As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the globe, the University of Florida continues to closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation and is prepared to respond appropriately.
To date, no cases have been reported at UF or elsewhere in Florida. Sixteen cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in the U.S.
While the immediate risk to the general U.S. public is considered low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise the virus will likely cause a global pandemic and is urging Americans to prepare much as they would for a hurricane. According to the CDC, a pandemic refers to an increase in cases that spreads over several countries or continents, usually impacting a large amount of people.
With UF’s spring break approaching, many people in the UF community may wonder if they should change their travel plans. The CDC recommends that all nonessential travel to China and South Korea be canceled. The CDC has also issued travel notices for Iran, Italy, and Japan, warning that the elderly and anyone with chronic medical problems should avoid non-essential travel to those countries. People who do travel to those regions should avoid exposure to sick people and practice recommended hand washing. People traveling to Hong Kong should practice usual precautions and avoid exposure to sick people.
Precautions at UF:
To help minimize the spread of COVID-19 as well as any potential impact on the UF community, the university is implementing the following precautions.
UF study abroad trips to China for Spring and Summer 2020 are canceled. Trips will be refunded or the UF International Center will work with students to find alternative arrangements for them, as possible.
UF has canceled a trip to South Korea for three students, and all travel to that country is suspended for the foreseeable future.
Out of an abundance of caution, UF has canceled a study-abroad program in Vicenza, Italy, and is arranging for the return of 41 students and two faculty members. Vicenza has been particularly affected by COVID-19.
The U.S. State Department has raised the China Travel Advisory to Level 4: Do not travel to China. Consequently, UF will not approve university travel to China for employees and will not reimburse for any university travel to China. The university has also issued restrictions on any official travel to China by students, faculty, and staff, and the UF International Center will no longer approve travel to China for students until further notice.
UF faculty and staff returning from China are subject to 14-day quarantine after which they may be cleared to return to work. As of Feb. 27, the CDC is advising that travelers returning from Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran who experience fever, significant coughing or shortness of breath should contact their health care professionals and notify them of their recent travel and symptoms prior to their arrival.
UF is coordinating with partner institutions to minimize potential exposure in other impacted areas where students are studying abroad.
Particularly when traveling, the UF community is reminded to wash hands frequently with soap and water as well as avoid close contact with people who are sick. The CDC does not recommend wearing facemasks in the community to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Additional hygiene information is available from the CDC. The best way to prevent coronavirus is to avoid being exposed.
UF is coordinating with UF Student Health, UF Health, the Alachua County Health Department, UF Emergency Management and the UF International Center for local planning. More information can be found at the CDC and World Health Organization websites as well as UF’s list of frequently asked questions.