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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

February 11, Operational Update

February 11 Update (Watch on YouTube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, February 11th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. And I'm glad that you're all joining us.

President Feinstein (00:11):
At the end of last week, Weld County moved from level orange to level yellow on Colorado's COVID dial. And the University has adjusted its operations accordingly, while maintaining protective measures. AVP for Administration Blaine Nickeson will give us an update about this in just a moment.

President Feinstein (00:32):
As many of you know, the federal government extended additional relief to higher education, including funds to support students. I have approved a plan on how to distribute our higher education emergency relief funds. Much like last spring, the University will be distributing funds to all students, both undergraduate and graduate, recognizing that many of you have faced financial difficulties during the pandemic.

President Feinstein (01:00):
We are working through the logistics of distributing this money in a very efficient manner, and students can expect to receive an email from UNC next week indicating how much money is available to them and how to claim their funds.

President Feinstein (01:15):
I also want to assure our DACA students that the University will be providing, excuse me, aid to you as well to meet your needs in this difficult time.

President Feinstein (01:27):
On a non-COVID related note, I want to remind everyone that we have a board of trustees meeting tomorrow beginning at 8:30 AM. And we also have a meeting with the board of trustees, finance and audit committee this morning, beginning at 10:00 AM. And the UNC community is invited to attend both of these meetings. And if you go to the UNCO.edu website, you can find out how to access both of those meetings.

President Feinstein (01:53):
And with that, I'm going to hand things over to Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine?

Blaine Nickeson (02:00):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. Hope you're staying warm. We're in for a big blast of arctic air over this weekend. We may have high temps only in the single digits, and if we clear up at night, we could get as low as about 20 below. So definitely make sure you're taking care of your pipes and things like that. No hoses connected outside. Keep those doors open on the exterior wall places where you have sinks and things like that.

Blaine Nickeson (02:27):
The state announced, as Andy said, the state announced changes to the color-coded dial system last Friday. Those took effect over the weekend. Weld County is now in level yellow, which has allowed us to loosen restrictions on capacity limits around our dining facilities, rec center workplaces, and both indoor and outdoor events. Probably not a lot of outdoor events coming this weekend.

Blaine Nickeson (02:51):
Detailed explanation of these changes, they were included in the COVID Digest that we sent out this week. And they're also available on our website. So feel free to check those out. The way the dial's calculated and adjusted has also been tweaked to make it more responsive.

Blaine Nickeson (03:06):
It's now based on a one-week measure, as opposed to two, and it'll move between levels much more quickly. In the past, to move to a more restrictive level, the County was given a warning and time to recover, and unfortunately, the State learned that that just didn't work. It's more important for us to rapidly be able to respond.

Blaine Nickeson (03:27):
Speaking of the dial, Weld County's sitting squarely in the yellow category for case rates and test positivity. The fast and steady drop that we saw after the new year throughout January has really plateaued. Our numbers are roughly the same as they were a week ago. Yesterday at a briefing, the State Epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that we're seeing the same phenomenon statewide. Essentially the rate of decline has slowed.

Blaine Nickeson (03:54):
Hopefully during this period of lower disease transmission and hospitalizations, with both of those measures, we're back to numbers we haven't seen since back in about October. Hopefully we can really make progress in vaccinating as many people as possible. The White House announced a 10% weekly increase in doses for states starting next week, which amounts to about 9,000 extra doses for Colorado.

Blaine Nickeson (04:22):
There was also promising news delivered to Governors through the White House that Pfizer, this week said they expect to deliver 50 million more doses than expected just here the first quarter. Also it's likely that the Johnson & Johnson one shot vaccine will be authorized for use by the first week of March and immediately shipped.

Blaine Nickeson (04:42):
The committee that makes those decisions I believe meets on February 28th. And then there could be a decision very quickly after that. If that happens, we could nearly double our supply of vaccines in about a month.

