Universities are sending out detailed health and safety protocols for the spring semester. That includes updating COVID-19 dashboards that were suspended at the end of the fall semester for schools in Abilene. McMurry University is also pushing the start of classes back one week and canceling Spring Break. McMurry, like many universities in the region, usually starts the spring semester the second week of January. But over the break university officials decided to move the start back to January 19th. Officials will require returning students, faculty and staff to have a negative COVID-19 test result before moving into campus housing, or returning to work and class. University President Sandra Harper says the increase of positive cases in Taylor County and across Texas informed their decision, "You know the experts are calling it a surge on top of a surge," Harper noted. "We thought that extra nine days would give us a chance to participate in all the students getting tested, all the employees getting tested, etc."
The school will cover the costs of testing with discretionary funds from its Board of Trustees and have begun administering tests this week. Harper says administrators considered requiring campus members to get tested before the previous fall semester, in order to stay ahead of potential outbreaks. "At the time there weren't enough tests available. We really spent the fall semester looking for test availability. Let's go ahead and start with a clean slate. Start the isolation and quarantining right off the bat," Harper said.
As part of the spring semester reconfiguration, McMurry is also canceling Spring Break. The University will keep the two-day Easter holiday break in April. A statement on McMurry’s website encourages all students and employees to limit off-campus activities to essential outings while the positive case count numbers in Taylor County remain high.