Florida State University welcomed Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield as well as state health officials to campus Monday for a roundtable discussion on the university’s response to COVID-19.
Redfield used the opportunity to deliver a clarion call: Keep wearing masks.
“Masks work,” Redfield said. “They save lives.”
FSU officials briefed Redfield, along with Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and Deputy Secretary of Health Shamarial Roberson, on class delivery methods, the university’s COVID-19 testing operation and lab, contact tracing and student life. The CDC director said he was eager to learn how universities are successfully navigating the challenges of the pandemic, especially as the nation moves into the winter months and cases tick upward.
“Somehow, we’ve learned how to take the highest risk group for infection – 18-25 year olds – where I thought we were in real trouble with college campuses, and in fact they’re a beacon of hope,” Redfield said.
In preparation for the fall semester, the university reduced the number of students living on campus, moved many classes online and made special accommodations for courses that had to be taught in person. They also made adjustments for on-campus dining facilities, university libraries and health and fitness venues.
The university also set up its own testing facility and processing lab to get results back to the university community in under 24 hours.
“I’m proud of the creativity, flexibility and resilience that our students, faculty and staff have demonstrated as they have risen to meet the challenges of these unusual times,” FSU President John Thrasher told Redfield.
Provost Sally McRorie said the university’s work this fall led many faculty to volunteer to teach in person for the spring semester.
“Our faculty love our students,” she said. “It’s a hallmark of our institution.”
Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander said the partnership the university formed with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare to operate the testing center allowed them to fill a need in the community. The university’s facility also makes its own testing solution, so it isn’t subject to a reagent shortage.
Redfield noted that only a handful of universities had been able to accomplish what FSU did in setting up its own lab and congratulated the university for doing so.
FSU Trustee and Student Body President Jonathan Levin also participated in the discussion. Levin noted that the availability of testing was key in helping to contain the virus among students this fall.
As the meeting concluded, Redfield reiterated his advice to wear a mask and socially distance, particularly as the country enters the holiday season.
“This is an important time for us all to embrace these mitigation steps,” Redfield said.