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UFF Biweekly EXTRA
United Faculty of Florida -- USF Chapter
10 January 2022
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On Our Own?

A new Covid-19 variant is here. A model in Gainesville projects that the current surge may be peaking, but this virus seems to keep coming back - so we should remain vigilant. USF faculty are figuring out how to hold classes on campus when something's in the air, especially since the message we are hearing is ... no mandates, minimal infrastructure, discontinuation of the campus reporting box assesscovid ... in a sentence, you are on your own. So, what do we do now that we are on our own?

Most of us and most of our students are back in class despite UFF's appeal to USF President Law to at least put the first few weeks online as a precaution. So what precautions should we take? Predictably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines, masks, and testing.

The FDA-approved vaccines have proven to be a lot safer than going without and are quite effective against the previous variants. These vaccines appear to be less effective in preventing Omicron infection but are still reasonably effective in preventing serious illness resulting from Omicron. One consequence is that vaccinated people can infect others even if they are asymptomatic - something that caregivers and family members of vulnerable people should think about.

Omicron has made testing more complicated. First of all, since Omicron is "milder" as it surges through the population, sending vulnerable and random people into hospitals, some experts recommend paying more attention to hospitalization rates. Meanwhile, as home tests become available, many people are quietly testing themselves and not reporting the results to local health authorities, thus reducing the number of reported infections; this problem has inspired the University of Florida to stop updating its Covid dashboard. Self-testing has additional problems: many people have difficulty conducting the self-test properly (and a few have even hurt themselves in the process), and it is a commentary on human nature that a lot of fake tests are on the market. Tests are expensive, and while the federal government has promised to provide free tests...eventually, tests are critical for people who do not want to endanger others. Going to a testing center may be worth the inconvenience.

Airborne viruses may be more airborne than experts had thought a mere two years ago, which is motivating some experts to shift their advice from wearing surgical masks to wearing N95 (or similar) masks. Predictably, there are now a lot of fake N95 masks for sale, which has inspired the CDC to post a page on counterfeit respirators. The CDC has also posted a guide to masks, a list of types of masks, and a list of approved masks. Wired has also posted a list of "good" N95, KN95, and surgical masks.

The surgical mask issue brings up a point: masks seem to provide less protection for the wearer, but they protect the people around the wearer. This is could be a point to stress in class: while faculty are not supposed to require students wear masks, they can say that students wearing masks are showing consideration for other people in the class. After all, teachers have been delivering homilies and unsolicited advice to their students ever since hominids taught youngsters how to make hand axes. (And as for vaccination, you could ask students to imagine how their families would feel watching them on a ventilator; note, however, that you cannot ask students if they have been vaccinated.)

Masks are better than nothing (unless your nose is stickout out).

Incidentally, recalling that Covid-19 is airborne, the CDC also has advice for upgrading home ventilation to make them more Covid-resistant.

And the CDC also has a page on misinformation and disinformation.

Last, but definitely not least, on the subject of whether we are on our own - we are in this together. Section 21.3 (page 64) of the contract reads, "Whenever an employee reports a condition which the employee feels represents a violation of safety or health rules and regulations or which is an unreasonable hazard to persons or property, such conditions shall be promptly investigated. The appropriate administrator shall reply to the concern, in writing, if the employee's concern is communicated in writing." Moreover, federal law provides some protections for employees; any union member who has been put at risk by their supervisor is advised to contact the Grievance Committee immediately.

And recalling that trade unions started as mutual aid societies, come to the chapter meeting tomorrow with your ideas.

Chapter Meeting Friday on Zoom

Our next chapter meeting will be on Friday, January 14. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.

Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.

Join UFF Today!

Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.

Get Involved!

Get active in the union! UFF is a volunteer organization, and it is only as strong as its membership.

And chapter elections are coming up, and all elected offices and representative seats will be open. If you are a UFF member and are interested in serving in an elected post, stay tuned, and a call for nominations will soon be forthcoming. But you must be a UFF member to run and / or vote, so join today.

USF United Support Fund for Food Pantries

Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.


Next Chapter Meeting Friday, January 14, at 12 noon, via Zoom: for an invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all UFF USF members.

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