University of South Florida President Steven Currall has proposed a plan to resume university operations amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan involves a gradual return to face-to-face classes, extensive monitoring and testing, and risk mitigation measures such as enhanced cleaning and reconfiguring space on campus.
The plan is designed to promote the health and wellbeing of USF communities as a shared responsibility, but success may be dependent upon the personal efforts of the members of the USF and surrounding communities, a draft of the plan posted online said.
Projected costs for the fall 2020 semester range from $16.7 million to $25 million, according to a presentation Currall was scheduled to give to the USF Board of Trustees Tuesday afternoon. Funding for the extra costs could come from the federal CARES Act, the general operating fund and distance learning and technology fees.
If the USF board approves the plan, it will be submitted to the Florida Board of Governors Friday, and presented to the Board of Governors June 23. The plan aligns with the Board of Governor’s blueprint for opening the state university system for fall 2020, the draft said.
USF instructors have been teaching classes online since March 23. Classes are scheduled to resume Aug. 24.
Here are some highlights from the plan.
• A hybrid class format is planned for fall 2020. USF will transition some courses back to face-to-face (F2F) delivery, but students won’t be required to attend in person, and faculty and staff who are in defined “high-risk” categories should not be required to teach F2F classes in the fall.
• Class spaces will be reconfigured to account for social distancing guidelines. Classes of 100 or more students will be required to move to a fully online format, and classes of between 50 to 100 students will be strongly encouraged to be online.
• Residence halls will open at design capacity, but there will be modifications to the student housing agreements, including limits on the use of common areas and lounges and a ban on guests in the residence halls. Move-in will occur in scheduled time frames over several days.
• Before the first day of classes, all students, faculty and staff will have to complete a baseline symptom tracker to evaluate their exposure to COVID-19. Anyone reporting symptoms will also be asked to have a medical evaluation and refrain from returning to campus until medically cleared. Students coming from international locations and from out-of-state, as well as from Florida counties with high rates of COVID-19 also will need to be tested before returning; so will students living in student housing, and a random sampling of students living in off-campus housing.
• Once the initial survey and any required tests are completed, all students, faculty and staff who are on campus will be required to complete a one-minute, modified symptoms tracker survey every day.
• Students who have symptoms and test positive will be required to isolate themselves, preferably at home. If they can’t isolate at home, the plan recommends setting aside 250 beds between the USF Tampa and USF St. Petersburg campuses. USF will contact the local county health department for the person testing positive and that county health department will conduct contact tracing.
• The plan also calls for environmental sampling from surfaces such as floors, door handles, telephones, computer keyboards and desk surfaces.
• Cleaning and sanitization protocols are outlined in the plan, with hand sanitizer made widely available, free of cost. USF has purchased and will issue two reusable and washable cloth face coverings for each student, staff and faculty member.
• There will be a phased approach to reopening athletics facilities, with screening in place and deployment of an infection response team if needed.
• All members of the university community, including visitors and vendors, are expected to practice social distancing and wear face coverings. In most cases, people who don’t comply initially will be reminded of the guidance, followed by removal from the activity.
The entire plan will be implemented over four phases and in increments of 25 percent of staff returning to campus at a time. Phase 4, the final phase, won’t kick in until the Centers for Disease Control lifts social distancing guidelines, “herd immunity” (when most of the population is immune) is achieved, or the rate of transmission is stable.
The plan is subject to change, based on epidemiologic data trends and public health guidance.
Currall was scheduled to present the plan to the board of trustees at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The St. Pete Catalyst will update this news story if there are major changes.