COVID-19

Dear Polk State College community,

Thank you for your continued attention to Polk State College’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Polk State is dedicated to the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students while ensuring minimal disruption to instruction and the learning environment. The College is working diligently to exercise prevention methods and preparedness with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health, and the Florida Department of Education. Florida remains in a constant state of preparation to respond to COVID-19. The College is no exception.

Sincerely,
Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti
President

Latest updates

5.6.20 CARES Act emergency financial aid grants available for students
4.28.20 Guide to online tutoring at Polk State
4.27.20 Guide to accessing books and course materials online
4.23.20 Guide to online learning at Polk State
4.17.20 Polk State’s spring 2020 graduates invited to December ceremony
4.15.20 Important information about remote PERT testing
4.13.20 Polk State SALO keeps students engaged through Virtual Student Center
4.2.20 Polk State provides resources to cope with stress and barriers to learning
4.1.20 Polk State College operations to continue remotely through safer-at-home order
4.1.20 College provides remote test proctoring to all Polk State students
3.30.20 Classes resume online at Polk State College
3.27.20 Polk State College to continue all classes online through summer 2020
3.23.20 Important updates and resources for moving to online classes 
3.22.20 Summer registration dates pushed back at Polk State College
3.20.20 Polk State College’s spring commencement ceremonies are canceled
3.18.20 Polk State College responding to case of COVID-19
3.17.20: Polk State to move to online learning environment for remainder of spring
3.16.20: Polk State College to suspend operations 5 p.m. March 16 – March 29
3.13.20: Polk State College closing to students March 16 – March 29
3.12.20: Polk State College COVID-19 update: travel, events, and more
3.11.20: Polk State College remains open, continues to minor coronavirus
3.6.20: Polk State College exercises preparedness, continues to monitor coronavirus
2.28.20: Polk State College is monitoring news and information about coronavirus

  1. Click here for a list of canceled events

    • Polk State College has canceled its spring commencement ceremonies that were scheduled for May 7, 2020, in correspondence with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more. This difficult decision comes with the health and safety of students, families, and employees at the forefront. The College will pursue the possible rescheduling of the ceremonies at a later date.
    • All Student Activities and Leadership Office (SALO) events that were scheduled through the spring semester.
    • All Athletics games, practices, and events through the spring season per the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
    • The College’s open house events that were scheduled for April 23 on the Winter Haven Campus and April 30 on the Lakeland Campus.
    • The District Board of Trustees Meeting: March 30
    • The Lakeland Campus Health Fair: March 13
    • Special Performance Series: Broadway Tonite Live!: March 21
    • Women’s History Month Reception: March 31
    • Golden Key International Honour Society New Member Recognition Event: April 4
    • The Chain O’ Lake Big Band Concert: April 5
    • Empty Bowls: April 7
    • The Polk State College Human Library events: April 7 and 9
    • Polk State Theatre’s production of Next to Normal: April 9 – 12 and April 16 – 19
    • Professional Development Day: April 10
    • The Student Art Exhibition Reception: April 14
    • The Symphonic Band and Jazz Concert: April 23
    • The C3 Annual Conference: April 25 (it will be rescheduled)
    • The Choir Concert: April 26
    • The Graduating Portfolio Exhibit Reception: April 28
    • The Percussion Concert: April 28
    • The Honors Showcase: April 30
    • Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School’s:
      • New student orientation: April 9 (it may be rescheduled)
      • Cake auction: April 16
      • Prom: April 17 (it may be rescheduled)
      • Gradbash: April 24
    • Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School’s:
      • New student orientation: April 23 (it may be rescheduled)
      • Gradbash: April 25
    • Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School’s:
      • Information nights: March 31 and April 14
      • School-wide mental health lessons: March 17, April 7, and April 21
      • SAT school day: April 14
      • Prom: April 18
      • Gradbash: April 24
    • Education pinning ceremony: April 30

Frequently asked questions and answers

General

  1. How do I apply for the CARES Act emergency financial aid grant?

    The CARES Act emergency grant application and more information about the program are located here: www.polk.edu/cares.

