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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

February 18, Operational Update

February 18 Update (Watch on YouTube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, February 18th, and this is our weekly operational status update call, and I want to thank all of you for joining us this morning. We are over one month into the spring semester, and I'm pleased to say the number of positive COVID-19 cases among our campus community continues to decrease. The news locally and nationally around decreasing COVID cases and increased vaccine supply is very encouraging. While we will continue to ask our community to make responsible choices and not let their guard down, the outlook has gotten better each day. I also know that many of our students continue to struggle with the economic impact of the pandemic, and last week I shared that I had approved a plan for how we will distribute $3.8 million in federal higher education emergency relief funds to our students.

President Feinstein (01:00):
Earlier this morning, we began sending emails to our Title IV an eligible asset and DACA students with details about how much money they will receive and instructions on how to claim it. I encourage our students to keep an eye out for this message in their Bear mail accounts. And additional emergency funds will be available to students shortly through an application process. And with that, I'm going to turn things over to Blaine Nickeson for an update, Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:31):
Good morning, everyone. Thank you, President Feinstein. I'm glad to be here this morning, and I'd summarize my report as being optimistic. There's a convergence of indicators that give me that optimism, although I should note that it's cautious optimism. COVID's thrown us enough curve balls that it's wise to keep our guard up. That said the state's new case rate is the lowest it's been in over four months.

Blaine Nickeson (01:55):
First, let's talk about campus status. We're only monitoring 16 active cases of isolation or quarantine associated with UNC, that's the lowest level we've seen during this entire academic year with the exception of winter break. Those 16 cases are made up of nine students and seven employees. For positive cases, we've only got four right now. One of those is an employee. And right now we're only using two of our isolation and quarantine rooms on campus, that's the fewest in over four months as well.

Blaine Nickeson (02:26):
We also have a much better testing situation, both in Colorado and on campus than we did at this point in the fall semester. As a state, we're doing double the amount of daily tests that we were in the sixth week of the fall semester. We also have the capacity to do way more, the demand just isn't there. Our on-campus testing site across from the UC, which we didn't have at this point in the fall semester, it's operating from eight to six, seven days a week. It's free and easy testing. And right now we're seeing results come back in less than 24 hours.

Blaine Nickeson (02:57):
On the vaccine front we've been ramping up nationally. President Biden's goal when taking office was to do one million shots a day. Right now we're actually doing 1.7 million shots per day. And the forecast at the end of March is to be at 3.3 million shots a day, that's just with Pfizer and Moderna supplies and doesn't anticipate things like Johnson & Johnson coming online. While vaccines are a hot commodity right now, I'm actually very bullish on vaccines. I believe in the next couple of months we're going to see much wider availability. As of today, roughly one in eight Coloradans has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. While we don't have yet our own supply here on campus, we're preparing for that to happen soon. We also continue to work with our excellent partners at Weld County Public Health to get our high priority groups vaccinated at their facility. For example, I'm extremely happy to report we were able to identify all UNC employees age 70 and older and coordinate shots for them if they hadn't already been scheduled somewhere else, so big kudos to our team for working on that.

Blaine Nickeson (04:05):
Despite all the positive trends we need to proceed with caution. We know the CDC's advised that we really need to up our mask game, using a higher quality mask or doubling up to provide better protection, especially from the variants of COVID that are coming. We're learning more about those variants, a study that I saw out of Harvard yesterday found that the UK or the B117 variant causes a longer period of being infectious compared to old school COVID, we may need to evaluate our quarantine and isolation periods. Probably our biggest risk is that as we approach the one-year anniversary of all public health restrictions we let our guard down and we reduce our distancing, reduce our mass usage, start gathering in groups again.

Blaine Nickeson (04:48):
I believe we're close to getting back to something that feels like normal in the summer and the fall, we just need to ride out these next few months. Honestly, I'm very positive about fall being relatively normal. Even if we see a spike in cases this spring due to variants before we can administer more vaccine. So let's keep up the good work for a few more months, and I hope to see you at a football tailgate this fall. Andy, back to you.

