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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

December 17, Operational Update

December 17 Update (Watch on Youtube).


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. Thursday, December 17th, and this is our final weekly operational status update call for 2020. I want to start by thanking all of our students, faculty, and staff for the roles you played in helping to keep one another healthy and safe throughout the fall semester. I also want to congratulate our 2020 graduates once more. We celebrated the class of 2020 through our virtual commencement activities last weekend. And I'm so proud of our graduates accomplishments in the midst of unprecedented challenges. I know how hard everyone has worked this semester through the nearly 10 months since we felt COVID-19's first effects at UNC last spring. And I also want to encourage all of you to find time to relax and recharge over the break. I certainly will. Now, I'm going to turn things over to associate vice president for administration, Blaine Nickeson to provide an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:07):
Thanks, President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. And again, congratulations to all of our students, faculty, and staff from taking it through the fall semester. It's certainly going to be one to remember. On campus, the wrapping up of activities and our low density is giving our COVID case management team a much needed reprieve. We're currently tracking 61 active isolation and quarantine cases. Our peak for the fall semester was about a month ago when we were tracking almost 400, 376 people in that protocol. We currently have 24 positive cases associated with the campus. Again, compared to our peak four weeks ago, we were at 111. We're only currently using two of our isolation and quarantine rooms, which is great, giving a much needed break to our housing and dining staff as well. We're now able to look back at the full fall semester. The COVID case management team handled over 2,100 isolation and quarantine cases.

Blaine Nickeson (02:07):
UNC experienced 526 positive COVID cases. 40 of those were employees, the rest were students. Our team in housing and dining accommodated 276 stays in our isolation and quarantine rooms with each stay ranging from a few days to two weeks. Our amazing dining staff and volunteers made sure that those students in our isolation and quarantine rooms had three meals a day delivered. The prevalence of the virus in Weld County and Colorado remains very high, but we're seeing some gradual reductions of new cases. The level red restrictions are working to bend the curve albeit not as quickly as we'd like to see, this likely a result of the increased activity associated with the holidays. I also think on the other side of that, many more individuals are either experiencing or are close to someone who's had suffered a loss due to COVID.

Blaine Nickeson (03:05):
I know on my Facebook feed, I've seen two friends lose an immediate family member in the last few weeks. While we're seeing some success at reducing new cases, unfortunately, we're experiencing a record high amount of daily deaths due to COVID. In the spring peak, we were losing an average of 35 Coloradans a day. And on a single day, we had 40 deaths. Sadly, we've been averaging nearly 60 deaths a day in the past few weeks with 19 days eclipsing that spring high watermark. So, unfortunately the history books are going to look back on this December as a very trying and difficult time. There are reasons to be hopeful though. This week we've seen the joyful arrival of the first safe and effective vaccine. Healthcare providers in our community started getting the shots of the Pfizer vaccine in just the last few days. And in the coming weeks, we'll vaccinate more frontline folks as well as the vulnerable residents of our nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Blaine Nickeson (04:08):
It's also widely expected that the vaccine from Moderna will be recommended for approval today and start shipping to the states this weekend. Yesterday, there was another awesome bright spot with the Pfizer vaccine. It comes in a vial that contains enough vaccine for five shots. So, they draw out a part of it and then add in, I believe, a saline or something like that before it's administered into your arm. Pharmacists and those healthcare folks that are actually doing the shots, they were finding that the vials overfilled. There's actually a sixth or seventh shot in many of those vials that was going to waste. So, yesterday, the FDA approved using that vaccine. We can now stretch that supply by 20% to 40%. That that doesn't sound like a lot going from five shots to six, but when we're talking about millions and millions of vaccines, that's a huge deal and really ramps up our early capabilities here.

Blaine Nickeson (05:05):
Stretching to use every last drop reminds me of my late grandma. She used to put her aluminum foil in the dishwasher and reuse it, but it's just great to see us using every last drop or resource that we have. Our team's working hard to prepare for the vaccination of our various populations. Obviously within the CDC and the state prioritization tables, we've got folks all over the spectrum. We have healthcare providers and first responders here on campus that are placed in a very high priority. And then we've got frontline staff, like custodians and dining services that also fall into higher priority groups. The bulk of our campus' population, the healthy individuals under the age of 65 fall into the third tier. That means vaccines will likely to be available by late spring or early summer for them, but we'll be prepared to vaccinate whoever we can whenever we can on campus. And we're planning for a wide variety of scenarios and contingencies. That's all I have for this morning and this year, Andy. I'm happy to turn it back over to you. And again, thank you to everybody for helping us get through this semester.

President Feinstein (06:16):
Thanks, Blaine. And now, let's hear reports from our provost, Mark Anderson and our vice president for student affairs, Katrina Rodriguez. Mark.

Mark Anderson (06:24):
Thank you, President Feinstein. I would also like to add my congratulations to all of our graduates. Although it was a different commencement, it was really very meaningful and powerful and I very much appreciate it. And as a consequence, I would also like to thank the team that put it together. It was very, very, very well done. And so, thank you for that. Congratulations to our graduates. Last week, the campus had a open forum for the strategic planning. We have a feedback form available to get your feedback on the plan and particularly on the plan as we move from planning stage to implementation, the forum is available through tomorrow. So, we really encourage people to either watch, if you weren't able to participate in the forum, watch it, the recorded version, and to give your feedback. And we'll use that as we begin to really start to implement the first phase of the 10 year strategic plan, growing not drifting, to 2030.

