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Sundial

FIU’s Fall Semester Amid COVID Spike, Fort Lauderdale Beach Tunnel, And Managed Retreat

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EMILY MICHOT
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Miami Herald
Oakley and Casey Jones, tourists from Idaho Falls, navigate the flooded streets of Miami Beach as they try to make their way to their hotel on Collins Avenue and 30th Street during a King Tide on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015.

What can public universities do to protect students and staff from COVID? Plus, Fort Lauderdale officials are considering a plan to build underground tunnels under the city. And what if we have to retreat from South Florida?

On this, Monday, Aug. 9, episode of Sundial.

FIU’s Fall Semester Amid COVID

Florida International University will begin classes in the coming weeks as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state.

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FIU President Mark Rosenberg raised concerns about the rising COVID cases but feels confident in the student population.

“We have a student body that has significant responsibilities in their respective families and in their workspaces. 85 percent of our students work full or part-time. These are individuals who understand what’s at risk,” said Rosenberg on Sundial.

The largest university in South Florida cannot mandate that their students, faculty or staff be vaccinated due to Florida’s executive order banning vaccine mandates by state-funded institutions.

FIU has a COVID-19 dashboard tracking positivity rates among faculty and staff. Among those tested on Aug. 6 of last week, 12% of faculty tested positive as well as 8% of students.

FIU’s Fall Semester Amid COVID
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Fort Lauderdale Beach Tunnel

The city of Fort Lauderdale recently announced plans to accept a bid to build tunnels from the city’s downtown to the beach.

Any other companies interested have to formally submit their proposals to the city by the end of this month. The original proposal for the tunnels comes from The Boring Company, led by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“To take your car down Las Olas Boulevard on a popular Saturday, it's going to take you a long time. The city has run out of options to make Las Olas wider," said WLRN Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski Munoz. "They were unhappy with what they were seeing from a consultant and so now the idea is that this tunnel system would sort of replace making changes to Las Olas Boulevard."

Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis visited the company’s site in Las Vegas and has been working directly with Musk about the logistics of the project.

People would not be driving their own cars through the tunnels. The proposal is for Tesla vehicles to transport people to and from downtown and the beach.

Residents have raised concerns about the cost of the proposal and whether South Florida’s rising seas and consistent flooding could prove dangerous.

Switalski Munoz also joined Sundial to talk about the ​​county elections supervisor's new plans for voter registration this year.

Fort Lauderdale Beach Tunnel
Train tracks lead toward an access tunnel inside the east section of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Faido, Switzerland, in 2014. The tunnel had its opening ceremony on Wednesday.

Managed Retreat

A new climate report from the United Nations, released Monday, paints a dire future if changes are not swiftly made to protect the environment.

In some cases, the damage has already been done — and it’s irreversible.

With temperatures and ocean levels rising, some researchers say we’re all going to need to learn about something called “managed retreat.”

“It's a phrase that refers to a very large number of options for removing people and assets from places that are really at risk from flooding or other hazards,” said Katharine Mach, an associate professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Land buyouts are already happening in parts of the Florida Keys that have been determined to be too unsafe.

Mach recently co-published a paper on managed retreat in the journal Science Advances.

Managed Retreat
WLRN sea level rise

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.