    To be eligible for a CARES Act Emergency Grant, a student must:

    • Be enrolled in (or accepted for enrollment in) a degree or certificate program as of the Spring 2020 Term.
    • Have been enrolled in at least one course in the Spring 2020 Term.
    • Have completed a 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to verify the following general eligibility requirements. The student must:
      • Have a valid Social Security number.
      • Be a U.S. citizen or have qualifying non-citizenship status.
      • Have earned a high school diploma or GED.
      • Have registered for selective service (if the individual is male and under 26 years of age).
    • Fulfill the Satisfactory Academic Progress standards of Polk State College at the beginning of the Spring 2020 Term.
    • Have a certified need of funding for eligible expenses incurred as a result of disruption to College operations and related to the coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare, and childcare.

    Note: A student enrolled in classes for a program that was offered exclusively online during the Spring 2020 Term is not eligible for an emergency grant. A student who is in default on a Title IV loan (or who owes refund money on a Title IV grant) is also ineligible for CARES Act funding.

  2. How is Polk State College preventing the spread of COVID-19?

    Per the Florida Department of Education, as COVID-19 evolves, the most important thing for schools to do is to plan and prepare. The College is doing the following as recommended by the state:

    • Reviewing, updating, and implementing emergency operations plans in collaboration with the local health department.
    • Developing and sharing information with students, employees, and the community.
    • Performing routine cleaning of all locations, especially high-touch areas.
    • Ensuring handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

    The College’s custodial staff members are cleaning and sanitizing with hospital- and high-grade disinfecting cleaners daily across the College’s six locations. High-touch areas including doorknobs, handrails, push bars, soap dispensers, toilet handles, water faucets, water fountains, and elevator buttons are being sanitized throughout the day and evening, and classroom desks, office desks, reference desks, counters, chair arms and backs, light switches, and telephones are being sanitized each evening to accommodate daily activity and occupancy.

    Additionally, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is available in dispensers throughout all College sites. However, the College highly encourages individuals to also practice consistent handwashing, per flu season guidelines outlined by the CDC.

  3. Is Polk State College closed?

    Polk State College is open, with all courses and operations occurring remotely. Campuses and centers remain closed to students until further notice. Employees are working remotely to ensure the College’s operations continue and that students have access to the services they need. Student Services employees are ready to provide support for students online, by email, and by phone. Advising and registration assistance is available by emailing registrar@polk.edu. Financial aid assistance is available by emailing financialaid@polk.edu. General assistance can also be provided by online chat at polk.edu and by phone at 863.297.1000.

    Polk State has compiled the following list of resources for students during the College’s transition and implementation of online instruction for the remainder of the 2020 Spring Semester. This list will continue to be updated.

    • Free Spectrum Wi-Fi and broadband is available for households with K-12 and college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. To enroll, call 1.844.488.8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households. Wi-Fi hotspots will also be open across Spectrum’s footprint for public use.
    • Polk State’s Canvas Orientation is available online and the College recommends students complete this orientation before instruction resumes online on March 30. Courses will be available and accessible through Canvas, which has an easy-to-use interface and mobile-friendly app on Android and iOS. Students can receive course updates, submit assignments, communicate with professors, and more through Canvas.
    • Canvas support is available 24-7 by calling 1.844.880.9814.
    • Office 365 including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is available online.
    • Online tutoring is available through Canvas, including Polk State tutors through Knack and Smarthinking.
    • Online assistance with writing is available from Polk State English professors in The Writing Studio.
    • Online library services are available at edu/library, including electronic books and databases.
    • Advising and registration assistance is available by emailing registrar@polk.edu.
    • Financial aid assistance is available by emailing financialaid@polk.edu.
  4. Has there been a case of COVID-19 connected to the College?

    The Florida Department of Health notified Polk State on March 18 that Polk County’s second presumptive positive COVID-19 case is a student who takes courses on the Winter Haven Campus. The College quickly responded by notifying by phone students and faculty who may have come in contact with the individual and stressing the importance of following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for self-quarantine, monitoring symptoms, and contacting their healthcare provider for medical advice if necessary.

