Despite rising COVID-19 infection rates in South Florida, the University of Miami will open its doors for in-person classes on Aug. 23 after announcing updated safety protocols to prevent the spread of the Delta variant. On Wednesday, Aug. 11, UM administrators will attempt to answer questions the UM community has about their plans for this semester during two virtual town halls.
“Please join us for a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the current state of the pandemic, the latest public health guidelines, and the robust protocols we have instituted to ensure a safe and engaging fall semester at the U,” UM communications said in an email to the UM community on Aug. 5.
Faculty and staff are invited to a virtual meeting at 3:30 p.m. EST, while students and their families are invited to a virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. EST. The forums will be attended by President Julio Frenk, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for COVID-19 Roy Weiss, Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship Erin Kobetz and Student Health Service Director Emilio Volz.
In a message to UM on Aug. 2, President Julio Frenk said the plan to return to campus consisted of four main steps: masking, testing, vaccination and hybrid engagement.
Masking will be required in all indoor spaces on campus and encouraged in large groups outside. Frenk says the on-campus mask policy will be revisited as more students get vaccinated.
Both residential and commuter students who are unvaccinated will be required to get tested at least once per week. All residential students will be required to test negative within 24-hours of arriving on campus.
Faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated to return this fall. However, vaccinations are not required for students.
“While the University cannot mandate vaccination for students, it is expected that they understand their responsibility for their health and the health of others,” Frenk said.
The university will offer on-campus vaccination booths for any faculty, staff or students who wish to receive a vaccine.
Frenk says that the university will continue to utilize “hybrid engagement” as a means to maintain appropriate social distance but stopped short of clarifying in what capacity this hybrid system will be used.
Frenk ended his email with a call for students and faculty to recommit to the mitigation effort.
“Let us all continue to work intentionally to ensure success as we write the final chapters of the inspiring way in which, together, we overcame the biggest challenge in a generation,” Frenk said.
In preparation for the town halls on Wednesday, the Miami Hurricane asked readers on Instagram what they would ask UM’s administration. Below is a list of questions the UM community would like to have answered before returning to campus.
1. Why can’t UM, a private institution, mandate that their students be vaccinated to return in-person in the fall? What are the consequences if UM were to mandate vaccination?
2. What does hybrid engagement entail? Will some classes follow the hybrid model?
3. Will fully online/hybrid instruction be available to students?
4. If a student who has been vaccinated has a roommate who is not vaccinated, can the vaccinated student request a different roommate?
5. What will residential and on-campus dining look like in the fall?
6. Will the symptom checkers return for fall semester?
7. If a student tests positive for coronavirus, will the class/instructor be notified? Can the class go online?
8. What percentage of the faculty and staff has received the vaccinations?
9. What percentage of students are vaccinated?
10. Will curfews be reinstated for on-campus students?
11. What guidelines will be in place at UM sports events: Will fans be required to mask? Will attendance be limited to allow for social distancing?