UF President Kent Fuchs met virtually with government officials Wednesday. He and 13 other college representatives from around the country discussed reopening campuses in the Fall, according to a White House press release.
During the meeting, Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx outlined how universities should prepare their campuses for students to return in the Fall, according to the release. This included guidance on proper handwashing and hygiene, making sure areas are cleaned more frequently and monitoring large gatherings.
Each university president told Pence and DeVos about their campus’ individual needs and discussed how their plans will align with state leadership, according to the press release.
UF spokesperson Steve Orlando confirmed that Fuchs took part in the meeting but did not answer The Alligator’s questions regarding the specifics of Fuchs’ participation. It is unclear what concerns Fuchs may have raised about Florida or UF, or what plans were discussed for UF students and faculty.
UF transitioned to remote learning when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in March that four UF students tested positive for COVID-19.
The university has since announced a test-and-trace program that may aid the campus’ gradual reopening, according to a UF Health press release. Under this program, students will be tested for COVID-19 and isolated if positive. The university will then track down and isolate people in contact with that person, too.
Though few specifics have been announced about the Fall semester, UF administrators have discussed a staged return to campus, with low-risk faculty and staff returning to campus first and undergraduates last.
It is unclear what liability the university would have should someone get sick upon returning in the Fall. Orlando did not respond to questions from The Alligator about liability or if it was discussed in the meeting.
The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s 12 public universities under the State University System, announced they are preparing to reopen campuses in the Fall in a press release Monday.
The Board put a task force together to develop guidelines for reopening that will prioritize the safe return of students, faculty and staff to campus and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the release said.