  5. Who is allowed on campus when instruction resumes on March 30?

    Only essential personnel will be reporting to the College’s campuses and centers until further notice. Other employees are expected to work remotely to maintain full operations. Students are advised not to visit the College until further notice.

  6. How will students participate in lab practicums, hands-on training, etc.?

    The College is working with Program Directors to address some of the Health Sciences, Arts, Digital Media, Public Safety, and Corporate College courses that require lab practicums which complicate fully online instruction. All lab practicums and hands-on training will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines limiting spaces to 10 people who must maintain 6 feet between them. Students should monitor their College emails for communication from their instructors with specifics about their programs and courses.

  7. Can students still register for summer and fall classes?

    Priority and dual enrollment registration that was scheduled to take place for currently enrolled students for the summer and fall semesters on March 30 will now take place on April 6.

    Open enrollment for summer, which was scheduled for April 6, will now start on April 13.

    Summer classes will still begin on May 7. A decision has not been made yet on the format of summer classes.

    Open enrollment for fall will start on June 1. Fall classes will begin on August 17.

    Prospective students must submit a free online application at www.polk.edu/admission-aid.

    Current students may register for classes through PASSPORT.

    Students who need assistance with registration may email registrar@polk.edu.

  8. What if I want to withdraw from spring classes?

    Polk State understands that in these difficult times, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and to think that withdrawing from classes is the best option. The College encourages students to reach out to their instructors and advisors for assistance. However, if a student does not feel comfortable with completing the 2020 Spring Semester online with the resources and guidance provided, the College has extended the withdrawal dates as follows. Withdrawals will be processed according to normal withdrawal procedure.

    • 16-week session – changed from March 30 to April 6
    • 12-week session – changed from April 7 to April 14
    • Fastrack 2 – changed from April 17 to April 24
  9. How can I receive assistance with advising, registration, and financial aid?

  10. What does Governor DeSantis' Executive Order 20-91 mean for Polk State College?

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide safer-at-home order on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 3, 2020, and will expire on Thursday, April 30, 2020, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    Polk State College has been proactive in moving its instruction and operations online and, as such, should not be noticeably affected by the safer-at-home order. Online instruction and remote student services will continue as they have since the College resumed instruction on March 30.

    While students, faculty, and staff continue to be advised not to visit the College, there are some exceptions that remain in place to facilitate online learning.

    Per the executive order, which states that educators supporting colleges for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, faculty can still make arrangements to collect instructional items from their classrooms, labs, and offices for the purpose of facilitating online instruction. Students can come to campus by appointment only for the purpose of collecting equipment needed for online learning. Cleaning and sanitation of all visited areas continue to take place. Students and employees should note that the executive order states that individuals 65 and older and individuals with significant underlying medical conditions shall stay home and take all measures to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

  11. Will I still receive my financial aid disbursement?

    Yes, you will.

    Disbursements will begin May 19 for the following summer sessions: 12-week, 1st 6-week, and 8-week.  Disbursements will begin on July 7 for the 2nd 6-week session.

    Disbursements will continue weekly Tuesday and Thursday throughout the semester.

  12. How do I return rented textbooks to the campus bookstore?

    For students who are not on campus, your rented textbooks can be returned free by mail.

    Simply click on the link below and follow the instructions to print a shipping label.

    https://polk.bncollege.com/shop/polk/page/rental-book-return

Online Resources

  1. How can I gain internet access if I do not have it?

    Free Spectrum Wi-Fi and broadband is available for households with K-12 and college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. To enroll, call 1.844.488.8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households. Wi-Fi hotspots will also be open across Spectrum’s footprint for public use.

  2. Are there free Wi-Fi hotspots?

    Polk State College is working with local municipalities to identify safe locations for free, drive-in Wi-Fi.

    Students who use these public locations are encouraged to practice social distancing and remain in their cars.

