University of Texas students can expect a "near normal" fall semester this year.
The plan, sent to the Daily Texan via email from communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost Kathleen Harrison, is to hold 91.7% of classes in person, 4.2% of classes in a hybrid format and the remaining 3.1% of classes will stay online.
The announcement is a stark increase from last fall, during which over 60% of classes were online, 24% were hybrid and only 16% were in-person. President Jay Hartzell said last month he expects the upcoming semester to look more similar to fall 2019 than fall 2020.
The new schedule is not set in stone—Harrison said UT will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus and that safety of the community is a top priority.
"The University's decisions are based on the latest data and information available," Harrison said. "If conditions change, we will continue to keep the safety of our community a top priority and adjust as needed."
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After six reported blood clots in individuals who had just received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control recommended a pause in the use of the vaccine on Tuesday. Statewide, vaccine providers are following the advisement.
The six cases are said to be "extremely rare" by the FDA, but the entities are taking an abundance of caution and investigating the instances. The occurrences were first seen in Colorado last week, where a rare kind of blood clot was observed in the sinuses of the brain; none have been seen in Texas, according to the state health department. Johnson & Johnson has said there is no correlation between the blood clots and the vaccine.
The CDC is meeting on Wednesday to assess the cases, and then the FDA will review the analysis.
The Texas Department of State Health Services advised all providers of the vaccine to pause all administration of it. As any new shipments of the vaccine are delivered to providers, they are asked to keep it in storage.
The news comes after fewer doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were sent to states this week due to a malfunction at the Baltimore plant that destroyed 15 million doses.
The single-shot vaccine was approved in February, and more than 6.8 million Americans have received it.
The article was updated to include a statewide announcement to stop the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Travis County is set to receive 72,640 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, or less than half of what it received last week, for the week of April 12 as part of the 18th weekly allocation that will be sent to 24 providers.
The state's weekly allocation is smaller due to a reduction of approximately 350,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told states to expect smaller weekly allocations of the J&J vaccine until a Baltimore plant is authorized to participate in production after it destroyed 15 million doses. Additionally, the J&J vaccine came under scrutiny when multiple people in Colorado had adverse reactions after getting their shots.
Providers for this week's allocation include area private practices, medical clinics and pharmacies, which will receive 100 to 1,200 doses apiece. A full list of providers and how many vaccines they are receiving can be found here.
Although these providers may have doses to administer next week, many are limiting their supply to existing patient waitlists or reaching out to eligible candidates directly. A list of providers with a waitlist can be found here.
Around 28% of the doses will be allocated to hub providers Austin Public Health and the University of Texas at Austin, which will receive 12,000 and 8,190 doses respectively. UT Austin has not been included in the last two weekly allocations despite being designated a hub provider. Seton Medical Center will also receive 2,000 J&J one-shot doses; in recent weeks, the provider has received significantly more doses—11,700 last week—and used them to help stock the weekend drive-thru clinic at the Circuit of the Americas, which is hosted by the Central Texas Vaccine Collaborative.
With this latest allocation, Travis County will have received 756,835 initial or single doses. As of early Friday afternoon, 40% of the county population 16 and older had received at least one dose and 23% were fully vaccinated. The 65 and older population is posting much higher vaccination rates: nearly 70% are partially vaccinated, and more than half are fully vaccinated, according to DSHS.
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When the Texas Department of State Health Services expanded its eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine to include residents 16 and older, it was partly in response to doses sitting unused in certain regions in the state. But Austin providers continue to report strong demand, and the increased eligibility criteria may stress the limited available supply.
In Travis County both the number of doses allocated by the state and the number of doses administered by providers are trending upward.
Travis County has steadily increased the number of weekly vaccine recipients since the rollout began. The dip the week of Feb. 15 was due to the winter storm. (Texas Department of State Health Services)
Austin Public Health filled all of its available appointments as part of its regular releases on Monday and Thursday. Local CVS, H-E-B and Walgreens locations were also fully booked, and only one Randalls Pharmacy location within 50 miles of Austin had "limited availability," according to its online scheduler, as of Friday morning.
The mass drive-thru vaccine site at the Circuit of the Americas, which is a partnership between Ascension Seton, CommUnity Health Centers and Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties, has administered roughly 10,000 doses each week and remains appointment-only. CommUnity Care is reaching out to its existing patient network to schedule appointments, and the counties are working with school districts and other select populations to expand access to the vaccine.
Although Travis County Judge Andy Brown has said he hopes that weekend drive-thru will eventually open up to the public on a walk-in basis, demand remains strong enough among local priority populations—including CommUnityCare's largely un- or under-insured patient network—to fill up the weekly appointments.
In addition to expanding eligibility, DSHS also recently shifted its weekly allocation to include more pharmacies, private practices and medical clinics, including 38th Street Pharmacy, Bee Caves Family Practice and Tarrytown Pharmacy in Travis County.
Texas Medical Association President Dr. Diana Fite said this is welcome news to smaller providers who were less likely receive doses from the state earlier in the rollout, when the focus was on hub providers. "The physicians in private practice and clinic are actually very excited," she said.
This could help expand access, as private practices and clinics are able to do more direct patient outreach, and address vaccine hesitancy, as doctors may be better able to address patient concerns given their existing relationship.
After a brief lag in demand for vaccine appointments last week, Austin Public Health expanded access to its waitlist registrants who are 40 or older this week. All of the department's appointment slots were filled following releases on Monday and Thursday.
APH will open up access further starting next week to include waitlist registrants who are 18 and older.
All of the appointments have been filled for this week!💉
We are excited to announce appointments will be open to the general public, including anyone 18+. Next appointment release for the FIRST dose of Moderna will be Monday (4/12)
📌Pre-register here: https://t.co/AVhWdhK3fS pic.twitter.com/TIImdYy0IW
— Austin Public Health (@AusPublicHealth) April 9, 2021
Dr. David Lakey, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System and a member of the Texas COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said the decision to open access up to all adults was motivated by decreasing demand in parts of Texas. Some local health departments—including those in Beaumont, Midland and the Rio Grande Valley—opened up appointments to the general public earlier due to doses going unused.
"The reason that took place is because we were starting to see, in certain areas of the state, challenges in using the vaccine as quickly as we needed to," he told Austonia.
Fite applauded the state's decision to expand eligibility. "I think opening it up to everybody was a great idea," she said, adding that people who are essential workers but didn't fall into any of the priority groups now have access.
But Fite also stressed that expanding eligibility doesn't mean that the state's supply has increased enough to keep up with the current demand. "It seems like a lot of people still want the vaccine but have not been able to get it," she said.
I can't tell if there are no vaccines in the Austin area or if everyone is getting vaccinated. Every time I look there are no appointments available 😭
— Danielle ✌🏻 (@stfux3dannii) April 6, 2021
Some Austin residents continue to take hours-long road trips, twice, to keep appointments in other jurisdictions with more availability.
Gotta get to bed early tonight. Have to drive an hour and a half away tomorrow to get my vaccine, but it's better than trying to find an appointment here in Austin.
— Señor Lobo ⭐️🐺 (@Frute_Brute) April 2, 2021
For Texans who live in areas with high demand and are still waiting for a vaccine appointment to come available, Lakey predicts it may take until next month for supply to catch up with demand. "For the general population as a whole, it's going to be a little bit longer," he said.
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