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(Austonia staff)

Nearly one hundred UT Austin students tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the first at-home game of the season on Saturday.

Nearly 100 University of Texas at Austin students tested positive for COVID-19 when trying to gain entry to the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the Texas Longhorns' first home game of the season.


The university required students to get tested for COVID-19 prior to entering the stadium. Of the 1,198 students who were tested, 95 were found to have the disease, according to a university spokesperson. This represents a positivity rate of 7.9%, or nearly double the most recently reported county-wide rate of 4.6%.

The number of positive results exceeded Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott's estimate last week that 40-50 people would show up to the game with COVID. Just over 15,000 fans attended the game against UT-El Paso—fewer than the 18,000 expected. The vast majority of them were not students so were not required to be tested prior to entry, which raised concerns on social media.

The university used rapid antigen testing, which provides results in around 15 minutes, at the game. However, positive results from such tests are not considered confirmed but "probable" by the city of Austin and Travis County, in accordance with CDC guidelines. The results are not included on the city's public dashboard, according to a city spokesperson.

Rapid testing is a key element of UT Austin's testing strategy. In early August, the university said it planned to test up to 5,000 people on campus each week, with a focus on providing free testing to asymptomatic individuals as a way to monitor community spread.

Since the fall semester started on Aug. 26, however, the university has tested fewer than 2,000 people each week as part of this proactive community testing program, with a positivity rate of around 1.4%.

Overall, the university has reported 354 COVID-19 cases among students since classes began, including around 100 reported last week stemming from three clusters in West Campus. This total does not include the 95 positive results from game day, the spokesperson said, because those cases are still being verified and checked against previous reports to detect any duplicates.

This caseload includes positive test results from the proactive community testing program as well as from University Health Services, UT Health Austin clinics and other facilities.

In an Aug. 21 email sent to the campus community, UT Austin Interim President Jay Hartzell said the administration will consider a number of metrics in deciding whether to move more classes online or close buildings on campus due to the pandemic.

The next home game is against Texas Christian University on Oct. 3. The 100,000-person stadium will be limited to 25% capacity, although local health officials have cautioned against attendance even with the capacity limits.

"Ultimately you're going to have 25,000 people in one spot and it's going to be difficult to prevent all of those interactions from happening," Escott said Wednesday.

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