Florida public universities report COVID-19 cases among students and employees

University of Florida
University of Florida campus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some Florida universities are posting information about positive cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus that has forced campus closures, on their websites.

Most students have left the state’s campuses and returned home to proceed with remote learning courses, with many employees and professors at universities working from home.

Of those releasing information, the University of Florida in Gainesville and the University of South Florida, with campuses in Tampa and St. Petersburg, have reported positive cases among students and employee.

As of Wednesday, UF said in an update on its coronavirus webpage, 10 students and one employee had tested positive for the virus.

USF officials said in a report posted Wednesday that a student who has not been on campus this semester had tested positive. And an employee at the USF Innovative Education program in Tampa who has not been on campus since March 13 tested positive, as well.

USF plans to release updates when made aware of a positive case. However, university officials warned “that if a student, employee or the health department fails to disclose a positive test to the university, USF may have no way of knowing and communicating that information.”

Meanwhile, a bus driver at USF was placed in quarantine after experiencing classic symptoms of COVID-19, Kelly Benjamin of AFSCME Florida said in a telephone interview with the Florida Phoenix.

The employee, Ozie Jackson, is a transit bus driver and serves as an executive board member of AFSCME’s local chapter in Tampa, according to union records.

The university is requiring her to use her own paid time off, Benjamin said. A spokesman with the State University System of Florida told the Phoenix that “each university is handling paid leave differently.”

“She’s been told in order to maintain quarantine, she has to use her own personal leave,” Benjamin said.

Florida Atlantic University, located in Boca Raton, reported that one student had tested positive but didn’t include a date.

Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers has a section on its website with information about cases but hasn’t reported any thus far.

Other Florida public colleges that report cases of the virus on their websites but haven’t had any positive cases so far include Florida International University, New College, and the University of North Florida.