Before we take a brief respite this Labor Day weekend, I want to update you on how things are going so far.
A Message from President Julio Frenk

September 4, 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.

Today marks the end of our third week of fall classes. Before we take a brief respite this Labor Day weekend, I want to update you on how things are going so far.

Many of you are following the data we post each day on our COVID-19 dashboard. We made some updates to that tool earlier this week, driven in part by constructive suggestions from the community. From the time we began responding to the pandemic, I noted that the circumstances through which we are living are a powerful teaching moment. That is true for all of us, not just our students.

Looking beyond the numbers and trends—which so far show our approach is working—let me share a few important reminders. When we announced that we would resume in-person learning this semester, we relied on two important premises.

The first is that living through a global pandemic, there are no risk-free options. In assessing the relative risk of having in-person instruction on campus versus simply telling students to stay home, we decided to invest an extraordinary amount of time, money, and hard work by our faculty and staff to make our physical spaces safe. Whether they are living on or off campus, having students spend a substantial part of their day in an environment where they are educated about the pandemic, where they are prompted to pay attention to their symptoms, where they are required to wear face coverings, and where they can easily access testing and treatment, makes the decision to reopen a means of reducing risk.

The second premise is that our community members would be willing to make short-term sacrifices to achieve long-term goals. Here, let me say directly to our students, faculty, and staff: We are proud of you. I especially applaud the way in which—with some exceptions—our students have prioritized the value of education over the social dimensions of the college experience. There is now abundant evidence showing that the appropriate use of face coverings by a large proportion of a population is an extremely powerful measure to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Let me say that again: a tool already deployed, if used wisely and rigorously, can keep us safe.

Here, I offer my first reminder: this is a marathon, not a sprint. I know it is not always easy, but we cannot let our guard down, not even on a holiday weekend. Unless absolutely necessary, we should refrain from flying. Despite the safety measures put in place by most major airlines, travel exposes the campus community to risk, particularly when going to locations with fewer restrictions than are currently in place here in Miami-Dade County. To help reduce travel to a minimum, we will have many engaging activities available on campus during the Labor Day weekend.

Those who leave campus this weekend must continue to observe our safety protocols—wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, hand washing, and limiting gatherings to groups of no more than 10—as our off-campus students already do. At the beginning of the semester, I said we would reevaluate the curfew after Labor Day. Let’s do everything in our power to keep trends moving in the right direction.

The second reminder is that students will not travel to Hard Rock Stadium for our first two home football games. As with the curfew, that decision is one we will reevaluate as the semester progresses. We want everyone to enjoy the football season—and we are working hard to provide gameday options for students on campus—but we ought not compromise our ability to deploy the kind of contact tracing necessary to keep the campus community safe.

The process of tracking and managing the pandemic requires not only effective contact tracing, but comprehensive testing on campus. Each student was tested before returning to campus. Since then, we have tested anyone presenting with symptoms and their close contacts. Now, we are expanding to the next phase: random testing of students, faculty, staff, and essential vendors to estimate asymptomatic infections on campus.

Here, we need your help. Tests are free, available right on campus, and take just two minutes of your time. Let me reassure you, when someone tests positive we do not assume that it is a result of misconduct or carelessness. Rather, we provide that person with the support they need to keep themselves and others healthy. Join with us in keeping the U—and our loved ones and neighbors—safe.

My outlook at this early stage of the semester can best be summarized in two words: guarded optimism. We remain vigilant, erring on the side of caution and allowing the data to drive smart decisions. And we remain hopeful, knowing that ’Cane pride is fueling the kind of creativity and adaptability that will result in an exceptional and memorable experience for us all.
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