Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

July 2, Operational Update

July 2 Update (View on Youtube)



President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, July the 2nd, and this is our weekly operations status update call. This week we launched a new communications tool to support our continuing efforts to provide timely information to our students and their families, faculty, and staff.

President Feinstein (00:18):
The UNC weekly COVID-19 updates digest email will go out at the beginning of every week moving forward. It will include the latest information on decisions and announcements from the re-entry task force and across the university. There are two versions of the digest message, one that goes to students and another that goes to faculty and staff. While the content of both is more or less the same, each include additional detail that is appropriate to the audience. These messages will also be accessible through our UNC COVID-19 updates page at UNCO.edu/coronavirus.

President Feinstein (00:56):
In this week's digest, we shared that we have finalized the fall schedule and decisions about delivery modality for each of our courses this week. Tomorrow, we will send an email with information about how to access the fall course schedule, along with other updates for the fall. I know that Provost Mark Anderson will say a little more about the fall schedule when he gives his report today.

President Feinstein (01:20):
I want to thank Mark and his team, the deans, and every member of our faculty for the work they have done to put this all together. Our faculty work together to determine how each of more than 2,400 unique course sections would be delivered in the fall. They not only accounted for changes in room capacity due to social distancing, but best practices and pedagogy. Ultimately, their work helps to ensure that we can offer the very best educational experience for our students in the fall. I know this was a big lift, and I'm grateful for the work and care that all of you put into this effort.

President Feinstein (02:00):
With that, I will turn to Associate Vice President for Administration Blaine Nickeson for a report on the current status of public health guidelines and conditions in Colorado, as well as an update from the logistics working group. Blaine?

Blaine Nickeson (02:15):
Thanks a bunch, Andy. I appreciate it. Colorado has seen two weeks of slight but consistent positive case growth. While it's nothing like we're seeing in places like Texas, Arizona, and Florida ... To give you a comparison, Colorado has averaged about five cases per 100,000 residents over the last week. Arizona has had 50. We had five. They had 50 per 100,000, and Florida has had 35. So, very serious situation in some of those states.

Blaine Nickeson (02:47):
In Colorado, the uptick in cases isn't due to an increase in testing. We're doing about the same number of tests each day that we were doing a month ago. The percentage of tests that are positive has remained below five percent, which is an important benchmark. It shows that we're doing enough testing. Unfortunately, across the country, that percentage is climbing. Yesterday the national average was 8.5%.

Blaine Nickeson (03:08):
I'd like to take the opportunity to remind our community that any student, staff, or faculty member with symptoms or who's had exposure to someone that's a positive case can be tested at our Student Health Center on campus. Please call ahead to make arrangements, but it's very easy to be tested.

Blaine Nickeson (03:24):
Luckily, for us, hospitalization rates are still low in Colorado. We've seen those numbers be relatively flat over the last few weeks although in a few days, we've had a few spikes of folks that are hospitalized and still awaiting COVID test results. We watch those numbers really closely because they're leading indicators. They're essentially the canary in the coal mine.

Blaine Nickeson (03:43):
There's a number of reasons why I think Colorado is doing better than many other states. Surveys show that our residents have been better about mask wearing than many other states. We also have a state where people love to be outdoors for all kinds of things. Exercising, hiking, camping, and even dining ... If you think about places with massive spikes like the ones that I mentioned, they're all in places with really oppressive summer heat or humidity, which forces people to stay indoors in air-conditioned spaces.

Blaine Nickeson (04:08):
Colorado's leadership has also reacted swiftly to what the data tell them. Just two weeks ago, the governor allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen, with restrictions, obviously. But, after seeing case counts trend up slightly among ... seeing the loosening, he rolled back that reopening, just, I think, a day or two ago. It's going to be critical for us to be nimble as a state as we react to the changing situation. So, we may see restrictions lifted and then put back into place. We really need to be nimble to make sure that we're reacting to what the data tell us.