    • City of Lakeland’s SurfLakeland is free downtown and in select areas of the city. Students accessing SurfLakeland downtown should note the parking restrictions posted on signage. The best signal is around Munn Park and students should consider parking next to the park to leave areas in front of restaurants open for curbside business.
    • City of Lake Wale’s CityNet Wi-Fi provides free hotspots throughout Lake Wales.
    • City of Winter Haven is creating several high-speed Wi-Fi access points for Polk State students. Access points are located downtown. The downtown parking garage and library parking lot have both unsecured and secured Wi-Fi available. The password for all secured Wi-Fi networks is MyWinterHaven.
    • Haines City provides free Wi-Fi access at Haines City Park under PSCHainescity and the password myhainescity.

    As the College adds other Wi-Fi access points, this list will be updated.

    Click here for more information.

  3. How can I access my courses online?

    Online courses can be accessed through the College’s learning management system, Canvas, which has an easy-to-use interface, a mobile-friendly app on both Android and iOS, and a 24-7 help desk at 1.844.880.9814. More information including a Canvas orientation is available on the Distance Learning webpage.

  4. What are the guidelines for students in the online environment?

  5. Where can I find information about Canvas?

    • Polk State’s Canvas Orientation is available online and the College recommends students complete this orientation before instruction resumes online on March 30. Courses will be available and accessible through Canvas, which has an easy-to-use interface and mobile-friendly app on Android and iOS. Students can receive course updates, submit assignments, communicate with professors, and more through Canvas.
    • Canvas support is available 24-7 by calling 1.844.880.9814.
  6. Where can I gain access to Office 365 including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint?

    Office 365 including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is available online

  7. Where can I receive online tutoring?

    Online tutoring is available through Canvas, including Polk State tutors through Knack and Smarthinking.

    Online assistance with writing is available from Polk State English professors in The Writing Studio.

  8. Where can I find library resources?

    Online library services are available at polk.edu/library, including electronic books and databases. Ask A Librarian is also available on Canvas.

  9. What if I need help accessing my student email?

    Students who are having trouble accessing their my.polk.edu email accounts may call 863.873.5971 or email jthompson@polk.edu for assistance. Students can also call the College’s information desk at 863.297.1000 for assistance.

  10. What if I am having trouble accessing a computer or equipment to complete assignments or online testing?

    The College has established the Academic Support Line for students who have equipment and internet needs. Starting Thursday, April 2, students may call the line at 863.669.2833 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance.

  11. How can I keep connected to my peers in the online college environment?

    Students quickly brainstormed creative ways to keep their peers connected in the online college environment. With the support of SALO Director Melvin Thompson, they launched the Virtual Student Center, which is accessible on SALO’s Facebook (@polkstatesalo), Instagram (@polkstatesalolk and @pscwhsalo), and Twitter (@wearesalo) pages as well as on Canvas. (More Info)

  12. How do I access my books and course materials online?

    The Polk State College Bookstores may be closed to students on campus, but they are open online for course material selection and delivery.  Students can begin buying books for summer classes on April 27, 2020.

    A step-by-step guide that explains how to purchase or rent course material online is available here: https://www.polk.edu/wp-content/uploads/How-to-Place-an-Online-Order-Student.pdf. All dual-enrolled students should follow the same process. (More Info)

Testing

  1. What if I am having trouble with online test taking?

    The College has purchased Honorlock to provide remote proctoring services for testing to all Polk State students. Honorlock is accessed through Canvas and is an online test proctoring service that has a number of tools to ensure academic integrity. Honorlock has equipment and technical requirements, and students are encouraged to become familiar with the program as soon as possible.

    Students will need:

    • To use Google Chrome and download the Honorlock Chrome Extension.
    • To log in to Canvas, go to their course, and click on their exam. When they click on “Take Your Exam,” they will start the authentication process before beginning the exam.
    • If there is a page asking for an access code, it means that the student has not installed the Honorlock Chrome Extension or is using an incompatible internet browser. Students must use Google Chrome.

    Students should:

    • Be aware of specific exam dates and times and allow adequate time to take the exams. Do not procrastinate.
    • Become familiar with and comply with Honorlock’s technical requirements.
    • Anticipate technical issues with completing any exams. Students should notify Honorlock support first for assistance.

