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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

December 10, Operational Update

December 10 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, December 10th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. And I want to thank all of you for joining us. We are nearly to the end of Finals Week, and I want to thank you for your diligence throughout the semester. After a brief but well deserved winter break, we will all be returning in the spring to welcome back our students. And in a few minutes, Provost Anderson is going to share some additional information about the start of the spring semester, and he will also be sending out emails to all faculty this morning with details about our return in January. The end of the semester is a time to celebrate our recent graduates, and I've asked Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, Lyndsey Crum, to join us this morning to share details about this weekend's virtual commencement activities. Lyndsey.

Lyndsey Crum (01:02):
Thank you President Feinstein, and thank you to everyone who has made a very unexpected semester conclude with what I'm hoping will be a really celebratory opportunity to recognize the entire class of 2020; our spring, summer and fall graduates. It has truly been a campus wide effort from the colleges, student affairs, academic affairs, finance and administration, Vicki, Nick and Dan Satriana and everyone involved in the campus planning for commencement, and our director, Christina Edwards. I want to walk through the celebration, what you can expect to experience on Saturday, but also the other celebrations that are happening and have already begun to happen throughout this week.

Lyndsey Crum (01:45):
First of all, the virtual celebration that you can expect on Saturday, September 12th, is going to be organized around our colleges. We worked with the communication staff in each college and the deans to organize a virtual celebration that will continue the [inaudible 00:02:01] academic community and your academic area of study. So every ceremony is organized and will include messages from President Feinstein, our keynote speaker and alumni, Katherine Archuleta, as well as our student speakers. It will be followed by remarks from each Dean and graduation slides that recognize the individual graduates, their academic area of study and their term of graduation. Graduates were also invited to customize those slides by uploading a graduation photo if they choose to, and they'll be able to access and share those graduation slides on social media. Graduation ceremony has unique link and you can access those links at the commencement website, unco.edu/commencement.

Lyndsey Crum (02:44):
After each college ceremony, graduates, guests, faculty and staff are invited to join a virtual reception hosted by each college Dean on Zoom. Thank you to the faculty, staff and graduates who've already RSVP to attend those. Each reception is going to include breakout rooms that are organized to allow our graduates and guests to meet and talk with their individual program faculty. It's a great opportunity for our graduates to introduce their faculty to their families, their [inaudible 00:03:10]. Special thank you to IMT and our college communication staff for making these celebrations possible and organizing all the details.

Lyndsey Crum (03:21):
Other ceremonies that are happening are celebrations, one that I'm particularly excited about is Friday evening. The graduate school is organizing a virtual hooding celebration on Zoom. [inaudible 00:03:32] to earn and receive the much deserved distinction of being hooded virtually and recognized by their faculty advisor, mentors and dissertation committees in front of their family, friends and support systems. The graduate school has organized those based on the fall term and then the spring and summer term. Details and links from the graduate school are also available on the commencement website.

Lyndsey Crum (03:56):
Other celebrations include a celebration that happened Tuesday evening hosted by Dr. Guzmán featuring Ken Salazar and hosted in partnership with the Cultural Center Directors. I know President Feinstein attended that as did Dr. Rodriguez, and I want to thank our cultural centers for providing such a special opportunity for our students. Saturday and Sunday, the Center for National Education is hosting two virtual celebrations that we hope will expand to the global network of families, friends, and graduates to give them a chance to recognize and celebrate their graduation. All of these details are available once again at unco.edu/commencement.

Lyndsey Crum (04:37):
And finally, to conclude with a special thank you to every member of the faculty and staff who submitted a congratulatory video to the class of 2020. The communications team compiled all of your individual video messages into a really heartfelt combined video that I think reflects the genuine commitment of all of us to the support of our students and our commitment to getting them to this point, to graduation. That video is also available on the commencement website. So congratulations graduates and thank you to the entire campus community for making this celebration possible.

President Feinstein (05:10):
Thank you very much, Lyndsey, and I certainly want to thank everyone who's worked so hard on commencement, just a great job. So now I'll turn things over to Associate Vice President for Administration, Blaine Nickeson, for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (05:25):
Thank you President Feinstein. Good morning everyone. I want to echo the same congratulations to everyone that has made it through this fall semester like no other, especially our graduates and new Bear alumni. While the level of activity on campus has slowed significantly, the virus continues to be very active in the community. We've not seen a spike in cases or hospitalizations due to Thanksgiving. However, we also haven't seen a significant decrease in cases due to the new level red restrictions that have been in place for about the last three weeks. What we're really experiencing is a very high plateau of new cases, and that leads me to believe that the negative impacts of the Thanksgiving holiday have sort of counteracted the positive impacts of the level red restrictions. Essentially just keeping us at a steady state.

Blaine Nickeson (06:26):
Given the significant reduction on restrictions under level red, we really should be seeing a major impact at this point. And unfortunately we're not. I fear we're going to be experiencing this phenomenon through the holiday season. I'm also saddened to report that in the state, we've seen a big increase in the daily number of deaths due to COVID-19. At the spring peak, we had a single day where we hit a high of 40 deaths. In this much larger wave, we've now had nine days so far where we've hit that number or exceeded it, one day as high as 56. I know at least one Colorado family that's experienced a death due to COVID and my heart aches for all of those families that are dealing with that loss. Please take this virus seriously.

