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USF president urges masks and vaccinations as faculty calls for 'aggressive' COVID approach

Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media

The university's president called for people on-campus to wear masks and to be fully vaccinated, while USF faculty recommended holding the first few weeks of the spring semester online.

University of South Florida interim President Rhea Law is encouraging anyone who will be on campus for the spring semester to be fully vaccinated — including boosters — and to wear a mask.

Law also said anyone who experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested.

Law made the recommendations in a letter to USF faculty, students and staff on Wednesday as cases of the omicron variant continue to surge.

The letter came one day after university faculty urged Law to take additional coronavirus precautions this semester.

Arthur Shapiro, an education professor and president of the United Faculty of Florida USF chapter, made those recommendations in a Tuesday letter to Law.

In the letter, Shapiro said USF should take an "aggressive approach" to the rise in cases. He cited the increasing number of hospitalizations — especially among children — and an expected spike in cases from January to March.

"Both the immediate and long-term severity of omicron infections are uncertain, and projections for our region and for our state in general are rather grim," Shapiro wrote.

Shapiro urged Law to hold the first few weeks of spring classes — which resume Jan. 10 — online, while requiring masks for everyone on campus.

He also wrote faculty "recommend that vaccination for eligible people, periodic testing, and masks be mandated. Again, we would support such mandates."

Law said that classes would continue to be held on-campus, but university officials "are closely monitoring the latest developments with the Omicron variant and the recent increase in positive cases in our state and across the country."

"Our experts from USF Health currently project this wave will be relatively short in duration, perhaps only a few more weeks," Law wrote.

Along with urging everyone on campus to be fully vaccinated, Law wrote anyone who does not feel well should stay home.

She also wrote that she anticipates that "some students will test positive and won’t be able to return to campus in time for the start of classes on January 10, or may test positive shortly after returning. We ask our faculty to remain flexible in accommodating students who are in this situation."

A link to USF's COVID-19 campus protocols can be found here.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.