Across the nation, several colleges and universities have welcomed students back to campus only to be forced to go virtual again because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
To prevent that scenario, the University of Miami announced Friday that all students would be tested every two weeks for coronavirus.
Nova Southeastern University in Davie has been open for three weeks but has had only a small number of students test positive.
“Less than a handful to this time, so we have been very fortunate since classes began,” said Daniel Alfonso, NSU’s Vice President for facilities and security.
Alfonso says the university is using a variety of strategies to keep COVID-19 off campus, basically the same steps most other colleges are taking: Requiring facial coverings, enforcing social distancing rules, and placing hand sanitizer stations everywhere, which in NSU’s case, is more than 2,000.
“Well it’s been a tremendous challenge,” Alfonso said.
NSU is also using technology as part of the strategy to separate students. Classrooms are equipped with advanced video conferencing tools so that students can take classes online yet are able to participate in classroom discussions. We visited one class in which most of the seats were blocked off, so that students who came in-person could easily spread out.
Like all colleges and universities, NSU is leaning heavily on sanitation practices. They’re spraying anti-viral disinfectant in empty rooms every night and they’ve hired more janitors who disinfect surfaces all day long.
“We also brought in additional staff the first three weeks of the semester to remind people as they walk into the buildings, 'Hey listen, put your mask on, please,'” Alfonso said.
Junior Anthony Lopez was on the receiving end of that message.
“Today I walked like ten feet out of my car without my mask and two people stopped me, like, 'Hey, put on your mask,' I was like, 'Oh my gosh,' you know?” Lopez said.
Sanitation is crucial, but NSU and every other college is relying on the student body to take ownership of the pandemic situation and be responsible.
“There’s a lot of signs posted, everyone has their masks on, they’re really good at enforcing social distancing so I like that,” said freshman Madison Hurtado.
1,400 students live on the NSU campus, in single-occupancy dorm rooms. That way, if anyone tests positive, they simply quarantine in their own room. NSU is not requiring mandatory coronavirus testing of students.
“At this time I do believe that we have nobody on quarantine,” Alfonso said.
“Well I feel super safe in my dorm, and I feel like everything’s clean, like I always see people like janitors cleaning and I genuinely feel safe,” said freshman Jade Rosenblum.
The students we spoke to said their peers seemed to be taking the COVID-19 threat seriously. They’re not having parties and they’re respecting the social distancing rules, so that’s half the battle in preventing outbreaks on campuses.
There have been big spikes in COVID-19 cases in Alachua and Leon counties, where the University of Florida, Florida State University, and Florida A&M University are located.