Blaine Nickeson (07:11):
As of this morning, we're monitoring 115 UNC folks in our isolation in our quarantine protocol. We have 42 active positive cases associated with the campus, and five of those are employees, the rest are students. As of last night, we were using 17 of our isolation and quarantine rooms on campus for residential students. Unfortunately as we wrap up Finals Week here, we're still going to have a number of folks... I've got a musical interlude, I guess.

Blaine Nickeson (07:42):
Certainly the big item in the news lately has been vaccines. Yesterday I attended a briefing where the governor and his team announced their vaccination priority tiers. The first tier, as you expect, this is the group we'll be able to vaccinate this winter, includes healthcare workers, first responders and folks living in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. In the spring, the plan is to vaccinate in phase II those over 65, people with chronic health conditions, frontline workers like grocery store employees and school staff at daycares, preschools, K-12 schools. Phase III is for pretty much everybody else. The state says that that might not start until this summer, depending on the supply of vaccine, although in a briefing last week which Dr. Fauci was a part of with the governor, Dr. Fauci stated that he hoped anyone who wanted a vaccine might be able to get one by late April.

Blaine Nickeson (08:40):
But to put that in perspective, even under the best case scenario there, keep in mind that immunity takes time. So, if you were to get the Moderna vaccine on April 20th, you'd get the second dose on May 18th and it wouldn't take full effect until June 1st. So, even if we have a really aggressive rollout of vaccine per Dr. Fauci's hope, it's still going to take some time for everybody to realize that impact. The coronavirus task force and our various committees, we've been working on planning for a wide variety of vaccination scenarios. Planning for the various contingencies. We don't know if UNC might be called on to vaccinate 100 people or 1,000 or 10,000, but we're planning and we're ready to assist in the public health effort.

Blaine Nickeson (09:31):
As a close, I'd want to remind folks that the free saliva-based COVID testing site at Nottingham field remains open six days a week from 9:00 to 6:00 for anyone in the UNC or the greater Weld County community that wants to get tested. It doesn't require insurance, a doctor's note, ID, any of that. While activity on the campus is slow, we really want to make sure that the greater community utilizes that resource. So please share with your friends and family. We want to make sure that the state keeps that vital testing resource on our campus. With that, I'll turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (10:08):
Thanks Blaine. There's also another testing center located near the Family Funplex that I've biked by a couple of times. It's actually a drive-thru, not very crowded. My family went and stopped by and utilized that this week and there were, I think, three people in line. It's also been taken over by, if I believe, Curative as well, if I'm not mistaken.

Blaine Nickeson (10:34):
That's right. That is the second site that Curative has stood up. Looking at the testing numbers, they've been doing about the same number of tests a day as we have been. So it's a good balancing. We have heard some feedback and somebody put in the chat here as well that on Monday, for part of the day our testing site was closed, that was unexpected but they were trying to get that first day up and running at the Greeley, the youth sports complex out there. And so they pulled some of the resources to go do that that day. But since then, we've been back to normal on campus and really want to encourage folks to access either of those. The testing's simple. Again, it's an oral swab that they sort of walk you through how to do. Andy, I know you've had it done a number of times now. It's really not a big deal. So please take advantage of those resources.

President Feinstein (11:25):
Absolutely. Well, thanks Blaine. And now let's hear from our Provost, Mark Anderson, and AVP for Student Affairs, Tobias Guzmán. Mark.

Mark Anderson (11:36):
Thank you President Feinstein. I would also like to add my congratulations to our graduates, job well done. But also to congratulate our faculty and staff who've really contributed and helped those students along their academic journey. Commencement is a time to celebrate our graduates, but it's also a time to reflect on the good work that we're doing to help our students achieve their goals. As President Feinstein indicated, we've had a lot of conversations over the last couple of weeks among academic affairs, we've convened an ad hoc task force, the standing coronavirus task force, as well as president's cabinet has really looked hard at the feedback from students, the feedback from the community, as well as the public health feed in deciding how we're going to address the spring semester.

Mark Anderson (12:26):
From all of these conversations, we've made the following determinations. We are not going to change the published calendar for the spring. So, campus will reopen after winter break and classes will begin on January the 11th. They will conclude with Finals Week on the week through the 7th. We're not going to change the modality of the courses. So courses which are scheduled to be taught face-to-face or hybrid or virtually will continue to be taught in that way. What we are asking is for our faculty to, beginning of the spring semester, very much likely approach the end of the fall semester, we want the faculty to use their best judgment as to how to meet the learning objectives of the course, but doing so in a way that's safe and that takes into consideration the health and safety of our community.

