March 12: The Campus Brief
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline at UF, statewide and nationally, we are hopeful that we have entered into a new phase in our fight against COVID-19. So far this month, daily cases have been mostly in the single digits, dipping recently to 58 total cases for the week ending on March 7, an all-time low since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, our vaccination efforts continue, as UF Health Screen, Test & Protect prepares to inoculate individuals who have underlying medical conditions that place them at increased risk for a severe case of COVID-19, in accordance with the governor’s executive order. In addition, our collaboration between the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County and UF Health has proven a success. By the end of this week, we expect to have vaccinated a total of nearly 10,000 since the start of our vaccination efforts. Broadly speaking, we expect for vaccinations to be more widely available in the coming weeks and months, with Governor Ron DeSantis issuing an executive order this week that will expand vaccination eligibility to all people 60 and older starting Monday.
Based on the consistent low numbers of positive cases on campus coupled with widespread adherence to health and safety guidelines, epidemiologists at UF Health’s Screen, Test & Protect have recommended a change to our routine testing protocol for some of our students. Starting Monday, March 15, routine, biweekly testing will be required only for students attending face-to-face classes, with testing no longer required for those living in residence halls or in UF’s Greek community who are not attending classes in person. We are confident that our surveillance monitoring strategies, which include wastewater testing, will allow us to continue to effectively track any potential issues and mobilize if needed.
As always, voluntary testing will remain available for all students, faculty and staff through UF Health Screen, Test & Protect. Further, the start times for testing locations will be changed to 9 a.m. as of March 22, and testing on Saturdays will be suspended. Additionally, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect will no longer offer the nasal swab test at current testing sites due to the low number of requests. However, those seeking the nasal test may schedule an appointment through the UF Student Health Care Center or consult their doctor.
We would also like to give an update on the latest opportunity to participate in our exciting Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiative through an educational opportunity. Running April 12-16, Silicon Valley-based technology company and UF partner NVIDIA will hold the GTC21 technology conference, which will feature 1,300 talks from leaders across the new technology spectrum. Among them will be a panel that will address how UF is rapidly transforming to an “AI University,” including our AI across the curriculum strategy. Registration is free for this virtual event, and you can participate in as many sections as you would like.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the commitment and success of UF’s faculty and staff who contributed to a record $942.2 million in research spending during fiscal year 2020. Despite a two-month pause in research caused by the pandemic, UF researchers posted new records in research expenditures, which include projects that run the gamut — from the NIH-supported 1Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center that aims to make Alzheimer’s and related dementias treatable, preventable and — one day — curable to UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center’s research on a pest that is threatening Florida’s $100 million avocado industry. That USDA-supported project focuses on pest management and eradication methods for wilt disease, which can kill avocado trees in weeks.
As we continue to grapple with the challenges posed by COVID-19, we couldn’t be more proud of UF’s continued work to fulfill its education and research missions. Thank you all for your contributions and commitment.
Joe Glover, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Charlie Lane, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
David Norton, Vice President for Research
Win Phillips, Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Michael Lauzardo, M.D., Director, Screen, Test & Protect