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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

March 11, Operational Update

March 11 Update (Watch on YouTube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, March the 11th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank all of you for joining us. We recently got a taste of a beautiful spring and the weather has been wonderful the last couple of days here in Greeley, but it looks like we're not completely done with winter yet. And as many of you know, Colorado is expecting to receive a significant snowstorm this weekend and the heavy snow will most likely begin Friday evening. And so at this moment, we are still planning to hold classes as scheduled during the day on Friday. Meteorologists are projecting well over a foot of snow in Greeley through Sunday, and Denver will likely receive even more. And if campus operations were to be adjusted on Monday or Tuesday, I will be sure to communicate those details with the faculty and staff and students over the weekend. And with that, I'm going to turn things over to Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:09):
Good morning, everyone. Thank you, President Feinstein. And I'll have a few more words on the weather given that I just got off a call with the National Weather Service in Boulder. I'd like to start this morning with some excellent news. There's been slow and steady progress since January. We've reached a milestone in vaccinations. As of this week, over a thousand bears, both students and employees, have been vaccinated through us. In January and February, those vaccinations were administered at the Weld County health department. Our team was coordinating with them on a daily basis to authorize slots and get people scheduled based on the state's priorities. Since late February, a little over two weeks ago, we've gotten our own supply of vaccines to administer on campus. We're excited to have reached this threshold of a thousand people, but obviously we know we have a long way to go.

Blaine Nickeson (01:57):
As we're currently only receiving about 100 doses per week on campus, we'd strongly encourage any eligible folks to seek out the vaccine through whatever routes are open to them: local hospital systems, pharmacies, vaccination clinics, et cetera. As supplies of vaccine ramp up, and we fully expect that both on campus and in general, we'll continue to work through the state's prioritization list. On campus, we're monitoring 75 individuals in isolation or quarantine. Seven of those are employees with the remaining 68 being students. We've got 32 positive cases. Two of those are staff, the 30 being students, and we're currently using three of our isolation and quarantine rooms in the residence halls.

Blaine Nickeson (02:41):
In Weld County, our case incidence rate and test positivity is pretty much flat from where it was two weeks ago. COVID's still actively circulating in our community. Colorado also continues to monitor the presence of more transmissible variants of COVID. The B117 or UK variant has been identified in 265 cases in Colorado. And this past weekend, the South African variant was identified in three cases up in Chaffee County. This particular variant is concerning because it can reinfect people who have already had original COVID. In fact, one of those three people that were infected in Chaffee County had previously had COVID. That's why it's so important for everyone to get vaccinated when it's your turn. Even if you've had a COVID infection in the past, the vaccine can help protect you against these new and emerging variants.

Blaine Nickeson (03:34):
The good news as we look at COVID cases is that the vaccine's doing its job in protecting our most vulnerable populations. It's keeping people from being hospitalized. Our current hospitalization numbers are the lowest they've been in about five months since the first week of October. The availability of vaccine continues to ramp up week after week. We're getting about 17,000 more doses next week than we had expected, and we just expect that to continue.

Blaine Nickeson (04:03):
And again, while it's not COVID related, I would like to finish with a few words or updates about the upcoming storm. Having gotten off the call at the National Weather Service, I can say that it's going to be a significant event. Current forecast calls for 18 to 24 inches of snow for Greeley. For folks that live West of Greeley, you'll see more snow, Fort Collins is forecasted to get 24 to 30 inches. The storm impacts, as Andy said, won't start until around midnight, Friday night. So Friday's a good day for operations, a good day to travel if you need to. But they're going to come on fast and furious throughout Saturday and Sunday, all the way into Monday morning, possibly. And this is going to be a really heavy, wet snow. At times it could be coming down two to three inches per hour.

Blaine Nickeson (04:52):
So you should plan on travel not being possible over the weekend. I don't mean travel like going on a road trip. I mean travel like getting to your local grocery store even. Right now, it's looking like Monday might be, as the weather service put it, our dig out day, given that at spring break there's minimal impacts to campus operations over this weekend, although the COVID testing site will likely close and we'll monitor for impacts on Monday. Again, we don't have a lot going on to start the week, but we'll keep an eye on it and we'll make sure to keep the campus informed. That's all I have this morning. I'll turn it back over to you, Andy. Andy, I think you're muted.

