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Major Florida universities see an uptick in COVID-19 cases following Labor Day

Some colleges suspended students and Greek organizations for not following guidelines.

TAMPA, Fla — While the number of COVID-19 cases are trending down since July in Florida, that is not the case for some of the state's major universities.

"It's quiet. It's really quiet. I think that it's probably never to a point where it's super bustling," University of Florida senior Chloe Hart said.

Hart says the campus life these days is nothing she would have ever imagined.

"It's definitely hard especially for people living in dorms like with other people. Sometimes it feels like it's near impossible to not, not get sick or not get contaminated," Hart said.

While Hart says most people at the university are masked up and following mandatory guidelines, UF has seen an uptick in cases. According to their dashboard, more than 323 students have tested positive.

See the University of Florida dashboard here. 

Since the Labor Day holiday, the university said it has seen about 70 new cases. And, that seems to be the same trend around other major Florida universities.

Florida State University has had a total of 853 positive cases among students and staff as of Sept. 4.

But on Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday, FSU posted on its website that "Florida State University administrators are aware of the increase of positive cases in the campus and local communities."

At the University of Central Florida, where more than 400 students have tested positive, leaders placed three sorority houses on quarantine and have suspended two Greek organizations for not following social distancing guidelines.

UCF's policies and latest COVID-19 numbers are outlined in this email sent to 10 Investigates:

Policies and Reporting Non-Compliance

These are the COVID-19 policies in place at UCF:

Return to Campus

Student Behavioral Expectations

UCF’s IntegrityLine, a mechanism for speaking out that existed pre-COVID, is the place to report students, faculty or staff for jeopardizing public health by violating UCF’s COVID-19 policies. Since August 24, we have received 78 complaints via the IntegrityLine. The vast majority of complaints have involved complaints about either individuals not wearing face coverings or hosting or attending large gatherings.

The IntegrityLine is available at www.ucfintegrityline.com, or by calling 1-855-877-6049 toll-free.

Students

Following confirmed cases of COVID-19, residents of three on-campus Greek houses have been placed on a two-week quarantine out of concern for their health and well-being and to reduce the potential for additional spread.

The organizations are Zeta Tau Alpha and Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Epsilon Phi. A total of 79 women live in the three houses, and a total of 16 of these women have tested positive.

Student Conduct

On Wednesday, the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity placed Zeta Tau Alpha (sorority) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (fraternity) on interim organizational suspension.

ZTA was placed on interim suspension for allegedly hosting an unapproved social gathering on campus. The sorority followed the university’s process for applying to host an event, but the event was still pending a decision from UCF when they elected to hold it anyway. The event also willfully disregarded the university’s COVID-19 policies and guidelines.

SAE was placed on interim suspension for allegedly hosting a large social gathering off campus that willfully disregarded the university’s COVID-19 policies and guidelines.

In addition, two students were placed on interim suspension for noncompliance with UCF’s policies. One student allegedly did not remain isolated after testing positive for COVID-19, and the other allegedly hosted large social gatherings off-campus that violated university policy.

The Student Conduct process is outlined here: https://goldenrule.sdes.ucf.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/64/2020/08/2020-2021-Golden-Rule.pdf

 Housing

At this time, 15 of UCF’s 100+ isolation rooms are currently in use. Most students are electing to complete their isolation period at their permanent residence.

"We just have to keep staying safe. Keep wearing our masks, like making sure that we're being distanced. So, people like me who are graduating we can have that final college experience that everyone wants and misses."

At the University of South Florida, they've had an additional 33 students test positive since Labor Day Weekend. They tell 10 Investigates while large parties have been reported at other campuses, they have not heard of any complaints at USF.

The University of Tampa sent this email out to students: 

Rapid Testing Now Available
The Dickey Health and Wellness Center now has the rapid point-of-care testing for COVID-19. UT community members can receive COVID-19 test results in 15 minutes. If you are having COVID-19 symptoms, please call the health center to schedule an appointment:

Once Someone is Out of Isolation – They are Recovered and No Longer Infectious
For most persons with COVID-19, isolation and precautions can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms.

These patients are considered recovered, and they are not considered infectious. Once released from isolation, they can go back to their residential space and the classroom setting.

Quarantine Information
Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms.

  • A quarantine period is 14 days from the last date of exposure. Even with a negative test result during the 14-day period, someone who has been exposed must quarantine for 14 days.
  • People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health and follow directions from their state or local health department, and here at UT, Rapid-Trace contact tracers.
  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again.
  • There are many instances on campus when a student is able to safely isolate or quarantine in their own space on campus. This is preferable for the wellbeing of the student and does not bring any additional health risk to students on the floor or residence hall.
  • When this option is not available, a student will be temporarily and safely moved (following all written protocol), to an appropriate space in Urso Hall or the Barrymore Hotel.

A Word About Masks

The vast majority of students are adhering to the Spartan Shield mask policy, that says “Faculty, staff, students, and visitors, including vendors, are required to wear face masks/coverings in all common areas of campus facilities including classrooms, and outdoor campus areas where social distancing is not possible.” It is particularly important that everyone wear masks indoors: hallways, restrooms, offices, meeting rooms, kitchens, lobbies – everywhere! – so we can stop the spread. And, remind your fellow Spartans who are not masking to do so. It is our Spartan duty.

UCF's dashboard is updated at 5 p.m. every Friday.

And, just today the University of Miami announced all of its on-campus students are required to get a coronavirus test every two weeks. 

Out of the 12 public universities in Florida, there are more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases, based on the universities' respective dashboards.

The state has not released specific data regarding universities, but in a report that was accidentally released a few weeks back by the Department of Health, it showed 574 cases associated with universities, colleges and trade schools from March 1 through Aug. 23.

We are still waiting to hear when will the state release an official report.

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