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Texas Universities Preparing For A Fall Like No Other During Coronavirus Pandemic

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas universities are preparing for tens of thousands of students to return to campuses this fall.

Each is coming up with plans to keep students and faculty safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UT Austin, SMU, TCU and Baylor released more information about their plans this week.

TCU is encouraging students to pledge to 'Protect the Purple' before coming back to school.

The university says everyone has to take personal responsibility to keep people safe and healthy on campus, as they make changes designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"We've made substantial investments in technology upgrades and have thoughtfully reconfigured academic spaces so students can learn safely among their classmates," said TCU Provost Teresa Abi-Nadar Dahlberg, in a video for students and their families.

Students, faculty and staff must wear face coverings, and they'll notice hand sanitizer stations set up all over campus.

Cleaning crews will be disinfecting high-touch areas twice a day.

Classrooms and common spaces have been reconfigured as well.

SMU is enacting similar measures to ensure in-person learning can continue.

"We can shift if necessary, but let's be clear – we intend to stay on campus the full semester," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

In a virtual town hall Wednesday Turner said 90% of SMU students plan to return for in-person instruction this fall. They will not be required to take COVID-19 tests before starting classes, like Baylor is doing.

Baylor is mailing testing kits to its 18,000 students. They'll need a negative result before being allowed back on campus.

Turner doesn't believe that approach is very useful, per CDC guidelines.

"We really look forward to having 18-year-old plus people on the campus most of the day," he said. "It's a beautiful campus and it's ready for you to enjoy it."

UT Austin is asking students to self-quarantine for 14 days before they arrive, a step no other Texas university is taking right now.

According to a New York Times survey, more than 440 UT students and employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, which is more than any other university in the country.

That survey found at least 6,300 COVID-19 cases, tied to about 270 colleges, over the course of the pandemic.

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