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Florida University System Leaders Approve Reopening Plan

The Florida university system’s governing board on Thursday approved a basic blueprint for reopening campuses in the fall.

Each of the 12 schools will spend the next two weeks finalizing their individual plans.

State university system Chancellor Marshall Criser told the Board of Governors that each university will have the flexibility to determine details such as which individuals will need to be tested for COVID-19, in addition to rules for the use of face masks, and alternatives for students, faculty and staff who could be at high risk of getting sick.

“The need for flexibility for all students, faculty and staff is ultimately going to be the foundation for the agility we need, and the resiliency we need, as we reopen our campuses,” Criser said during Thursday’s BOG virtual meeting.

University officials have pledged to return to in-person or hybrid instruction for the fall semester since classes went virtual in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines approved on Thursday mention that a resurgence of the virus in the fall could force classes to return online, or it could lead to other changes to the plans the universities will submit to the Board of Governors by June 12.

“What we know from COVID-19 today is that things change and what we know about COVID-19 going forward is that things are likely to change,” Criser said.

Under the blueprint that was approved Thursday, universities are required to develop plans “to quickly respond to significant increases in virus infections and hospitalization rates.”

The schools will also have to set thresholds for campus infections that would trigger a return to tighter social distancing guidelines.

In addition, university leaders will create plans to determine who to test for the virus, and how often to do so, in conjunction with area hospitals and health officials.

Florida guidelines do not mandate the use of face masks at all university campuses, instead allowing each school to determine rules about the use of face coverings.

The Board of Governors’ guidelines do not mention whether students, faculty and staff should have their temperatures checked before entering campus buildings or classrooms

Criser emphasized the need for “shared responsibility” in the community, in order to successfully implement the universities’ plans. He added that each university should demonstrate that the  health and safety of the campus is a responsibility to be shared by students, employees, vendors, volunteers and visitors, in addition to surrounding community members and businesses.