Texas colleges plan now to prevent COVID-19 spike after holiday break

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in both the state and the nation, universities and colleges are planning for Thanksgiving break and beyond.

In the beginning of the fall, a number of Texas college campuses were reported COVID-19 hotspots.

The University of Houston, which is the third largest university in Texas, reported a low number of cases on campus.

Dr. Stephen Spann, University of Houston's Vice President for Medical Affairs, said the university has had protocols in place for months now to help decrease the risk and community spread among its students and staff. The protocols involved requiring mask wearing, maintaining social distance, offering majority of its classes online and some staff members working from home.

"We do have some students living on campus, I think around 3,000, but I think they're following the guidance and being careful," Dr. Spann said.

In an effort to avoid seeing a spike in cases on campus, students will only continue classes online following Thanksgiving break and will not return to campus until Jan. 19.

READ MORE: Health experts suggest you avoid this during Thanksgiving gatherings

"(It's) because of the concern that during the Thanksgiving celebration, they may be more exposed to family members, friends, and so forth and become infected, and (we're) trying to avoid bringing infections back to campus, and I think most of the universities in the state are doing that by the way," Dr. Spann said.

According to Harris County Public Health, as of Nov. 5, there have been a total of 165,252 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county and city of Houston, including 2,282 deaths.

Harris County reported a positivity rate of 8.2% on Friday.

"While we are still watching politics and elections and results, we've got to keep focused on doing things to protect ourselves," said Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director and Local Health Authority for Harris County Public Health.

Dr. Shah said due to the holiday and the colder winter weather, it is anticipated that COVID-19 cases will continue to increase, but the community can still play a role in preventing that from happening.

"Wear your mask, wash your hands, watch your distance," Dr. Shah said. "And will, collectively and individually, to take care of yourself, your family members, your neighbors, and ultimately our community."

He also recommends for people to avoid large parties and crowds during the holiday, and for people to get tested before and after gatherings.

SEE ALSO: COVID-19 risk calculator: Quiz yourself on the safest, most dangerous things you can do to celebrate the holidays

Harris County has a holiday guidance online to help families determine what activities are low, moderate or high risk for exposure.

Harris County and the City of Houston offer free testing across the area for those who want to get tested before or after exposure.

You can even call 832-927-7575 to get more information through Harris County Public Health.

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