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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates | Fall 2021 Plans

February 25, Operational Update

February 25 Update (Watch on YouTube)

Transcript:

President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, February 25th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank all of you for joining us. Our university COVID-19 mitigation efforts continue to be an effective way of containing transmission. Blaine will give a complete report in just a moment, but yesterday, for the first time this year, all of our quarantine isolation rooms were vacant, and this is certainly positive news, and I encourage everyone to keep doing their part to keep things moving in the right direction. We continue to plan for commencement ceremonies this May, which we are looking forward to holding in person for the first time since December, 2019.

President Feinstein (00:50):
In addition to our May 2021 graduates, we have also invited our May 2020 and December 2020 graduates to be honored at these ceremonies. We are currently planning to hold our basically four commencement ceremonies the weekend of May 8th and May 9th in order to ensure a safe environment for those in attendance. The university aims to provide the best experience possible for our graduates while following all public health guidelines. And as plans further develop, additional information will soon be shared with our community. And you can also monitor these updates on our commencement webpage at unco.edu/commencement. And with that, I'm going to turn things over to Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:46):
Thank you President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. Well, [inaudible 00:01:49] just got a little dusting of snow. We got hit pretty good here in the Denver-Metro area. I live in Brighton and we got six, maybe eight inches of snow. I'm glad that the impacts didn't come up over the Adams County line, I guess. The prevalence of COVID continues to be relatively low in Weld County and the state, at least compared to the November, December spike that we saw. We're seeing similar numbers to where we were in October. We have though for the most part seen cases flatten out or maybe increase slightly. Compared to my report last week, both our one week case incidents and our test positivity rate in Weld County are higher than the week before.

Blaine Nickeson (02:29):
That said, we know there was an impact on the data by having so much of the testing capabilities shut down due to that Arctic blast that we had about 10 days ago. So we'll continue to watch the data. In the meantime, please continue to do the things we've become used to in order to prevent the spread. And as I've mentioned in the last couple of weeks, it's a good idea to up your mask game. You can double mask, wear a tight fitting disposable surgical kind of mask, or even a more protective KN95 mask if you're going into higher risk situations. On campus, our caseload with COVID is really low right now. We're monitoring 12 active isolation and quarantine cases. We have six positive cases associated with the campus at this time. And five of those are employees. As Andy said, over the last couple of days, we've actually not been using any of our on-campus isolation or quarantine rooms. With the exception of winter break, that's the first time we've been at zero this entire academic year.

Blaine Nickeson (03:29):
That said, our COVID response team remains vigilant as we know that the situation can, but hopefully won't, change extremely quickly. Yesterday was a pretty momentous day for us. We administered our first vaccinations on campus. We got a small allocation of doses from the state which arrived via FedEx yesterday morning. Our team has been preparing for this moment and was ready to jump into action. We're following the state's guidance for eligible individuals and have done personal outreach to each person in order to help get them scheduled. It all has to happen very fast. We find out the vaccine is coming, we can notify that it's going to be here, the state expects us to use it within 72 hours. And so it's a very fast moving process that the team has to jump into.

Blaine Nickeson (04:20):
We're hopeful that we'll continue to receive vaccine allocations, but just because we got some doses this week doesn't mean we can count on getting more next week. The situation continues to be very fluid. I do want to be clear though that if you receive a first dose of vaccine, you will get your second dose. Ordering and allocations for second doses run through a completely separate process. A fun fact that I learned in the last week, we have 11 student bears that are over the age of 65, lifelong learning. I was at the health center yesterday when one of them arrived to get their first dose of vaccine, which was really cool.

Blaine Nickeson (04:57):
We know there's a lot of interest in getting vaccines as soon as possible, but we want to reinforce the message that we'll contact you when you're eligible. Please don't call the student health center or individual members of the coronavirus task force to ask about vaccine availability. If you do have questions about the vaccine, check out our website. We've got a great FAQ or information up there about vaccine, or utilize the state's vaccine hotline at 1877 CO-VAX-CO VAX. It's available 24/7.

Blaine Nickeson (05:30):
Speaking of vaccines, I was excited to hear yesterday that the FDA found the data show that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is both safe and effective. It's expected that the independent panel that reviews vaccines will give the J&J shot an endorsement when they meet tomorrow, and doses could be in shipping as early as this weekend. This will mean extra doses on top of the ramp up we're seeing in Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply. J&J also has some real significant benefits. It's a one dose shot and it doesn't require the freezing that Pfizer and Moderna do. So it's, from a logistical standpoint, much easier to get into arms.

