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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

January 7, Operational Update

January 7 Update (Watch on Youtube).


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, January 7, and this is our first weekly operational status update call of 2021, and I want to thank all of you for joining us. The spring semester begins on Monday, and today, many of our students will return to the resident hall rooms on campus. As we prepare to resume instruction, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year and hope that you enjoyed some time and a restful break. As we return to campus, most of the guidelines that guided practice in the fall to keep our students and employees safe still stand. And I encourage all of you to do what you need to do to keep one another healthy and safe.

President Feinstein (00:45):
I also want to share some good news. As we return, I encourage every member of our community to get tested. We have confirmed that we will be you able to continue to host free COVID-19 testing right on our campus at the Curative Kiosk on Nottingham Field. And you can schedule an appointment to be tested simply by going to the curative.com website and searching for Greeley. And the City of Greeley also is hosting a free drive-up testing at the Family FunPlex at 1850 65th Avenue. Both sites offer simple, self-administered oral swabs, and it's quick and easy. In fact, my family and I got tested earlier this week on Monday, and I found out last evening that we're all negative. So I encourage all of you to take advantage of these free and convenient testing services.

President Feinstein (01:39):
I'm also very pleased to announce that over the last few weeks, Weld County Public Health has begun administering vaccine to members of the UNC community. In the last couple of weeks, our Student Health staff, UNC Police Department, and other people defined as critical COVID-19 responders have received the vaccine. So far, just shy of 40 people have been vaccinated, but we expect the pace to pick up a little bit in the next couple of weeks.

President Feinstein (02:09):
The State of Colorado has articulated a framework that defines prioritization for vaccine distribution, and UNC is working with the state and county to facilitate vaccines, but it does not make independent decisions about who has the opportunity to receive a vaccine, or when. We also do not yet have our own allocation of vaccine doses, but I do believe that will be coming in the near future.

President Feinstein (02:36):
In addition to facilitating vaccination for members of the UNC community who meet the criteria for phase one in the state's vaccine distribution plan, we are advocating to our partners in state and local government to move faculty who are teaching on campus and other frontline personnel up in the priority order, along with K-12 teachers across the state, to ensure that we can effectively serve our mission for our students and Colorado while mitigating the spread of the virus and keeping our community safe.

President Feinstein (03:09):
Under the current framework, we expect the next round of vaccinations will be made available to some of our nursing students and faculty on clinical rotations, and other health providers on campus at our cancer rehab center, audiology clinic, and athletic trainers. We will also continue to share information with you as vaccination plans are finalized by the state and the county. And as we know more about how implementation will affect our campus community. And with that, I'm going to turn things over to the Associate Vice President for Administration, Blaine Nickeson. Blaine?

Blaine Nickeson (03:49):
Thank you, President Feinstein, and Happy New Year, Bears. Hope you all had a great winter break. We're excited about the coming spring semester and are filled with hope that a widespread rollout of multiple safe and effective vaccines are going to allow us to start putting this awful pandemic in the rear view mirror. There have been a lot of changes on the public health restrictions under the state's color coded dial in the last few days. Governor Polis announced that all level red counties were moving this week to level orange. Level orange means that we can expand capacity at the campus rec center, reopen limited indoor seating in our dining facilities, and resume some in-person events. Our in-person classes won't be impacted one way or the other. They were still permitted under level red.

Blaine Nickeson (04:34):
I will say that while we've moved to a less restrictive level on the dial, the case data in Weld County and in many other counties is still in the red level. As of yesterday, our two-week measure of new cases was nearly double the amount for being in level orange. Our testing positivity is down quite a bit from our peak around Thanksgiving, but we're still over 10% positive. A reminder that the recommended level is 5% positive or less.

Blaine Nickeson (05:02):
One bright light is that hospitalizations have been falling. So the virus is still spreading widely in the community, and we need to follow the common sense safety protocols that we all know to help keep our community safe. We'll continue to watch these public health data closely. I monitor the updates each day, including the weekends, and also participate in briefings by the governor and state public health officials a few times a week. I can't tell you what the next week or month will look like, but I will tell you that we will continue to have to change and adapt as this virus does. The state's closely monitoring the highly transmissive UK variants of the virus. The first US case of that was actually found in Colorado last week. As of yesterday, they've found a total of two cases in Colorado so far. But to be fair, they're working on sequencing the DNA of a number of these swabs, but they're still out waiting for results.

Blaine Nickeson (06:03):
Another change as we start this spring semester is aligning our guidance on quarantine length with the state and the CDC. This was all in the news about a month ago, with some different shorter quarantine windows. But essentially there are situations where a person that's had contact with a COVID case may not need the quarantine for the full 14 days. A period of 10 days of quarantine, or even seven days, coupled with a negative test, might be appropriate for some folks. We're going to try to communicate the various situations clearly via our website, our COVID digest, and via our COVID Response Team staff, but it's certainly going to be confusing for some folks.

Blaine Nickeson (06:42):
For an overview, people who live in congregate living facilities, like our residence halls, on-campus apartments, fraternities, sororities, they must quarantine for 14 days. That's not a decision the UNC has made. That is a guidance from the state and the CDC. These are high risk environments for transmission, once you have a positive case there, or possible. If you don't live in one of these environments and you don't have a routine contact with high risk individuals, say maybe a grandparent who lives at home, you're eligible for the shorter quarantine period. That said, UNC or our local public health authorities will never force a shorter quarantine period. The CDC still considers 14 days to be the gold standard if you're able to do it.

