A Message from President Julio Frenk

July 28, 2020

President Frenk: President Julio Frenk shares an update on COVID-19 in South Florida; campus preparations; and the measures being taken to keep students, faculty, and staff safe during the fall semester.
Below, for your reference, is the full text of President Julio Frenk’s video message (above) to the University of Miami community.

As we continue to prepare for the start of fall classes, I have given you a glimpse into the how and why of our adaptive and responsive strategy to reopen campus. Today, I want to give you an update on what we’re seeing here in South Florida, how preparations are going on campus, and why I remain encouraged that we will have a successful return in a few weeks.

First, the update on COVID here in Miami. The good news is that we are seeing the daily case count plateau, with hospitalizations—statewide, in Miami-Dade County, and at UHealth—beginning to decrease. At our academic health system, hospitalizations peaked last Tuesday and have been going down since then.

That said, we must resist complacency. The situation remains fluid, and the pandemic represents a very serious threat which needs to be confronted head on. This reality underlines the importance of each of us doing our part to keep the trends moving in the right direction.

Last week, I focused my message on the decisions students and their families would need to make with respect to fully virtual instruction or participating in the hybrid protected model we will offer on campus. Yesterday was the deadline to opt into the fully remote option.

Out of approximately 11,000 undergraduate students, about 2,770, or 25 percent, have selected the fully remote option. We look forward to engaging with this group of students—as well as our campus-based students—and I am happy to report that more than 300 student organizations will offer virtual events and activities. Those students planning to return to campus received additional information about other ways they can tailor their experience to meet their needs, including the option of delayed move-in for continuing students and of deferral for new students.

This week, I want to specifically address our faculty and staff. From the beginning of this pandemic, you have demonstrated your extraordinary commitment to our students’ success. Your creativity, tenacity, and collaboration are making a safe return possible.

I know that some of you still have concerns. I have met regularly with the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Council at the Miller School of Medicine, and I have begun meeting with faculty members in each of our other schools and colleges.

To ensure faculty members are familiar with the physical improvements we have made to protect everyone, we have invited you to schedule tours of your teaching spaces as we continue to make final preparations for the fall.  We are investing in safety. Some of the measures we are putting in place include UV filters, MERV filters, special covers to deal with the unique needs of musical instruction, and many others.

In addition, let me tell you that I will literally be with you every step of the way. As a member of the faculty, I co-teach a class on global health. My risk profile is such that even though I am 66 years old, because I have no underlying conditions, I have opted to teach on campus this fall.

Like you, I value my and my family’s health. At the same time, I am confident it is possible to create a safe workplace on campus. My confidence stems from two experiences on which we can all draw.

First, our student-athletes have been on campus for nearly two months this summer and, as you may have seen reported, we have had only a handful of positive cases. I am pleased to share with you that thanks to our strict protocols—and despite the close contact trainers, strength coaches, and other athletics personnel have with our student-athletes—only one staff member has tested positive so far.

The second experience is what we have seen at UHealth. No one in the U community has had more potential exposure to the virus than our health care heroes working on the front lines. I am encouraged that our rate of infection among clinical and support staff has been low and that, as we have engaged in contact tracing, we have found few were infected at work.

At the most recent meeting of the Faculty Senate, one of the senators—who has been on our Medical Campus throughout the pandemic—noted that work is where he feels safest. I am committed to making every effort to ensure that ‘feeling safe’ is the norm for all our faculty, staff, and students across all our campuses.

The importance of our work has never been more apparent—just yesterday the vice president of the United States visited the U to hear from our researchers on the progress we are making toward the crucial clinical trials on one of the most promising vaccine candidates. Our work matters.

We have given a great deal of thought to how we can successfully and safely return to the U this fall. We continue to adapt to an evolving situation. Yet, I have every reason to believe that this teaching moment will be one of the most meaningful and rewarding of our lives. We are counting on every ’Cane to make it so.

We are One U.
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