UF mantra for re-opening: Screen, Test, Protect

Each UF student returning will receive two cloth Gator masks upon arrival and more will be available on buses and throughout campus.
Each UF student returning will receive two cloth Gator masks upon arrival and more will be available on buses and throughout campus.

If a student in a classroom at the University of Florida is positive for COVID-19, it is not a danger if that student and the rest of the students and the professor in the classroom are wearing face masks and are 6 feet apart.

That is one scenario Dr. David Nelson, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at UF described to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission on a one-agenda-item special meeting about COVID-19.

Screen. Test. Protect. This is the mantra that UF is acting on as the scheduled August 31st date to open approaches. 

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Dr. Charles E. Lane, Senior Vice President presented UF’s “Institutional Recovery Framework,” which will be lead by medical and public health guidance, and engagement with UF stakeholders and Board of Trustees and Board of Governors.

To date UF has used its testing capacity of 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day to onboard faculty, staff and returning students. They reported 48 positive results out of nearly 20,000 tests and are partnering with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to hire more contact tracing personnel.

Lane emphasized that UF plans “are not made around politics” and focused on UF Health’s guidance on science as the driving force of decisions made for the reopening of the university which will affect the City of Gainesville and Alachua County.

Covid readiness means face coverings will be required to be worn in all UF and UF Health facilities by students, employees, visitors and vendors.

Each student returning will receive two cloth Gator masks upon arrival and more will be available on buses and throughout campus. 

Hand sanitizer, protocol signage, and plexiglass shields will be used throughout the campus.

Both Lane and Nelson emphasized that UF wants to maintain a healthy relationship and community environment with Gainesville and Alachua County by collaborating with food insecurity and coronavirus testing for city employees, first responders and vulnerable populations.

Nelson outlined contingency plans and accommodations for quarantining students who test positive. There are 136 on-campus beds and 150 off-campus beds set aside.

The “screen, test, protect” plan is a way to bring faculty, staff and students back in a phased approach. Testing is mandatory for symptomatic students, students in clinical settings, and students in research settings who have contact with human subjects.

The plan also accounts for students returning from COVID-19 hot spots in Florida, U.S. and globally. Those students will self-quarantine for 14 days or take a COVID-19 test at no charge.

Contact tracing will be a partnership effort between UF and the DOH.

The academic delivery will be 35% face-to-face or hybrid modes and 35% online.

The Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts parking lot has been set up as a drive-thru testing facility for the UF community.

Both commissions asked the UF experts how they will know when it might be time to shut down, emphasizing that they were leery of students returning and socializing at bars and facilitating the spread of the virus. Several community members called in with the same fear that the students returning might initiate a surge in cases.

Dr. Lane said he is hoping the students will return with “an attitude and environment to protect each other,” and he said any violations that put others’ health at risk will be dealt with by department chairs and deans who will enforce the student code of conduct.

When asked about triggers that will signal shutdown orders, Dr. Nelson said the signal will come from the local hospitals.

“When you see us start slowing down elective procedures, that means yellow, and when you see us start shutting down elective procedures,” that means red, he said.

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