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Thursday, October 22, 2020

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COVID-19 Threat Level System helps gauge coronavirus cases


The Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System a factor monitored by University while making fall semester reopening plans, according to Executive Director of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey. | Christopher Charleston/The Cougar

The Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System is a factor monitored by the University while making fall semester reopening plans, according to executive director of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey. | Christopher Charleston/The Cougar

With confirmed coronavirus cases in the Houston area spiking and the start of the fall semester approaching, the Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System continues to indicate worsening outbreaks in the Houston area as well as strains to coronavirus testing and contact tracing capacity. 

The color-coded evaluation system consists of four levels which signify the present risk from COVID-19 in the community and recommended actions for staying healthy.

The system is one of many factors monitored by University leadership in the ongoing creation of fall semester reopening plans, said executive director of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey.  

The current level one threat, denoted as red, signifies a severe and uncontrolled threat of COVID-19 in Harris County that necessitates minimizing contact with others when possible and staying home except for essential needs.

However, this high threat level does not mean that the University will return to remote operations.

“As a state university, we seek guidance from the state of Texas and continue to monitor local conditions to determine if the University should modify its operations,” Lindsey said.

“We expect to have on-campus classes in the fall but are prepared to respond quickly and return to full remote operations if city or state conditions require it,” Lindsey continued.

The University plans to reopen its campus at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year with increased sanitation and physical distancing measures in place.

These provisions will include the implementation of sanitizing stations in the Student Centers and dining halls, Plexiglas health shields at service points and increased cleaning frequency in public spaces,  Lindsey said. 

For some students, the idea of staying safe at home and preventing viral spread outweighs their desire to return to campus.

Philosophy sophomore Carolina Lopez-Herrera is concerned that in-person classes could adversely impact the health of vulnerable members in the University population. 

“I really do not want in-person classes,” Lopez-Herrera said. “I feel that it is an unnecessary risk. I honestly worry more about our older professors, they are some of the best professors and we shouldn’t risk their lives.”

Following a spring semester that included a remote transition, lingering concerns surrounding the impact that online formats will have on course structures and learning outcomes remains.

Architecture senior Maria Noguera worries about the effects that the continuation of online classes could have on incoming students’ experiences.

“Architecture classes aren’t for everyone and, for the most part, what gets us through the first year is being able to lean on your fellow classmates and help each other through it,” Noguera said.

“Without that kind of in-person support system, I worry that more students might choose to drop or change majors or take a gap year because of the stress,” Noguera continued.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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