Anyone who has been to one of five coronavirus-hotspot countries within the last 14 days — China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran — is temporarily barred from the University of Florida campus.
With the impending return Monday of some 55,000 students to campus following spring break, UF administrators issued a memo to all students, faculty and staff Friday afternoon announcing the ban.
The ban applies to students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. Anyone affected would be allowed back on campus after a 14-day self-quarantine and a clean bill of health.
No campus sporting events were canceled, including Saturday afternoon’s men’s basketball game against Kentucky or the weekend’s slate of baseball games against the University of South Florida.
No cases of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, have been reported on the UF campus or in Alachua County, the memo said. The ban does not apply to anyone seeking or getting medical treatment at UF Health in Gainesville or Jacksonville.
Enforcing such a ban is tricky, of course, UF spokesman Steve Orlando said late Friday afternoon. In most cases, campus administrators have no way of knowing who’s traveled where.
But there are some cases, such as faculty members on work-related travel, or speakers invited to campus, where travel plans are known, he said.
For anyone else, UF officials hope common sense will prevail, he said.
The University of Washington on Friday became the first large university to cancel in-person classes, and students there will do coursework and take exams remotely until their semester ends March 20.
Seattle has been one of the U.S. locations hardest hit by the coronavirus. Of the 14 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the illness, most have been in that region.
With no cases reported thus far in Alachua County, UF officials did not feel the need to take such a drastic step, Orlando said.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, especially if the outbreak continues to spread.
"It’s definitely something we have to look at. It’s been part of the conversation, but we have not made that decision yet," he said. "But this situation is fluid, and it can change very quickly."
Friday’s memo also noted that hand sanitizer and other disinfectants will be in heavy use on campus and that campus housing officials have stepped up efforts to wipe down surfaces frequently.
And it stressed again that everyone should heed the Centers for Disease Control’s suggestions for washing hands frequently and thoroughly, not touching your face with unwashed hands, avoiding close contact with anyone who’s ill, staying home if you are sick, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces or objects.