TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As the fall semester approaches for college students, a growing number of coronavirus cases have already been reported among campuses across the country. Among them are three Florida universities with some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the nation.
A New York Times survey collected data from each one of the country’s public four-year colleges, along with every private institution that competes in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities. In the end, more than 6,600 coronavirus cases were linked to 270 of the colleges surveyed.
In Florida, three of the state’s largest post-secondary institutions were among the top 10 schools with the most coronavirus cases.
- University of Central Florida (No. 2): 449 cases
- University of Florida (No. 6): 217 cases
- University of South Florida (No. 8) : 182 cases
Florida Polytechnic University also reported five cases. USF-St. Pete reported seven while USF-Sarasota-Manatee reported two cases.
For these universities, returning to in-person learning is still up for debate.
USF is currently in Phase One of reopening, meaning face coverings are required on campus and all coursework is continuing remotely as only 25% of the staff are allowed on campus.
UF will offer face-to-face, hybrid and online courses and will be required to complete a screening questionnaire prior to the Aug. 31 start of the semester.
UCF’s plan allows in-person learning as long as social distance requirements can be met. But for USF faculty and students, the plan only allows classrooms to operate at 25 to 30% capacity and labs at 50%.
“The health and safety of the university community will remain our highest priority as we move forward,” USF President Steven Currall said following the approval. “USF is fortunate to have world-class public health and medical experts among our faculty to help us through this process, a benefit not every university in the state or nation has available to them.”
Currently, there isn’t a federal standard for reporting coronaviruses linked to college campuses and the survey relied on self-reporting from the colleges and universities
There were some colleges in the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties that either did not respond to inquiries, declined to provide information or said they had no known infection. Local schools that had no information listed were New College of Florida, Polk State College, Pasco-Hernando State College and State College of Florida-Manatee Sarasota.
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