Dear USF students and families,
On August 24, fall classes will begin at the University of South Florida. As we plan to bring our students, faculty and staff back to our campuses, we recognize that many of you have questions, especially as you read news reports about COVID-19 trends in our state. I wish to reassure you that we are diligently monitoring public health data on a daily basis. We take seriously our responsibility to promote a healthy and safe environment for our community.
Throughout our planning - and guided by our world-class experts from USF Health in fields of epidemiology, medicine and public health - we have pledged to make well-informed, evidence-based decisions with public health as the key consideration. Our plan is intentionally designed to be flexible and adaptable as we determine how to gradually resume additional on-campus activities.
Our commitment to evidence-based decision-making remains at the core of the announcement today that USF will proceed to a modified Phase II of our return-to-campus plan beginning Friday, August 7. We have responded to the evolving nature of COVID-19, and our understanding of the virus, by adjusting our plans in Phase II. In fact, a number of the Phase II conditions, such as remote work and virtual meetings, are already in place.
Phase II operational details:
- Courses will be delivered through a combination of face-to-face, hybrid and online instruction and learning. USF will continue to work with students who have health conditions or personal circumstances that may impact their ability to return to campus.
- Some points of service may open with limited hours, capacities or activities, such as libraries, student centers and campus recreation facilities on all three campuses. Additional health and safety precautions will be in place, including requirements to maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings and follow cleaning protocols. A list of services and opening dates, which will continue to be updated, is available here.
- Residence Halls on the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses will open with new health and safety policies in place.
- Some common areas or gathering spaces may open on a limited basis with health and safety requirements.
- All meetings and events should continue to be held virtually. Limited exceptions may be considered and must be reviewed in advance by USF’s COVID-19 Task Force.
- Travel restrictions remain in place.
- Beginning with the fall semester, everyone coming to campus must complete a daily symptom check through an easy-to-use digital platform. More information will be shared with you soon.
We have invested significant time, energy and resources to offer flexible solutions that allow students to pursue their academic goals without disruption, faculty to teach and continue their research, and staff to work in a healthy environment to support our academic mission.
As we have said previously, students will not be required to take face-to-face courses this semester. However, we know that some prefer to learn in person, depending on the field of study (e.g., performing arts or in a laboratory setting). We want to offer those opportunities with safety measures in place.
Our enhanced safety precautions include installing thousands of signs with reminders to use required face coverings, to maintain physical distancing and practice good hygiene. Adjustments have been made to our facilities, such as adding plexiglass shields and limits on room and elevator capacities. New outdoor spaces have been identified and will be furnished as places to work or study between classes.
We regularly monitor relevant data, such as visits to local emergency rooms for COVID-like illnesses; the number of new COVID-19 cases; the test positivity rate; and the impact on hospital capacity. Over the past several weeks, we have observed encouraging trends in each of these indicators across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties. These trends, as of August 5, show declining cases and improving test positivity rates for each of the four counties.
*The source of the data is the Florida Department of Health. FDOH provides daily updates that can be found here.
We will continue to monitor these sources and will remain adaptable in response to the evolving nature of the virus.
The success of our plan relies on USF’s culture of caring and a shared sense of responsibility to sustain the well-being of our community, even in our daily lives when we’re not on campus. Anyone who feels sick should stay home. To be clear: There will be zero tolerance and serious consequences for individuals who don’t comply with our expected behaviors and who jeopardize the health of others. We’re all in this together.
Thank you for your ongoing resilience and patience as USF enters the next phase of our planned return to campus.
Steven C. Currall
President and Professor