COVID-19 testing required of all students prior to return to campus

Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
By News@TheU

Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

COVID-19 testing required of all students prior to return to campus

By News@TheU
All students—both residential and non-residential—must test negative for COVID-19 before returning to campus for the fall semester.

To safeguard the health of students, staff, and faculty, the University of Miami has expanded its pre-arrival testing requirement for students. All students at the Coral Gables and Marine campuses, whether they will live on or off campus, will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before returning for the fall semester. The testing requirement, which has been in place for residential students, was expanded to include those students living off campus.  

“Based on the current dynamics of the virus, we are strengthening our testing protocols to protect our campus community,” President Julio Frenk said in a video message Wednesday. 

The University has partnered with LabCorp to provide test kits directly to each student. The University issued an email message to non-residential students on Wednesday and to both incoming and returning residential students last weekwith detailed instructions on how to request their test kits, which should be done immediately, and send their sample for testing. Students are not permitted to return to campus until they submit a negative test result to the University.

Testing, an element of the four pillars that guides the University’s plan for a safe fall semester, helps to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus entering the University community. 

Students are encouraged to limit their activities and self-quarantine for up to 14 days prior to their arrival on campus. If a student develops symptoms of COVID-19 or is exposed to someone with COVID-19 before their arrival on campus, they should not come to campus and should consult Student Health Service.

Visit coronavirus.miami.edu for answers to frequently asked questions regarding the testing requirement. 

Watch Frenk’s Wednesday video message to the University community here:

Below, for your reference, is the full text of the video message.

In less than one week, University of Miami residential students will be arriving on campus for the move-in process ahead of the start of classes on August 17. Our wellness and student centers have re-opened, and our orientation teams are making final preparations to welcome our newest students.

This year, as we all know, will look and feel different. Among the changes we can expect are:

  • The need for continued flexibility—and more testing. From the time we began monitoring and responding to COVID-19 in late January, I have regularly reminded all of us that one of the defining characteristics of a new pathogen like the novel coronavirus is uncertainty. We are learning more every day, and we see signs of hope, like the vaccine trials that began at UHealth last week. I have described our plans as adaptive and responsive. These qualities must underpin not only our plans, but also our interactions, as circumstances change. Circumstances are changing—the rates of new cases and hospitalizations in Florida and Miami-Dade are beginning to trend downward. At the same time, we are seeing increased transmissibility in other parts of the country from which we draw students. Based on the current dynamics of the virus, we are strengthening our testing protocols to protect our campus community. The requirement to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to campus will be expanded to include all non-residential students on the Coral Gables and Marine campuses, in addition to the residential students. We recognize that this is a significant change. To help you comply, the University will purchase and ship a test kit directly to each of those students. To be clear, until they have tested negative for COVID-19, these students should attend classes and activities remotely. As soon as they receive a negative test result, they will be allowed on campus to continue their instruction in a seamless manner. Further instructions and information will be forthcoming via email later today.

  • New behavioral norms, safety measures, and resources. As we prepare to reopen, we have launched a training module called “We Are One U: COVID-19 Safety Principles.” This informative tutorial provides an overview of the shared values, behaviors, and procedures each of us will be expected to uphold, affirm, and follow on campus. Everyone is required to complete the module by August 10. It is accessible using your University of Miami credentials at weareoneu.miami.edu. In addition, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Roy E. Weiss, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Miller School of Medicine, will serve as chief medical officer for COVID-19 across all our campuses. He will lead a new UHealth personalized medicine program for students, faculty, and front-line staff, which will provide medical expertise to protect our University community; implement the most advanced practices in testing, tracing, and tracking; disseminate timely information to promote healthy living; and deliver 24/7 medical advice and care to those living, learning, and working at the U. We will share additional details on how to access this new resource early next week. 
  • Increased focus on social and racial justice. Long-simmering issues of racism and abuse of power came to a head this summer. As I announced in June, the U is taking a series of deliberate steps to advance racial justice. Intentional action to live out our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion continues, even as we work to prepare campus for reopening. This year, we have an opportunity to accelerate progress, and we are committed to doing so.

While this year will bring change, some things will remain as central to the University of Miami as they have always been. These include:

  • Our ability to withstand a storm. This past week, Isaias became a hurricane, impacted our Caribbean neighbors, and continued to make its way up the East Coast. We know our geographic location comes with advantages and risks—we connect worlds daily and we expect hurricanes annually. We are also home to one of the best emergency management teams. They were in full gear as Isaias approached, preparing for a potential hurricane even as we manage a pandemic, and they will be ready no matter what the rest of this hurricane season brings our way. 
  • Excitement around Hurricanes athletics. An encouraging development this week was the decision by the Atlantic Coast Conference to resume fall collegiate sports. Our student-athletes have been training on campus since mid-June, and the ACC announced that if public health guidance allows, all seven sponsored fall sports will begin competition in early September. I believe that if we follow the protocols we have in place, the Hurricanes will have a successful season both on and off the field. They have demonstrated great discipline since returning to campus nearly two months ago. They understand their responsibilities to each other, to the fans, and to the community. Whether we get to cheer our athletes on in person or in new ways, we all look forward to seeing them play. One cautionary tale worth mentioning here comes from what we are witnessing in professional sports. The actions of one player can affect not only their and their family’s health, but the prospects of play for a whole team, as well as the schedule and feasibility of play for an entire league. Let us apply these lessons as we return to competition and cheer on our ’Canes. 
  • Our commitment to one another. I will elaborate more on this point in my message next week, but I would like to underscore now that a big part of our decision to reopen campus has everything to do with the character of our people. Whether you are moving into your residence hall next week or in the coming months, joining us virtually this fall and in person come January, or have decided to wait until next year to return to campus, we are all counting on you. Time and again, as we have finalized and announced our plans for reopening, skeptics have questioned the ability of college students to grasp the gravity of the threat posed by a highly contagious virus. I do not share that view. I am confident that we can have a successful return to campus because I believe in our people—our students, our faculty, and our staff—and also because we have put together a science-based approach to offering classes in a variety of formats, including in-person.

Young people—generation after generation—have stepped up to the challenges of their times. We heard numerous examples of that this past week as Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis was eulogized. We have done everything we can to keep our campus community safe—now we must trust not only our devoted faculty and staff, but our students, to care for each other.

I will end on an encouraging note. I am happy to report that thanks to everyone’s compliance with UM measures so far, the last round of testing for COVID-19 among student-athletes, trainers, and athletics staff, carried out on July 31, revealed a positivity rate near zero. The fact we are seeing no new infections on our campus reassures us that, as long as we strictly follow the rules, we will be able to return safely. This good result is not the product of good luck. Although still a small sample, those on campus this summer agreed to and abided by the sacrifices required to keep everyone safe. Let me remind you, though, that even when we see encouraging outcomes, we must never let our guard down. This virus is smart. But we can be smarter.

To those making their way to Miami this week, safe travels and we look forward to seeing you on campus soon. To those gearing up for another semester of remote or in-person interaction with friends, classmates, and colleagues, let us continue tapping into our creativity to make it a year of life-changing connection and meaning at the U.

Julio Frenk