Blaine Nickeson (04:55):
Dr. Fauci was actually on the Today Show this morning and said he thought members of the general public might be able to start getting vaccinated in April. I actually share his optimism on the vaccine campaign. I think we're going to get to a point in late spring where we probably have a better supply than we do demand. And I'm really looking forward to that.

Blaine Nickeson (05:16):
I've also challenged our teams to start thinking about how we work on issues of vaccine hesitancy and things like that, particularly with our younger, healthier population of students. We're hopeful that we may receive some vaccine here at UNC next week, especially with those increased supplies, but no news on that front to share.

Blaine Nickeson (05:37):
Yesterday, the CDC issued additional recommendations related to masking. Dr. Fauci and others have been saying for weeks, we really need to up our mask game. The new recommendation is to always wear a multi-layer mask with a wire over the nose.

Blaine Nickeson (05:53):
There's a number of ways you can achieve that. You could wear a disposable surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, or you could just wear a surgical mask that's been modified to fit your face tightly, such as by tying the ear loops to eliminate those gaps on the side. You could also wear a KN95 mask. These better surgical KN95 masks are widely available at retail locations. I've seen them at Home Depot and Costco and King Soopers. They're really easy to come by.

Blaine Nickeson (06:22):
The reason for the new recommendations is that research has shown how much more effective those masking strategies are. And they're a great defense against the more transmissible UK or B117 variants, which as the State epidemiologist put it, it's more sticky. It binds to the cells in your nose and your mouth more easily, so eliminating those transmission routes is really important.

Blaine Nickeson (06:46):
Here on campus cases are holding steady and they've remained very manageable. We're monitoring 74 individuals in isolation or quarantine. Of those 74, nine are employees. The rest are students. We have 26 active positive cases. Only one is an employee. And of our 84 isolation and quarantine rooms on campus, we're only using 12.

Blaine Nickeson (07:08):
As I wrap up just to remind her about the new testing site on campus, it's easy to drive up to and get tested. Don't even have to get out of your car. It's fast, it's free, it's easy. I'd recommend folks symptomatic or not pop in for a test every week or two.

Blaine Nickeson (07:22):
I know Andy, you get tested every week and I just think that's a great practice and a great way to help keep the spread from happening from people who may be asymptomatic. So with that, happy to turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (07:35):
Thanks Blaine. And now let's hear from our Provost Mark Anderson and our Student Affairs Vice President Katrina Rodriguez.

Mark Anderson (07:42):
Thank you very much, Andy. As I look out my window here at Carter Hall, it looks like a snow globe outside today. It's beautiful here on campus. Good morning, everybody. As we continue to bring more instructional effort back to campus, I want to use this as an opportunity to highlight some of the exceptional practice that our faculty have engaged in to meet and often exceed the learning objectives of our courses.

Mark Anderson (08:07):
While much of the face-to-face instruction occurs on campus, many programs at UNC also have practicum field work or clinical experiences that typically occur face to face, but in the community, not in our campus. In these cases, the COVID restrictions on instruction are not dependent just on the UNC policies, but those of partner institutions. Kim Murza, along with Tina Farrell work with graduate students in teaching the clinical practice of speech language pathology.

Mark Anderson (08:38):
This year, they've moved the application portion of the course from the public school setting to a telepractice setting. In this course, Kim and Tina help the graduate students to build learning kits that are delivered to the public schools, who then distribute these kits to the families that the graduate students are working with.

Mark Anderson (08:57):
Once a week using Zoom, the graduate students engage in an hour long session that involves group reading and engagement activity that involves motor skills and language development activities for the young children that they're working with. In breakout sessions, the graduate students facilitate language and pre-literacy learning for these children.

Mark Anderson (09:20):
Feedback from the families has been enthusiastic, with some saying that the customized telesessions have resulted in better outcomes for their child than what the student was getting in the public school. A benefit from this shift of the course is that graduate students have recognized that using telepractice is a mechanism for reaching students in areas of the states, particularly rural areas that states that wouldn't normally have access to these types of services.

Mark Anderson (09:46):
Telehealth provides a peek into the future of healthcare and our faculty and the audiology and speech language sciences are providing experiences to our students to prepare them for the exciting future of telehealth.