Mark Anderson (13:29):
We've done everything we can on the campus to maintain a healthy and safe learning environment for our students: wearing of masks, washing hands regularly, and social distancing within all of our classrooms. But we understand that there are some concerns. And so we're asking people to use their best judgment. Most of our courses can be met in a virtual environment at the beginning of the semester if that is, in your judgment, the best way to meet the learning objectives and to do so in a safe and healthy manner for your students. Very much like the end of the fall semester we want our faculty to communicate with their students, prior to the beginning of the spring semester, exactly how they will be meeting for the first several weeks of the semester.

Mark Anderson (14:17):
Even face-to-face courses based upon CDHE guidance can meet up to 25% of the time in a virtual environment. For a 16 week semester, that amounts to about two to two and a half, three weeks. So even face-to-face courses could meet in a virtual environment if it meets the health and safety standards but also it serves the learning objectives of the course. This is not an easy decision to make, but it's the best decision based upon all the information that [inaudible 00:14:54] was taking into a lot of considerations, but particularly the student's needs and desires, financial aid considerations, and compliance considerations.

Mark Anderson (15:06):
A detailed communication will be sent out as President Feinstein indicated a little bit later this morning to all faculty staff and students that provides a lot of detail about the beginning of the spring semester. But just to reiterate, we're starting the spring semester on time, January 11th. And we are asking the faculty to use their best judgment in delivering the courses in a healthy and safe environment, but to primarily meet the learning objectives of the courses.

Mark Anderson (15:40):
I would like to remind people that we had an open campus forum on the strategic plan on Tuesday, and we're collecting feedback from that. We encourage everybody to provide feedback as we transition from the planning stage to the implementation stage of the strategic plan. So hopefully everybody had a chance to attend or watch the recording of that campus forum and can go to the Qualtrics survey to provide some feedback.

Mark Anderson (16:13):
Finally, as the semester begins to close out and we approach commencement on Saturday, we want to continue to recognize our faculty who've done an excellent job at serving our students over the course of the fall semester. One of the things that we heard from students was that they were experiencing, during the fall semester, difficulty in making connections to each other, difficult making connections with faculty, difficulty making connections to the course material. And as we communicated that out [inaudible 00:16:45] identified as having exemplary practice. And so we asked colleges to nominate faculty and the Faculty Advisory Committee from CETL looked at all those nominations and identified really exemplary practice.

Mark Anderson (17:05):
Last week I mentioned some of these, and I'm going to complete the list today. From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Marian Hamilton is being recognized. From the College of Performing and Visual Arts, Dr. Janice Dickensheets. From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Sandra Harmon. From the College of Performing and Visual Arts, Dr. Brian Claxton. And from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. I-Huei Lee. Each of these faculty members engaged in different practices in a virtual environment that really helped the students to bridge the gap, the virtual gap if you will, and make connections to the material and to each other. And as a consequence, the students made those connections and performed well in their course. And we want to acknowledge all of our faculty for all the work that was done over the course of the fall semester, an unusual fall semester, in helping our students to really adjust and succeed in the environment that they're faced with. And with that, I will turn the podium over to Tobias.

Tobias Guzmán (18:21):
Thanks Mark, I appreciate that, and welcome everyone. Hello, happy Hanukkah as well. I'd like to, also from the Division of Student Affairs, congratulate all of our students that are graduating. As AVP Lyndsey Crum mentioned, we were able to have a virtual celebration for graduates at the Cultural Services graduation celebration this week. Specifically we had 851 Black, Asian, API, Native and Latinx identifying students earn their UNC degree and ultimately will become alums of UNC. So congratulations to them all.

Tobias Guzmán (19:04):
One bit of information that I think is helpful to know in terms of in preparation for next semester, Career Readiness and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences faculty are partnering to have the first statewide K-12 Educator Employment Days event. What this entails is other universities in the state of Colorado will combine their teacher fairs with UNC's K-12 Educator Employment Days for the entire state of Colorado. This is the first of its kind and the host will be UNC. The dates of this virtual event will probably be sometime in April, but because of the events combining forces to have this kind of event, the data is still yet to be determined.

Tobias Guzmán (19:57):
Transitioning into winter break, a reminder as we wind down this fall semester. Students who would like to stay on campus during winter break can do so, and they would need to sign up for winter break housing on the housing website. For some students, they'd rather stay on campus and continue their jobs within the city, around our city. They may find their residence hall room more comforting than going home. We expect to have about 100 to 150 students living with us during that time. So, keep your thoughts with those students who are here on our campus during this winter break.

Tobias Guzmán (20:41):
Right around the corner is spring, and Housing and Dining will welcome back students. The halls will open on January 8th for new students and returning students will be able to join us beginning at 8:00 AM on Friday, January 9th. Meal plans will begin as well. Finally, from the Division of Student Affairs, we want to thank you for all of your work with students. We really appreciate the time that you spend with them. We look forward to the spring semester, but first we hope to enjoy a little bit of a different pace in the coming weeks so that we are ready for spring semester. Thank you so much for your time, and I'm going to turn it over to President Feinstein.

President Feinstein (21:27):
Thank you Tobias for your presentation and Mark. We're going to see you all here again next week on Thursday morning, and as always, stay safe and be healthy everybody. Take care.