UT makes masks mandatory this fall


The University of Texas will require all students, faculty and staff members to wear face masks when classes resume in the fall to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The news was delivered by Interim President Jay Hartzell in an email to parents and students Monday. 

“This policy — which is currently in place for the summer — is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which makes clear that face coverings, in addition to social distancing measures, are among the most effective strategies in limiting the spread of COVID-19, particularly in high-density areas” Hartzell wrote. “It is also consistent with the Texas Department of State Health Services’ guidelines for Opening the State of Texas.”

The policy will allow for the removal of face coverings in a campus building if a person is alone in a private office or other space, or in a student’s assigned residence hall room. 

The use of masks in outdoor areas on campus will be encouraged, especially in areas where social distancing is not possible but not required. 

Hartzell noted the mechanism for ensuring the use of face coverings in buildings will be shared later.

UT announced last week that the school will be implementing voluntary testing for asymptomatic individuals. Hartzell stated the school is also continuing to review options and policies for screening members of the UT community who enter buildings on campus for symptoms and will provide more information as that is finalized.

The university has started furloughing employees in areas that have not produced enough revenue to offset their costs. The furloughs come on top of the first phase of financial mitigation, announced in April, that included more limited hiring and spending, and the elimination of the central merit raise pool. 

“We are also continuing our financial planning and assessment in light of the state’s recent request for Texas higher education agencies and institutions to submit a plan for a 5% reduction in their state appropriations for this budget cycle. We are developing our plan and identifying potential cuts and savings now,” Hartzell wrote. 

Hartzell said the university expects to receive additional guidance regarding the next budget soon. Moving forward, he promised transparency and mentioned that he understands everyone would like for there to be clearer answers now. 

“I know that many staff members have questions about additional cost-savings measures that might be taken this summer, this fall and beyond that affect your college, school, unit and how you do your job each day. These decisions are still being made, and I will aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information as we determine the path forward,” he wrote.

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