Administrators are being asked by the Faculty Union at the University of Florida to start the spring semester online due to the rise in COVID cases

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 1:21 AM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The Faculty Union at the University of Florida is asking administrators to start the spring semester online due to a rise in covid cases.

Union President Paul Ortiz sent a letter to UF President Kent Fuchs urging the university to take action to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

Ortiz references a UF emerging pathogens institute model which predicts cases to peak in February.

RELATED STORY: UF Health confirmed their first case of the Omicron variant and expect a peak around February

He is asking the university to require masks, increase education campaigns, and have the first three weeks of the spring semester online only.

Here is the letter to President Kent Fuchs from Paul Ortiz

Dear President Fuchs,

I trust that your Holiday Season is going well! I am writing in my capacity as president of the United Faculty of Florida, UF about the upcoming spring semester at our university. Today, I read the research essay (attached) by University of Florida Professors Thomas J. Hladish, Alexander N. Pillai and Ira M. Longini titled Projections for COVID-19 omicron wave in Florida. As you are probably aware, the prognosis for our region and for our state in general is rather grim and these scholars confirm that we are facing a likely

explosion in COVID infections between January and March.

Combined with recent CDC recommendation, these scholars urge that Floridians receive vaccinations against COVID as soon as possible. They also “...recommend eligible people received boosters, and we expect that an increase in booster uptake will result in more optimistic trajectories for the omicron wave in Florida.”

Based on these findings President Fuchs, I am writing to urge that the University of Florida embark on an all-hands-on-deck campaign against COVID in preparation for the spring semester. I am also writing to offer the assistance of the United Faculty of Florida in this campaign. While we recognize that our university has been under intense external pressures not to implement masking and vaccine mandates, I nonetheless request that you consider requiring the wearing of N95 masks on campus, mandatory COVID testing as well as an aggressive campaign to ensure that all campus community members are vaccinated as soon as possible.

Along these lines, the United Faculty of Florida expects that our campus will resume an aggressive public relations campaign to encourage all campus members to wear masks. Building on the fall semester,  this campaign should include signage outside and inside of buildings, social media posts as well as regular messages from you and the Office of the President encouraging our campus community to come together to  fight the scourge of COVID-19. We should work proactively to ensure that all classroom, laboratory and library spaces are well-stocked with N-95 masks. Again, UFF pledges to offer our assistance in this campaign.

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID, UFF asks that our campus begin the spring semester in a remote, online posture in terms of classroom delivery and work assignments for the first three weeks of the term in order to assess the proper next steps to take--as it appears that the omicron variant may escalate later in January.

Finally, UFF requests that UF respects the right of faculty with preexisting health conditions to seek ADA teaching and work accommodations as well as medical leave or leave to care for family members affected by COVID. A statement from your office on this matter Kent, would be greatly appreciated as we hope to lessen the stress of our colleagues as much as possible as we continue

to work together to fight the global pandemic. The last thing we want is a replay of the conflicts of the past over these issues.

Again, the United Faculty of Florida stands ready to assist our university in keeping our campus as health and safe as possible during these challenging times. Please feel free to call on me at anytime with concerns and ideas.

Sincerely Yours,

Paul Ortiz

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