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Coronavirus prompts USF, UT to teach online, state to restrict nursing home visits

Margie Manning



USF is preparing for a return to on-campus classes and activities in the fall semester.

University of South Florida instructors will be teaching their classes online beginning March 23.

University of Tampa is making the same move, with remote instruction at UT beginning March 16.

The schools say they are responding to continuing concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus).

“While there still are no reported or confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus, this is an extraordinary situation, and we have decided to move from face-to-face instruction to online delivery, effective March 16. We are taking this action to protect not only our campus community but the larger community as well,” UT said in a notice posted on its website late Wednesday.

USF had been preparing to teach classes online, leaders told the board of trustees Tuesday. Their actions were accelerated when the Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday directed all state universities to make plans to transition to remote instruction as soon as possible.

Separately, Florida governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing certain people from visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida. The order applies to people showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, people who may have had close contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19, and people who recently took a cruise or have been in places deemed to have a “community spread” of the virus.

At a news conference Wednesday, DeSantis called the decision by the board of governors “prudent.”

“Because you have the ability to do distance learning, they’ll be able to do that and not miss a huge beat,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also said Florida’s primary election next Tuesday would take place as scheduled, but he recommended that polling locations at nursing homes be relocated to protect nursing home residents.

At USF, online instruction will begin on March 23, when students return from spring break, and will continue for at least two weeks through April 5, according to a website posting by Steve Currall, USF president. Students traveling for spring break next week are being told not to return to campus for at least two weeks. Students not traveling for spring break are asked to go home, although the residential halls will remain open.

All university-sponsored events on campus, at other USF instructional sites or off campus scheduled in the next 30 days, will be postponed or canceled. All healthy USF employees are expected to maintain normal work operations, although some adjustments may need to be made on a case-by-case basis, Currall said. Many normal university operations will continue, including Student Health Services, USF Health clinical operations and university administration and staff functions, he said.

UT, which is currently on spring break, is encouraging students to not return to campus for now and to continue their coursework online. Campus residence halls will remain open for those who need to stay on campus, but the school is discouraging residence hall guests.

“We hope to resume the full array of campus life – including face-to-face instruction — as soon as conditions permit,” UT said.

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg has no plans to change college operations at this time, the school said. It expects regular classes to resume March 23St. Petersburg College said it has no plans to close or cancel events at this time.

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