As Florida universities prepare to reopen in fall, a New York Times survey found three Florida universities among the top seven in the United States with the highest number of coronavirus cases this year.
The group included the University of Central Florida with the second-most cases, the University of Florida with the fifth-most and the University of South Florida coming in at No. 7.
The newspaper surveyed every public four-year college in the U.S., along with Division I private colleges and elite research institutions, for a total of 270 institutions. It found 6,300 coronavirus cases reported at those locations since the beginning of the pandemic.
The University of Texas at Austin topped the list with 449 cases, with UCF in Orlando following close behind at 438 cases.
UCF spokeswoman Heather Smith said the numbers are a result of the university’s contact tracing efforts since spring. They include people currently residing in other other states and cities.
“We have our own team of contact tracers, and when we become aware of a case, we work hard to identify others who have potentially been exposed to that person so they can get tested and take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones and their friends,” she said. “This is a top priority for the health and well-being of our campus community, and we are expanding our contact tracing team.”
When UCF reopens in fall, she said, less than 32 percent of classes will have some in-person component.
The University of Florida, which called for each of its 29,000 employees to be tested before June 30 as part of its reopening plan, had 217 cases.
Out of 20,323 UF employees tested so far, 54 have tested positive. Among the 686 UF students tested, 163 have tested positive. University spokesman Steve Orlando said most of the students who tested positive were reported after July 1, and most of the faculty reported were prior to that.
The University of South Florida had 182 reported cases, including two through its athletics department. University spokesman Adam Freeman said the majority are from individuals who have not been on campus recently, as the university transitioned to remote-learning in March.
The university has 50,000 students and 15,000 employees across three campuses. Freeman said USF reports those who test positive and inform the university, even if they are away.
“USF has invested significant time and financial resources to implement measures to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 and mitigate the possible exposure for students, faculty and staff who return to our campuses,” he said in an email.
USF plans to reopen with 59 percent of classes having some in-person component. All students who plan to live on campus must be tested between July 31 and Aug. 13.