The University of Miami announced Friday — four days after classes resumed Aug. 17 — that four students living in the dorms had tested positive for COVID-19, but didn’t mention that more than 130 other people had also tested positive during the first week of the fall semester.
The public only found out about the additional novel coronavirus cases Monday, when the private university based in Coral Gables released an online COVID-19 dashboard to track how the health crisis impacts UM.
“We are making decisions for the entire community, but members of the community also need to make their own decisions, and they need to make decisions based on information,” said President Julio Frenk in a press release Tuesday morning. “The worst you can do in an emergency is not communicate truthfully because that gets people much more anxious than knowing what is actually happening.”
The UM dashboard provides information for the past seven days, on a rolling basis, updating daily with data collected from the university’s COVID-19 testing centers and contact tracing system, its Housing and Residential Life office and UHealth.
“As such, members of the University community are strongly encouraged to utilize University testing centers and the array of other COVID-19-related services and resources the University has established should they fall ill with COVID-like symptoms or suspect exposure to the virus,” the UM press release reads.
The dashboard lists the following:
▪ Total number of confirmed cases
▪ Total tests performed (“based on the total number of people who have been tested at UM as well as those who have been tested at home in the past seven days”)
▪ Total hospitalizations
▪ Total students in isolation (those who tested positive at Student Health Service in the past seven days and have been confirmed COVID-19 positive)
▪ Total students in quarantine (those who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 in the past seven days and have quarantined out of an “abundance of caution”).
It also presents the information divided by day and campus, divided by faculty and staff member and students (and then whether the students are residential or not).
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the Office of Emergency Management, Information Technology, UHealth and visualization experts at the Miller School of Medicine all collaborated to build the online tool. To see the dashboard, click here.
UM dashboard for the coronavirus crisis
Here’s a breakdown of what the dashboard looked like Monday, with data from Aug. 16 to Aug. 22:
2,627 students, faculty, staff, and university vendors were tested.
Of those tested, 141 people tested positive.
59 students were isolated.
98 other students were quarantined.
One faculty or staff member hospitalized.
Here’s what it shows as of Tuesday morning, with information from Aug. 17 to Aug. 23:
1,846 students, faculty, staff, and university vendors were tested.
Of those tested, 96 people tested positive.
69 students were isolated.
94 other students were quarantined.
One faculty or staff member hospitalized.
Therefore, the positivity rate, calculated by dividing the number of positive confirmed cases by the number of total tests reported, is about 5%.
As of Tuesday, six faculty or staff members have tested positive — five on the Medical campus downtown and one on the Gables/Marine campus. One of them was hospitalized. It is unclear if that person is still in the hospital.
The rest — the majority of confirmed positive cases — are students.
Those have mainly been recorded on the Gables/Marine campus (85), rather than the Medical campus (5). Within the Gables/Marine campus, 28 residential students have tested positive, versus 57 non-residential. None of the students have been hospitalized.
What would it take to dial back the reopening?
As he wore a Canes-themed mask during his nearly nine-minute video shared on social media Monday, Frenk said, “It would have been unrealistic to assume that there would be no cases of COVID-19 this fall on our campus or anywhere else in the world.”
Then he added: “What we can accomplish if we all work together is avoiding the type of broad outbreak that would require us to shut down campus.’’
What does he consider a “broad outbreak” and what would shutting down campus mean? Frenk, a public health expert who served as secretary of Health of Mexico, didn’t say.
But he did say some students are facing consequences after disobeying UM’s new security protocols, including suspensions. He didn’t provide details about how many or what rules they broke, but UM’s student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, reported last week videos of students partying had gone viral on social media.
Universities across the country are seeing surges in coronavirus cases as students return to campus. Some, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and Virginia State University, have tightened restrictions.
Locally, both UM and Florida International University, which started classes Monday, plan to maintain on-campus activities as long as possible, to a lesser degree than usual.
An FIU spokeswoman, Maydel Santana, confirmed Tuesday the state school also plans to release its own dashboard to track confirmed COVID cases within its community.
She said it would publish sometime this week.