UT-Austin residence halls have reached 100% capacity with 7,400 students living across the 14 residence halls amid Stage 5 COVID-19 levels, a spokesperson for University Housing and Dining said.
Residence halls only reached 45% occupancy in fall 2020, with 3,330 students living on campus during a lower COVID-19 risk level. This semester, that number has doubled and Austin’s COVID-19 rating has moved from three to five. While thousands more UT students have settled on campus this fall compared to last, some say they are excited for the return of the school year and are hopeful most people will continue to follow COVID-19 precautions, such as masking.
Aaron Voyles, the director of residence halls operations for UHD, said UHD will continue to adapt to the changing COVID-19 situation, but it cannot enforce a mask or vaccine mandate. Bathrooms are still communal and some dorms are doubled up.
“In terms of engagement, we’re offering a combination of in person and remote or virtual programming, making sure that residents have ways to engage that they’re going to be comfortable with,” Voyles said.
The University required all residents moving to residence halls to test negative within 72 hours before moving, Voyles said. UHD is also disinfecting high-touch areas such as faucet handles, card readers and door handles three times a day.
Voyles also said residents can bring up to one guest at a time, something they didn’t allow in the fall 2020 semester.
Design freshman Olivia Kouam said she expected Jester East to be more crowded than usual, but there weren’t that many people when she arrived early in the morning to move in.
Kouam said she is not worried about COVID-19 despite there being a lot of people in her dorm. She said she and her roommate are doing their part by wearing masks, washing their hands and keeping their room spaced out to social distance.
“I’m looking forward to making more friends and meeting new people, hanging out with my friends and getting to know my teachers better. Just having fun and taking it easy not to overwhelm myself,” Kouam said.
Originally published Aug. 31, 2021, in The Daily Texan
By Kevin Vu
Graphic by Megan Fletcher