Texas Woman’s University’s administrators addressed surveillance testing, contract tracing, face coverings and in-person courses and events during a virtual employee town hall Sept. 10.
Staff and faculty panelists answered questions about how TWU will proceed through the semester with the pandemic still at large. Although the CDC does recommend surveillance testing—tests that look for antibodies in the blood that may identify if a person was infected with the virus that causes COVID-19— Moustakas said the process is not practical for TWU.
“For TWU, surveillance testing is really not feasible,” Matt Moustakas, executive director of risk management, said. “Unfortunately…for [surveillance testing] to be effective basically every faculty, staff and student would need to be tested at least weekly, maybe every three to four days and that’s basically impossible. Student health services does, however, have the ability to test students showing symptoms or have been exposed to those who are symptomatic.”
The university’s contact tracing team will interview students who report COVID-19 symptoms, but Moustakas said TWU is going beyond the recommended contact tracing guidelines in attempts to further protect members of the community.
“We are taking a very conservative approach to contract tracing, more conservative than the CDC and local health departments or even the state recommend,” Moustakas said. “Normally, contract tracing doesn’t even start unless somebody has a positive test result so we are actually taking a step further. We want everyone who’s showing symptoms, who’s feeling sick and they’re not sure what it is…we will quarantine those folks just like as if they had a positive test result.”
Moustakas also said in-person courses and events will continue to be held largely remotely and adhere to guidelines set at the beginning of the semester. Classroom capacities will remain at 50% and faculty are strongly encouraged to use seating charts to promote social distancing and make contract tracing easier. In-person events held by clubs, sororities, etc. must be approved by the vice president for student life and continue to offer virtual attendance options for those that don’t feel comfortable attending in person.
Some on-campus amenities have also been affected by the pandemic. The drinking fountains have been turned off and will be replaced with touchless water bottle filling sensors. To prevent cross traffic, TWU has labeled stairwells, hallways and doors will be designated with signs for their appropriate usage. Indoor furniture will be pre-placed to follow social distancing guidelines and more outdoor seating will be provided.
“What if the pandemic continues into the spring semester?” an attendee asked anonymously through the meeting’s virtual chat box.
Although the spring semester will be difficult to predict, Moustakas hopes the guidelines provided this semester will carry on to the next. Moustakas then said that being flexible and changing guidelines based on new research is very important.
“Dr. Feyton and the TWU leadership and emergency teams are meeting several times a week…discussing the situation and how best to respond, changing course as necessary,” Moustakas said. “I wanted to make it clear that we are constantly discussing that. The situation is constantly being re-evaluated and we are very much focused on the health and safety of the TWU community as our first priority.”
TWU community members with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and campus life can email email@example.com.
Catty Tomaszewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.