Leading Stories

by Nicole Allen, Staff Writer

UPDATED MARCH 14

On March 14, UWF notified students who reside on campus of an immediate evacuation.

UWF continues to steer clear of COVID-19 cases, but the university has asked all students living on campus to find residence away from university grounds immediately for the safety and health of UWF students, faculty and staff. Those who must gather belongings will be allowed into their UWF residences until March 15 at 5 p.m. 

If you are a student currently residing on campus and do not have permanent accommodations, contact Housing and Residence Life at housing@uwf.edu no later than 5 p.m. on March 15. 

Additionally, UWF will be closing several campus services. These closures include:

  • Health, Leisure and Sports Facility
  • Aquatic Center
  • University Libraries
  • Education Research Center for Child Development
  • Athletic Facilities 

Services provided by phone include:

  • Counseling
  • Psychological Services
  • Health Services

Limited services will be available to those with prior authorization to stay on campus. If you believe the above closings or change in protocols will affect your ability to complete your work, please contact your instructor immediately and explain your situation. 

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UPDATED MARCH 13

On March 12 and 13, UWF updated their travel protocols for students and staff. 

Study abroad programs are to be halted through summer 2020, and students who are currently in study abroad programs are to return home without delay and should prepare to exercise “self-isolation and social distancing.” Any students coming from highly impacted countries should prepare for quarantine as outlined by the CDC.

University sponsored international and domestic travel is strongly discouraged unless an emergency deems travel necessary.  All university sponsored travel shall be carefully assessed and cleared by the divisional Vice President. Those who travel, UWF warned, should plan for delays, possible infection and self-isolation upon return. 

Any UWF students, faculty or staff returning from an international trip or cruise since March 6, will not be allowed on campus and should self-isolate until constraints are officially loosened by the university.

Students affected by the university travel restrictions are to contact Student Health Services at healthservices@uwf.edu

International students affected by the university restrictions are to contact Rachel Hendrix at rhendrix@uwf.edu.

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UWF’s spring break was disrupted on Wednesday as students and faculty received emails mandating they not return to campus for classes the following Monday.

On March 11, the State University System of Florida ordered precautionary measures be taken against the COVID-19 outbreak, insisting that all state universities temporarily transition their on-campus courses to remote learning. Proclaiming their goal to be “proactive rather than reactive,” the system said safety measures should be taken seriously, but campuses will remain open and essential services shall stay accessible.

As suggested by the State University System of Florida, this preventative action will be effective for two weeks beginning March 16, and classes are to continue as normal on March 30, unless otherwise instructed. 

“The University of West Florida will continue to carefully monitor the situation and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of our campus community members,” Tom St. Myer, UWF News and Public Director of Institutional Communication, said. “At this time, we plan to resume face-to-face instruction on March 30. However, this is a dynamic situation, so this is subject to change. We will keep the campus community informed throughout the decision-making process on uwf.edu/coronavirus, through email and through our social media platforms.”

After the news was received, students promptly distributed the information through social media platforms. Emily Nicholson, a UWF freshman, informed fellow students by sharing UWF’s notice on Facebook. She later said, while the news was expected, she worries about transitioning to remote learning—a common concern among the student body.

“I think switching online was the right thing to do, safety wise,” Nicholson said, “but I think it will be a hard transition to make. I personally learn better sitting in class and discussing than looking at a power point online. It’s just going to be very different than what we’re all used to.”

Apprehensions regarding the transition were acknowledged in UWF’s Newsroom press release. In the statement, UWF urged students and instructors to be patient with one other, as transitioning on-campus classes to remote classes is an unfortunate but necessary challenge for everyone involved.

Who is at risk?

While the direct threat of COVID-19 has not impacted the UWF campus, precautions have been mandated to protect the general population, including those who might be considered at-risk. 

According to the CDC and World Health Organization, certain individuals have a higher probability to experience serious side effects of COVID-19, if contracted. Older adults and those with serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, are more likely to be severely affected by the virus. 

Even if you do not fit into these at-risk categories, the CDC strongly recommends that everyone practice safety measures such as:

  • washing hands regularly 
  • not touching your mouth, nose, eyes and face
  • keeping space between yourself and visibly ill individuals
  • avoiding crowds
  • avoiding unnecessary travel
  • limit touching high-traffic surfaces

High-risk individuals should also consider purchasing reasonable amounts of medications and food for instances of prolonged self-quarantine situations.

What now?

While much of the population are not at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, the virus is not to be taken lightly. On same day UWF announced their precautionary efforts, WHO declared the spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic. 

Defined by the CDC as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people,” a pandemic should increase caution. However, according to WHO, the term does not insinuate a lost cause and should not change what communities are doing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” WHO said. “Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus. Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.”

The transition of classes within UWF will likely cause some inconvenience and confusion, but the benefits outweigh the burdens as the health of the UWF community is of utmost importance. Students are encouraged to communicate with their instructors as this transition takes place and to contact the Dean of Students Office with any questions or concerns. Additionally, students and staff can reference UWF’s Environmental Health and Safety website for answers regarding COVID-19.