Hundreds of Florida College Students Have Tested Positive for COVID-19

The Florida Department of Health recently began releasing the number of positive cases linked to colleges and universities but the data is limited.

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Hand-sanitizing stations, vending machines with masks and social distancing signs are some of the things students are seeing at Florida’s college campuses this year.  

“If you go into a building, they want you to put your mask on,” said Florida International University’s student Alejandro Miranda.   

It’s not the college experience FIU students hoped for. 

“It’s pretty quiet. I think the university is really trying to find the strategy to bring students to campus and have them return,” said Mia Gomez, an FIU graduate student. “It feels they are taking this very seriously.”

They say the school is taking many precautions to protect those on campus but some still worry about getting infected. 

“I have family at home that might be in complications so yeah, I'm very afraid,” Adrian Sanchez told NBC 6. “I have seen people who refuse to wear a mask. That’s something that really annoys me. I’m like ‘hey, wear your mask’ but they don’t seem to care.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, nearly 3,000 students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus at 133 institutions across the state as of Oct. 3. 

But the state’s data is limited and only shows cases dating back to early September.

Many schools have been tracking cases for months and they have since reported hundreds of additional cases.

NBC 6 Investigators found each school has its own rules when it comes to testing and reporting this data. Some universities say they update their numbers weekly while others do it daily.

Natalia Moran is a freshman at the University of Central Florida.

“I think that website is super good because it updates you every week,” Moran told us when asked about UCF’s dashboard, adding it has been a key source of information during the pandemic.

“If the numbers stay like that, within that range, I’m being hopeful, it will be better in the spring,” Moran said.

The percentage of positive tests at some large schools including the University of Miami and Florida State University (FSU) have been 3% or less in recent weeks.

Amy Magnuson, FSU’s Director of University Health Services, attributes the numbers to many preventative measures including offering testing for staff and students on a daily basis. 

She says the university is covering tests that are not covered by the students’ health insurances.

“We want everyone to test positive to self-isolate. We have accommodations for our students who live on campus,” Magnuson said. “We also do the contact tracing.”

But she acknowledges getting all the students to follow the rules is no easy task. 

“We are continuing to send messages to students that we are on this together,” Magnuson said. “But yeah, it’s an ongoing challenge.”

Moran, who began her first semester online, plans to switch to in-person classes this spring.

“I’m ready,” she told us. “Basically, I just want to really experience college.”

The FDOH says they track coronavirus cases through private and public laboratories, adding the data listed on the state’s schools report comes from “the Department’s statewide database of epidemiological data.”

When asked what information, if any, colleges and universities are required to report to the FDOH, they told us the department “does not regulate schools.”

You can access the state’s report and some of the schools’ dashboards using the links below:

Florida Department of Health report

University of Miami

Florida International University

University of Central Florida

Florida State University

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