As for a shift to online learning, Hartman said there is not one individual factor that would push for a move to online, rather a variety of factors including waste-water testing, campus positivity rate and absentee rates. “Professors are required to do what they would do for any student who is ill — they need to either offer some sort of way to make up class, offer notes, record the class or they can do a Zoom link for that student, whatever works — just like they would at any time,” Hartman said. “They need to do everything they can to help the student to be successful and to work their way through this kind of stuff.” During the mandatory back to school COVID-19 testing from Aug. 23 to Sept. 10, officials said approximately 79,000 tests were received. The current positivity rate for those cases as of Sept. 4 was 4.1 percent.
“Every step that we can take, we’re taking. We continue to monitor and observe very closely what’s going on,” Hartman said. “We’re prepared to take additional steps if we need to at some point. But we’re continuing to look at those factors that we think really are the ones that mean the most when it comes to this kind of thing.” Due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislation, Hartman said the university is unable to require masks or vaccinations against COVID-19, though these safety protocols are highly recommended. Hartman said the university is taking all possible steps to ensure the safety of students.
Hartman said professors are required to give students the opportunity to make up work they missed due to staying home for a positive case, as the university requires students stay home. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Hartman said. “We take all this very seriously. There’s a lot of effort being spent to make sure we do everything we possibly can under the rules and regulations of the state of Texas as a public institution of higher education. We have to live within the boundaries of the rules that we have, but we think we’re doing everything we can, probably even more.”
“I totally understand people’s anxiety and concern,” Hartman said. “We obviously feel a lot of the same as well, too. That’s one of the reasons we’re so vigilant about this. I understand that people want to make sure their voices are heard. We’re listening, and we’ll continue to do everything we can.” According to the Texas A&M COVID-19 dashboard, as of Sept. 10, there were 1,624 active cases self-reported on campus. Hartman said the university is working to keep students safe in every way possible.
“We have to remember that our university is not surrounded by walls, we are integrated in our community and what we know about the virus is that it is everywhere,” Dannenbaum said. “We’re all exposed every day if you’re going anywhere other than your house.” Dannenbaum said it is important to remember COVID-19 can be obtained from places other than campus, so students should take precautions throughout the community, not just on campus.
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