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UCF Faculty Call For Stricter COVID-19 Measures As Students Return To Campus Next Week

Photo: UCF
Photo: UCF

University of Central Florida faculty are calling for stricter measures on campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The fall semester begins Monday with many students returning to in-person classes.

The university estimates enrollment of around 70,000 students for the upcoming semester. Around 8,000 will live on UCF's campuses.

UCF said it "expects" students to wear masks in class and receive a vaccine, but an executive order prevents the university from requiring those preventative measures.

As the delta variant drives an increase in cases in the state, faculty are asking UCF’s leadership to do more. “The situation indoors and in the classroom with people not being required to wear masks, forces folks to take risks that they would not normally take,” said Joseph Harrington, a professor and member of the UCF Board of Trustees as the Faculty Senate chair.

He told the Board of Trustees Thursday that the Advisory Council of Faculty has forwarded a resolution to Governor DeSantis asking the state to suspend its ban on mask mandates, which would allow for stricter mask wearing measures.

“This is a very reasonable step to ask at this point, we're not looking for we're not trying to make political points," he said. "We're not trying to oppose the governor, we're just trying to ask the governor to act reasonably and responsibly.

He’s also asking UCF to survey its student body to measure the vaccination rate of people on campus.

UCF said it is rolling out a new messaging campaign to encourage masks and vaccines and it is also closely monitoring the virus through free on-campus testing and wastewater testing.

"We hope that these steps are will permit us a successful semester. We can't be sure," said interim provost Michael Johnson. "How well the semester goes, whether we have people on campus, happily participating in the community that a campus is supposed to represent, depends significantly on the rate of vaccinations among our students, and their willingness to wear masks for themselves."

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."