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Outbreaks And Open Campuses: Are Universities Able To Manage COVID-19?

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There were more than 15,000 people in attendance at UT's first game of the football season. According to state law, the stadium can be filled to 25% capacity, which is 25,000 people.
Dominic Anthony Walsh | Texas Public Radio

On this week’s Petrie Dish, we take a look at what universities are doing to accommodate COVID-19, how students are responding and how local communities are affected.

Petrie Dish producer Dominic Anthony Walsh has on-the-ground reporting at a student co-op and the first UT Austin football game of the season. He obtained an Austin Public Health report showing a number of issues at the game.

We also hear from Megan Menchaca, the managing editor of the Daily Texan, about the paper’s coverage of COVID in UT residence halls.

We hear from Texas Tech Public Media’s Sarah Self-Walbrick about student gatherings in Lubbock. Social media posts provide evidence that Tech students are behind a local surge in cases, and some frustrated students are weaponizing shame in an effort to end the parties.

According to an analysis by The Texas Tribune, COVID-19 cases in counties with big student populations have grown by 34% in about a month. That includes Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas State in Hays and Texas A&M in Brazos.

The Tribune’s analysis also included the West Campus zip code of Austin, home to most of the University of Texas student population. Cases there are rising much faster than the rest of Austin.

On top of school-sanctioned events that seem to fly in the face of public health recommendations — such as the first game of UT’s football season which 18,000 fans attended — there has also been plenty of partying.

Off-campus parties veconcern university officials and unaffiliated community members.

Students moved back in early and mid-August, and just a couple weeks later, the city set a series of new records for daily COVID-19 cases.

Reported and Produced by: Bonnie Petrie, Dominic Anthony Walsh,
Sarah Self-Walbrick

Sound Design and Music: Jacob Rosati

Executive Producer: Fernanda Camarena

Host: Bonnie Petrie

Digital Producer: Kathleen Creedon

TPR News Director: Dan Katz

This podcast is a production of Texas Public Radio, which was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Bonnie Petrie
Bonnie Petrie is a proud new member of the news team at WUWM. She is a reporter who - over her twenty year career - has been honored by both the Texas an New York Associated Press Broadcasters, as well as the Radio, Television and Digital News Association, for her reporting, anchoring, special series production and use of sound.
Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony
Fernanda Camarena is a veteran of the public radio programs Latino USA and Reveal. She is a senior editor for The Texas Newsroom.