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USF officials prepare for students to return to campus; implement safety plans to limit COVID-19 spread

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Posted at 8:03 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 08:26:28-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — The University of South Florida is getting ready for the upcoming fall semester.

“I think it’s important everyone recognize that the surge we’re currently experiencing is challenging. It’s real,” said Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of the College of Public Health and Chair of USF’s COVID-19 Task Force.

USF officials say they’ve kept that top of mind when making plans. One of their main efforts is urging everyone to get vaccinated.

RELATED: USF: Students, staff are expected to wear face masks this fall regardless of vaccination status

“We are offering vaccines, we have been offering vaccines free on our campus, campuses, to students, faculty, staff, and members of their families. We are eager to help the vaccine effort,” said Petersen.

The biggest difference this semester, from last spring, is that USF will return to full classroom capacity and face-to-face courses, as well as in-person athletic events and social activities.

“We are also expecting everyone to wear face masks because we now know even people who’ve gotten a vaccine, and we’re glad they have, may still be infected with the variant,” said Petersen.

While face masks are expected on campus, especially indoors and in crowded spaces, they’re only technically required in healthcare settings like:

  • Student Health Services
  • The Counseling Center
  • USF Health Clinics

Other mitigation efforts include:

  • Providing free COVID-19 testing
  • Contact tracing
  • Enhanced cleaning
  • Encouraging frequent hand washing
  • Signage throughout campus
  • Providing hand sanitizer

“We are asking people to pay attention to their surroundings but we aren’t enforcing the distancing that we were in the spring,” said Petersen.

Students will also be able to live on campus again this fall semester. Move-in starts next week.

USF officials say they’ve filled most of the residence halls on both the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses, but they’re still preparing for some COVID-19 cases.

“We have reserved some spaces for isolation of positive cases because we do anticipate having some positive cases and we need to isolate them while they recover and continue to provide them all the support they need while we protect the rest of the community,” said Petersen.

University leaders say they’ll be monitoring positive cases closely and this is a fluid plan.

"If we come together collectively and do all that we can, to protect ourselves and others around us, we can keep our communities safe. We can open up and enjoy the fall semester with all that it brings, as we have in the past. So that’s what we’re looking forward to but it takes all of us doing our part,” said Petersen.

The first day of classes is August 23.