Blaine Nickeson (06:09):
Before I wrap up, I just want to call attention to the looming one-year anniversary that's coming in a few weeks. When we shut down for an extended spring break last year, everyone thought and hoped this was going to be a short-term disruption. I had people telling me I was crazy when I reached them to think about a shutdown at UNC for two weeks, but I don't think any of us expected what we've experienced in the past year. Just one year anniversary might be hard for some folks. Please check in on your friends, family, employees, students, and don't hesitate to take advantage of our resources on campus such as through the counseling center. While it's hard to mark one year into this crisis, I really truly believe that things are headed in the right direction and we're on a path back to normalcy this summer and fall. So with that, Andy, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (07:00):
Thanks Blaine. And it is amazing to me that it's been almost a year since all this began. I don't know if it seems shorter or longer, but it doesn't seem like it's been a year.

Blaine Nickeson (07:12):
It seems like it's been a year of about 34 months.

President Feinstein (07:15):
Fair enough. Thanks again, Blaine. With that, I'd like to turn it over to Katrina Rodriguez, our vice president for student affairs and Mark Anderson, our provost. Katrina and Mark.

Mark Anderson (07:27):
Thank you very much, Andy. And good morning, everyone. We are two weeks away from the beginning of spring break. And as Andy and Blaine were just talking about, this semester is going fast. And to me, that is an indication that we are moving back to more of a normal situation. As we get to spring break and into April and then May, the pace of academics tends to accelerate all the way up to graduation, which Andy indicated we are going to have in-person commencement ceremonies. Our faculty and staff continue to do a great job meeting the educational needs of our students, doing that in a healthy and safe environment. As Blaine indicated, we need to remain diligent to continue to offer our classes to our students in a way that is respectful of the health and safety of our community.

Mark Anderson (08:24):
As we move further into the spring, some of our attention turns to those students who will be joining the UNC community next fall. The admissions office is working hard to build the entering class of fall 2021. Since October, the admissions office has been hosting in-person campus tours. We are one of the very few universities in the state of Colorado that have been having in-person campus tours. These tours are by reservation and are for single family units. The reservations go quickly, and as the spring has started to show up, they go even more quickly.

Mark Anderson (09:04):
In addition to these campus tours, the admissions office is hosting a number of virtual and in-person events focused on specific academic disciplines. For the next week, the events are on Sunday, February 28th. UNC will be participating in the National Association of College Admissions Counseling virtual college fair. This is a national event and will expose UNC to students from all over the country. On March 1st, we'll be hosting an information session for the MS in Athletic Training program. This is a new degree program which was just approved by the board of trustees back in September. On March 4th, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences will be hosting an information session about all the programs in the college. Also in March 4th, the university's hosting a pre-health advising and admission session for admitted and prospective students.

Mark Anderson (10:02):
On March 5th, Journalism and Media Studies will be holding an information session about their different academic programs. And also on March 5th, the Montfort College of Business is hosting an information session about the academic problems in the business college. This is just the beginning of many programs that the admissions office will be hosting through the beginning of May to provide information to students and their families about UNC and the academic programs that we offer. Many faculty and staff have been asking how they can help with admissions, and the best way to help is to participate in these important recruiting events. So as Dave and Kim and their teams reach out to you, please be willing to participate and be part of these really important information and recruiting sessions.

Mark Anderson (10:51):
Nationally, we're finding that students are waiting longer to make their college decisions because they're waiting really to see what the experience will be like. One of the messages that we're providing to prospective students, their families, and to college and to high school guidance counselors is that UNC will be back into in-person instruction and an on-campus experience for students next fall. Even when returning to more face-to-face instruction in the fall, our faculty continue to find and implement effective ways of engaging students with each other and the content of their courses given the restrictions that we currently face. This provides a virtual experience that is effective, and we are learning that many of these practices will continue to enhance our instruction, even when returning to a primarily face-to-face instruction in the fall.

Mark Anderson (11:42):
For example, the UNC Center for Urban Education down in the Denver Lowry Center has reframed many of their science courses into inquiry experiences. They've done this by creating projects based on the everyday environment that students experience. This community-based science helps students to see science as a part of their everyday existence and it allows the students, as prospective teachers, to contextualize scientific concepts in ways that are relevant to their culture. The students share these experiences with each other during Zoom meetings, which allows the students to bring themselves into the science. It helps them to develop their own personal scientific identity. That's really critically important for students to see themselves in the discipline.

