The university community does not need to remain on total lockdown, UF Health announced Friday, cautioning that it shouldn't return to normal, either.
Over the coming months, UF hopes to begin a staged return to campus with the aid of a new UF Health program, ‘Test-and-Trace,’ the release said. This comes hours after Provost Joe Glover announced that fall semester will begin one week later than initially planned.
Details about when each stage will begin, or what each will entail, have not yet been announced. However, during Tuesday’s UF Board of Trustees meeting, senior vice president for Health Affairs, David Nelson, proposed the following staged return:
Once COVID-19 transmission appears to decrease in Alachua County over 14 days, the return should begin, he advised. “Low-risk” faculty and staff should return to campus first. Remaining faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students should follow. Undergraduates will return last.
Those traveling from virus “hot spots” should be quarantined or tested before returning to campus, he advised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the United Kingdom, China, Iran, Ireland, and most of Europe as destinations with the most widespread COVID-19 transmission.
“We are not helpless in the face of the coronavirus,” Nelson said in an interview with UF Health.
Though not helpless, Nelson told the trustees that a return to normal will result in an epidemic surge, or a second wave of the virus. Social distancing should not be altogether abandoned, he advised, nor should mass gatherings immediately resume.
Friday’s announcement said that positive cases of COVID-19 will almost certainly increase as states and counties relax their mandatory stay-at-home orders. UF Health’s ‘Test-and-Trace’ program hopes to control and reduce the spread.
Under the program, testing will expand to include people who don’t show signs of the virus, according to the announcement. The program promises to provide results within 12 hours of the test.
Those who test positive will be quarantined and interviewed by a UF Health team to identify and isolate any recent contacts. Aggressive testing and contact-tracing will yield no more than a few positive cases on campus, the announcement said.
Strict social distancing may resume if the number of positive cases on campus increases to “a certain level,” the announcement said. It did not specify how many cases would cause this.