UF will soon begin distributing partial housing and dining refunds for students, as well as clinical trials of a new antiviral treatment. UF Senior Vice President for Health Affairs David Nelson, UF faculty and the UF Board of Trustees met yesterday during their quarterly meeting to discuss university responses to the pandemic.
The meeting was held in person –– despite county orders to shelter in place –– with several attendees appearing over Zoom. UF President Kent Fuchs and Vice Presidents Tom Mitchell, Elias Eldayrie, D’Andra Mull, Mark Kaplan and Amy Hass were among those who attended the meeting in person.
“The chairman felt a physical presence of leadership would send a message of continuity and reassurance that the university continues to fulfill its critical and essential mission,” said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.
All who attended practiced social distancing, he said. It is unknown if they were six feet apart.
Students who formally checked out of their on-campus housing before March 24 will be offered a housing refund based on their checkout date, according to an announcement made today.
Students who stopped using their meal plan after March 23 will also receive a refund for the unused portion of their meal plan, including flex bucks.
These refunds will be distributed to students’ accounts, the announcement said. The move to refund students was mentioned briefly at yesterday’s meeting, but the audio connection was too poor to make out most of what was said.
“One of the things that the leadership is working on is that refund for our students that left early,” said Mori Hosseini, chair of the board and chairman and CEO of ICI Homes, a residential home building company. “We want to get it out. They have been working on it, and we will get it out as soon as possible.”
UF will lose an estimated $33 million due to potential student refunds, canceled performance and event contracts and university services, said Vice President and Chief Financial Officer McKee during the meeting.
Additionally, community spread of COVID-19 is occurring in Alachua County, Nelson said. Expect peak transmission to occur in the next two weeks.
UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute has developed two new treatments that will soon be tested: one to combat COVID-19 in patients who already have it, and another to prevent uninfected people from catching it, Nelson said.
Testing was approved Wednesday and will begin in the coming days, Nelson said. He said he is hopeful the preventative treatment can reduce the risk of health care providers catching the virus.
Additionally, members of the UF College of Engineering and UF libraries are working to begin mass-producing 3D printed face masks for health care providers. Nelson said there has been “absolute chaos” within the supply chain of COVID-19 testing materials, and the masks will hopefully reduce that.
During the last week, more than 100 students and faculty have also volunteered to staff outdoor clinics in The Villages, he said. The Villages is a nearby retirement community of around 130,000 people, an “incredible risk group” with previously no access to testing.
Clinical psychologists will begin tele-health conferences with UF Health employees who Nelson said are on the “front-line” of action and are experiencing great mental stress because of it. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as UF Information Technologies, have donated webcams to increase UF Health’s tele-health capacity.
“There’s nothing like a crisis to galvanize people,” he added.
As of Thursday, 207 UF students have been tested for COVID-19. The UF Dean of Students, Heather White, is monitoring students who are being tested, said Mull, vice president for student affairs.
According to the state health department, Alachua County has 57 confirmed cases of coronavirus. UF has 24. As the numbers continue to grow, more and more university employees are working from home, said Jodi Gentry, vice president for human resources.
About 4,300 employees are still working on campus, she said. Still, she said the numbers change daily.
The university may soon enact a short-term “hiring pause,” Gentry said. This means that with the exception of certain research professionals, no one will be hired by the university. If enacted, the pause will be effective immediately, she said.
Contact Hannah Phillips at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @hphillips96.