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Education

Texas State Expects Students Back In Class And Vaccinated This Fall

 Students wear masks on the campus of Texas State University last fall.
Students wear masks on the campus of Texas State University last fall.

Texas State University officials are hinging plans to reopen in full-force next fall largely on two things: an increase in vaccine availability and a decrease in coronavirus cases across the state.

"Our expectation is that the majority of our students will have had an opportunity to vaccinate before the start of the fall semester," Texas State University Chief Medical Officer Emilio Carranco said.

With that in mind, officials are expecting students can be in class without wearing masks. Carranco pointed to expanded guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that it's safe for fully vaccinated people to be indoors with other fully vaccinated people.

Other universities across the state have expressed similar hopes. Texas A&M’s incoming president M. Katherine Banks told The Texas Tribune she's planning for a campus in "normal mode" without masks or social distancing. St. Edward’s University is requiring students and faculty to be vaccinated.

Texas State said it will not be requiring vaccinations at this point, but that it will be "strongly encouraging" everyone who can be vaccinated to do so. People who ultimately don't get vaccinated will be encouraged to continue safety precautions like mask-wearing and avoiding crowds.

"There's no question that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself," Carranco said.

He said the school's contact tracing team has investigated hundreds of cases of transmissions on campus since the pandemic began, and none has shown transmission happening in the classroom.

“When we started this pandemic there were a lot of unknowns. We didn’t how contagious COVID-19 would be. ... We didn’t know if our prevention measures would work," Carranco said. "But a year later, we’ve learned an awful lot about COVID. And one of the things that we’ve learned is that you can have in-person classes safely.”

The university will be increasing classroom capacity from 50% to 100% in the fall. The expectation is that "everyone is going to be in attendance, in person," Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois said earlier this month.

"So if there is a classroom with 40 seats, if there is a classroom with 400 seats, we are allowing the students to register to full capacity so that all 40 seats or all 400 seats would be taken up," Bourgeois said. "That's a big change, obviously, over the way that we've been operating during the past year."

Classes for the fall semester begin Aug. 23.

Got a tip? Email Riane Roldan at rroldan@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.

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