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UT-Austin students who purchase "The Big Ticket" must take a COVID-19 test on Friday and test negative before they can attend Saturday's football season opener against the University of Texas at El Paso.

By Stacy Fernandez

Officials at the University of Texas at Austin said Wednesday night that students with football season tickets will be required to take a COVID-19 test on Friday and test negative before they can attend Saturday's season opener against the University of Texas at El Paso.


But the same precautions won't be required of thousands of other fans in the stands thus Saturday. There is no testing requirement for fans who aren't UT-Austin students, nor is there a requirement for visitors from El Paso. And not all UT-Austin students are required to be tested — only those who buy "The Big Ticket" season package are subject to the tests, but students who purchase individual game tickets are exempt, said J.B. Bird, a UT-Austin spokesperson.

The mandatory pre-game tests will be provided by the university for free. Students will have from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get tested on campus Friday, according to the university athletics website.

University officials did not immediately respond to questions about why testing only applied to students.

Students, however, were not required to test negative before returning to campus or attending in-person classes.

The Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium where the game will be held holds a little over 100,000 people, but capacity for the game will be limited to about 25,000 fans. Meanwhile, outdoor gatherings in Austin are still limited to 10 people or less. Gov. Greg Abbott, however, allowed Texas sports to resume with limited fans in the stands.

Austin officials have repeatedly voiced concerns about the public health effects of hosting such a large gathering at this time."Our gathering limit is 10, and having 25,000 people in one space is a concern," Mark Escott, Austin Public Health's interim health authority, said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Game attendees must wear masks, there will be marking for social distance and tailgates will not be allowed. The university also added 225 hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium.

Wednesday, the university reported three coronavirus clusters in a university dorm with about 100 positive cases collectively.

Earlier this week, Baylor University and Louisiana Tech University postponed their opening game due to a spike in coronavirus cases following Hurricane Laura, according to a university statement. Texas Christian University also postponed its season opener against Southern Methodist University. Both games were scheduled for Saturday.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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