MIAMI – Dorm-room parties are being blamed for a coronavirus outbreak at the University of Miami, where some students who tested positive have been relocated into isolation rooms and two entire floors of a residential tower are under quarantine.
Other students have been kicked out of residence halls and suspended for not following public health directives, said Dr. Julio Frenk, the university's president.
The university's dashboard says 156 people have tested positive in the university system. Most are students; 69 of them have been placed in isolation and another 94 under quarantine in the past seven days. The positivity rate is slightly above 5%.
“It would have been unrealistic to assume that there would be no cases of COVID-19 in our campus,” Frenk said in a video message.
Frenk said a pattern of infection emerged at one of the residence halls. In response, everyone who tested positive was moved into isolation, and those who were potentially exposed to the virus have been ordered to stay in their rooms.
Similar challenges are being addressed at other colleges in Florida, where the Department of Public Health reported 4,545 COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, along with about 2,600 new virus cases.
The University of Tampa begins classes Wednesday, but it has already temporarily suspended some students who participated in a large gathering at a residence hall as they were moving in. Florida A&M University is imposing curfews for residential students.
Frenk, who was the dean at Harvard University's school of public health after serving as an executive in the World Health Organization and as Mexico's health minister, said he's closely following reports of other universities, such as Notre Dame, where outbreaks have forced a return to online instruction after reopening.
“Adapting and responding to changing circumstances remain the order of the day," Frenk said.
Miami-Dade County still has in place restrictions banning gatherings of 50 people or more and indoor dining. The county mayor said he was meeting university officials to discuss other measures to make sure students follow public health rules.
“This is what young people do,” said county mayor Carlos Gimenez. “This is concerning to me. This is how we started. Some time ago, we saw the spike in young people and we need to curtail as much of that as possible.”
Gimenez spoke about the university cases as he announced he will again allow indoor dining at restaurants at a 50% capacity starting next Monday. He said positivity rate and hospitalizations have declined significantly in the state's worst-hit county.
Gimenez warned that businesses still need to follow orders including keeping doors and windows open in establishments that have them. The air-conditioning must remain on, and not put on automatic.
The mayor will also order for people to keep their masks on if they are not eating or drinking.
“This does not mean this is over by a long shot,” Gimenez said in an online news conference.
Meanwhile, the mayor of one of the county's largest municipalities told reporters at a news conference earlier Tuesday that his city officers will already stop enforcing the ban on indoor dining before Monday, when the ban is set to be lifted.
“I cannot continue to do something I find wrong," Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez told The Miami Herald.