The University of Texas at Austin is No. 1 in the nation for the highest cases of the novel coronavirus, according to a New York Times survey.
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In a step toward full transparency, UT-Austin set up a digital dashboard allowing community members to see updated faculty and staff cases. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in spring, UT-Austin has reported 449 cases of the virus. The bulk of UT’s 449 cases occurred in late June and July, according to the NYT survey.
UT officials had plenty to say about the survey, especially considering thousands of students are now deliberating returning to school during a pandemic.
“It is not a comprehensive comparison of American universities and it doesn’t measure prevalence,” UT spokesman J.B. Bird told The Texas Tribune.
Bird added that UT-Austin believes that it is crucial to inform parents, students and teachers about coronavirus cases in its university community.
“Regardless of how other universities choose to approach these numbers, UT-Austin will do what’s best for public health and the health of its community,” Bird said. “We believe that’s the right way to do it and we’re going to continue to do that.”
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The NYT compiled data from public, four-year universities in the U.S., as well as private colleges that compete in Division I sports or are members of an elite group of research universities. More than 6,300 institutions were surveyed.
“There is no standardized reporting method for coronavirus cases and deaths at colleges, and the information is not being publicly tracked at a national level,” the NYT said in a statement. “Of nearly 1,000 institutions contacted by The Times, some had already posted case information online, some provided full or partial numbers and others refused to answer basic questions, citing privacy concerns. Hundreds of colleges did not respond at all.”
Since the onset of the outbreak, UT-Austin has tracked COVID-19 cases although most students are not on campus yet, Bird said. One of the most significant outbreaks came from a spring break trip to Mexico in March, which resulted in dozens of UT students testing positive for COVID-19.
UT-Austin is still planning an in-person return to campus in less than a month. Interim President Jay Hartzell announced Wednesday that students planning to return to Austin must self-isolate for 14 days after returning to campus.