but we just all need to make an individual commitment that we are going to do everything we can to keep our campus and the larger community safe,” Fuentes-Martin said.

Download the Jaguar App on Google Play or on the Apple App StoreTo register for the LIFT program visit https://www.tamusa.edu/literacy-information-for-technology/

Clarissa Martinez contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 6:36 p.m. on Aug. 22 to correct the spelling of Gov. Greg Abbott’s last name.

About the Authors

Asiah Mendoza
Assistant Editor
Asiah Mendoza is a communications junior with a minor in psychology. Born and raised in San Antonio, she enjoys writing and listening to music in her free time. Her favorite things to do are go to concerts and discover new artists. After graduation, she hopes to combine her two interests and become a music journalist.
Denise Treviño
Assistant Editor
Denise Treviño is a senior communications major at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Born and raised in the Alamo City, she has always aspired to make a difference in her community. She hopes to grow her storytelling skills and delve deeper into the world of multimedia journalism through her current work at university. After graduation, she looks forward to pursuing a career that allows her to tell stories that will inspire as well as entertain. In her free time, you will find her watching and analyzing British detective shows on the couch with her dogs Ransom and Dougie, strumming a ukulele or out on a hike with family and friends.

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