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COVID-19 kits at Sarasota-Manatee to be restocked by October

The Sarasota-Manatee Student Government distributed 250 COVID-19 kits the first week of the fall semester and it plans to order another 250-300 to be passed out to students in October. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/SG SARASOTA-MANATEE

Students at the Sarasota-Manatee campus are one step ahead in the prevention of COVID-19 as its Student Government (SG) branch plans to continue to distribute COVID-19 preventive kits in the coming weeks.

The initiative, implemented the first week of the fall semester, focused on giving away free COVID-19 kits, which included two disposable face masks, four hand sanitizer packets and four antiseptic towelettes. They were passed out on a first-come first-serve basis and limited to one per student.

After running out of the initial 250 stock, Sarasota-Manatee Governor Riffatul Islam and Lieutenant Governor Jovanna Arce said they plan to purchase between 250-300 COVID-19 kits to restock its supply by the beginning of October.

“We wanted students to feel more comfortable once they come back on to campus,” Islam said. “Once we entered our roles [in the summer], COVID was the first thing on our minds and having students come back and be engaged was another priority for us. So, we created these kits so people can feel more safe and comfortable.”

Each kit was purchased by SG at the Sarasota-Manatee campus through the executive branch’s $5,000 initiative fund, which can be allocated to any executive actions, Arce said.

The total cost for 250 kits was around $1,387, according to Arce. Each kit cost approximately $5.55.

Since all purchases by SG have to be made at least two weeks in advance, Arce said she expects to have the kits by the beginning of October.

SG also made mini hand sanitizer bottles, antibacterial wet wipes packets and face masks available to students in common spaces across the Sarasota-Manatee campus, including the rotunda, information commons, bathrooms and conference rooms.

Around 250 units of the mini hand sanitizers were ordered, with a total cost of $272.50, or $1.09 per unit, plus $45 in setup charge per order line. A 10-pack of antibacterial wet wipes, on the other hand, cost $430 for 250 units, including the extra charge, with each costing around $1.54.

Islam said he and Arce had conversations with SG branches from the Tampa and St. Pete campuses about bringing the kits to their students to encourage collaboration between campuses after consolidation. However, the project came to be too costly and complicated and was halted.

“I wanted to make it a #OneUSF initiative, having the other campuses as well implementing this COVID kit,” Islam said. “However, the logistics behind it is very complex. Tampa’s population is huge, which means that they have to work a lot, which means more money.”

Besides the extra costs, Arce said implementing the COVID-19 kits universitywide could be “tricky” due to state legislation regarding mask wearing guidelines in universities.

“It’s just a little bit of a tricky kind of gray area because being a university that we follow state guidelines, we’re not necessarily allowed to implement mask-wearing guidelines or things like that because you know it’s not a state guideline,” Arce said.

“This is more just from Student Government, we want to encourage students and let them know that we are here for them.”

The COVID-19 kits were part of Islam and Arce’s campaign initiatives. Other plans proposed, including the addition of the Bull Bucks program to the Sarasota-Manatee campus, are also in progress.

Islam said the kits, however, will be long term and will continue to expand over the next few months.

“We just want to make our students feel reassured and feel protected on campus because some people are still afraid [of the virus],” Islam said.