Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

July 23, Operational Update

July 23 Update (Watch on Youtube)


Mark Anderson (00:00):
Today is July 23rd, and this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank everybody for joining us, and thanks Dan "DJ Satch" for the music this morning. There's nothing quite like listening to rock and roll music through an inch and a quarter speaker on your laptop to transform you back to 1975 when you're 15 years old. So I very much appreciate the nostalgia today. I'm Mark Anderson, I'm provost for the University of Northern Colorado. I'm stepping in for President Feinstein today, who's on a much deserved couple of days off.

Mark Anderson (00:43):
The UNC communities, we're trying to maintain clear communication in an effort to keep people informed about the presence of the coronavirus on our campus. The university is launching a health alerts webpage this Friday, tomorrow, July 24th. The page will be part of the UNC coronavirus website. I'll put a link in the chat here momentarily, but that's found at unco.edu/coronavirus, and it will provide information regarding the number of positive coronavirus cases impacting the university.

Mark Anderson (01:18):
The pages also include information regarding our process for when a positive case is reported as well as preventative measures and privacy policies. It's important to note that we're going to follow all of HIPAA guidelines to protect patient privacy and will not release any identifying information. But in the interest of transparency, we want people to know when cases are present on campus so everybody can be due diligent in maintaining the health and safety of our campus.

Mark Anderson (01:50):
As most of you are aware through campus emails, newsletters and social media updates, the updated fall course schedule is now available online in Ursa. The schedule will show you when every class will meet, what the modality of instruction is, and whether an online class is synchronous or asynchronous. If students have questions about the schedule and they need assistance, they should contact their advisor with those questions. I also want to remind people that we are not currently planning on changing the 20-21 academic calendar. We plan on beginning the semester on the start date, August 24th, we plan on having a regular Thanksgiving break, and we plan on ending the semester on schedule. We have to remember that we're going to be flexible because the coronavirus is a fluid situation, and so we're going to be prepared to adjust as needed, but we're committed to your education, protecting the health and safety of our community. Those are our top priorities.

Mark Anderson (02:58):
With that, I want to remind the panelists to unmute themselves and turn on their cameras as they give their reports. With that, I'm going to ask Associate Vice President for Administration Blaine Nickeson for a report on the current status of the public health in Colorado. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (03:15):
Thank you, Provost Anderson. I first want to thank AVP for Facilities Management, Kirk Leichliter, for filling in for me last week. I took a much-needed week of vacation, and it was great to be able to recharge. Now that I'm back working, it's been a very active week. Last Thursday, actually, Governor Polis issued a statewide mask order. This doesn't have a significant impact here at UNC as we'd already required masks for all students, faculty, staff, as well as visitors to the campus. However, it does help keep the larger community around us safe through reducing case transmission and hopefully has a positive impact upon behavior norming related to wearing a mask whenever we're in public places.

Blaine Nickeson (03:57):
Cases continue to be on an upward trajectory in Colorado. We're in about the fifth week of that. The age group of 20 to 29 now makes up the highest percentage of cases, both statewide and in Weld County, and that's really concerning. For the most part young people experience mild symptoms, but the bigger concern with infections among that age group is that they spread it to others in their lives, including older people who have a much higher mortality rate. COVID is a serious virus, but it can be kept under control through common sense precautions like wearing mess, limiting social interactions, hand-washing, practicing good hygiene or good social distancing.

Blaine Nickeson (04:38):
As we know that we'll be experiencing some cases that impact campus, regardless of our operating model in the fall, we've created a robust contact tracing system here on the campus. We're also in close partnership with the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment and their professional staff of epidemiologists and public health officials. Contact tracing is the work that happens once we have a confirmed positive case to sort of quickly identify any of their close contacts and place them into a quarantine. That limits the community spread and helps reduce the chain of transmission. It's incredibly important that if you're given an isolation or quarantine order by health department or health officials that you follow that directive. It's just critical in breaking the chain of transmission. It's also the law, if you're given that directive from a public health official.

