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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

COVID-19 cases rise as UF freshman arrive

Cases in Alachua County have risen since April 8

<p>Shands Cancer Hospital and Medical Center is seen.</p>

Shands Cancer Hospital and Medical Center is seen.

Evan Hadam moved into Mallory Hall at the start of the Summer B semester. After two weeks on campus, the 18-year-old UF computer science freshman said more than three of his floormates tested positive for COVID-19.

While he’s had some anxiety living in the dorm, Hadam said washing his hands and making sure his room is sanitized helps him feel safe.

“As long as I kind of do my own thing,” he said, “I think I’ll be okay.” 

Amid a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases, UF’s policy — which has been in place since March 23 — does not require or expect masks on campus, but it does require them in all UF Health facilities. The university also no longer offers easy-access COVID-19 test sites as of June 17 due to the increased accessibility of at-home tests and testing provided by retail pharmacies. 

Alachua County had 964 new positive cases the week of July 1, according to data from the Florida State Health Department. The county saw this year’s lowest number of positive cases — 108 —  just three months ago during the week of April 8. These numbers do not include positive cases from at-home COVID-19 tests. 

Alachua County’s 22.4% new case positivity rate is higher than the state’s 19.4%, according to the Florida State Health Department. 

The state reported 74,481 cases from June 24-30, according to data from the Florida State Health Department. Numbers have consistently increased since the state reported 26,533 new cases the week of April 22. 

With the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate on the rise, Hadam hopes UF will bring back its testing sites instead of relying on students to self-test and report through retail pharmacies, primary care physicians and at-home test kits. Without UF’s guidance, he said, students will likely infect others when they opt to leave their room to attend class or party instead of quarantining.  

Other state universities have also relaxed COVID-19 regulations. 

The University of Central Florida discontinued updating its websites to reflect case numbers at the end of the Spring semester, Heather Lovett, UCF’s director of media relations, wrote in an email to The Alligator, but the university still makes hand sanitizer and masks available for students. 

Florida State University does not require students to wear masks in its buildings, but students can still test on campus with a form of payment or insurance information, according to FSU’s University Health Services. 

All three universities continue to offer vaccines on campus. UF students can receive their vaccine through the UF Student Health Care Center or the Alachua County Health Department.

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Michael Sullivan, a 22-year-old UF economics graduate student, is vaccinated and boosted, he said. Sullivan comfortably rides the Gainesville RTS bus daily, even though it ended its mask mandate April 19. 

At the height of the pandemic, Sullivan said he preferred hybrid courses, but he found himself enjoying in-person classes after getting vaccinated. 

Lola Aronovitz, a 17-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences freshman, said she feels safe in class despite getting COVID-19 her first week being on campus. At some point, UF shouldn’t be responsible for students getting COVID, she said. 

“We’re adults,” Aronovitz said. “You get sick sometimes, so if you can prevent it, it’s nice but it's not really up to [UF].”

Contact Jackson Reyes at Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.

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Jackson Reyes

Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.

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