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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

January 28, Operational Update

January 28 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:01):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's January 28th and this is our weekly operational status update call. And I'm glad all of you are joining us this morning. I'm going to keep my report short this morning. I simply want to express my gratitude to all our faculty and staff who are helping UNC students to navigate their education in the middle of this pandemic, whether you are cooking and serving meals to students, helping our buildings stay clean, conducting testing, and the hard work of COVID case management or introducing new ways to engage students in and out of the classroom, you are all part of what makes UNC great. And through your hard work and commitment, you're helping our students to continue to make progress towards completing their degrees. You're also helping all of us keep one another healthy and safe. And with that, I'm going to turn over the conversation to associate vice president for administration, Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine?

Blaine Nickeson (01:01):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Happy Thursday, everyone. The coronavirus task force continues to be very busy as the situation related to the virus continues to be quite dynamic. As I mentioned last week, we're working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as the city of Greeley to change our community testing provider on campus. The state is phasing out using Curative, the lab that's currently testing from Nottingham and they will be shifting to another testing lab. We're working with the city to possibly fold the drive-through testing center in West Greeley and the walkup testing center on our campus into one site located at UNC that would offer both services.

Right now our logistics team is recommending a more central location on campus using the old drop-off lane on the East side of Bishop Lehr Hall. Until the new test site's up and running, we expect the Nottingham site to continue to provide free and easy testing. Curative has switched from a saliva based test to a short nasal swab. It's a self administered test and you barely put the swab inside of your nostril. It's certainly not one of those jam it up into your brain cavity.

We continue to monitor the situation with vaccines and we're working closely with the CDPH and our partners in Weld County Public Health on two fronts. On the first, we're moving through securing vaccinations for our employees and students that fall into the 1A and the high priority 1B phase. I'm happy to report that all of our school of nursing students and faculty in clinical rotations have now either been vaccinated or are scheduled to be very shortly. We're now moving on to the cancer rehab center staff and the audiology clinic, as well as some of our facilities first responders that they may have to go into an isolation or a quarantine room to fix a leak in the ceiling or something like that.

On the second front, we continue to make progress towards UNC being a vaccine provider. The primary limitation right now is the supply of vaccine doses that the state receives. If and when we receive our own vaccine, we'll follow the state's priority list, starting with any faculty or staff over the age of 70 that have not yet gotten the vaccine in the community and working our way down the priority list.

Both Colorado in general, as well as Weld County, continue to make progress on the state's color coded restriction dial. We've been seeing a sustained decrease in both case incidents and test positivity rate, which is great. We're in the best position that we've been in about three months on those measures. That said, the level of viral spread is still comparatively high. The state's modelers don't believe we'll get back to the lows that we saw this past summer and early fall for about three more months.

Additionally, there is definitely rising concern about one of the much more transmissible virus variants, such as the UK variant taking hold and becoming the dominant variant in the US or in Colorado. The modelers are just now starting to put together the forecast that combined the positive impacts of more vaccinations with the negative impacts of the more transmissible variant, if it were to spread. While there's a lot of optimism right now due to those decreasing case counts that I mentioned and getting vaccine and more arms, if we aren't diligent about our existing precautions, including the things you all know, masking, social distancing, and avoiding gatherings. It's possible we could end up with another wave this spring that's even larger than the one that we just went through. And certainly none of us want that. As of yesterday, cases of the B117 or the UK variant strain have been identified in more than half of the states in the US. We've identified 10 so far here in Colorado, and the state lab is doing random sequencing of a certain number of tests every week.

Here on campus, our COVID response team's been working with a manageable caseload. We have 69 active cases that we're managing for either isolation or quarantine. That includes 27 COVID positive individuals. Of the 69 that we're monitoring, five of those are employees and the remainder are students. Only one of the positive cases is an employee. And we're currently using 17 of our 84 isolation and quarantine rooms.
That's all I have for this morning. Happy to turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (05:27):
Thanks, Blaine. And as we transition from Curative to whatever the new testing provider will be, Curative is still an operations. You can still go and make a reservation and get tested. And I strongly urge all of you to do that. I'm getting tested once a week and so is my family. I also noticed looking at the overall county status reports this morning, and I don't want to be too optimistic, but I do see the numbers in Weld County two week cumulative index going down below 400 for the first time in a long time.

