Thousands of students return to USF's campus, school officials watching omicron closely

Posted at 7:38 AM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 07:59:13-05

TAMPA, Fla. — “We look forward to welcoming back our students and faculty for in-person classes and activities,” said Rhea Law, Interim President for the University of South Florida.

As faculty, staff, and thousands of students head back to campus Monday for the University of South Florida’s spring semester, the spread of COVID-19 is a big concern.

“We are closely monitoring the latest developments with omicron and the recent increase that we’ve seen across our state and across our country,” said Law.

Since the omicron variant is so contagious, USF leaders say they’re anticipating some students will test positive for the virus, even right at the beginning of the semester.

“We’ve asked our faculty to remain flexible and accommodate those students who are in that situation,” said Law.

Here’s what USF is doing to help reduce spread:

  • Encouraging vaccinations and booster shots
  • Offering vaccines on campus
  • Making testing available on campus
  • Encouraging frequent hand washing
  • Sanitizing/cleaning spaces
  • Asking people to stay home if they don’t feel well
  • Strongly encouraging mask wearing indoors

“We expect everyone to wear a mask indoors on our campuses, especially in crowded areas,” said Law.

“We’ve kind of got used to the fact that COVID is with us. We kind of accepted the fact that it’s going to be with us. There are many infectious diseases that are with us all the time so we’re going to move forward and treat COVID like any other illness and again hope people take common sense approaches,” said Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of USF College of Public Health.

School leaders say they’ll continue closely watching COVID-19 cases on campus and in the community.

“We don’t know what tomorrow may bring. But we know that our north star is that we expect to make sure that we are doing our best to ensure the safety of our faculty, our staff, our students, and all of those people that interact with the university,” said Law.

Officials say limiting spread this spring semester will require everyone to pitch in and take steps to reduce transmission.

“Come back to the spring again with the same sense of responsibility to the community… We’re trying to create a culture that would promote safety and sort of mutual collective responsibility,” said Petersen.