University town-hall recap; online learning and quarantine update

This evening, the University of Miami hosted a virtual town hall to discuss the newest COVID-19 protocols and answer questions from the audience of students, faculty, staff and parents.

President Julio Frenk, the town hall’s first speaker, explained his decision to begin classes virtually as an effort to limit the potential strain students may cause on university and city healthcare resources during Omicron’s peak. According to Frenk, since fewer students will be arriving on campus, isolation rooms and hospital beds will not be filled as quickly.

“Our goal is to de-densify the move-in process and give more students more flexibility,” said Frenk, who anointed himself the “champion of in-person instruction. “This will help increase the chance to complete the rest of the semester in person.”

Following President Frenk’s initial remarks, Dr. Roy Weiss, the university’s Chief Medical Officer for COVID-19, relayed new information regarding the length of quarantine and isolation periods for students and faculty.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be isolated for 5 days and must wear a mask at all times for an additional five days as per recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. If someone exhibits COVID-19 symptoms but tests negative, they will consult with UHealth and be required to wear a mask at all times while on campus.

Weiss also stressed the importance of receiving a COVID-19 booster, adding that those infected with COVID-19 are encouraged to get their booster once they stop displaying symptoms if they have not already done so. The university will provide booster shots to those that want them once students return to campus.

All students must be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. Dr. Erin Kobetz, Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship, explained that students can either upload a PCR or at-home antigen test prior to returning to campus in order to comply with university policy.

Students who upload an antigen test must take a picture of the test along with their CaneCard. If a student is unable to get tested prior to their arrival on campus, they can receive a walk-in PCR test at the Pavia Garage.

Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely explained other ways the student experience will change for the beginning of the spring semester: All dining will be for take-out only, masking is mandatory for entrance to the Herbert Wellness Center and there will be a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who does not wear a mask indoors.

“Every decision has been thought through very carefully,” Frenk said to conclude the town hall. “Take this seriously.”