Blaine Nickeson (05:59):
Yeah, that's right.

President Feinstein (05:59):
The two week average positivity is now six and a half percent, and we've also had nine days of declining or stable hospitalizations in Weld County. So those are all good indications showing I think that we're doing good work here in Weld County, and I hope that we keep that up.

Blaine Nickeson (06:13):

President Feinstein (06:14):
And with that, I'll turn it over to Katrina Rodriguez, vice president for student affairs and our provost, Mark Anderson.

Mark Anderson (06:22):
Thank you very much, Andy. Good morning, everyone. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. As we complete the third week of the semester, more and more of our courses that began the semester in online and virtual instruction are transitioning to on-campus in-person instruction. As more in-person instruction occurs, as our own Dr. Blaine Fauci says, please continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.

I was up in Breckenridge skiing this past weekend. And on every ride up the mountain, my daughter who was with me would remind those on the lift to please put their mask back on. This was despite the presence of signs everywhere in Breckenridge that mask wearing was mandatory. And even though the numbers, as President Feinstein has indicated, are moving in the right direction, in order to maintain that momentum, we have to remain diligent to protect ourselves, but also to protect our neighbors, again, by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands.

This is the third week of the spring semester, and even though we're early in the spring semester, we're planning the course schedule for the fall semester. It is our intention to be back to normal room instructional capacities in the fall, and having a majority of our instruction face-to-face for the fall 2021 semester. Our admissions office is working diligently and doing a great job of building the entering class for fall of 2021, and we're currently ahead of point in time relative to the fall of 2020 applicants for students who have been accepted for admissions to the University of Northern Colorado. On February 1st, the admissions office will be holding a third free application day, which we anticipate will yield another 500 to 700 applications. I'd like to thank everybody in the admissions office for all the work they're doing to form the incoming class of UNC Bears for the fall of 2021.

A category of students are increasingly important to UNC's enrollment are our transfer students. Two years ago almost to the day, UNC began working on a partnership with our colleagues here in Greeley at Aims Community College on a unique transition program in which students are simultaneously admitted to Aims and to UNC, the Aims to UNC program. Students in this program take a majority of their courses in the first two years at Aims Community College to complete their associates degree, and then they transition, not transfer, but transition to UNC to continue their studies for the baccalaureate degree. Advising of these students in the programs assures that the students do not take a lot of courses that ultimately won't transfer or don't count so they don't waste a lot of credits and, as a consequence, waste money.

In the Aims to UNC program that launched with our first students in the fall of 2019, since that time, 38 students have transitioned from Aims and are currently UNC students. As the program grows, we anticipate there may be as many as five or 600 students in the Aims to UNC program. It will become an increasingly large proportion of our enrollment.
One of the unique aspects of the program is that students in the Aims to UNC program, even while they're taking the majority of their courses at Aims have access to UNC student services, UNC facilities, UNC student life programs, including UNC student housing. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear from and speak with an Aims to UNC student who was a high school senior this time last year. And while they were completing their high school studies, they didn't think that college was an option for them. Their high school guidance counselor told them about the Aims to UNC program and they completed their first semester at Aims last fall.

One of the reasons why they didn't think college was successful to them is because they were having some housing and food insecurities last spring that was exasperated by the coronavirus. An important aspect of the program for them, and perhaps the piece that really encouraged them to explore the program, was the housing option. And while they were completing their first semester in Aims this past fall, and they're currently enrolled in Aims this spring, they live in UNC housing. The Aims to UNC program not only gave them an opportunity to continue their education, but also provided a secure housing environment for them, which this time last year they didn't know would exist for them.

