Town Hall Q&A
On Aug. 19, the UF Faculty Senate held a town hall to address COVID-related questions and concerns from UF faculty regarding the start of the fall semester. The recording of the town hall, as well as the complete Q&A, can be viewed on the UF Fora website. Below is a sample of questions addressed during the town hall. Further guidance can be found on the Additional Resources section.
Why can’t the university have a vaccine and mask mandate?
The University of Florida is part of the State University System and the State of Florida. We have been informed that we do not have the authority to mandate a vaccine nor the authority to mandate masks. We also do not have the authority this fall semester to move our courses online.
Is it safe for faculty to teach in-person?
The best defenses available against COVID-19 are masks and vaccines. We know that they work to keep us safe from infection. Beyond this, all classrooms are cleaned by dedicated UF custodians. To learn more about what’s available, please see https://procurement.ufl.edu/covid19ppe/.
How safe is it to exchange materials in classrooms? What about collecting assignments?
According to UF Health Screen, Test & Protect Director Michael Lauzardo, M.D., M.Sc., the risk of infection in this situation is extremely rare. Faculty, staff and students are nonetheless encouraged to continue practicing handwashing and avoid touching their face, eyes and nose.
Will N95 masks be made available?
Yes. Departments have already been contacted and those who requested additional masks will receive them. If you are in need of additional masks, please reach out to your area’s HR Liaison to make a request.
Do current vaccines protect against the delta variant and will we need booster shots?
Yes, current vaccines protect you against COVID-19 and the delta variant. With regards to booster shots, CDC guidelines state that booster shots will be offered to “all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose.”
Are we required to incorporate HyFlex learning in our courses?
No. HyFlex learning is a convenient tool available to faculty. We encourage faculty to incorporate a HyFlex section into their course where possible so that students who are withheld from campus may continue to follow the course. If an instructor is withheld from campus by UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, they should not come to campus. If they are not ill and are able to continue teaching, they may do so either through HyFlex or any other online means at their disposal.
What can we do when dealing with unmasked students?
As stated in the Aug. 18 Campus Brief, all people inside of UF facilities are expected to wear masks in community spaces in building. You may ask an unmasked student to put on a mask. However, you may not require nor ask a student to leave the classroom if they refuse to wear a mask.
What happens when a faculty member is exposed to and tests positive for COVID-19?
If you are told to quarantine by UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, you cannot come to campus. If you are asymptomatic and feeling well, you may continue to teach through available online technologies. If you are ill, you will need to take sick leave and recuperate according to your doctor’s instructions. Your department will be responsible to cover your course load. Please see this diagram for additional guidance: https://hr.ufl.edu/covid-19/additional-information-for-leaders/ufhr-guidance-to-hr-liaisons-on-covid-19-response-for-employees/.
What is the status of contact tracing for the UF campus?
UF Health Screen, Test & Protect is continuing to contact trace, isolate and quarantine individuals as needed.
Why are we no longer using ICU capacity to determine if campus should be closed?
Conversations around capacity are ongoing and the situation is constantly being monitored.
Are there any changes to travel guidance?
There are currently no COVID-19 related restrictions in place. As always, faculty and staff will need to contact their department chair or dean to request travel approval. We encourage employees to follow CDC travel guidance when traveling either domestically or internationally.
How do we deal with bullying or undue coercion in the classroom or at work?
Bullying or harassment of any kind is not permitted. If you experience harassment in the workplace, we encourage you to report it following the information described here: https://hr.ufl.edu/manager-resources/employee-relations/employee-inquiry-and-complaint-procedures/complaint-filing-options/
Faculty dealing with a disruptive student in the classroom, may reach out to the Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution office.
Will cleaning supplies be available in classrooms?
Yes. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and disposable masks will be placed in all classrooms as was done previously in the spring semester. Facility Services will monitor the supply of these items and refresh them, as needed.
What do we know about ventilation in UF buildings, particularly older buildings? What can we do to protect ourselves in addition to masking inside our offices?
UF Facility Services continues to monitor our buildings, the number of air exchanges and maximum fresh air introduction into the spaces. With few exceptions, UF facilities meets or exceeds guidelines for air exchanges. The departments with exceptions have been notified and the classroom schedules have been altered to allow for redundant air circulation. Classroom air exchange data is available on the Facilities Services website.