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Two students living in on-campus residence halls have tested positive for COVID-19, a University of Texas at Austin spokesperson confirmed Monday.
"Following our protocols, the individuals have been isolating and public health professionals have reached out to notify primary close contacts … advising them to get tested and self-quarantine," UT Austin spokesperson J.B. Bird told Austonia.
Bird said other contacts of the infected students were advised to self-monitor for any symptoms, practice social distancing and sign up for testing through UT's Proactive Community Testing program reserved for asymptomatic testing.
The students live in Jester and San Jacinto residence halls and have been isolated, according to a report by student newspaper The Daily Texan.
Residents of the Scottish Rite Dormitory, an off-campus house for women, received notification on Sunday that one of their peer residents had tested positive for COVID-19.
Prior to classes beginning on August 26, UT's own researchers estimated up to 183 students would arrive on campus during the first week of the semester already infected with the disease.
Since classes began last Wednesday, five people in the campus community have tested positive, according to the university's COVID-19 dashboard. (The dashboard does not yet include cases reported over the weekend.)
The university previously announced it has the capacity to test up to 5,000 asymptomatic people a week. During the week of Aug. 23, it tested 678 people, of whom one person received a positive result.
A number of colleges and universities across the country—including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame—have recently shifted to online instruction after outbreaks occurred on their campuses.
In an Aug. 21 email sent to the campus community, UT Austin Interim President Jay Hartzell said the university will consider a number of metrics in deciding whether to move more classes online or close buildings on campus in the coming weeks.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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