As a busy first week of classes draws to a close and we fully resume the fast pace of the academic year, it is important to prepare for success. This is true in our classes, in our extracurricular activities, and in the way we interact with one another on campus. In our response to the pandemic, we are making changes to protocols, as outlined below.
Several hours ago, we unveiled changes to our COVID-19 dashboard. Transparency is important to us at the U, so we have added rates of vaccination to the platform. A quick glance gives us reason to hope—and reason to proceed with caution:
This is where we all come in. I realize many of you got vaccinated with an expectation that taking the responsible course of action would allow you more flexibility—freedom from masking and from testing. Unfortunately, the pandemic has evolved. The delta variant is more dangerous and the number of infections in Florida this week has broken records.
I am proud to report that 94% of faculty and staff members on our Coral Gables and Marine campuses are following our vaccination requirements. Our human resources professionals, deans, and faculty affairs are working with the remaining members of the team to facilitate full compliance.
Among students, too, there are bright spots—some groups, including student-athletes at 90% and medical students at 98%, have achieved excellent rates of vaccination. On the whole, our reported student vaccination rate is over 75%. While this percentage would have been satisfactory with the original strain, it is not high enough to prevent outbreaks with the more contagious delta variant.
The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing serious illness and death, but they do not completely eliminate the risk of transmission of the delta variant. As a result, given our residential model, we must take additional steps to protect one another. Our adaptive and responsive strategy demands we adjust course when necessary, therefore we are making three changes to our public health measures:
I know these are not the kinds of adjustments we want to have to make a year and half into the pandemic. We all want to be on the other side of it. Until we are, we must put health—our own, that of our fellow ’Canes, and the wellbeing of our surrounding communities—first. Let us each step up and embrace what the U does best: overcoming the odds by working together.
The 1 in 4 students not yet fully vaccinated remain susceptible to disease if exposed to the virus. Because any one of us—vaccinated or not—can transmit the virus, we must act in unison to protect each other. Therefore, appropriate masks will continue to be required in all indoor spaces. In addition, we will require masks outdoors when in groups of four people or more beginning this afternoon through Friday, Sept. 17. At that point, we will reassess masking requirements on campus in light of existing levels of risk in our community.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 30, we will start testing students who have not submitted proof of vaccination twice per week. We will continue weekly testing for faculty and staff who have received a religious or medical exemption to the employee vaccine requirement.
For those who are now interested in getting the shot—which we know is the key to returning to many of the activities and lifestyle we all enjoy—we are extending the availability of vaccines on campus, with our vaccination station, in the Student Center Complex.