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COVID-19: Universities Ramping Up Cleaning Protocols, Calling Back Study Abroad Students

The University of South Florida and other universities and colleges across the state have increased their cleaning schedules in high-traffic areas, and called back students studying abroad in affected countries.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
The University of South Florida and other universities and colleges across the state have increased their cleaning schedules in high-traffic areas, and called back students studying abroad in affected countries.

Health officials say COVID-19 is spread person to person through close contact -- people who are indoors and in close proximity with others for extended periods of time.

That means college campuses and dorms could be potential breeding grounds. So schools have launched web pages with coronavirus information, increased their cleaning, and stepped up efforts to keep soap and hand sanitizer stations filled.

WUSF's Daylina Miller reports on the procedures some Florida universities are taking to protect students, faculty, and staff from COVID-19.

Adam Freeman, a spokesperson for the University of South Florida, said day-to-day operations have not changed on campus, but frequent cleaning schedules are a big part of the prevention plan.

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“Staff is trying to do hourly wipe downs of high-touch areas, such as elevator buttons or doorknobs, and you would see some of those same type of things going on in residence halls,” Freeman said.

Other schools, including the University of Tampa and the University of Florida in Gainesville, also confirmed they increased their cleaning in high-traffic areas when news of the virus first began.

RELATED: Coronavirus Facts: What Floridians Can Do To Prevent The Spread

Each university has also set up dedicated COVID-19 websites to keep students, parents, and staff informed of policies and procedures specific to the school.

Each lays out Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions for preventing the spread of COVI-19 and other infectious diseases like the flu.

“Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home when you are sick.” -USF

The Florida Board of Governors has asked state universities to cancel all school-sponsored travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea as the new coronavirus spreads.

USF has also asked seven students studying abroad in Italy and two in Japan to return to the U.S. and self-isolate at home for 14 days, which is how long the incubation period for the virus can take.

UF is in the process of pulling 41 architecture students and two faculty members from Vicenza, Italy, where they were supposed to study all semester.

The school has also canceled study abroad programs in China for the summer, and will be making a decision within the next week or so about the other study abroad programs going forward.

At The University of Tampa, two study abroad trips this summer have been relocated. One that was originally planned for China is now going to Singapore. Another that was planned for South Korea is now traveling to Germany.

All UT study abroad programs in Italy for spring and summer have been cancelled. Twelve students who are studying in Italy will soon be returning to the U.S.

Steve Orlando with the University of Florida, which is on spring break this week, said medical professionals advised the university against quarenting returning students on campus.

"We made arrangements to offer off-campus facilities for students who might have to self-quarantine,” Orlando said. “But we haven't had anybody take us up on that offer. It looks like up to this point, pretty much everybody is doing so at their parents’ homes."

Orlando said the university is also exploring options for remote classes and work if the school is closed in the future.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.