It's stories like these that melt my heart and remind me every day why I work in public higher education. It reminds me that it's really a privilege for me, and I want to thank our community for giving me the opportunity to work with you because it is a privilege. And I very much appreciate that. And with that, I'd like to turn the day over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:32):
Thank you so much, Mark. I appreciate that. Hi, everybody. Hope you're having a great morning so far. Got a few updates ON some programs I want to highlight today. So yesterday began the call dibs program that the housing and residential education puts on every year. And so this is an opportunity for folks to select the room they're living in, select another room, select a roommate. Really it's based on sort of where you are in the pool of selecting your room is based on the date that your housing and dining contract is received by the HRE office. And so please go ahead and get that in so that you have the most opportunity to have your selection there. So that's an exciting thing. So please check out the HRE website under the call dibs information. And you'll see all of that there.

The other thing that our dining services, I love their slogan that we feed the bears, and they are always happy and proud to feed the bears. And they say they've got a program called a Bear Babel session. They want students to weigh in, and I imagine also faculty and staff, anybody who utilizes our amazing dining services on the 4th of February at 2:00. And again, you can look on our dining website for this information. But they want to have an opportunity to hear about how folks are finding the dining program and food options, that kind of thing. And so they will be letting you get to know them. They'll have specific dining and culinary topics. So that could be really interesting. And then an open forum that will cover all of the bare necessities in terms of feedback. They always appreciate the feedback from our campus community. It allows them to continue on their good work and know what's working and some things that they might want to adjust. So please tune into that on February 4th.

On February 18th, in career readiness, say that five times fast. Career readiness is a free resource for all students and some of their services include one-on-one career appointments. You can talk about what you're interested in, do some assessments about, what's the right major for me and what kind of roles might I think about post-graduation. Also, they have group career presentations, so you have an opportunity to get feedback and various events. And one of those events that is coming up on the 18th of February is a virtual spring job internship and graduate fair. It's one of our larger ones. It's on the 18th from 11:00 to 3:00. So obviously I know students are very interested in graduate schools that want to attend, internships. So please check out the career readiness website so that you can get signed up for that job fair. And it's even really great to practice, like what is it like to meet with some of the employers and that kind of thing. And who knows? You might get a really powerful opportunity there.

So let's see. February 19th and 20th, we are celebrating our lunar new year and it is the year of the ox. So there'll be a fortune in red envelopes on February 19th and then a short film series on Saturday the 20th. So on the [APASS 00:15:04] Facebook, you can find all kinds of information about the things that are happening.

And then finally, I want to highlight a newer program at UNC. It's called COSI. It's the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, and these are funds and initiative from the state of Colorado. So we had to apply for the program and the grant and successfully many folks came together to make this happen. COSI is housed in the Office of Student Life. And it's designed to support students academically, financially, and help students guide themselves through the challenges, or assisting in guiding them through the challenges that they might experience as a college student, especially our new students, but really all the students involved. And so there'll be all kinds of enrichment programs, workshops, networking. And their goal is to get students to the finish line of graduating with their undergraduate degree, and then working with them for the next steps.

So in mid-fall, like I said, it's brand new this fall, we had 90 students. In the spring, they added 135. So we're at 225 students in that program. It was awesome. And it's not only a scholarship that students are getting, but it's an opportunity for engagement and to find another home. There's lots of places that are home for students and their connection. And this is another way of creating a sense of belonging and being connected to a program. And so our staff are doing such a great job. Nicky Archbeck is our COSI coordinator and success coach and Marilyn Giegos is our graduate assistant, and Adriana Vega is a new student staff member that we just recently hired. So we've got some really tremendous staff there who are doing a good job. They have an Instagram social media account. They have a great newsletter that went out in November that's really powerful. And they also have a Canvas page so the students can access announcements and information.

So they're doing a lot of great work, bingo nights, all the engagement to help students feel connected and meet each other. So the COSI team is rocking it. And I want to say thank you to you all for the great work you're doing in such a short amount of time. So go Bears, and I'll turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (17:35):
Thank you, Katrina and Mark for your presentations. Thank you all for joining us this morning. As always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.