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USF to start environmental testing for COVID-19

High-touch surfaces in populated areas will be tested for the virus to help curb a potential spread.

TAMPA, Fla. — Starting Monday, it won't just be students and staff at the University of South Florida being tested for COVID-19.

The school intends to start "environmental testing" at all three campuses. Surfaces, like elevator buttons, door handles, and other high traffic areas will be tested for the virus.

If it is detected, then a couple of different steps will follow. “If we were to find coronavirus in a high traffic area, of course immediately we would clean the area," said Kevin Sneed, Dean of the College of Pharmacy at USF.

If the virus is found in a common space, security will be enhanced.

“That happens in a learning building. Maybe we'll have a little bit greater surveillance of people coming in and out, there could be the possibility of additional temperature checks and another question of people coming in,” Sneed explained.

And environmental testing could lead to more human testing as well.

“If we detect that in a dormitory, we may be able to go in and do more testing with people on that floor," Sneed said.

The overall goal is to keep COVID-19 at bay. While it is likely that there will be cases on a campus where around half of the student body commutes in for class, outbreaks can be prevented.

“The emphasis right now is not to try and shut everything down," Sneed said. "It's trying to identify people earlier, and identifying potential problems earlier and then isolate the problem so that we can keep the remainder of the environment safe.”

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