    Honorlock support is available 24-7 by emailing support@honorlock.com and through live chat support online at honorlock.com/support.

    Canvas support is available 24-7 by calling 1.844.880.9814.

  2. What about TEAS testing?

    The application for TEAS testing is closed. The College will honor TEAS testing appointments that were scheduled before instruction was suspended on March 16. The College has reached out to these students to reschedule their tests. TEAS testing will take place based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current guidance which recommends no more than 10 individuals in a confined space at a given time. The College is working through the logistics of scheduling, crowd management, security, and cleaning to make this feasible and to ensure the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff.

  3. Do I still need to take the PERT test?

    Students are required to take the PERT test if they plan to pursue dual enrollment, early admission, or would like to apply to any of the College’s three collegiate high schools. Please note that for the current application period, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School is waiving the PERT requirement.

    The PERT is also required for some new non-dual enrolled students who graduated before 2007, graduated from a non-Florida high school, graduated without a standard high school diploma, or are not active-duty military. A representative from Student Services will be contacting these students directly via email during the enrollment process to coordinate PERT testing dates.

    More information about taking the PERT remotely and a video about how to take the test using Honorlock in Canvas can be accessed here: www.polk.edu/admission-aid/remote-pert-testing.

  4. How do I arrange to take the PERT test?

    To comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance during the coronavirus public health emergency, Polk State College will be offering remote PERT testing beginning Monday, April 20 for students who wish to enroll for the Summer 2020 Semester, and beginning Thursday, May 7 for those who wish to enroll for the Fall 2020 Semester.

    Due to the high demand for PERT assessment from Polk County Public Schools (PCPS) students, the College has worked with PCPS administrators to create a schedule for testing for each of the public high schools. It can be accessed here: https://polkschoolsfl.com/DualEnrollment. Charter, private and home-schooled students may test at any time beginning April 20 for summer and beginning May 7 for fall.

    New students must submit a free online application to the College at www.polk.edu. Students must complete and submit the application at least three workdays prior to their PERT session. After completing the College application, students will receive a welcome letter from the College via email. The letter will provide directions for how to access the PERT test, including the requirement to email Advising@polk.edu to begin the process.

    More information about taking the PERT remotely and a video about how to take the test using Honorlock in Canvas can be accessed here: www.polk.edu/admission-aid/remote-pert-testing.

  5. What are the minimum technology requirements for taking the PERT test remotely?

    To take the PERT online, students must have access to the following:

    • Desktop or laptop computer
    • Webcam and microphone
    • Google Chrome internet browser
    • Internet access

    Polk County Public School students who do not have access to the internet or the computer equipment necessary to take the test should contact their high school principal or counselor for assistance.

    More information about taking the PERT remotely and a video about how to take the test using Honorlock in Canvas can be accessed here: www.polk.edu/admission-aid/remote-pert-testing.

Campus Life and Facilities

  1. Are Polk State College events canceled?

    The College is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guideline for large events and mass gatherings which recommends canceling or postponing in-person events that consist of 10 people or more. Please continue to monitor www.polk.edu for further scheduling and event information.

  2. Is graduation canceled?

    The College has canceled its spring commencement ceremonies that were scheduled for May 7, 2020, in correspondence with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more. This difficult decision comes with the health and safety of students, families, and employees at the forefront. The College will pursue the possible rescheduling of the ceremonies at a later date. Students are asked to monitor their College email and polk.edu for updates.

    The cancellation will not impact students graduating and receiving their certificates or diplomas by mail if they meet all graduation requirements. It is important that students still complete the graduation application, which officially notifies the College of a student’s intent to graduate. Students are encouraged to submit their graduation applications by the previously published Friday, March 27, 2020, deadline. However, applications will be accepted through Tuesday, May 5, at 5 p.m. Students may submit their graduation applications through PASSPORT under “Advising.” More information about graduation is available online at www.polk.edu/academics/graduation.

