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USF Students Need To Get Their Masks On

Social Distance marker at USF
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Social Distance marker at USF

As students stream back to the University of South Florida campuses on Monday, uncertainty will reign over how safe it is to physically go back to class. But one thing is for sure: everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask.

A survey revealed that many faculty and staff members said they weren't comfortable having to enforce the mask policy. So about 120 people have agreed to become "respectful responders."

Donna Petersen, Dean of the USF College of Public Health, spoke during a virtual Town Hall for university staff Friday.

"It was designed primarily to respond to incidents in classrooms," Petersen said, "but we quickly determined there's no reason why they couldn't respond to a point of service, to an office if there's a challenge, if someone's not following our policy."

Petersen says people will be approached calmly to wear a mask, but if they refuse, they might be referred to the university police.

Also, everyone planning to come to campus will be required to do a daily check for COVID-19 symptoms - called a symptom tracker - via their smart phone or a computer - to monitor themselves.

On Aug. 7, USF President Steven Currall announced that the school moved to a modified Phase II of its return-to-campus plan.

That means courses will be delivered through a combination of face-to-face, hybrid, or online-only instruction and learning; all employees who can work remotely should continue to do so; and no more than 50 percent of employees should be on campus at a time.

In addition, residence halls are opening with new health and safety policies; and some services, like libraries, student centers, and campus recreation facilities will also be allowed to open.

However, all meetings and events should still be held virtually, with some limited exceptions allowed after the USF COVID-19 Task Force reviews plans.

Students who do not want to take classes in person will not be required to do so, and USF recently published a guide for faculty – particularly those in a high-risk category or those who live with someone at risk – to help them with reopening in the fall.

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.