President Feinstein (05:13):
Thanks Blaine, and thanks for some good news, appreciate that. And now let's hear from Katrina Rodriguez, our vice president for student affairs and Mark Anderson our provost.

Mark Anderson (05:24):
Thank you very much, Andy. I'm not really sure how to react with Blaine being positive, so-

President Feinstein (05:31):
Just accept it.

Mark Anderson (05:32):
He's thrown me off my game for today, so I apologize for that. I just would like to reiterate that things are looking positive but we need to maintain our diligence and continue wear masks, continue to remain socially distanced, wash our hands, et cetera. One of the things that we have to recognize is that the impact of coronavirus is still significant to many of our community. And earlier this week, following a recommendation from the Academic Policies Committee and in consultation with faculty Senate chair, sorry about that, the date for individual course, which are all for the spring 2021 semester has been extended to Friday, April 16th. This change in the withdrawal state is consistent with changes that we made in fall of 2020 and spring of 2020, and is in recognition of the many challenges that students continue to face during the semester as teaching and learning adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Mark Anderson (06:32):
We continue to be impressed by the dedication of our students, faculty, and staff as we pursue our teaching and learning goals, and we hope that this change will contribute to the academic success of our students. One important lesson learned during coronavirus is that there are many connections that exist between all countries around the world. Coronavirus has imposed restrictions on travel, and that's resulted in the suspension of study abroad programs. Exposure to a worldview is critically important to students because we live in a world economy and that exposure helps to prepare students for the careers of the future. UNC in alignment with many other universities suspended international study abroad last spring, and that suspension will continue through this summer.

Mark Anderson (07:21):
One program that was impacted by the suspension to study abroad was a summer program led by faculty in the Monfort College of Business. For many years, MCB faculty led a group of students together to teach courses in business that engage in international perspective. During the fall 2020 semester and continuing in the spring 2021 semester, Professor Abe Harraf has arrange for lectures in his classes to be given by Professor Maria Chiarvesio, who's a colleague from the University of Udine in Udine, Italy. Although the courses are not held in the Tuscany hillside, Professor Harraf has identified a unique way of bringing an international perspective and international colleagues into his classes. This suggests another example of how all the UNC faculty are adjusting their instruction during COVID to meet the learning objectives and new and unique ways.

Mark Anderson (08:18):
Finally, although study abroad has been suspended through the summer of 2021, the Office of International Education continues to work hard to prepare for the restart of study abroad and other international programs when allowed. The OIE team is participating in the Association for International Educators virtual meeting later this spring. And they'll be presenting about lessons learned from COVID and the importance of international education. We look forward to the university resuming international experience as far as students, hopefully in the fall, as this exposure during a student's university experience is critical to preparing students for lifelong careers in the global economy, and it's an important part of being in a student's first university. And with that, I'll turn it over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (09:10):
Good morning, everybody. So great to be here with you this morning. Sorry, my voice is a little froggy. Let's see, great reveal yesterday, the 35th anniversary of the César Chávez Cultural Center. I had reported earlier that we have two students, [Yajenni 00:09:29] and Miriam, who have been working with our artists and alumni Armando Silva, you see his work all over Greeley. And so he has been working on a mural that was revealed yesterday. And to say it's gorgeous, it's beautiful, doesn't give it justice.

Katrina Rodriguez (09:46):
So for those of you who know our César Chávez Cultural Center director, Trish Escobar, the central figure in the mural is of Trish. And you can just see her eyes, right into her soul and the beautiful soul that she is. So please stop by the campus commons, from 10 to five today and 10 to five tomorrow Armando will be there just doing some finishing touches. He has invited folks to stop by and say, hello, talk with him about the mural. He has this beautiful poem that goes along with the mural. It is just heartwarming and the vibrant colors, please stop by. And if you can't get there this week, then stop by and see the mural. I don't have words, but folks were in tears yesterday at the reveal, and anyway, it was just amazing. So thank you to all who spent a lot of time and energy this year. And actually Trish got to be on the line, she's not here in Greeley right now, and she got to see it for the first time as well. So very touching.