Blaine Nickeson (07:28):
I know Andy mentioned it, but I really want to reinforce that we want folks returning to Greeley and the campus to get tested as they come back. The testing kiosk on the east side of Nottingham is free, easy, and doesn't require anything to be stuck up your nose. It's particularly important for students who live in our residence halls and fraternities and sororities to get tested. Until the vaccines are widely available for our student age population, that's probably not until after the semester ends, the key tools we have to fight this pandemic are testing, wearing masks, social distancing, and really importantly, not gathering in groups.

Blaine Nickeson (08:05):
That's all I have for this morning, Andy, and I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (08:09):
Thanks, Blaine, and now let's hear from our Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs, Mark Anderson and Katrina Rodriguez.

Mark Anderson (08:16):
Thank you very much, Andy. I would also like to add my Happy New Years to everybody. I hope you had a peaceful holiday, and a restful holiday, and a healthy holiday, and are ready for a great spring semester. I'd like to begin by thanking the campus community for all that we did for our students during the fall semester to meet our mission to educate students, but also to protect the health and safety of the community. That work continues, as President Feinstein and Blaine indicated. We need to be mindful of maintaining social distancing, washing our hands, wearing masks, doing everything we can to protect each other.

Mark Anderson (09:00):
In the fall semester, we had roughly 11,500 students occupying 46,000 course seats. Thanks to the faculty, we've provided some relief to students by implementing the S/U grade option once again, and as the spring semester begins, 1,100 students, just about 2.5% of all the seats, took advantage of this S/U grading option.

Mark Anderson (09:28):
I'd like to thank the Registrar's Office, Charlie Couch, Laura Byers, Michelle Heinie, Amanda Cameron, Nicole Jewett, Shona Ulibarri, Charlie Couch, and Ashley Duran, for really working hard over the break to enter the S/U grade options for the students who opted for that. That was a really heavy lift, and doing a lot of work to really serve our students, and emblematic of the community effort that UNC has to really serve our students.

Mark Anderson (10:07):
We learned many lessons from the fall semester that we should be mindful of as we begin the spring. It's important, especially with online classes, that we engage students early and often, and set clear expectations for students for these courses as we begin the semester. We have over 104,000 student credit hours registered so far, and just about 2,800 course sections. And so as we begin the semester, we want to engage those students frequently and often, and set expectations so students get off to a great start.

Mark Anderson (10:43):
As we begin the spring semester, we want faculty to be reaching out to our students to engage them, but also to inform them about how the first several weeks will be meeting. We gave a lot of options, given the state of coronavirus, for some flexibility in the meeting patterns for classes at the beginning of the semester. I'm very excited for the beginning of the spring semester, and I look forward to having a great semester, and I wish everybody a great semester, and a healthy semester. And with that, I will turn it over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:18):
Thank you, Mark. Good morning, everybody, and Happy New Year. Great to be back. So for Student Affairs, as Andy indicated, students who went away for winter break are returning to their residence halls today. And also our virtual new student orientation occurs today from 8:00 to 12:00 for our students who are coming in in the spring semester, both those living in residence, and those who are not. So that's a great opportunity this morning.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:49):
All Student Services will be continuing into the spring, in both in-person and virtual capacities, as they did in the fall. So we'll continue those aspects. Specifically, I wanted to point out that our normal dining hours will resume on Sunday, this Sunday, the 10th, and also homes dining will resume, especially both the grab and go as well as their in-person seating. And we will be able to have that in-person seating to be 50% capacity. So that will be really great for both residents and our campus who are wanting to dine together. So thank you to all the efforts going into our dining preparation. They do a lot to get us ready for opening and have such a great attitude and perspective, as all of our units do. I just know that our dining and housing, they're welcoming students in in a really positive way.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:52):
Also, our Campus Recreation Center will be opening tomorrow from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. And as the guidance has shifted for this orange level, we will be able to have our campus rec be at the same level of in-person capacity, which means 50 individuals per room, and there are various other aspects based on group fitness, and some of the other categories. So that's nice to see an increase from where we were in the fall.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:22):
The Counseling Center will remain online as they have, or be virtual, and reminder that part of the reason of this is that the counseling center is located above the Student Health Center, in the same building. And so we certainly do not want our clients going through the Health Center. So that has worked out really well. Clients have been very pleased at the way in which we can do counseling through virtual services. So we're glad about that.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:53):
Other services will be posting their office hours and various student engagement and student learning opportunities, and so those will be forthcoming. I know things were already in the works. The Housing and Res Ed Bingo Night is coming up next week, and that's already being highly advertised. So that will be a fun event.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:11):
So I appreciate all of the hard work in the fall, to our COVID tracing folks and folks who are really on the front lines with our COVID response and assisting campus individuals in knowing if they needed to quarantine or isolate, and helping them work through all of that. It's a little bit of a shocking experience to learn one has been exposed or has tested positive, as I'm sure many of you already know that. And so I just want to really appreciate all of the hard work. Things were changing rapidly, as they still are, and we welcome in the team coming back in, and looking forward to how that all helps the campus go forward with this. So again, Happy New Year, and I will turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (15:10):
Thank you, Katrina, and thank you, Mark, for your presentations. Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. As always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.