Today I want to address three recent developments that may be top of mind for many, as the semester continues.
A Message from President Julio Frenk

August 24, 2020

A video message from President Frenk
Below, for your reference, is the full text of President Julio Frenk’s video message (above) to the University of Miami community.

One week ago, classes began for the Fall 2020 semester. In my capacity as a member of the faculty, I taught the first session of my course on global health in person last Tuesday evening. Some of my students were in the classroom, others logged in remotely, and as we all adapted to this hybrid modality, we were enriched by our interaction with one another.

In my capacity as president, adapting and responding to changing circumstances remains the order of the day. I continue to work closely with leaders across all our campuses, as we monitor the pandemic and make decisions to keep our community safe. Today I want to address three recent developments that may be top of mind for many, as the semester continues.

First, we have all seen reports of other universities having to reverse course on in-person instruction and on-campus activities due to outbreaks of coronavirus. Such news has understandably caused some anxiety. I want to assure you that we are in touch with our colleagues across the country—including at institutions finding themselves in this situation—and are learning from their experience during this unprecedented time in higher education. The U remains open for on-campus instruction.

I want to thank all of you for the way you are embracing our strategy to fight COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance, and cooperating with our dedicated team to care for ’Canes and our entire community. We are taking our pledge to one another seriously, as we implement our carefully thought out plans.

Those whose behavior indicates that they are not honoring their commitment to the community have begun meeting with the consequences of their poor choices. We have already had to take the unfortunate measures of asking students who are not following public health directives to leave our residence halls and initiating suspensions when appropriate. We will continue to monitor our ’Canes Care for ’Canes website, as well as student behavior on or off campus, and we will not hesitate to enforce disciplinary procedures when measures aimed at protecting our students, faculty, and staff are flouted.

The second issue that may have caused you concern is that before the first week of classes had ended, we issued a notice regarding the first cases of coronavirus reported on campus. As I have stated before, it would have been unrealistic to assume that there would be no cases of COVID-19 this fall, on our campus or anywhere else in the world. What we can accomplish if we all work together is avoiding the type of broad outbreak that would require us to shut down campus.

When a pattern of infection began to arise at one of our residence halls, we immediately took the necessary steps to keep those cases from spreading, so we quarantined the two affected floors, utilizing testing, tracing, and tracking to contain the incident. Fortunately, at this time all community members who have tested positive are doing well, and those who may have been exposed have safely self-isolated. Given the need for patient privacy, we will not comment on each individual coronavirus case on campus, but we will keep the community fully informed of the steps we are taking to protect them.

Our UTrace contact tracing team is well-equipped to identify any close contact that members of the community may have with infected individuals. Rest assured that if the UTrace team has not reached out to you, you have not been determined to be a close contact with the positive cases and are at extremely low risk, provided you continue to adhere to the mandatory preventive measures on and off campus. In addition, our world-class medical facilities are uniquely capable and well-prepared to respond to an influx in cases and continue to have the capacity necessary to address any health issues that may emerge among those who tested positive.

I recognize as well that during a time of uncertainty, we all want accurate and actionable information, which brings me to the third significant development I want to share with you this week. As promised, later today we will launch our University of Miami COVID-19 Dashboard. This tool will allow the entire University and the public to track four important indicators regarding coronavirus at UM: the number of new cases per day, the number of new persons in isolation or quarantine, the number of tests performed, and the number of new hospitalizations.

The data will be shown separately for faculty and staff and for students—with further distinctions, when relevant, between on- and off-campus residence. We will also report separately for the Coral Gables and Marine campuses and for the Medical Campus. You will be able to see not only a snapshot in time, but the trends for each of these indicators reporting the relevant rolling averages across time. The data will be updated on a daily basis.

I do want to caution against taking the reported information out of context. As unsettling as it may have been to hear of confirmed infections on campus, we have been preparing for this exact situation since January, when UHealth began planning to treat COVID patients. We are taking all possible precautions, including disinfecting areas of campus and reaching out to UM community members who may have come into contact with the affected individuals, so they are able to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and others, including follow-up testing and self-isolation.

We continue to monitor the situation on campus closely using testing, contact tracing, and tracking, as well as through the UHealth Personalized Medicine Program, which provides around-the-clock support to students, faculty, and staff. You will soon receive a more detailed description of how we are testing, tracing, and tracking. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with our approach, which will empower you to do your part by giving you a sense of the role you can play in keeping yourself and others safe.

As the semester continues, we must never let our guard down. If each of us does the right thing, we will keep each other safe and continue to have a rewarding experience this year.
President Frenk signature
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