USF updates mask guidance, ‘expects’ masks to be worn no matter vaccination status

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The University of South Florida updated its mask guidance Monday as the Bulls Nation prepares for the upcoming fall semester.

In a statement sent to students, faculty, and staff, the university said, “we expect that all members of our community will wear a mask on campus, vaccinated or unvaccinated.”

The university said it made this recommendation following recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Board of Governors.

“We look forward to a productive fall semester with all the complements of a full college experience, but it can only be done through compliance with the guidelines issued by state leaders and detailed in this message. Thank you for doing your part,” the statement says.

USF officials also strongly urge all community members to get fully vaccinated. Vaccines are currently available to students, faculty, staff and family members at several campus locations.

Free COVID-19 testing is also accessible to members of the Bulls Nation on all three USF campuses.

USF officials said leadership will take the following additional steps to keep its community safe: 

  • Working with student organizations to implement appropriate mitigation strategies for their own organizations
  • Working with student leaders to promote and incentivize the vaccine using peer-to-peer outreach
  • Increasing signage on campus promoting the vaccine, masks and other mitigation measures
  • Providing responsive symptom screening through the Daily Symptom Checker
  • Providing free testing and contact tracing through USF Health and Student Health Services, in conjunction with the Florida Department of Health
  • Providing free vaccines on all of our campuses through Student Health Services and USF Health
  • Supporting and providing accommodations for faculty, staff and students who are immunocompromised or who have underlying medical issues
  • Engaging with faculty and providing clear direction for announcing expectations in their classrooms, including that masks are expected
  • Providing masks in high-traffic areas, such as our student centers and libraries and for faculty to distribute in class, if needed 
  • Supporting employee wellness through extension of special leave benefits for eligible employees 

8 On Your Side spoke with several USF students who say they like the idea of the university expecting students and staff to mask up indoors.

“Pretty much everyone else I know had (COVID) and so that’s scary coming back again because it’s not gonna be like the summer semester where most people were away,” said Cheyanne Fuentes, a sophomore in the pre-nursing program. “Everyone is coming back and I feel like the numbers are going up again.”

A USF faculty member told 8 On Your Side some professors will ask every student walking into their classrooms to please put on a mask, but there is no enforcement.

For more details on the latest recommendation, please visit USF’s Coronavirus website.

If you have any questions, the university will be hosting a town hall meeting for faculty and staff on Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Students are able to ask questions during the Student & Family COVID-19 Update on Tuesday, Aug. 10 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The first day of class for the fall semester is August 23.

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