Essential Work Update 8/6/20
Dear UF/IFAS Extension Colleagues,
We know that over these past few months there has been a great deal of uncertainty and concern resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic we all are going through. Currently, we see an increasing number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in our state. As of today, Florida has over 510,000 positive cases, second only to California. Moreover, we are very troubled about the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases we are seeing within UF/IFAS among our own faculty and staff. We certainly hope and pray for the best of all of those who are dealing with this very serious virus.
This current situation is highly alarming, and we must take steps to ensure the safety and health of our people, both internally and externally. Moreover, this raises apprehension about the ability to ensure that we are not putting participants of our educational programs at risk, in addition to ourselves, if we hold large in-person events.
As we all know, the pandemic situation and consequently our UF/IFAS guidance changes as we learn more and observe what is happening elsewhere. For instance, several camps and schools around the country that did open, had infections, some that were widespread. So as this situation continues to change, we have seen local infection rates grow or remain steady in some areas, with improvement in others.
Two weeks ago, we offered guidance with the thought of moving forward to try to begin to safely offer in-person programs known as Phase III. While we had hoped we could move forward, we have determined that UF/IFAS Extension needs to scale back to Phase II operational guidance effective immediately.
Some of you have already submitted requests for meetings/events and received notification. While some of these events established strong efforts for compliance and safety, eliminating risk was not always assured in many cases. Indeed, the enforcement of facial coverings and social distancing seemed daunting in some situations. We would not want to see confrontations escalate about face coverings as we attempt to enforce that rule. Further, in some local areas, faculty are concerned about their ability to mandate face coverings or the local events are out of sync with UF/IFAS requirements, (e.g. a fair event attracting thousands).
In-person events that have been approved may need to be postponed or reconsidered. Please consult your DED, CED, RSA, or Program Leader as needed to follow-up.
It is recognized that local events your partners are hosting (for example livestock or horticultural shows) may continue, and you may request participation in events others are holding. However, you will need to plan accordingly, as such events/activities may need to have further consideration before being approved.
We acknowledge that this change will create challenges and possibly conflicts for several of you. However, know that we continue to monitor the situation and are here to answer questions you have and support you as necessary during this difficult and precarious time.
Nick Place, Dean for Extension and Director, Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Tom Obreza, Senior Associate Dean and Associate Director
Michael S. Gutter, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Extension and 4-H, Families and Communities Program Leader
Saqib Mukhtar, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Extension and ANR Program Leader