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FAMU, FSU Tracking COVID Infections; Robinson Confident In Decision To Cancel Fall Sports

Flags and a pool in front of a large brick university building
Florida A&M University
FAMU's main administration building, Lee Hall, is flanked by large Oak trees and flags.

Thirty-four people at Florida A&M and 129 people at Florida State University have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of August. Both schools are trying to keep the numbers down through restrictions on large gatherings. FAMU has even instituted a curfew on students who live on-campus, though President Larry Robinson says he’s not yet had to suspend or expel any students for violating it.

“The point we’ve tried to make to our students is that we have a shared responsibility. If this is going to work, it’s going to take all of us working together to make it work,” Robinson told reporters during a zoom conference.

He says the curfew will remain in place “for the foreseeable future.” FAMU is working on creating an online dashboard similar to one on FSU’s website that logs confirmed coronavirus cases on campus.

The update comes as students have returned to college and university campuses. At FAMU, about 85% of classes are online. The Fall semester is also noticeably different in another way: no sports. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, MEAC, is one of many that has cancelled sports for the season. And FAMU’s campus is a lot quieter than normal, as the move has also sidelined the school's marching band, which can usually be heard rehearsing in the afternoon even miles away.

Robinson remains confident in the decision.

“We made this decision back in July based upon recommendations we had…from a medical task force of the MEAC and the medical director. The presidents and the chancellor voted unanimously, including and yours truly, to cancel the season based upon what we thought was in the best interest of our athletes to ensure their safety,” he said when asked about the impact the loss of sports would have on the school.

The MEAC plans to resume playing sports in the Spring, but that depends on the state of the pandemic.

Robinson’s comments come as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues to encourage schools to play sports. DeSantis touted college football earlier this week during a press conference alongside White House Coronavirus Task Force member Scott Atlas.

“I mean they are among the most fit people in the universe,” Atlas said, referring to college athletes and calling them “very low-risk people” while highlighting the role of college sports in local economies.

DeSantis has been a strong proponent of getting Florida’s university football teams on the field. And while the PAC-12 and Big 10 have announced they’ll sit this season out, the ACC and SEC, which include Florida State University and the University of Florida among others, are moving ahead with their seasons.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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