Blaine Nickeson (04:47):
Here at UNC, our logistics team is working hard on all the various things that I've been reporting on in prior weeks. We're currently reconfiguring classrooms for the lower occupancy to allow safe distancing. Obviously, that means we have to pull furniture out of those areas. We're putting signage up around campus to remind about occupancy limits, safe practices, mask wearing, all those things.

Blaine Nickeson (05:07):
We're also updating the university's pandemic response plan with all the lessons that we've learned since March. We want to be prepared for whatever comes in the fall and able to support the most important things that happen at UNC, teaching and learning. So, with that, I'll turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (05:23):
Thanks, Blaine. Next I'll turn the floor over to co-chairs of our fall re-entry task force, Provost Mark Anderson and Vice President for Student Affairs Katrina Rodriguez, for reports on our planning for the fall semester. Mark and Katrina?

Mark Anderson (05:38):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Very much appreciate it.

Mark Anderson (05:39):
I just want to echo what you said about the fall schedule. The fall schedule is complete. There might be a few little tweaks here and there, but for the most part, it is done, and I would really like to thank the faculty and the deans for all the hard work that they put in to align our fall schedule. We started with the fall schedule that was set way back in January, February, and worked from there.

Mark Anderson (06:06):
For context, in order to establish our classroom space in a socially distanced environment that follows the CDPHE, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance, our classroom capacity decreased to roughly 30% of what it would be normally in a pre-COVID-19 environment. But, despite that decrease in the capacity, nearly 50% of our courses will be taught with some component of a face-to-face experience, a lot of that being in a hybrid environment, where part of the class meets face-to-face, and part of it is in a virtual environment.

Mark Anderson (06:49):
And so, there's a bit heavy lift for a lot of faculty to change their instructional modality to get to that hybrid format. The individual disciplines really made all the ultimate decisions about the instruction, based upon pedagogical needs, but also based upon meeting the ultimate learning objectives of all the courses and doing it in a safe way.

Mark Anderson (07:13):
Many professional standards were engaged in ultimate decisions, and some programs, you will see, needed to be in a face-to-face environment ... art studios, science labs, things like that. Others, it's very difficult to have in a face-to-face environment based upon professional standards. Choir is an example of that.

Mark Anderson (07:35):
And so, programs have been working really hard to not only meet the social distancing standards by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but also to meet the standards of the professional organizations. So, I'd like to, again, just reiterate the hard work that went into establishing the schedule.

Mark Anderson (07:55):
Having said that, not all the work is complete yet. There's a lot of back-office operations that have to occur to get this schedule into our computer systems. And so, that is occurring right now, and I'd like to just acknowledge the Information Management team, as well as Registrar's office, for the work they're putting in to update our information systems, to reflect the changes in our fall schedule.

Mark Anderson (08:21):
As President Feinstein indicated, a communication will be coming out tomorrow that will provide some details about the work that went into finalizing fall schedule, but also giving information of how to access what the final schedule will be. And so, people will be able to look up individual courses and see the modality of the course that is planned for the fall.

Mark Anderson (08:45):
We would ask that anybody, any student who wants to look and find a course they're taking, the modality of the instruction, what it will be, that they do that, but they work with their advisors if they want to change the schedule. We really want you to very carefully reflect on the different types of modalities and not just automatically change simply because it's a different way of instruction.

Mark Anderson (09:13):
We also would like that no change is to be made until after all the back-office materials have been completed. We anticipate that will be some time between towards the middle of July. And so, you'll be able to access and see the modality of instruction for individual courses beginning tomorrow. But, we'll still be doing some work behind the scenes to update our information system. So, we'd like you to work with the advisors to understand your schedule and not make any changes until we've completed the back-office things.

Mark Anderson (09:50):
We're also working on some ideas about contact tracing so that we can understand who people have been in contact with, if there is positive cases on campus in the fall. And then, we also need to recognize that, as Blaine indicated earlier, there is a continuing fluid environment with COVID-19. And so, we're continuing to have plans for how we will adjust our fall in the event that there is an outbreak either on campus or in the state of Colorado.

