Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

December 3, Operational Update

December 3 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, December 3rd, and this is our weekly operational status update. Thank you all for joining us. I hope you all had a restful and safe Thanksgiving break. In spite of the many challenges 2020 has thrown at us, we have so much to be thankful for. We have reached the end of the fall semester, thanks to the diligence and persistence of our students, faculty and staff, and I appreciate everyone who has helped in our success from our students, to our faculty, our facility crews, to our student health center staff and case management teams, this has truly been a real team effort.

President Feinstein (00:46):
As our students prepare for finals week, I want to encourage you all to give these last few days of the semester your very best, finish strong Bears. And we are finalizing plans for the spring semester and plan to communicate about the start of the semester in the coming days. And you can expect to continue to receive communications from UNC over the break. And we will be here the next two Thursdays before taking a short break for the holidays, but we'll continue to share updates through our other channels. And with that, I'm going to hand over the microphone to AVP for administration, Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:30):
Thank you President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I know my family certainly did, although it was a little different than usual, much smaller, that's for sure, we're just the four of us. I'd like to start off this morning with the hot topic we've all heard in the news, changes by the CDC for the length of quarantine periods. Yesterday, CDC announced that they would allow states and localities to consider adopting looser standards for quarantine and certain situations under to everyone that quarantine is for someone who's exposed to a person that has COVID-19 not someone that has [inaudible 00:02:08] virus.

Blaine Nickeson (02:10):
The prior guidance was that anyone who had close contact with a positive case needed to quarantine for 14 days to see if they developed symptoms of the virus. The amended guidance would allow symptom-free people in quarantine to leave after 10 days or seven days of [inaudible 00:02:28] test. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment or CDPHE announced yesterday they're considering the new CDC guidance and they'll issue some updated frameworks in the coming days.

Blaine Nickeson (02:40):
They still consider the 14 day quarantine to be the "gold standard" for any possible exposure. The CDC actually agrees, but they're struggling with balancing the public health benefits of reducing the length of quarantine in some situations, in order to increase compliance with quarantine orders. Many people are not in a situation where they're able to take that two weeks and not be working or out there earning money for their families. So it's a difficult balancing act for public health officials.

Blaine Nickeson (03:11):
For now, UNC will continue to follow the state's guidance for a 14 day quarantine, but we're definitely monitoring closely if there might be some other options that make sense. Despite our reduced activity on campus, as we wind down the fall semester, the COVID testing kiosk at Nottingham Field remains in operation. It's there six days a week, they're closed on Sundays, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and the test is free, quick, painless, it's just a cheek swab rather than the nasal test. We'd encourage anybody in our Bear community or the greater Greeley Weld community to get tested if they have any symptoms or they may have been exposed.

Blaine Nickeson (03:51):
To add to testing capacity in our community, the state also just opened another testing site at the Youth Sports Complex out on 65th. So another good option for folks, especially in West Greeley and Windsor and those kinds of places. I'd like to remind everyone that Weld County and all of our neighboring counties are in level red. That means that indoor dining is prohibited at restaurants and at dining halls, all indoor events are canceled and personal gatherings outside of your household are not allowed. On campus, it means offices and workspaces are limited to 10% of capacity as is our rec center.

Blaine Nickeson (04:29):
We're really at a critical point where we need to do everything we can to limit our contacts with others and help us start attacking this virus again. We've actually hit a grim milestone in the state. The number of daily deaths due to COVID has risen over the peak in April. It takes a while for deaths to be accounted for, but we now know that November 20th had a death count of 44, which is the highest we've seen in this pandemic. The seven day average for deaths is close to that April peak and it'll eclipse it soon. Sadly, given our high COVID hospitalizations, we're at nearly 2,000 people hospitalized in Colorado for COVID right now versus about 1,300 in the spring. We know that the number of deaths [inaudible 00:05:15] right now around us continue to see [inaudible 00:05:21] a little bit for us on campus, just a little bit, given the reduced activity.

