MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The University of Miami announced Wednesday that it will celebrate its fall 2020 commencement ceremonies virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said they wanted to avoid large gatherings and protect the health and safety of graduates, their families and friends, and others participating in the events.

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A special ceremony for the rescheduled spring 2020 commencement, which was postponed because of the pandemic, will also be held virtually.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk said the decision came after official data showed the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise across the United States, including Florida.

The virtual ceremonies will be held on Dec. 10-11, officials said.

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“We did not arrive at this decision lightly,” said Frenk, a global public health expert and former World Health Organization official. “Yet, as we have done from the outset of the pandemic, we made it a priority to safeguard the health and well-being of our fellow ’Canes, their loved ones, and surrounding communities.”

“We know this news is disheartening,” Frenk said, who is also the father of a 2020 graduate. “I had looked forward to observing this rite of passage with all of you in person later this month. Please know that in no way does a virtual ceremony diminish your accomplishments nor the deep pride we feel for all that you have done to arrive at this important milestone.”

The University invested in an IT platform that will allow for a meaningful experience for graduates and their families to continue the tradition and make the seamless transition to an online format, officials said.

“Now more than ever, we look forward to celebrating your resilience in the pursuit of your life goals,” Frenk concluded. “We are grateful for your commitment to your education, your flexibility, and your understanding.”

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Grads are urged to check their commencement portal for more information.