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First coronavirus case reported at USF

The faculty member had contact with 13 students and several faculty members.

A University of South Florida employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Wednesday in a message to faculty and students.

“Today we learned that a staff member in the USF Counseling Center on the Tampa campus has tested positive for COVID-19. This employee is self-isolating at home in accordance with guidelines established by the Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,” the school wrote in a message.

The state Health Department determined the employee, who is not named, had direct contact with 13 students and “several employees.”

“FDOH is providing these individuals with guidance and will be monitoring them while they continue their investigation to determine if any other USF employees had direct contact with this individual,” the notice said.

The news comes as cases in Hillsborough County jumped from seven Tuesday to 14 Wednesday.

A total of 328 cases have been reported statewide. Nearly 1,000 tests are still pending results.

USF already shifted classes for the remainder of the spring semester to an online format, the school announced Tuesday.

The school is also postponing its spring commencement ceremonies scheduled for May.

“The University of South Florida is working diligently to monitor and respond to the evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. We understand that these are uncertain times, and the rapidly shifting news is unsettling for us all,” USF wrote. “We are facing a challenge that is unprecedented. But there is something stronger than this challenge — something stronger than fear — and that is the compassion, adaptability and resilience of the USF community.”

Statewide efforts to crack down on social interactions are in effect. All Florida K-12 schools will be closed until at least April 15. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs closed entirely for 30 days and ordered restaurants to operate dine-in service at half capacity and encourage customers to instead utilize take-out or delivery service where possible.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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