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Day at the Capitol returns with updated safety guidelines

Taking place for the first time since 2020, Student Government will be hosting the trip with numerous COVID-19 guidelines set in place for students. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/STUDENT GOVERNMENT

Students will be making the trip to Tallahassee again Tuesday for Day at the Capitol under new safety guidelines put into place by Student Government (SG) and Andres Montero, assistant director of external and governmental affairs.

The last time students went to the capitol was in 2020. Last year, SG didn’t host the event due to COVID-19. Students who attend will visit the state legislature and talk to state representatives.

SG set an 80-person limit for all three campuses combined, and hired two 55-seat buses for the trip to allow for more social distancing, according to Montero. In previous years, about 300-350 students would attend the trip.

All students are able to sign up, not just SG members. There were 55 spots open to Tampa, 15 to Sarasota-Manatee and 10 to St. Pete students, according to Montero.

Leading up to the event, SG encouraged anyone attending the trip to practice social distancing and to get tested if they believe they have been exposed.

“In preparation for [the Day at the Capitol], … we’ve asked students to kindly be responsible and that if they feel like they have been exposed to not attend the event anymore,” Montero said.

If someone isn’t able to go for any reason, students from the waitlist get bumped to the main list, so attendance numbers for the event have not changed.

There are 13 people on the waitlist for Tampa, two for St. Pete and one for Sarasota-Manatee, according to Montero.

Attendees are now required to wear face masks at all times unless they are eating or drinking. Mask-wearing was originally only strongly recommended, but SG altered the guidelines as the omicron variant became a concern.

Montero said SG will distribute surgical face masks and hand sanitizers to attendees before boarding the buses. The supplies were provided by the university and from previous SG supplies.

SG has also put together a task force for the day to monitor the students on both buses and during the event.

“The main responsibilities of this task force is to enforce the rules,” Montero said. “That’d be wearing the mask at all times, especially inside the bus. That’d be sanitizing as much as possible and that’d be maintaining a safe distance when socializing. And their responsibility is to bring it to their attention that they’re doing something wrong.”

Montero said if the actions, such as a mask slipping below the nose, are unintentional, members of the task force will remind the attendee to pull up their mask, but there will be no punishment.

“If it is intentional, we’ve established that these students will receive a strike system where they get several strikes, and when they strike out essentially, they can be subject to be sent to conduct once they get back to the university,” he said.

Students will not be allowed to remove their masks while on the bus, even to eat or drink. They will be given an opportunity to drink water or eat snacks they brought during the two rest stops.

Every time the students leave the bus, the seats, handles and screens will be wiped down and sanitized, Montero said.

At the location where the lunch panel is being held, an outdoor space has been reserved to allow for more airflow, which allows for reduced changes of the virus spreading, according to Montero.

“We’re going to be encouraging conversations with representatives, alumni or attendees between themselves on that outdoor area,” he said. “We’re also going to be encouraging all media, that’d be pictures, videos, any of that type of sort to be done outdoors.”

Executive Director of Student Health Services Joseph Puccio and College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen met with SG members Jan. 12 to better establish the guidelines for the trip and to ensure the event is safe for students.

“Everyone internally in Student Government is very well aware that we are taking extremely preventative measures to ensure that this event is safe,” Montero said.