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Florida Colleges Report Coronavirus Cases Rising Among Students

839 Florida State University students have tested positive for COVID-19.
839 Florida State University students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Universities are starting to see students test positive for COVID-19 as in-person classes continue. Colleges are working to quarantine students to prevent the virus from spreading.

Videos and photos of Florida State University students not wearing masks or social distancing are flooding social media. More than 830 students have tested positive for the coronavirus, causing one quarantine dorm, Rogers Hall, to fill up already.

"We still have a lot of space in Salley. We also still have the option that if we fill all those spaces, we can start doubling up rooms in Salley because there [are] two bedrooms in a suite, and we're only using one of them to start with," Executive Director of FSU Housing Shannon Staten says.

Salley Hall is FSU's second quarantine dorm. Harsh warnings from university president John Thrasher have done little to stop students' behavior, and now, most of Leon County's new cases are from 15 to 24-year-olds. Despite the spike in cases, Staten says the university isn't expecting to fill up its second quarantine dorm.

"But we also don't know, right? It depends on how the numbers go over the next few weeks, and remember, a student is isolating for 10 to 14 days after they take the test. So, by the time the student gets to us, they really are talking seven to 10 days usually," Staten says.

In Gainesville, 423 University of Florida students have tested positive. This number only includes students who have been tested through the university. Compared to the last week of August, the daily positivity rate of coronavirus cases in Alachua County, home to UF, has gone up. The highest in September so far is 11.4%. Again, most of those recently infected are 15 to 24-year-olds. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando says the university is working to keep infected students separated from the rest of the campus population.

"So, in one of the residence hall areas, it consists of four buildings, and one of those buildings is being reserved specifically only for isolation, which is students who have tested positive," Orlando says.

Students needing to quarantine after coming in close contact with an infected individual will isolate in the other three buildings in the residence hall area. Orlando says there are 600 beds total both on and off-campus, reserved for quarantining and isolating students.

"What we found is that a lot of students, if they're identified as contacts, they frequently choose to go home rather than to quarantine on campus," Orlando says.

Over the Labor Day weekend, UF had an uptick in cases and learned students needing to quarantine or isolate didn't have proper transportation.

"So, in other words, if you were a student who's told you need to quarantine, how do you get from your residence hall to where you're supposed to quarantine? And we found out that some students were taking Uber or taking one of the RTS buses," Orlando says.

RTS Buses service the Gainesville area. Orlando says UF immediately addressed the problem and now has transportation for students.

For the University of South Florida in Tampa, the daily numbers of students testing positive have increased since late August. The total number of positive cases there for August and September is 83.

For the University of Central Florida in Orlando, 411 students have tested positive since the outbreak began.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.