UF will return to a nearly normal Summer B and Fall 2021 course offering, but mandatory COVID-19 testing and masking are still up in the air.
More than 70% of course credits will be in person in the Fall, which is similar to pre-pandemic offerings, UF Provost and Senior Vice President Joe Glover said at the March 18 UF Board of Trustees meeting. The university based its plan on recommendations from UF Health epidemiologists, Glover wrote in a campus-wide email March 19.
Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the head of UF Health’s Screen, Test & Protect program, also said at the meeting that if masking and vaccine efforts lessen cases in the coming months, his program will recommend full capacity classrooms, no physical distancing and fewer masks for Fall.
In the email, Glover also stated there is zero evidence of transmission in classrooms and on-campus labs as 43% of undergraduate students take in-person classes in the Spring.
UF has yet to confirm whether the health guidelines that defined this past year’s campus experiences will continue in the Fall.
“Masking and testing may still be in place and will be determined based on people getting vaccinated and what the data are showing for COVID-19 cases,” Ken Garcia, a UF Health spokesperson wrote in an email. “We will also follow state and federal guidelines.”
UF isn’t the first major Florida university to announce its Fall semester format. The University of Central Florida outlined a full face-to-face Fall return with mandatory masking and hand-washing on March 1. The University of South Florida released its plans March 3 to bring back pre-COVID-19 delivery of Summer B and Fall.
Florida State University is preparing for face-to-face delivery of in-person classes in the Fall alongside face masks, social distancing and limited in-person meetings, Amy Farnum-Patronis, a university spokesperson, wrote in an email.
These announcements come as political pressures and lost revenue push public universities to make reopening progress, Edwin Michael, a USF College of Public Health professor and epidemiologist, wrote in an email. It also coincides with more students vying for in-person spots, he added.
Repealing social distancing requirements and new COVID-19 strands emerging, even as vaccines roll out, could lead to a resurgence in cases, Michael said. This could all affect Fall semesters across the state.
“They have either taken an optimistic view that it will be safe to go fully in-person or are hedging that somehow things can be controlled under the pressures to reopen,” he wrote.
Contact Manny Rea at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ReaManny.
Manny Rea is a journalism sophomore and the current health reporter for The Alligator. He worked as a copy editor in his freshman year before moving over to the Avenue in summer 2020. He likes to listen to dollar-bin records and read comics, and he is patiently waiting to go back to movies and concerts.