TAMPA, Fla. (March 31, 2020) – More than 60 USF students and faculty members are dispersed across the state to assist the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) with stopping the spread of coronavirus. The personnel from USF help FDOH identify and find people considered “high-risk,” meaning someone who may have been in direct contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
Within a day of the state’s recent request for assistance, nearly 200 USF students and faculty applied to volunteer.
“Our students and faculty were quick to answer the call when the Florida Department of Health needed it most. Public health is a passion and they are putting their passion to work, said Janice Zgibor, professor of epidemiology and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Public Health. “While this situation is difficult, this is an unprecedented training opportunity.”
Shawn McCort is a first-year graduate student working toward his master’s degree in public health with a concentration on epidemiology and global communicative disease. He’s assisting the West Palm Beach Health Department in the epidemiology unit by connecting remotely with people who’ve tested positive, developing a timeline to determine who else has been put at risk. McCort has used their information to connect with airlines, restaurants and individuals. He said all of the people he’s informed that they’re considered “high-risk” are generally aware they’ve interacted with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“This speaks to the sense of community present here, people aren’t hiding their diagnosis, and nobody is shamed for it,” said McCort. “Epidemiology is the science of disease but here we are learning rather quickly that it is more of an art because every case has its own nuances, and we have to prioritize high risk over anyone else.”
Like McCort, a majority of the volunteers are from the College of Public Health. The others represent the colleges of Engineering, Behavioral and Community Sciences, Education, Nursing and Arts and Sciences. They come from a variety of disciplines, selected by FDOH for their varying backgrounds that can be utilized in the state’s efforts.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.