Mark Anderson (10:21):
A lot of questions have been coming in about student supports, things like tutoring, advising, et cetera. And so, I'm going to turn the floor over to Stephanie Torrez from the Division of Student Academic Success to talk about the plans for the fall semester, for some of the academic student supports. So, Stephanie.

Stephanie Torrez (10:44):
Thank you, Mark. Good morning, everyone.

Stephanie Torrez (10:49):
Each of the colleges has a professional advising office, and so, we're planning for an on-campus presence this fall, with the mix of in-person and virtual appointment options. For example, our SOAR office, which works with undeclared students and which we call exploring, and our Bears First programming. We'll be open Monday through Friday with advisors alternating days of coverage in the office and working other days remotely from home. That will allow us to comply with the current 50% occupancy while also offering students their choice of in-person or virtual appointment. We want to make sure that we're flexible in the ways that we can offer our services that meet the needs of the students that we're working with.

Stephanie Torrez (11:33):
We'll have drop-in advising appointments still available, but those will be virtual. And then, any of our activities, many of those advising offices offer additional opportunities for workshops. There's some social events. There's some peer mentoring that is incorporated into the different advisement offices. And, for SOAR, for example, we'll do those activities virtually.

Stephanie Torrez (11:56):
We also have three primary tutoring options that we have on campus. Tutorial Services is the most comprehensive and offers tutoring in 130 different course offerings. And, they're going to continue to deliver the type of services they have in the past. So, they're planning for their supplemental instruction, which is tied to specific courses, small group tutoring and individual appointments. The format for that delivery will be a mix of in-person and Zoom appointments. Again, it's based on space, capacity and restrictions related to the 50% capacity guideline that we have right now, and also the preference of students.

Stephanie Torrez (12:40):
We also have a chemistry and mathematics study center. You may recall in the spring, all of our tutoring support, academic support, moved to a virtual format. For the chemistry and mathematics study center, they're going to deliver their services similarly to what they did in spring term. What that means is that the graduate teaching assistants and other instructors, for example, in mathematics and chemistry, will be working for the center, but making Google appointments with students, sending them links, using whatever software is appropriate for that particular support.

Stephanie Torrez (13:22):
We have a Writing Center on our campus, and the Writing Center is also going to continue the delivery similar to what they did in spring term. This is based on capacity restrictions. They plan to offer email and Zoom sessions. There will not be face-to-face options for the Writing Center this fall. The hope is that we can go back to in-person appointments in the spring if the guidelines allow for that. And, essentially, email and Zoom sessions are exactly what they sound like. Email will be an option for ... Email is the asynchronous option, and students upload their paper. A consultant provides feedback within 24 hours. And then, Zoom sessions are synchronous, live, and those happen at a scheduled time and session. All these appointments will continue to be made through their online scheduling.

Stephanie Torrez (14:19):
And so, what we see right now is that we're meeting with people like Blaine and facilities to think through options for, again, maximizing our opportunities for face-to-face supports. We'll utilize some of the classrooms that are going to be made available due to the changes that Mark discussed earlier. So, we're looking forward to getting back to campus this fall.

