Sidewalks normally flooded with cyclists, skateboarders and speedwalkers, now appear vacant. The few students on campus are sparse, with faces hidden behind cloth or medical face coverings.
Every student on campus is expected to follow the UF face covering policy on campus and UF Health premises.
UF administration established a no-tolerance mask mandate to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Some students see the mask mandate as an opportunity to speak up on social injustices like police brutality as well as a vital part in preventing the spread. Others see it as too stringent.
Sam Roark contracted COVID-19 in early June and battled the virus for 16 days. The 21-year-old UF business administration senior is immunocompromised and believes he caught it socializing with friends and going to the hockey rink.
Roark still experiences long-term effects such as weakness and is on-board with the mask mandate. He hopes that others adhere to the fall semester regulations.
“They think they're invincible, and they're not going to get it, but it's actually closer to them than they think,” Roark said.
John Lednicky, a research professor in the environmental and global health department, has worked at UF for nearly a decade. While outdoor spaces lower your risk compared to indoor spaces, Lednicky advises students to social distance, and wear a mask.
“Our lack of willingness to take this more seriously is leading us to problems,” Lednicky said.
Some students have taken the mask mandate as an opportunity to vocalize a personal message from beneath the mask.
Ella Terran, an 18-year-old UF graphic design freshman, is using the UF mask mandate along with the Alachua County mandate to make her own masks as part of her upcycle brand.
Bingelion, a brand she’s owned for three years, takes gently-used clothing and recycles them into something new. As she began to incorporate masks into her business, she noticed they were not only a fashion statement, but a canvas to communicate a message. As a result, Terran began making masks with the words “Vote”, “Protect Trans Lives” and “I Can’t Breathe”.
The “I Can’t Breathe” phrase refers to the recent police killing of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to police brutality, and “Protect Trans Lives” draws attention to the violence and unlawful killings of transgender men and women. She is looking forward to seeing similar representation by students on campus.
“I do think students will take it as a way to make a statement,” Terran said. “I would love to see that.”
Philip Smith, a 22-year-old UF agricultural operations management senior, said he understands the importance of protecting the UF community, but views the mask mandate as an unnecessary rule.
“I don't think that you should have to wear a mask if you're alone,” he said. “I certainly don't think you should have to wear a mask if you're outside. I think that's just common sense.”
Smith said he wears a mask indoors as a common courtesy for others, but believes a campus-wide mandate is not needed. Students should be given the choice to wear a mask, Smith said. Despite this, he plans on following the UF mask mandate.
A June UF study found that 95% of students wear a face mask to protect the health of others.
All students, faculty and visitors are required to wear a face covering in UF and UF Health facilities. This includes classrooms, stairwells, elevators, public bathrooms, shuttles and outside areas when physical distancing is not possible, according to the Masking and Physical Distancing policy.
Exceptions to this mandate include private offices, private workspaces and outdoor spaces that allow for physical distancing.
While some students may be divided on the necessity of face coverings on campus, the UF administration will continue to enforce it.