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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

COVID-19 Update: UF expects, but does not require, mask usage indoors

The new expectation is effective immediately, following CDC guidelines and the Delta variant

The University of Florida expects everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks at all times indoors effective immediately.

“It’s not a mask mandate,” UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said. “It’s expected, not required.”

In a campus-wide email brief sent Friday, UF advised students, faculty and staff of COVID-19 precaution measures to prevent further transmission of the virus. The university expects everyone to wear a mask in indoor facilities and encourages vaccinations; neither masking nor vaccination mandates are in place.

Masks still remain optional, as mask-wearing will not be enforced, according to Orlando.

The announcement came following studies and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing both unvaccinated and vaccinated people can transmit the current COVID-19 variant to unvaccinated people, the brief stated.

Due to the COVID-19 Delta variant and a high number of unvaccinated individuals, cases are surging —  setting new local and state records for hospitalizations, according to the brief.

The phrasing “we expect everyone to wear a mask at all times when inside any UF facility,” and “effective immediately,” caused confusion among news outlets, such as the New York Post and CBS4 News Gainesville, which reported UF requires masks indoors.

UF clarified its announcement hours later on Twitter: “Masks are not required at UF — they are expected.”

The email announcement followed record-breaking cases statewide, a sixth wave of the virus at UF and labor union demands for mandatory masking.

UF broke 11,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Tuesday preceding the announcement, and the number of people in isolation or quarantine surpassed 1,120 people, approaching some of the highest numbers of people UF has ever had in quarantine or isolation.

The email urged students to get vaccinated, as it not only helps prevent serious illness or hospitalization but protects those around them, the brief read.

“This is a natural extension of the culture of care and compassion we’ve embraced as a campus community,” the email stated.

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Students should aim to be fully vaccinated, but if unable, should have at least one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine no later than Aug. 22, according to the brief. Students will still be able to receive their second dose on campus.

There are no plans to mandate vaccines for students or employees, nor plans to move any classes online or offer online options, according to Orlando.

The brief stated even those who have recovered from the virus should still be vaccinated, as having had COVID-19 does not provide nearly as much protection as the vaccine.

Testing remains available, but not required, both on and off campus. There are no plans to instate mandatory testing, Orlando said.

The brief asked sick people to stay home and self-quarantine, while others continue to follow healthy habits, including frequent hand-washing.

UF is no longer providing on-campus quarantine or isolation space for students, according to the brief.

As UF continues contact tracing, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, will order isolation for those who test positive and quarantine unvaccinated people who are identified as contacts of positive cases.

UF Health is offering vaccinations with no appointment necessary.

Contact Alexandra Harris at Follow her on Twitter @harris_alex_m.

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Alexandra Harris

Alexandra is a senior journalism major reporting on Science/Environment for The Alligator. Her work has appeared in The Gainesville Sun, and she filed public records requests for the Why Don't We Know investigative podcast. She has a passion for the environment.

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