Mark Anderson (10:00):
I want to thank Kim and Tina for just another example of how our UNC faculty are taking the restrictions imposed by Coronavirus and finding new ways to enhance our student learning.

Mark Anderson (10:13):
We must remain diligent in masking, social distancing, and washing our hands particularly as we get more and more face-to-face instruction. And with that, I would like to turn the podium over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (10:31):
Good morning, everybody. Hope you're doing well on this cold morning. I get to spend some time with some really cool things this morning. As many of you may know, the César Chávez Cultural Center is celebrating its 35th anniversary here at UNC. And as part of the anniversary, we are working with alumni of the University... I'm drawing a, Armando Silva, to create a mural for us. And we will have an unveiling of that next Wednesday.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:07):
So the project is to commemorate the Chávez Center's 35th anniversary and demonstrate gratitude and respect to those who came before us and exemplify a legacy of paying it forward.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:19):
We have two students who are staff of the César Chávez Center, Miriam Renteria Gonzalez is the Program Assessment Coordinator. She is a senior majoring in Mexican American Studies, with social justice and public policy concentration, and an Africana Studies and Leadership Studies minor. She identifies as first-generation, a dreamer, and a woman of color. And she's very passionate about social justice and creating spaces for all identities.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:51):
And then secondly, her co-chair is Ydrenni Caparachini. She's the historian with a focus on the 35th anniversary celebration that they've been doing all year. She's a double major Psychology and Mexican American Studies with an emphasis on Youth Advocacy. She was born and raised here in Lafayette, Colorado.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:13):
I'm just impressed. Our students have all these majors and minors and all the things they're involved in, it's just astounding how amazing UNC students are. So they've been working with Armando since the beginning of fall. They hosted a number of campus calls to narrow ideas for the mural and serve between that liaison between the student feedback and Armando to finalize the image. So what I love is this organic opportunity for folks to come together to talk about what does a mural look like for a 35th anniversary? And what is it that we want to have the campus have that representation for the Center?

Katrina Rodriguez (12:56):
So they are also working with facilities management to finalize the location of the mural in campus common. So I can't wait to see it. So next Wednesday, the 17th at 4:00 Miriam and Ydrenni will be hosting a Zoom call to unveil the mural and have a conversation with Armando about his perspective of the mural and the colors, the images, all that kind of stuff.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:22):
So that should be really fascinating. So I just encourage folks, if you want to go to the César Chávez Cultural Center, you'll be able to click on the event and register so you can get the Zoom link. So please do that. I think this is going to be a tremendous opportunity.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:40):
Secondly, we have our housing and residential education program. Michael Klitzke is the Assistant Director of Academic Programs and he was notified by the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, so it's an international professional association that our HRE Department was named as a finalist for this year's Benchworks Launches Assessment and Impact Awards.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:09):
These awards are given annually to programs that are using data from the ACUHO-I Benchworks Assessment to improve their on-campus housing experience for students. And typically they do allow programs to self-nominate, but their analytics and research team is nominating HRE because they identified our program here as having a significant increase on satisfaction in community environments factor score.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:38):
So after reviewing all the national data and UNC's HRE department came up at the top over the past two years. So the next stage will be to have an interview with Michael or others in the department. And then they'll be letting us know if in fact our HRE will be the recipient of this award this year.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:00):
So this is huge. All the work that HRE has done this year, partnered with dining to make an experience so impactful for residents during the pandemic where they have had such incredible... The pivot they've had to do constantly, I just am so proud of them and their hard work. And I just want to shout to the rooftops just how wonderful this is to be acknowledged in this way.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:33):
I can't imagine how great they're feeling. So send good energy that they are the finalist and to be recognized by this international association is tremendous. So that's my good news for today. Andy, I'll send it back over to you.

President Feinstein (15:47):
Great news, Katrina. Thanks for sharing. And thank you, Mark for your presentation, and Blaine. Thanks everybody for tuning in and as always stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.