As of this morning, Florida had 6,966 deaths from Covid-19 and 470,386 cases (that the authorities knew about). According to Johns Hopkins, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties alone had 1,044 dead. While the World Health Organization advises not to reopen until the test positivity rate falls below 5 % for at least two weeks, Florida's test positivity rate is 12.9 %. Florida is a national hotspot, second only to California.
In May, 74 % of colleges and universities polled had intended to reopen in fall, but now only 49 % still intend to do so.
Covid-19 is more difficult to deal with than expected. For example, USF's Plan for Reopening, posted in mid-June, relies heavily on cleaning surfaces. But Covid-19 is particularly dangerous airborne, which means that for prolonged periods in enclosed rooms, masks and face shields are probably insufficient, which is why some institions are adding ultra-violet light filters to their ventilation systems.
Reality check. The infrastructure does not exist: not only do many USF buildings lack anti-viral filters, but there are not enough test kits to enable testing on campus (and the labs are backed up even with the tests now extant). And with nearly half of all Covid-19 cases being asymptomatic, testing is the only reliable way to detect infected individuals. Turning to human nature, after a few weeks of energetic compliance with precautions, some people will become lax.
Even now, WTSP 10 of Tampa Bay reported that Florida colleges report hundreds of coronavirus cases among faculty and students - Most universities say the positive cases have been from those working remotely or students not on campus currently; perhaps, but imagine those faculty and students coming to class. And the National Education Association Today reported that Educators Prepare for Reopening with Living Wills and Life Insurance.
Imagine what will happen if USF reopens at the end of August with face-to-face and hybrid courses. By mid-September there may be a spike in cases. This means a lot of student and faculty absenteeism, and a number of people seriously ill. The university would be in the same spot that it was last March: going online, and figuring out what to do with all the students on campus.
On Monday, statewide United Faculty of Florida (UFF) President Karen Morian and Florida Education Association (FEA) Vice President Andrew Spar held a press conference to announce that they were sending a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis strongly urging him "to issue directives to transition all of Florida’s Institutions of Higher Education to remote learning ... until public health conditions improve ..." to a level of safety. Professor Morian conducted the press conference, in which she was joined by Spar, UFF Vice President Jaffar Ali Shahul Hameed, and six members of the higher education community from around Florida. In addition to the nine speakers,there were 154 attendees.
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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.
Chapter Meeting Friday, August 7 via Zoom: for an invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.
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