Blaine Nickeson (05:37):
As part of our work related to contact tracing, we conducted a tabletop exercise yesterday morning with a variety of UNC stakeholders, joined by some of our partners actually from the county. A tabletop exercise, for those of you that aren't familiar, is a discussion-based exercise where a facilitator leads the participants through a variety of scenarios to identify how they would respond. It also allows you to identify gaps in your planning or procedures. Yesterday's UNC tabletop was a great opportunity for all of the folks involved on campus in responding to COVID cases to examine and refine how we respond.

Blaine Nickeson (06:15):
While we don't know exactly what fall has in store for us, our logistics group, in support of the reentry task forces, has continued to work hard to prepare the campus environment for a safe return. We're outfitting all of our buildings with signage, disinfecting supplies, sanitizer, plexiglass barriers at points of service, all those kinds of things. We're also rearranging furniture to maximize capacity while supporting social distancing. For example, in the University Center, if you're familiar with the first floor, there's a large computer lab there, but that computer lab can't have as many people in it as it used to due to distancing requirements. So we're getting creative, we're removing some of those computers from the lab, and we're actually spreading them out around the UC. So there's still just as much capacity for students to be able to utilize those computers, but in a way that sort of meets the new normal that we need to deal with. That's all that I have for this morning, and I'll turn it back over to you, Mark.

Mark Anderson (07:14):
Thank you very much Blaine. I would like to just acknowledge all the work that you have done, and Kirk, and the entire Facilities team. This has been a heavy lift, and I think a lot of the work that you do goes on behind the scenes, and people really don't don't realize it. And so I hope that everybody does realize really, as we return to campus, the heavy lift that our Facilities folks have done all the way from the physical facilities, with the grounds, custodial, et cetera. And I cannot be more appreciative to you, Kirk, and your teams. So thank you so much. I'd like to now ask Vice President for Student Affairs Katrina Rodriguez to give her report on the reentry plan. Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (08:03):
Good morning, everybody. Thank you so much, Mark. Happy to share some news with everyone in terms of our reentry. I know that students are interested in the opportunities to engage on campus, and some of those will include activities with our 150 clubs and organizations. We have Canvas shells for each of those various clubs, and so that students can interact and be engaged with each other. And so those will be rolling out as the semester begins so we can really have an opportunity to connect with students. The other thing is our intramurals will still occur, we'll have some challenges. There won't be quite as many as we had before, just wanting to keep everybody safe, but they're still planned.

Katrina Rodriguez (08:51):
The other thing is with our Outdoor Pursuits, this afternoon, we're having a conversation about their plans. And one of the things I know they're talking about is a virtual ropes course. So they will have low ropes, and they'll have some folks in person, distanced of course, and they have a way of doing this, and then folks can also join virtually. So I don't exactly know what to tell you what it looks like, but I know that they're super excited about the opportunity. So I'm really grateful to the whole staff for being really creative and thinking about ways that students can get engaged and have some fun. So I know there's also scavenger hunts that are online now with various organizations, and so we may be looking into some of those. And so anyway, just some fun things planned ahead that we can start talking about.

Katrina Rodriguez (09:40):
Secondly, the Counseling Center is going to continue to provide their services virtually in the fall for personal appointments and for group and drop-in sessions. And the reason for this is the Student Health Center is located downstairs in Cassidy Hall, and the Counseling Center and our Assault Survivors Advocacy Program is upstairs. So we don't want students and staff going through the Health Center until we know that it's safe to do so. So we thought rather than trying to have a new location and figure out some logistical pieces for students to know where to go, they're going to remain a virtual. It's worked very well. The clients have overall said it's really been a positive experience. It also allows them to have interaction without the mask so that some of the non-verbals and all of those things can be seen a little more clearly. So that's what we're thinking about. Well, that is what is going to happen. And then the Disability Resource Center will have a combination of virtual appointments and face-to-face appointments. So more to come on that as well and how to connect to those various services.