Mark Anderson (12:31):
The Center for Urban Education was highlighted on Denver 9News recently for the good work they do in supporting students and preparing the next generations of teachers. So I'd like to congratulate CUE students and their faculty for the good work they're doing. This is just another example of how our faculty, staff, and students are adjusting to COVID and continuing to excel. And with that, I will turn the podium to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:01):
Thank you, Mark. I appreciate all of the great work that we are seeing our colleagues in academic affairs provide for incoming students as well as the students who are our current UNC bears. A few updates from the student affairs land. We want to highlight a few of the upcoming opportunities for engagement and learning and just various aspects of our campus organization in the student affairs realm. In the Center for Gender and Women's Equity, we have Project ME, which stands for menstrual equity, and it is led by our student Rose Glaser. She's working with our colleagues in the Center for Peer Education. Project ME is a campus initiative that seeks to achieve menstrual equity by providing access to free menstrual products and de-stigmatizing the topic of menstruation on UNC's campus.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:58):
They have ME packs so they can be made available for delivery to residence halls or you can pick them up from the Center for Women and Gender Equity's office in Scott Wilcox next to the counseling and health centers. Rose has worked closely with Student LEAF and our facility's colleagues to integrate the free hygiene products and machines in our all gender restrooms, whether we're putting new ones in or we're modifying the ones that are in there so they can dispense free products. So thank you to Rose and to everybody who's working on that. I really appreciate the effort there. Sometimes we don't probably stop to think about the ways in which the cost for women on things like these are differentiated from men in terms of meeting those kinds of products. So, anyway, thanks for putting all that together.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:53):
Also in our dining services, we partner with the Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality program here on campus. We have an internship at a 492 level course, and it's a 450 hour internship and it prepares the students for a future career in recreation, tourism and hospitality. Andy, you know one of your... We have your colleagues there. We have student, Corina Montero, who is our student intern, and our superstar staff member, Kellie Goya, who's her supervisor. So I can only imagine how great of an experience that is for Corina. They will be focusing on management, service, financial, human resource realms of the industry. So that's very exciting and I'm glad to see such a great collaboration.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:46):
A few other items that are coming up here for students are mindfulness meditation. This is in conjunction with our eating disorders awareness week program that we host every year. It's a national awareness week. And so we'll be doing on Friday, learning about what is mindful meditation and folks can get together at two o'clock on a Zoom call. Encourage folks to do that, regardless if it's about eating disorder awareness or just for some slowdown on a Friday afternoon might be a good idea.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:22):
Also, I'm not as hipped to know what all this is, but I'm sure there are folks out there who are. The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is putting together next Friday the 5th, it's called the Animal Crossing Social. So Animal Crossing, I understand, is a game or a internet... Sorry. Phew, my words today are not coming to me. But it's an opportunity to play a game and chat and just kind of have some downtime. I should tune in just so I can become more informed there. Also the Spring 21 election packets are available. They are due on Monday the 1st at five o'clock. So for those of you who have not picked up your election packets, please do so. It's such a tremendous opportunity for our student senate and for our leadership. We've appreciated all the work that student does for our campus.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:16):
And also for our DREAMer students, we have a group called Caminando Unidos, and it is a group led by students for students, our DREAMers and students who have undocumented status or certainly their allies in community. And so they meet on Wednesdays at 5:30. So just please share that information. We always want all aspects of our student communities to have a connection to those who might help them feel a little more at home or a little more connected to campus.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:52):
And then we'll be getting ready for Women's Herstory Month in March coming up here. And so one upcoming event is the screening of a film called Mankiller. It's an in-depth look at the life and work of Cherokee Nation's chief, Wilma Mankiller. Chief Mankiller was here a long time ago, probably I guess on late '90s or so, or early 2000s, and I got a chance to hear her speak. So I would just encourage folks to have a chance to be a part of that screening, could be really powerful.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:26):
Those are the opportunities. As Mark was saying, students are kind of holding out to see what the experience is going to be like, and I think I just have to thank the entire campus for all of the efforts they're putting together to engage students and to make things as connected as possible during our COVID experiment here. Okay. Andy, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (18:52):
Thanks so much Katrina for your update. Thank you, Mark. Thanks everybody for tuning in today. As always, stay safe, be healthy, and we will see you here again next week. Take care, everybody.