Mark Anderson (07:28):
As we close out the fall semester, I think it's time to start thinking about the spring semester. And we want to remind everybody that we are maintaining the academic calendar for the spring that is published. We'll be starting this semester on January 11th. We'll maintain our spring break and we plan on concluding in the regular time. Very much like the fall semester, we're giving the faculty the latitude to adjust their instructional modalities to best meet the health and safety needs of the class, but also to meet the learning objectives of the course. So, as the semester begins, we want faculty to use their best judgment as to how they should be instructing their courses to meet the learning objectives of the course. We also want you to begin to reach out to the students who are enrolled in your course to let them know what they can expect, particularly that first week or two of the semester.

Mark Anderson (08:27):
I've spent a lot of time over the last several weeks recognizing many of our faculty and staff for so much of the good work that was happening over the fall semester. And I would like to just reiterate over the fall, we had approximately 11,000 unique students enrolled in 3,000 course sections. And it was only through the efforts of the faculty and staff of the university that we ended up having a healthy, and safe, and very successful fall semester. And so, rather than recognizing individuals today, I feel compelled to recognize the entire campus community for all the work that you did to serve our students well. Whether it be in the grounds crew, housing and dining, or faculty and staff, everybody contributed, came together to contribute to a very, very, very successful fall semester.

Mark Anderson (09:20):
And I would be remiss if I didn't express my deepest, deepest gratitude to each and every one of you for all the work that was done in what has proven to be a very successful, but certainly a different kind of fall semester. So, thank you, thank you, thank you. And then finally, I would like to say I wish everybody a healthy and happy holiday period, and I look forward to seeing you back on campus, hopefully in January. And with that, I will turn it over to my colleague, Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (09:57):
Thank you, Mark, and good morning, everybody. Great to be here with you just so close to the end of the semester and to echo everybody's congratulations to the campus. And I think it's so important to acknowledge all of the work, all of the creativity that went into getting us through the fall semester and remaining as an open campus and everything continuing. It's truly the work of every individual, every student. And it's very powerful to look back and think about where we've been as well as wishing everybody a wonderful, well-deserved, restful, rejuvenating winter break. If there was ever a time that a break was necessary, it is certainly this semester. And I'm grateful to Andy and the cabinet for finding a way to have us have some time in the last few years between Christmas and New Year holiday to have that time. I think it's so valuable.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:08):
So, I just have a couple of other items this morning that the dining halls are closed for the semester, as we traditionally do. However, we will have dining staff who will continue to provide meals to any of our students who are in quarantine or isolation over the break. And so, even when the university's closed, as we say, we certainly always have a crew that remains supporting the 300 to 400 students who are on campus, and certainly our residence hall staff, our dining staff, UNC PD, some of our grounds, or our facilities crew, certainly the custodians who are also cleaning rooms as students are coming and going from quarantine and isolation. So, just a reminder, any of these folks, if you want to give them a shout out for the continued work that they will do during this time, I'm sure they will very much appreciate that.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:13):
Also, while the Bear Pantry is closed, we do have food bags available at UNC PD, as well as with our neighborhood coordinators in our residence halls. So, if you know of students who are in need, those are a couple of resources that we have available for pick up. So, certainly wanting to support students who could utilize additional food at this time. I also want to connect with you a wonderful email that our AVP, Lyndsey Crum sent to campus who was thanking folks involved for stepping up to the challenge, as she says, to think outside the box for commencement and making it such a powerful and celebratory opportunity for our graduates, knowing that, obviously things are different, but the success and the pride for students who got to that finish line, as well as all of our students who completed the fall semester. And AVP Crum reminds us of a Dr. Seuss book that our commencement speaker, Katherine Archuleta shared, "Nobody said it was easy, but they did promise it would be worth it."

Katrina Rodriguez (13:34):
And I think this is true of every single person in our campus community, getting to the finish line as to where we are now, and that it certainly has been worth it. And it certainly has been a lift that everybody participated in. So, I'm very grateful. And as every one of my colleagues here has said today that, just from the bottom of my heart, thank our campus community for their creativity, their compassion, their leadership, and dedication to ensure that every single person on this campus for the success that we saw in very challenging times. So, the pride is definitely swelling in terms of who we are as a campus, and bears coming together to support bears. So, thank you so much, everybody, and I hope you have a wonderful, restful, restorative holiday break. You can tell where my priority is with that. I'm ready for a little bit of downtime. So, thank you everyone. And I'll turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (14:42):
Thank you, Katrina, and thank you, Mark. And thank you to everybody who tuned in for this week's update. And as you heard, we're going to take a couple of weeks off from giving these weekly updates over the winter break, so our team can get a bit of rest before we start the new year. So, our next weekly update call will be Thursday, January the 7th. And as we close, I want to wish all of you happy holidays and a happy new year. And as always stay safe, be healthy, bears. Take care.