Florida colleges urge students to get vaccinated before return as COVID-19 cases surge


ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — While the number of new coronavirus cases ticks up, the days left before students return to college are winding down.

After more than a year of closures, campuses will soon look like what they used to.

“I actually came in a freshman not being able to take any in-person classes,” said Leandra Valladares, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. “The moment that I was told that we were getting back I was like, ‘Oh yeah I have to sign up for all this.'”

Valladares is vaccinated, but she knows many people on her college campus who aren’t.

“I guess I’m kind of worried just to see what this new variant may have,” Valladares said. “I feel like there was starting to be a semi-normal environment so I’m hoping it doesn’t go back to the way it was.”

UCF sophomore Peter Lux took his vaccine to pursue his favorite activities again.

“Mainly for baseball because we travel so much and I just felt like being vaccinated would be a good idea,” Lux said.

UCF is not requiring students or staff to get the vaccine to return to campus. The university says it just strongly encourages them to get their shots to prevent a repeat of 2020.

“I’ll get it done eventually probably. It’s just not really high on the priority list for me,” senior at UCF Joey Soletti said. “I just want everyone who needs it more to get it first.”

In a campus-wide message, the University of Florida says students are not required to take the vaccine, but if they catch the virus they may have to leave campus and make up for missed work. In a statement, the university said, “We want to be clear on this point because it is important that people understand the potential consequences of their choice.”

Florida A&M University recently announced it was offering students and staff incentives in an effort to get as many people vaccinated. Those who get their shots have a chance to win up to one million dollars in prizes.

Despite the efforts to reach pre-pandemic levels, some people are still hesitant. Senior at UCF Kyle Dawson said he has no plans to take the vaccine.

“Nope. I had COVID, didn’t affect me that bad,” Dawson said. “I was surprised it didn’t affect me that bad I know it’s affected some people terrible and I’m praying for their health.”

UCF tells students and staff on its website to stay home if they show symptoms while they wait for test results.

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