Mark Anderson (14:47):
Great. Thank you, Stephanie. I appreciate it. With that, I'd like to turn it over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:54):
Good morning, everybody. So great to be here with you all today. Let's see ... So, to give you a little bit of information about some of our services and student engagement opportunities, we will continue as we have all summer to have services available, such as the Counseling Center, where we offer both individual and group session opportunities to meet with a therapist, our Student Outreach and Support venue, where students are able to meet with staff talking about things like they're having a situation they're trying to work through.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:37):
Who do they talk to that can be an outreach if somebody perhaps has a situation where there's been a death in the family, or other really tough things to figure out? Our SOS department helps refer students to the right venue to have their questions answered, or to assist with talking with faculty and working with the student to be able to do that.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:04):
Our Disability Resource Center has been working with students virtually, of course, during this time as well. And so, those services will also be continuing to be offered, as a very central aspect of our academic success efforts for students. As well as our Center for Career Readiness; they continue to help students review resumes, cover letters, doing interview practice sessions, and that has all been done virtually.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:35):
For the fall, we are looking forward to both having those virtual opportunities as well as face-to-face. As Stephanie just shared, we are looking at, certainly, safety protocols, our distancing, having 50% of staff in various staff areas at a time. We also want to be really thoughtful as to student preference. Some, wearing a mask, being six to eight feet across, let's say, from their counselor, that in-person experience may be really something that they would like to have. And, in other cases, not having a mask and being virtual and being able to see more facial expressions may also be helpful. And, sometimes, being in your own environment and being able to have a conversation virtually sometimes can help one feel a little, perhaps, more settled.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:29):
And so, there are going to be a lot of variants with how we do this. We want to take into account all of those variables to determine what's going to be best and how we can navigate that. So, a lot of information in the works as to the specifics, but those are the things that we are looking forward to. I know many are excited to also get back on campus and have that face-to-face, and just being able to say hi in the hallway kind of thing.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:56):
The other areas ... We will absolutely have our Bear Pantry open. Right now, we do a grab-and-go, and there's a way to let the Bear Pantry know what kind of items a person would like, and then they can pick them up. We will be doing both that and folks being able to enter the Bear Pantry as well. So, more to come on having a slot of time to go in, so we can social distance there.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:24):
Equally, all of our clubs and organizations can meet. As we're looking at where ... We'll have openings in even classroom spaces, academic spaces, where maybe a group could meet in a space that would allow for social distancing. Equally, our fraternity and sorority organizations will function. We're certainly being very thoughtful for those who live in a house together, which is not everybody. We don't have a very large Greek housing arena, as some institutions do. But, for those that do live in ... again, thinking about that distancing and what is safe for them. But, in terms of the organizations doing the things that ... their philanthropy and their other activities and student engagement ... those will also continue on.

Katrina Rodriguez (19:17):
So, those are just a few of the pieces. We'll be bringing you more specific information in upcoming updates. Also, what I know is important to students and families and support people, our continuing updates on our Housing and Dining operations. So, I'd like to invite our Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Tobias Guzmán, to share with us a little bit more about Housing and Dining.

Tobias Guzmán (19:48):
Thank you, Katrina. Good morning, colleagues. This week, first-year students and returning students received helpful information about living and dining on campus. We provided them and their families an early move-in date and time for check-in to their respective residence hall. Early move-in will begin August 14th and continue throughout the week. This will help avoid congestion, as well as allow reasonable social distancing to occur.

Tobias Guzmán (20:18):
We believe with this approach we will reduce the anxiety and stress during what is typically a 95-degree day. We are committed to continuing to offer students a welcoming move-in experience, especially during these times of apprehension and uncertainty for the whole family.

Tobias Guzmán (20:37):
Included in this information, we encouraged students to contact their roommates, so they can coordinate what to bring in their shared space, as well as offered them talking points about getting to know each other. We also provided an explicit list of things to bring to campus, and, of course, included in that list, a reminder to bring their wardrobe of face masks.

Tobias Guzmán (20:59):
This year, students have an option to live in a single, and we reserved Wilson Hall specifically for this need. The desire to live in a single may range from simply wanting to live alone to wanting more control with whom they have contact with during the pandemic.

Tobias Guzmán (21:17):
In addition to early move-in, they will have an opportunity to purchase meals and eat via our dining rooms. But, of course, they can also utilize our local restaurants, buy food at supermarkets to cook in their own rooms, or visit the Bear Pantry.

Tobias Guzmán (21:35):
Finally, in our communication to new and returning students, we have linked the Housing and Residential Education policies and university policies related to COVID-19. We want to be mindful of the excitement and anxiety families have, and communication is critical during this time. Although the work is not done, I want to thank the Housing and Dining leadership for their tenacious and detailed work to prepare for on-campus living and dining for our students. Thanks for listening, and have a good day.

President Feinstein (22:09):
Okay. Well, listen. Thank you very much, Tobias, Stephanie, Katrina, Mark, Blaine, for your presentations. I hope that everybody has a wonderful Fourth of July weekend. As always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.