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Advances in the fight against COVID-19: Where are we one year later?

COVID-19 One Year Later: Where are we now? A virtual panel with the deans of USF HealthSince the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, USF Health has found innovative ways to continue delivering high-quality education and training to the next generation of health care professionals, while also supporting the Tampa Bay community by addressing the testing kit shortage and creating the first 3D nasal swab, volunteering at testing sites, establishing the COVID Confirmed Clinic, and much more. As we pass the one-year mark in the fight against COVID-19, the deans of USF Health, Drs. Charles Lockwood, Kevin Sneed, Donna Petersen, and Usha Menon, addressed the community during their quarterly panel entitled Advances in the Fight Against COVID-19: Where Are We One Year Later? on how far we have come in the last year. Here are the major takeaways:


Dr. Donna Petersen, College of Public Health and Chair of the USF COVID-19 Task Force

  • Virus safety on campus: Spaces throughout the USF campuses were marked off and taped, and furniture was rearranged to promote social distancing. A mask mandate was enforced, disinfectant and hand sanitizer was provided, and a daily symptom checker and Campus Pass was required for those coming to campus. A team watched the positive cases recorded on campus to monitor those who were infected and possibly exposed.
  • The prevalence rate has remained lower on USF campuses than in that of the surrounding community since the beginning of the pandemic. The USF COVID-19 Task Force has been monitoring data and trends every day, and it is looking like we are moving in the right direction.
  • Although cases are dropping, it is not the time to relax virus safety protocols. The Task Force is ramping up communication as we must continue to maintain all of the measures to keep the virus from being transmitted.
  • Experts at USF Health predict COVID-19 will be behind us by fall 2021 and will happen more quickly if the community continues to follow the known effective prevention methods such as physical distancing and wearing a face covering.
  • The best way to prevent transmission from person to person remains to keep your distance and wear a face covering. If everyone does this, ideally outside, the chances of transmission are low. Even though more people are getting the vaccine, continue to social distance and wear a face covering. Ideally, get together with friends and family outside, and don’t gather in large groups and indoor spaces. If the community continues to do this, we can keep pushing the trend down.


Dr. Kevin Sneed, Taneja College of Pharmacy

  • The Moderna Therapeutics and BioNTech and Pfizer vaccines were developed using messenger RNA, which is proving to be safe and effective. The Moderna Therapeutics, BioNTech and Pfizer, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, have each had between 30,000 to 44,000 participants in their clinical trials and have all been well-studied.
  • Messenger RNA vaccine development has been around for about 8-9 years. The scientific community has been designing this concept for rapid deployment in the event of a pandemic. All of the available research shows there wouldn’t be any long-term effects. Clinical trial patients enrolled since the beginning of April 2020 have been continually monitored, and so far these patients have not experienced any adverse effects.
  • USF Health is a clinical investigation site for the Novavax vaccine, which is expected to receive approval in April or May.
  • Vaccine side effects: Soreness at the injection site, headache and fatigue are among the most common side effects of all the vaccines. Other side effects include nausea/vomiting, chills, and fever. The side effects from the vaccine mean that your body is gearing up to produce an “antibody army” for when you come into contact with the actual virus, and these antibodies will be ready to protect you from the virus and neutralize it to avoid spreading it to others.
  • Taneja College of Pharmacy is involved in many levels of COVID-19 research around drug discovery and new formulations.


Dr. Usha Menon, College of Nursing

  • Front line nurses are struggling with pandemic fatigue, exhausted from caring for COVID-19 patients, faced with moral and ethical practice dilemmas. USF College of Nursing faculty also have been working double time to maintain the same standards of academic excellence compared to pre-pandemic times.
  • USF College of Nursing faculty, staff and students have volunteered about 32,000 hours assisting with COVID-19 testing and vaccine efforts across USF and the county since spring 2020.
  • Thanks to a donation from David Kotok and Christine Schlesinger last fall, the college created the Frontline Nursing Webinar Series to address the wellbeing of novice and seasoned nurses. The series launched in January 2021, and more than 450 nurses have enrolled in the webinar so far. The webinar focuses on putting tools and resources for wellbeing, resilience, and empowerment in the hands of nurses. Colleges and schools across the country are asking if the series could be integrated into their curriculum for their students in pre-licensure, knowing they’ll be entering the field soon.
  • The college launched a COVID-19 boot camp this spring to teach students how to swab and administer vaccinations. A COVID-19 care pilot program is also in development to introduce students on how to care for patients infected with the virus.


Dr. Charles Lockwood, Morsani College of Medicine, Senior Vice President for USF Health

  • Tampa General Hospital, with the collaboration of USF Health physicians, researchers, nurses, and other healthcare workers, has one of the lowest mortality rates in the United States as well as the lowest mortality in the country for ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) patients.
  • Summer Decker, and her team in the Department of Radiology, created a 3D-printed swab to solve the testing kit shortage at the start of the pandemic. The design has now been produced over 70 million times, in 50 countries, in many states and health systems across the U.S.
  • The USF Health Pandemic Research and Response Fund has supported setup costs for the many COVID-19 clinical trials that have been conducted at USF Health since the onset of the pandemic as well as the translational research being done in the Morsani College of Medicine. Completely funded by the generosity of donors, the Pandemic Research and Respond fund also allowed for the development of the 3D swab.

To watch the event recording, including more answered questions by the deans of USF Health, please visit To support the USF Health Pandemic Research and Response Fund, please visit