Katrina Rodriguez (10:54):
The last thing I'll share is that we still have single rooms available in our housing on campus, and that we know some students are going to prefer a single to a roommate. So just to let you know that we are going to have space in Wilson Hall, which is in our new Mesa Neighborhoods. We're going to have neighborhoods for our sections of residence halls. So that's in the Mesa. And the cost is in the tier one price range, and so it's an additional 525 per semester for students to have a single room. So certainly connect with our housing website, our Housing and Residential Education website, and we can get you connected to a single room if that's something that you'd like to do. So that is my report, Mark. I'll turn it back over to you.

Mark Anderson (11:46):
Thank you so much, Katrina. And again, I'd like to acknowledge the Division of Student Affairs and all the work that they have done over the course of the summer. The fall semester is going to be different, but it's going to be great. And there will be plenty of cocurricular and extracurricular activities, plenty of services. As Katrina indicated, counseling services, tutoring, sports and rec will all be active. A little bit different, but different isn't lesser, it's just different. And we're really anxious for the beginning of the fall semester.

Mark Anderson (12:23):
I'll provide a brief update for the academic affairs. We spent first part of the summer really looking at our schedule and trying to meet the needs of individual courses, but also the needs of the students. We surveyed the students and we came up with a fall semester that we are very anxious for. Faculty really stepped up to ensure that we had an on-campus experience for students in a face-to-face environment, to the extent possible. We've spent, and as I indicated earlier, the schedule is now available in Ursa. And any student who's listening, we would encourage you to reach out to your advisor to understand the schedule and make changes if necessary.

Mark Anderson (13:08):
We're spending the last bit of the summer really looking at how we are going to facilitate the campus community. And the faculty are working hard on essentially a COVID-19 faculty handbook. Things like attendance, things like contact tracing, things like what to do if a student gets sick. And so that's a really big effort, and we want to make sure that we have consistency in the way that we're treating our campus community. Our primary objectives are to assure the education of our students, but also the health and safety of our community. So I very much appreciate it.

Mark Anderson (13:46):
And then finally I have this limited opportunity to acknowledge many people, and I think I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge President Feinstein for his leadership during a very difficult period of time for all of higher education. But from, in talking to colleagues across the country, I'd say that we are blessed to have President Feinstein leading us through a very difficult time. And I have confidence that the fall semester is going to be a great one because of the leadership that he's provided.

Mark Anderson (14:19):
So I want to thank all of our presenters, Blaine and Katrina this morning, and to everybody for listening, once again. We are only 32 days from the beginning of the fall semester. Hard to believe. Students who are listening, you may have received an email from the Office of Financial Aid earlier this week. Make sure you read that email because it has important information about how to secure your financial aid for the coming year. And so please do not miss the opportunity to get information about how to secure your financial aid.

Mark Anderson (14:59):
You may know that UNC instituted a mask policy for the summer as well as the fall semester. On July 16th, last week, Governor Polis issued an executive order mandating that every Coloradan older than 10 years old wear a mask or face covering when they're in public. That policy went into place immediately and runs through at least August 16th, but we anticipate that it will be extended. We have a responsibility to the community, and we need to take every precaution, and so we're asking our campus community, faculty, staff and students to wear masks. And for more information about that, you can go to unco.edu/masks.

Mark Anderson (15:44):
We encourage you to visit our return to campus website, where we will post the latest information regarding the fall semester. And again, it's a fluid situation. And so it's good to visit that website frequently to get the latest information. And that's found at unco.edu/return-to-campus.

Mark Anderson (16:09):
Continue to be safe and stay healthy. We look forward to seeing you back on campus. Andy usually closes these out by saying, "Get back to work." I'm going to close it out a little bit differently by saying, "Live long and prosper." Go Bears.