Holidays, Hope and Health: From the director of Screen, Test & Protect

Dear Campus Community,

We’re officially into the holiday season. So many things come to mind when I reflect on this time of year. Friends and family, fond memories, important traditions. And I think about gratitude and hope. This year more than ever, amid all our sacrifices over these many months, I am thankful. I am optimistic. I am hopeful. I hope you share these sentiments, because there is reason now to see the light at the end of what’s been a long tunnel for all of us.

We have real reason to be encouraged. We are in the early stages of planning for distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19. With viable vaccine options in the mix, we are beginning real conversations about the what, when, where and who of our vaccination plans. It’s too soon for details, but you’ll be hearing much more about this in the coming weeks, and early in the new year we will likely be taking our first steps toward a phased vaccination program, starting with our health care workers and our most at-risk individuals in the community.

Even so, it’s too soon to let down your guard. There is no question, by taking some simple measures, you can save lives. Please continue to physically distance, frequently wash your hands, wear a mask and avoid large social gatherings. If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others. Seek testing if you are ill or were in contact with someone with COVID-19. As I’ve shared before, these simple steps help us limit the spread of the infection from lower risk people, who may be more socially active, to others who may have conditions that might put them at risk of getting more seriously ill. You may not be at high risk yourself but those with whom you have contact may be at risk of getting really sick.

Spring Semester

This spring, we are expanding on a successful coronavirus surveillance testing program that helped us limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus in the fall, bringing mandatory testing to those student groups with a history of or potential for higher rates of infection. The plan, led by the UF Health Screen, Test & Protect team working in close conjunction with the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, calls for testing of all students in residence halls, sororities and fraternities and those participating in face-to-face classroom instruction.

Students will receive saliva tests at the opening of the semester and every two weeks thereafter. Mandatory testing might be reassessed as the semester progresses, depending on a number of factors, including the overall positivity rate in these groups.

UF Health Screen, Test & Protect monitors infection rates on campus. So far this fall, university officials have seen no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in classroom or lab settings.

Students not in the listed categories may also get tested, although it will not be required. In addition, testing will be available to UF faculty and staff, as it is today, although on a voluntary basis.

Those students who have tested positive with a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test in the prior 90 days and were investigated by UF Health Screen, Test & Protect will be excluded from mandatory testing. Once the 90 days after the onset of their symptoms has expired, they will re-enter into the mandatory testing process. Students who do not get tested within 48 hours of the time allotted will not be cleared to be on campus. However, those awaiting results can remain on campus if they do not have symptoms and were not in recent close contact with a positive case.

UF Health, working with health officials, also is continuing a rigorous contact tracing and isolation/quarantine program. Expanded surveillance will allow the university to identify COVID-19 cases as quickly as possible to stem the progression of infection.

By actively seeking out the virus on campus, we expect to intervene before significant spread occurs. Surveillance testing combined with contact tracing efforts, compliance with physical distancing and mask wearing provides the best opportunity to finish the spring semester without significant disruption. Mandatory testing will help us get there.

Testing during the holiday season

Want a test before traveling, heading home or returning to campus this year? Regardless of whether you have symptoms, you can schedule a saliva test at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

How to get tested:

  • Go to
  • Complete the screening questionnaire again.
  • Schedule the test, and results will be emailed to you no later than 48 to 72 hours after your test.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Keep looking out for one another as we all look forward to the end of this difficult time. We will get there sooner, and safer, together. And as always, please visit the Screen, Test & Protect website for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of any help at all.

Michael Lauzardo, MD, MSc
Director, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect
Deputy Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine
UF College of Medicine

Questions about Screen, Test & Protect? Submit them via the online contact form.