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TAMPA — The University of South Florida learned of its first on-campus case of the coronavirus on Wednesday, school officials announced.
A staff member working in the USF Counseling Center, located on the university’s flagship Tampa campus, has tested positive for the virus, USF President Steve Currall said in a letter sent to students, faculty and staff.
The employee had direct contact with 13 students and several employees, and is self-isolating at home, Currall’s letter said. The message said USF was providing the affected students and employees with guidance and that they will be monitored while the health department investigates whether anyone else at the university had contact with the counseling center staffer.
It was unclear whether any additional precautions were taken for those people.
According to procedures set by the Florida Department of Health, anyone found to have come into contact with an individual who tests positive for the virus must undergo a 14-day quarantine by self isolating at home while being monitored for signs of illness. Once a quarantined individual tests negative for the virus in two back-to-back tests, they can be released from the mandatory quarantine, said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.
The infected employee went to the Tampa campus on Monday, March 9 and Thursday, March 12, before learning they had tested positive for the coronavirus, the university said.
“We understand that students who visited the counseling center on one of those two days may be concerned, and we encourage you to call USF Student Health Services with any questions at 813-974-2331,” the letter said. “USF will continue to work with FDOH staff to ensure they have any and all information necessary to continue their investigation.”
In his letter, Currall assured the Tampa campus and surrounding community that the employee is self-isolating at home and following guidelines established by the health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We understand that these are uncertain times, and the rapidly shifting news is unsettling for us all,” the message said. “We are facing a challenge that is unprecedented. But there is something stronger than this challenge — something stronger than fear — and that is the compassion, adaptability and resilience of the USF community."
The university is urging all students and employees to avoid going to any of its three campuses for the remainder of the spring semester. USF faculty and staff should continue to work remotely with their supervisor’s approval, and any employee concerned about their health should promptly contact USF Health’s Dr. Lynette Menezes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Students in need of guidance or medical assistance should contact Student Health Services at one of three locations:
- Tampa Student Health Services (SHS100) at (813) 974-2331
- St. Petersburg Wellness Center (SLC 2200) at (727) 873-4422
- Sarasota-Manatee Counseling and Wellness Center (5805 Bay Shore Rd.) at (941) 487-4254
The USF Counseling Center will continue to provide services to students remotely through online “telemental health services," according to its website. The center is also offering daily online group sessions to assist students in managing the psychological and emotional effects of living through the coronavirus pandemic.
All updates on the coronavirus’ impact on USF and it’s operations will be posted to a landing page on the university’s website: usf.edu/coronavirus.
“As always, the health and safety of our community is of paramount importance as we work closely with our local, state and federal partners,” Currall’s letter said. “We sincerely wish our staff member, and any others who may be affected, a full and rapid recovery.”
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