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University of South Florida faculty and students demand stricter COVID-19 protocols

A group of graduate assistants organized a rally that took place Thursday on campus.

TAMPA, Fla. — For many Americans, keeping schools open and safe for students is a priority.

When the coronavirus pandemic started surging throughout the country in March of 2020, schools abruptly closed. Since then, debates over how to give students a thorough education while also keeping them safe from COVID-19 are dominating discussions nationwide.

While the K-12 setting is getting the most attention, college campuses are also facing challenges.

Thursday, some students and faculty members at the University of South Florida participated in a rally demanding more be done to keep them safe on campus. The demonstration is being held at 3:30 pm on campus at the Leroy Collins Boulevard Median.

The event was organized by graduate assistants Krystle Lemonias and Marlon Wilson, who are also organizers of the USF chapter of the union, Graduate Assistants United.

As of Sept. 29, USF's COVID-19 dashboard says the school has had 2,125 cases of COVID-19 since August of 2020.

The group called on state and local education leaders to further protect their campus from the threat of COVID-19.

They've listed out six specific demands they want to see at their school:

1. Encourage universal vaccinations for everyone at USF

2. Do more to encourage mask-wearing by everyone on campus

3. Require all students, faculty, graduate assistants, and employees to be vaccinated (except for valid medical or religious reasons) as a requirement to be physically present in a USF building

4. Require all students, faculty, graduate assistants, and employees to wear a proper face covering (except for valid medical or religious reasons) as a requirement to be physically present in a USF building 

5. Prohibit any USF student or faculty member who tests positive for COVID from being physically present on any USF campus during a period of time that would constitute the recommended quarantine period.

6. Upgrade all ventilation and air conditioning systems with filters, UV scrubbers and other anti-contagion features in all USF buildings.

A spokesperson with the university sent 10 Tampa Bay the following statement:

The University of South Florida continues to follow the guidance issued for all state universities by the Board of Governors, which oversees members of the State University System. USF is offering in-person classes and activities for the fall semester with mitigation measures and protocols in place to support health and wellness. Consistent with BOG guidance, USF strongly encourages vaccines for members of the university community and we expect everyone to wear a mask on our campuses, regardless of vaccination status. The university consistently communicates about vaccine availability and masks, including through signage installed in campus facilities.

 USF leadership monitors the situation on a daily basis and meets regularly with the BOG and the other state university presidents to help inform our plans.