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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

August 27, Operational Update

August 27 Update (Watch on YouTube


President Feinstein (00:01):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, August 27th, and this is our weekly operational status update. I want to thank all of you for joining us. As we know, this is the first week of the semester and months of planning have brought us to this point. And I want to thank our students and their families, our faculty and staff, and everyone else who has shown patience and understanding as we kick off an unusual semester. And as I noted in my fall welcome message earlier this week, I urge us all to find ways to continue to build community, celebrate and support one another, but do so safely given the precautions that are in place. I've been out and around campus over the last couple of weeks, throughout move in and this first week. We're glad to see you back on campus, very glad, but we need your help to keep us all here.

Personal responsibility is going to be more important than ever before. Each of our actions when we are on campus or off campus, have the potential to affect not just our own health, but that of our entire community. In everything you do, I implore you to keep the health and safety of our community, your friends and classmates, our faculty and staff, the neighbors in Greeley, and our families front of mind. I know that other panelists today are also going to echo that call. And with that, I'm going to turn over to Associate Vice President for Administration Blaine Nickeson for our weekly report on the current status of public health guidelines and conditions in Colorado. He's also going to give updates on the coronavirus taskforce. Blaine?

Blaine Nickeson (01:45):
Thank you, President Feinstein, and good morning, everyone. We've resumed classes on campus as we've been talking about. Everybody knows, and our team's been very busy trying to respond to the situation as things move and change, seemingly even more rapidly now that we've got some activity on the campus. In the past 10 days, we've done tests at the student health center of approximately 65 students that came in to be tested for a variety of reasons. Some were symptomatic. Some had been in contact with somebody that was symptomatic, and others just wanted to be tested as a preventative measure. So far, only one of those tests has been positive. We've also had one employee test positive. They did not work in a position where they had close contact with the campus community, and they're isolating at home, just as the student is as well. As of this morning, we're only using one of our approximately 80 isolation and quarantine rooms on campus.

A reminder about testing at the student health center. Please don't just walk in if you're symptomatic. You can understand why that's a problem if you just show up at the front door. We want you to call ahead and we'll make arrangements for you to be tested. For many folks, that can include just driving up to the back of the health center and being tested from your vehicle. So, please, give them a ring and they'll take care of you and get you in as quickly as possible. Also for employees, please make sure you're working with your supervisor at HR if you're symptomatic, and especially, if you get a test because you're symptomatic. We don't want to get a positive test result on you, only to find you actively working in your office or somewhere else on campus.

Yesterday, Provost Anderson sent out an update to the faculty clearly explaining our mask policy on campus. Plainly, we realized that there was some conflicting guidance out there among our various published guides and websites, and also guidance from the state that existed sort of both pre and post Governor Polis's mask order, and it was making things confusing for both our faculty and our students. So, yesterday, that message to faculty was direct in stating that we require students, employees, and visitors to wear a face covering at all times while in public or shared spaces on campus. There's a very narrow exception process for courses where there's a pedagogical reason for the variation, but to give you an idea, over the course of the summer, so far only two courses have been granted that exception. So, it is very much a narrow window.

The takeaway is that masks work, and we want their usage to be widespread across campus. I was walking around campus on Monday for the first day of classes. I had the opportunity to tour around President Feinstein, our local state representatives, as well as Executive Director of the Department of Higher Ed and sort of show them what we've done to prepare for the fall and all the different steps that we've taken to be able to come back together. When I was here, I was impressed by what I saw. Everybody was wearing a mask, and nearly everyone was wearing them properly. It needs to cover both your mouth and your nose. It was also fun to see the wide variety of masks. For some folks, that's a direct expression of their personality, and especially our students. That was fun to see as well. 
In the past week, the state updated their data reporting dashboard. It's a much more robust tool now for those of us who love geeking out with data, I encourage you to check it out if that describes you, which I suspect at our university that may describe a lot of folks. Statewide, we're seeing continuing good trends as it relates to positive cases, percent positive test rate, and hospitalizations. We've been hovering in a good place for a few weeks. The question will be what happens as we open our universities and we resume in person classes at many of our K-12 and school districts.

