FIU Attempts Pre-COVID Operations

Groups of students gather at Graham Center tables while foot traffic flows through. Valentina Palm / PantherNOW

Jesse Fraga / News Director

Social distancing was scarce as thousands of students swarmed campus this week, for the first time since March 2020.

FIU is aiming for the “next normal” this Fall, following over a year of a “new normal,” as described by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.

Students rush through Green Library breezeway. Maya Washburn / PantherNOW

Prior to this week, the university displayed sanitizing stations, social distancing signs and dispersed seating arrangements. Now, they offer vaccines and testing.

Some students remain wary of returning due to FIU’s decrease in COVID-19 precautions.

For Anaise Arnold, a biochemistry student, nerves are high.

Anaise Arnold sits alone with a mask outside of the CASE building. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

“I’m feeling kind of scared to be honest, but it’s because I’m more of an introvert,” said Arnold. “I saw a lot of people with masks, so just the fact that you can’t see each other’s mouths is comforting for me.”

Masks are highly recommended by FIU, but not required.

While some feel masks may limit their actions, Arnold believes expression lies in one’s eyes. 

“I got to see a lot of people’s emotions, even with the masks on, so it’s not much of a problem,” she said.

FIU will only offer fully in-person, fully online and hybrid courses this Fall. However, remote and hyflex modalities have been permanently removed.

Lopez sits maskless in the Graham Center as he awaits his next class. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

“I usually wear a mask when I’m in class or close to others, but my beard makes it pretty uncomfortable so I’m taking a break,” said Fabian Lopez, a junior studying biomedical engineering.

He trusts others will take precautions when sick, such as missing class, in order to protect others from the virus.

“There will be instances where people might not attend class because of COVID,” said Lopez. “But as long as people take care of themselves and wash their hands, the semester should continue normally.”

Students are required to complete the Panthers Protecting Panthers app upon entering campus in order to regulate attendance of those with COVID symptoms.

Moon Medina wears a mask while on lunch break at a vending machine in the Graham Center. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

Moon Medina, a master’s student studying global affairs and senior learning assistant for the Math Lab, shared similar feelings of optimism as they walked into a classroom of 45 students, to see only five maskless.

“I was surprised there were quite a lot of people actually wearing masks, and I felt pretty safe,” said Medina. “The professor had a mask, but didn’t wear it because he was kind of separate from the students at the front of class.”

Professors cannot require masks in class, but some enforce such protocols during office hours.

FIU professor Lauren Rodriguez requires masks during in-person office hours, according to math course homepage on Canvas. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

While Medina is vaccinated, they wear a mask to help lessen the curve.

About 65 percent of Miami-Dade County residents are fully vaccinated, however COVID cases continue to rise.

While FIU has distributed 14,104 vaccines, the total number of students vaccinated goes unreported, according to the FIU COVID-19 Dashboard.

“I wear a mask in order to keep myself, my family and my community safe,” said Medina. “The health of the community is more important than my own beliefs.”

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