Blaine Nickeson (05:29):
As of this morning, we have just over 200 people in our tracking protocol, now that was up near 400 two weeks ago when I reported. We have 52 active positive cases associated with UNC right now. We're still using 25 of our isolation and quarantine rooms, so we still have folks on campus and they'll continue to be here for a while as we let the tail of the semester run out. And we have folks that live with us over the winter break every year, not just this year.

Blaine Nickeson (05:58):
As an example, we're starting to see the impacts of Thanksgiving gatherings. We had a student that just tested positive and they had to turn around and notify more than 20 people that they had gathered with for Thanksgiving about their exposure. So those have to be difficult phone calls and texts to make.

Blaine Nickeson (06:17):
The coronavirus task force continues to meet multiple times per week along with its respective committees. We're working on a number of pressing issues, detailing vaccination plans for the different priority tiers of campus, refining our case management process over the course of the winter break here, how we'd handle increased isolation and quarantine needs, and planning for the variety of situations we might be facing as we start the spring semester.

Blaine Nickeson (06:46):
So lots going on, both in the community at UNC and the work won't stop just because it's winter break, but we're going to continue to work hard to support UNC and our Bears as we move towards the spring semester. So, Andy, that's all I have this morning, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (07:05):
Thanks for the update Blaine, and now let's hear from our provost, Mark Anderson and our Vice President for Student Affairs, Katrina Rodriguez.

Mark Anderson (07:13):
Thank you President Feinstein. I'd like to echo President Feinstein and Blaine in saying, I hope everybody had a peaceful and restful Thanksgiving. We have a lot going on, even though we're closing in on the end of the semester. Next week on Tuesday, the 8th, we're going to have a campus forum on strategic planning, and that is scheduled from 1:30 to 3:30. This two hour timeframe is going to be divided into 15 to 20 minute segments, with those segments dedicated to conversations about the plan from each of the five vision area perspectives. The five vision areas for students first, empower inclusivity, enhance and invest, innovate and create, and connect and celebrate. This will give us an opportunity for the community to really provide a good amount of feedback on each of the five vision elements and how they articulate into the plan moving forward.

Mark Anderson (08:09):
Much of the focus of the forum is going to be on moving from planning to implementation. We have to remember that the strategic plan, Rowing Not Drifting 2030 is a ten-year plan, and over the course of the fall semester, the strategic planning committee divided the 10 years of the plan into five, two-year phases. And it's important that we move into the implementation because we are six months into the first two-year phase, and we want to get to the point where we are making progress and meeting the outcomes objectives of the plan.

Mark Anderson (08:45):
So I encourage everybody to participate in that forum, and we look forward to your feedback. As President Feinstein indicated, we are beginning to have serious considerations about the spring. We remain in consultation with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, Weld County Public Health, the governor's office, and the other Colorado universities about the spring semester.

Mark Anderson (09:11):
We've also convened a group of faculty and staff to discuss the spring semester start. And in those conversations, there are many considerations that we have to account for and how the start of the spring semester impacts students, faculty, and staff. We need to remain responsive to the changing public health situation, but based on best information that we currently have, we are currently committed to starting the spring semester as scheduled on the 11th of January and maintaining the academic calendar as published. We're going to generate some more information and share that out over the next several days.

Mark Anderson (10:02):
Finally, in the fall semester, we asked the colleges, schools and departments to engage in conversations about teaching practices that have been effective. This was in response to a student survey which indicated that many students in the fall semester, and particularly those in virtual classes were having a difficult time making connections to other students, making connections to the material, and really making connections back to the university.

Mark Anderson (10:27):
And so, we wanted to engage in conversations about practices that faculty were having that were successful. And from those conversations, colleges nominated faculty who had exemplary behavior or exemplary practice for recognition, those nominations were vetted by The Seattle Faculty Advisory Board and they identified faculty whose practices over the fall semester were really exemplary. And we hope that those faculty will be sharing those practices with their colleagues as we move into the spring semester.