Our leaders at the state level have been watching the data closely throughout the pandemic and have been quick to adjust policy levers depending on the trends that we're seeing. And I assume that will continue to be the case as we move through the fall here. As I've talked about in the past, and President Feinstein mentioned, UNC has reestablished the coronavirus task force, and we've been meeting as an overall group as well as individual committees. We'll continue to do our work in a collaborative fashion across the university, and as the situation on campus in Greeley and in Colorado evolves. That's all I have for this morning, and I'll turn it back over to you. Andy.

President Feinstein (06:27):
Thanks, Blaine, and now let's hear from Katrina Rodriguez, our Vice President for Student Affairs and Provost Mark Anderson, who can update us on impacts to faculty and students. Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (06:40):
Good morning, everybody. For my information today, I would kind of echo Blaine's perspective about so many students doing such a great job in wearing their masks, wearing them appropriately, and I just want to thank you all for doing that. And I also want to thank students for helping each other understand or holding accountable student peers, that if they don't wear their mask, that it could have consequences for our face to face instruction and campus experience. So, I appreciate on various social media where students are saying, "Hey, to each other, "please wear your mask. It matters." So, I feel really grateful for everybody who's doing that. And certainly, as Blaine said, we need to cover our nose and our mouth, right? That's the appropriate way to wear that.

I also want to share that I think we've had a tremendous opportunity for student engagement since last week with various activities in all kinds of units and departments. And the other thing is that for those who want to find other ways to get involved, you can go to unco.edu/studentaffairs, and you'll see all of the various areas that are providing engagement programs, ways to get involved and meet people. We know students want to meet others, and so that's a great way to do that. You can look at the cultural and resource centers, the Office of Student Life, housing and res ed doing some really fun programs, as well as our campus rec center and many more. So, I want to make sure that folks know where to go find that information. And then, I also want to share that the Bear Pantry is open. It's a grab and go service, again for safety reasons, so please don't hesitate to call or email Bear Pantry if you are somebody who needs some additional resources in terms of food items. They also have some personal items, so please take advantage of that if those services are helpful to you. So, I think is the end of my report. Mark, I'll turn it over to you.

Mark Anderson (09:00):
Thank you very much, Katrina. I'm going to reiterate a lot of what people have already said. This is the first week of the semester, the first week of classes. The students I've had the opportunity to talk to are very excited to be back on campus, very excited to have face to face classes. And so, we'd really like to thank the entire UNC campus community for all the work that was put in over the summer to prepare for this week and prepare for the fall semester. And we've had, I'd say, a very successful opening to the fall semester. One thing Blaine referred to was the fact that during the summer, really, since the beginning of coronavirus, the public health from the state, as well as the local guidance has been evolving as the virus has evolved as well, and that has led to some confusion.

We did send around an email last night that provided clarity to the mask wearing policy for faculty, and that's going to be followed with an email message to the students from the Dean of Students as well, containing the same information. So, hopefully that will have provide some clarity where there was maybe some misunderstanding. But even so, I'd like to thank the campus community really for doing all that they possibly can to protect each other by wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth, but also for reminding those who have forgotten about their responsibility to each other. As I was coming into Carter Hall this morning, there were some workers who were moving furniture into Carter Hall who weren't wearing masks, and I took the opportunity to remind them that they needed to be. This is the work.

The first week of the semester, we worked diligently to ensure the health and safety of the campus, but I'm reminded of something an old high school basketball coach of mine once said, and that was, "You can't win the game in the first quarter, but you can lose it." So, we're early in the semester and we have to remain diligent to ensure the health and safety of our community. One thing we can do, and I'll refer everybody to the return to work, return to campus guidance. People who are coming to campus should check their health daily, and if you're starting to show symptoms, we're asking you to not come to campus, and so, refer to those guidance. Everybody's doing a great job so far, but again, we're in the very early part of the first quarter of the semester. We can't win the game, but we can certainly lose it. So, thanks for your efforts. Thanks for a great opening to the semester. I look forward to the remaining part of the semester, and I will turn it back to President Feinstein.

President Feinstein (11:45):
Well, thank you, Mark and Katrina, for your presentations. Thank you all for tuning in and as always stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday at 9:00 AM. Take care, everybody.