Katrina Rodriguez (10:53):
Okay, and then our next highlight is from Veterans Services, our director, Tim Nellett, we've created, he and his team have created the PAVE Team. And PAVE stands for Peer Advisors for a Veteran Education. It's a support program for student veterans run by student veterans. And the University of Michigan, which was Tim's alma mater, created this program in about 2012, and there were about 50 campuses across the country who are a part of the program. And so UNC was selected this past year to be in the PAVE program.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:30):
So they've had some great engagement so far, and some of the data they've collected are 52 students have enrolled in PAVE, 35 in the fall of 17 already this spring. They've logged about 187 opportunities for outreach and interaction. Some of the biggest issues that they are learning our student veterans are about studying, registering and changing courses, balancing their coursework with other things in their lives, finding a tutor and also GI bill benefits usage. And so some very unique items that our student veterans and military affiliated students kind of work through. And I know they've done a really tremendous job, and some other really touchy and tender issues that have happened lately, that they were able to work with one of our students.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:26):
So we have five peer advisors that lead the team and Nathan Barrows is the team leader. And then we also have team members, Dustin [Brockley 00:12:37], Teresa Evans, Chase Watson, Dylan Putnam, and Michael [Varientos 00:12:43]. And so, just shout out to that, to the PAVE team for their hard work.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:49):
Something else coming in from the Center for Women and Gender Equity, they have the first installation of their Mamava mobile lactation station. You've seen these in airports and other places. And some of our student advocates, so well, actually, Emmy Scott, who's a LEAF representative, who works with our sustainability on campus, and with Emmy's advocacy and support from Dr. Alena Clark and Yvette Lucero-Nguyen, they were able to get approval to purchase this first Mamava station, they're about 28 grand. And so it will be [inaudible 00:13:28] accessible, gender accessibility in terms of all gender, and so I'm excited to see... It's going to be located in Michener, so we'll get more detail on that, but that's going to be exciting for our students to have a clean, safe space for lactation.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:43):
And then my last aspect is the work that's being done, particularly in Homes Dining with our February menus. As you know, dining works really hard to make sure that they're looking at special events, monotony breakers, so they can really engage students through food and enrich the dining programs and menus so that they, makes it exciting, right? And so we have a committee of staff, Matthew Doyle, Joanne Doherty, Kelly Goya and Ian Nichols, and then our Chef Mitchell Wilkins at Homes and our sous chef Jason [Coban 00:14:20], and then Crystal Tweeten as well, they're in Homes.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:22):
And so they've done some cool things like with Lunar New Year, they had their wok and roll station, they had sesame shrimp, I'm going to make you hungry now, spring rolls, hot mustard, tangerines were served, because tangerines are a significant symbol for Lunar New Year. Also for Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, anybody went on Wednesday or Tuesday, shrimp gumbo, Cajun pork chops, they had corn and okra and beignets, hello. And so some yummy things, some po'boys and that kind of thing. And then they will start tomorrow with their fish on Fridays. They did something yesterday for Ash Wednesday with various fish options, both at the hot line and at the salad bar and gourmet to go.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:10):
So some really cool things through the 25th, go on in and get your Black heritage month barbecue, pork spare ribs, mac and cheese, candied yams, and peach cobbler. So I'm just saying, it's a good time to go to Homes Dining. So congrats to all of these efforts, folks are working so hard to make things really happen for students and for the university. And it's such a proud time to be a UNC Bear. So thank you all so much and I'll turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (15:42):
Thanks Katrina, and now I am very hungry. But I will be at Homes on Friday having lunch, so looking forward to that. So hopefully you will save me some of those treats. Thank you, Mark also for your update. And as always, stay safe, be healthy everybody and we'll see you here again next Thursday, take care.