    Pinning ceremonies have also been canceled, including the Education Program’s April 30 ceremony and the Nursing Program’s May 6 ceremony.

    No decision has been made at this time for the graduation ceremonies for Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School, Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School, or Polk State Gateway to College Collegiate High School.

Travel and Study Abroad

  1. Are field trips, study abroad trips, and work-related trips canceled?

    The College continues to stress the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel advisories, including the recommendation to avoid all nonessential travel to countries with Level 3 health notices: China, Iran, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and most of Europe. The College has suspended:

    • Study abroad trips that were scheduled through July 2020. Participants are asked to communicate with their program coordinators.
    • All airplane travel, per the recommendation of the Florida Department of Education, related to student field trips and employee work travel through June 2020.
    • All travel outside of the staterelated to student field trips and employee work travel through June 2020.
  2. What if I am traveling outside of school or work?

    The College is stressing the following guidelines provided by the Florida Department of Health:

    • Anyone (students, faculty, staff, etc.) who go on foreign travel, to any country, are advised to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.
    • Anyone (students, faculty, staff, etc.) who go on a cruise, anywhere, are advised to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.
  3. Do I have to notify someone at the College about a personal (NON-COLLEGE-RELATED) international and/or domestic travel plans?

    Polk State College strongly encourages you to apply the same abundance of caution to personal travel. You should keep in mind the possibility of quarantine measures being introduced while you are traveling. Students, faculty, or staff planning to travel on personal trips are advised to have contingency plans in the event of major disruptions that could affect both outbound and return travel. Please carefully weigh the risks and benefits of any international travel, and review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on COVID-19 to learn more.

Health Resources

  1. I am anxious about the situation unfolding. Are there resources or support for my wellbeing?

    We understand that some community members are concerned and that this is a stressful time.  If you would like to talk with someone, support is available to students and employees.

    For students:

    • The BayCare Student Assistance Program offers immediate counseling assistance from licensed professionals. All services are 24-7, free, and confidential, providing support from managing classes, to managing stress. Students can call 800.878.5470 or access services online at BayCare’s Personal Advantage.
    • United Way’s 2-1-1 is a comprehensive source of human and social services information. Specialists are available 24-7 to connect individuals with services in Polk, Hardee, and Highland counties online, by phone at 888.370.7188, by texting your zip code to 898-211, or by emailing uw211help@gmail.com.
  2. What is the novel coronavirus, COVID-19?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

    The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

    Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure (this is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses):

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
  3. How does COVID-19 spread?

    The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

    People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

    The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

    Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

  4. How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

    The CDC’s guidelines include:

    • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Staying home if you are sick.
    • Covering your mouth and nose with tissue when coughing and sneezing, throwing used tissues in the trash, and immediately washing your hands.

    Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick, including older adults and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.

  5. What if I am sick and need to miss class or work?

    The College is exercising the CDC’s guidelines and encourages students and employees who are sick to stay home. Faculty and supervisors have been asked to be flexible with students and employees who are sick. Due to the status of the public health emergency by the state, students are not required to provide documentation such as doctors’ notes at this time. Students who have any questions or concerns are asked to contact a Dean of Student Services. The Winter Haven Campus Dean may be at 863.292.3740 or lpakowski@polk.edu. The Lakeland Campus Dean may be reached at 863.669.2813 or slittle@polk.edu. Employees who have any questions or concerns are asked to contact Human Resources at 863.297.1070 or HR@polk.edu.

  6. What should I do if I have close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

    If you have come in contact with an individual who has recently traveled to countries with Level 3 or Level 2 travel advisories per the CDC. If you have traveled to these locations yourself, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

    • Call your local county health department.
    • Seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
    • Avoid contact with others.
    • Do not travel while sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
    • CDC has additional specific guidance for travelersavailable online.
  7. Where can I get more information about COVID-19?

    Polk State continues to stress the importance of preparedness and encourages students, faculty, staff, and community members to access up-to-date information and resources through the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, the Florida Department of Health has a dedicated COVID-19 call center that can be reached at 1.866.779.6121. The call center is available 24-7. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.