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Monday, April 22, 2024
masks enforcement on campus

On Friday and Saturday, from 10:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., Gainesville police will monitor the city for parties or large gatherings, GPD Spokesperson Graham Glover said.

If students disobey disbursement orders or refuse to wear masks, they will receive citations, he said. As the university community settles in for classes beginning Monday, it’s up to students to obey these policies and administrators to enforce it.

Administration and health professionals laid out COVID-19 expectations for students during the summer and into the fall. Students are required to wear masks, maintain a 6-foot distance and not attend large social gatherings, according to UF’s Student Behavioral Expectations in response to COVID-19 policy. Indoor events should be limited to 50 people and outdoor events to 250 people.

Students who violate these policies will be at risk of expulsion, according to the email. UF also updated Gatorsafe, a mobile application students usually use to report crime, as a way to report peers.

“Students, it is critical you understand that on-and off-campus parties and disregard for face masks, physical distancing and gathering sizes will not be tolerated,” Mull wrote.

UF’s Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull sent an email Aug. 21 detailing consequences for on- and off-campus parties, which she said will not be tolerated.

Anna Sheridan, an 18-year-old UF environmental science freshman, moved to Gainesville with friends on Aug. 18. She’s immunocompromised, and doesn’t trust the people beyond her dorm to stay safe.

“We feel like it's partially inevitable, which is so scary, because I have asthma,” Sheridan said.

She said her dorm move-in process went relatively smoothly. But she’s worried that UF will begin to look like the University of Alabama, which has reached 566 positive cases throughout the UA campuses since the onset of classes on Aug. 19.

Sheridan said she has seen Snapchat stories, a video-sharing social media application, of dorm parties that have surpassed the one-guest capacity per resident, set by the Housing & Residence Life Community Standards.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill underwent 12 clusters of COVID-19 cases since the inception of Fall classes on Aug. 10, the most recent one being Thursday, Aug. 27, in a residence hall. Despite UF’s expectations for student safety, some students have demonstrated performative precautions.

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UF President Kent Fuchs said the only way the school would close again is if UF Health Shands Hospital became overloaded with patients. During “Simplifying COVID-19,” on Aug. 6, an event hosted by UF’s Black Student Union and Health Education Literacy Organization, Fuchs said UF will work to enforce masks and social distancing.

Fuchs said University Police will not enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines on campus, such as wearing a mask. Instead, students will be held accountable through the Dean of Students Office.

The UF administration hopes students will behave as leaders and encourage others to practice COVID-19 safety.

“I just don’t think that’s appropriate,” Fuchs said in reference to UPD penalizing violators. “This is not hard enforcement, but the most effective will just be social pressure.”

Despite administrative hopes, social pressure from other students has not stopped some students from reuniting.

Forty-eight students have tested positive for COVID-19 through the Return to Campus Initiative, as of Aug. 28. To curtail the spread, UF’s behavioral expectations policy will continue to enforce masking and physical distancing policies by educating and informing students, engaging and providing clear directions and implementing the policies. UF also encourages students to join the #IPledgeFlorida campaign to protect the community against the spread of COVID-19 - with a slight incentive by a blue-n-orange haired President Fuchs.

Lauren Shaw, an 18-year-old UF mechanical engineering freshman, unloaded the final box into Hume Hall feeling comfortable. All housing staff wore face masks and remained socially distant. After taking a seat in her rolling chair, pleased in her new double room suite, she felt confident with the housing staff’s ability to remain COVID cautious.

But steps off campus, Shaw witnessed Snapchats of UF students gathering at large house parties and joking about “partying with COVID.”

Shaw is a member of the UF Class of 2024 Facebook group and said that a member posted about “making a group chat for parties and fun events.” Due to backlash, the post was taken down soon after.

“It’s just scary,” she said. “I don't want the university I’m attending to be another example of how we couldn't prevent COVID.”

Students like 21-year-old UF political science senior Lynne Imamura said she witnessed some students posting videos of crowded house parties on their private stories, followed by three-person instagram posts advocating for COVID-19 safety.

As students flock to campus, 21-year-old UF international studies senior Valentina Veiga warns freshmen not to run frantically to parties, like many students did once school went virtual earlier this year.

“They don’t understand what it was like to be here in March and have everything shut down,” Veiga said. “Everyone was super worried.”

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