Mark Anderson (11:03):
And so, by College of Education Behavioral Sciences, professor Amy Szymanski, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Michael Kimball, the Monfort College of Business, Professor Dallas Everhart, the College of Natural and Health Sciences, Professor Ginger Fisher, the College of Performing and Visual Arts, Professor Ashley Pontiff and University Libraries, Professor Rachel Dineen.

Mark Anderson (11:31):
Each of these faculty colleagues use a variety of different techniques to create engaging learning environments for their students, and really did an excellent job at helping students to make those connections back to the university and each other. And so we want to thank them for their practices and really recognize those.

Mark Anderson (11:52):
Finally, as the semester comes to a close, I'd just like to once again thank the entire UNC community for all that you have done to continue to serve our students well and doing so in an environment, in a manner that maintains the health and safety of our community. So thank you once again, and we look forward to finals, we look forward to our coming winter break and the beginning of the spring. And with that, I'd like to turn the podium over to my colleague, Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:22):
Hi, thank you Mark. Good morning, everybody. Great to be here with you today. In celebration of our graduates next week, there are a number of commencement ceremonies, I'm sure you've all been getting the emails and information about the college graduation ceremonies, the doctoral hooding. We have our cultural services commencement ceremony on the 8th in terms of recognition.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:52):
And so, along with that, I want to talk a little bit about career readiness. And for a long time we've been using this term and getting college graduates career ready, but we haven't necessarily defined that very well. And so there's a National Association of Colleges and Employers or NACE, has worked with a task force of representatives from higher education and corporate entities to develop the definition and some competencies associated with career readiness for the new college graduate. And the definition that this association has created is career readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:41):
So along with that definition, some of the competencies that are being recognized, and it is within our work as an institution, and I know that as we talk about next Tuesday, as Mark mentioned, with our, Rowing Not Drifting vision 2030, that there's a large aspect of the strategic planning related to career readiness in all facets of the university. And so, these will be some tremendous opportunities to take a look at these competencies and figure out how we as an institution have already been working toward those and how we can also set them as metrics and goals to achieve.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:24):
And so, some of those include critical thinking and problem solving. Might I also add, I think these make sense to us because this is what we think about anyway, and I love having them in front of us. So oral and written communications, teamwork and collaboration, digital technology, which we know our students are great at already, leadership, work ethic and career management, in terms of somebody being able to articulate one's skills and strengths knowledge in a particular area, as well as a global and intercultural fluency.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:56):
And so, I look forward to the opportunity to work with many folks across campus, and I know that Renee Welch is the director of career readiness center here on campus is excited as she gets ready to launch a task force, a committee to be looking at this across campus.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:18):
And the second thing I'd like to share is that today annually we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. And the theme for 2020 is, Not All Disabilities are Visible. And so, the whole point of this day of celebration is to raise awareness and understanding that disabilities may not be visible, including mental illness, brain injuries, learning and cognitive dysfunctions and many others, of course.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:48):
At UNC specifically, over 60% of students who work with the Disability Resource Center have non-visible disabilities. So the recognition of this day is really powerful as a reminder to us all, to evaluate the barriers that may exist within our departments and classrooms that may be a hindrance to people with either a visible or non-visible disability. And I know that faculty are very attuned to supporting our students with disabilities and working with the DRC with accommodations and really working to make sure that students with disabilities have everything that they need in order to be successful as we adjust what will be useful for each individual.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:34):
And then finally, along with Mark, I just want to say thank you to the entire community, just pushing through this fall. It's been a big lift and we've been appreciative of our colleagues across campus, and most certainly our students who have been working so hard. And so, just thank you to everybody for the community that has been built. So with that, I will turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (17:01):
Thank you Katrina for your update, thanks Mark as well, and as always, stay safe, be healthy everybody, and we'll see you here again next Thursday, take care.