Monday’s Alligator article regarding student experiences with testing and quarantining and isolating on campus was eye-opening, and we would like to thank the Alligator for bringing the concerns of our students to the forefront.

We believe the vast majority of students have had as favorable an experience as can be expected under these trying circumstances, and we have made every effort to ensure that.

However, the fact that even a few felt otherwise is troubling.

To be truly compassionate and competent, we have to be humble. Like many of you, we have been humbled by this virus every day. Our teams knew that September would be challenging. Our UF Health experts, who have been guiding the university’s planning and response from the beginning of the pandemic, anticipated the surge in cases we are currently seeing. We expect more, and we are prepared. Two weeks after the beginning of classes, we are learning how many students are heeding messages from the last several months and adopting the required healthy behaviors.

Our planning, while comprehensive, missed the mark on at least one count: transportation. In managing cases throughout the summer, some needs, including the demand for transportation, did not arise. When we learned on social media last week that students were using Uber and RTS buses to get to quarantine and isolation housing, we immediately addressed the issue and had free, university-provided transportation up and running within 48 hours.

Testing was another issue, and as questions arose about how best to access testing we were simultaneously expanding options and working to better communicate about those options.

Here’s how we have responded:

Transportation

If you have your own private means of transportation, you are encouraged to use it to get to your temporary isolation or quarantine assignment. If you do not have personal transportation available, the University of Florida will provide transportation. The GatorLift Express, operated by Transportation and Parking Services, stands ready seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to transport students withheld from campus to designated isolation or quarantine sites. We will be adding additional vehicles to support transportation as needs arise.

Testing

All our processes and the virtual infrastructure and framework we’ve implemented to manage this virus are based on past experiences, but we continuously reevaluate and scale up as needed. This allows us to be agile and responsive to the needs of our student body based on how we are seeing things develop.

Whether you have symptoms or just want to get tested because you are worried you may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, we have made scheduling testing easier using ONE.UF. Just fill out the short screening questionnaire and make an appointment. Testing is available at Hull Road, and we are testing in various on-campus neighborhoods as well, for added convenience. Remember, the Student Health Care Center is there for those of you who wish or need to see a physician or other medical provider.

Care and Support

Email is our primary method of communication. Approximately four hours after a student’s status is changed to “not cleared for campus,” they receive an email about support, ranging from meal delivery to academic accommodations.

Students must quarantine or isolate in place, meaning they must stay in their assigned self-quarantine or self-isolation rooms. Students should not exit their spaces except to use the restroom facilities, to obtain food delivery from the designated common space within the building or to attend required medical treatment or testing. This is vital for protecting and maintaining the safety of the community at large.

Please know all students will be provided food so they do not need to venture to stores or into public.

If you have a meal plan or declining balance, meal provisions will be coordinated through Gator Dining.

If you live on campus and do not have a meal plan, you may purchase a daily supplemental plan offered by Gator Dining or you can order food through our Food Assistance Program.

If you live off-campus, you can also order food through our Food Assistance Program. You can choose from a menu of grab-and-go options as well as ingredients to make meals that will arrive at your door via contactless delivery.

If you live in a sorority or fraternity house, your house corporation may be providing to-go meals that will be delivered to the site where you are in isolation or quarantine. If not, you will receive an email with a link to order food through our Food Assistance Program.

We are all in this together

As we collectively navigate the uncharted territory that this pandemic brings, we are thankful for all the questions we receive. They keep us focused. We want you to know that we are constantly following the data, listening to your experiences and evolving our plans and processes to support our community.

There is so much to look forward to this semester, but this is a partnership. We also need your help to remain active and open. The vast majority of you have been conscientious and mindful of your actions — and we are grateful for your care and your agency as you have made the decision to protect yourself and others — but we also have our share of bad actors.

The reckless actions of a few cannot become our shared narrative and fate.

Over the past weekend, we have seen behavior that is alarming, to say the least. Large house parties and disregard for the rules of quarantine or isolation cannot continue. It must not continue. We have too much at stake as a community to not consider the impact of our actions individually and collectively.

Please know the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution continually learns of students ignoring and violating university behavioral policies and guidelines put in place to support the health and safety of all students. With the health risks created by such disregard in mind, we are responding swiftly and with necessary severity. Yes — if you choose to violate university policies, you will face sanctions, such as loss of privileges associated with being a student or student organization, including suspension and expulsion.

We are very serious, and need you to be mindful of your actions.

Nationally, this is challenging for all of us — students, faculty, staff and our communities alike. We are working hard to support you in your college experience under these trying circumstances, while still creating a safer and healthier environment.

We will continue to do so, and we are counting on you to do your part as well.

Dr. D’Andra Mull is Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Florida. 

Dr. Michael Lauzardo is Director of UF Health Screen, Test & Protect.