President Feinstein (05:32):
Thanks Blaine. Now let's hear from our provost, Mark Anderson, and our vice president for student affairs, Katrina Rodriguez. Mark.

Mark Anderson (05:40):
Thank you very much, Andy. In support of the snow storm and spring break, I've put a new background. It's one of my favorite places, Ponche Verde, Florida, where they're currently playing The Players Championship in golf for those golf fans out there. Spring break to me is a time of renewal and to get prepared for the last half of the semester. And so I hope everybody takes the opportunity to rejoin and come back together.

Mark Anderson (06:15):
We have no recruiting events for spring break, but we will continue to have on-campus in-person tours for prospective students and their families. Spring break also represents sort of the transition for the admissions team to begin to focus on yield and getting students to commit to becoming bears in the fall of '21. As I was walking around campus yesterday, there was an increased level of activity. There were music students outside playing their instruments. A group of students was rehearsing a dance routine in the outdoor theater. It reminded me really of what a robust campus we have.

Mark Anderson (06:55):
In speaking with many members of the community, people are excited to be returning back to campus and to have those personal interactions between faculty and faculty, faculty and staff, but especially faculty and students. These are the types of things that we've been missing over this past year, and people are just anxious to get back to the campus life that we have. And we're looking forward to having a full campus experience for our students in the fall.

Mark Anderson (07:23):
In these daily updates, recently I've been highlighting the work of individual faculty as they have really stepped up to begin to engage students in new and different ways during COVID-19. These have been individual examples of really the good work that our faculty have been doing. Today, I'd like to highlight a long-standing program that really is very important in engaging students, and that program is the McNair Program. The objective of the McNair Program is to prepare first generation and students from underrepresented populations for graduate student's success. This is one way that many faculty have been engaged in working directly with students in a co-curricular research types of activities.

Mark Anderson (08:11):
Krista Caufman, who began as an instructor in the McNair Program who is currently the director has been working really hard along with our faculty to ensure the success of our students, both at UNC, but also as they matriculate from UNC to receive a PhD. I wish I could highlight every student, but just a few who've earned a PhD degree this past year I'd like to recognize. Brianna Posey earned a PhD from Washington State University in Criminology and Criminal Justice. While Brianna was a student, she was mentored by Carl Granrud. Danielle Ingle received a PhD from Florida Atlantic University this year in Integrative Biology. And at UNC, she was mentored by Gary Heise.

Mark Anderson (08:59):
Diego Alcala received a PhD in Physics from the Colorado School of Mines in 2020. And while at UNC was mentored by Courtney Willis. And Javier Luna received a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Iowa, while at UNC was mentored by Kimberly Pacheco. Javier's work actually is something that I'm relatively familiar with and his thesis was electric chemical analysis of Ruthenium (II) redox-active complexes, applications towards carbon dioxide reduction. And I've actually read a couple of those papers. And so I would like to thank Krista and thank all of the faculty mentors for the work you're doing to mentor our McNair scholars and prepare them for lifelong success in their chosen disciplines. I hope everybody has a peaceful and relaxing spring break and enjoy the snow. And with that, I will turn it over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (10:02):
Good morning, everybody. Happy entry into spring break. Mark has shared certainly a time for some renewal or for students often catching up on projects and those kinds of things and faculty as well in some of the work that they're doing. Great to be here with you. Just a little bit of information about snow storm. I know there have been some concerns that since we typically will close most of our residents halls during spring break, which has been a typical practice for many, many years, we do still have some students who remain on campus and in particular buildings especially. Please know that students are able to, because of the snow if their plans get interrupted or they can't travel, even maybe home is Southwestern Colorado and the snow might prohibit that, they still are able to let our HRE department know that they'd like to stay.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:06):
Information has gone out to students for this particular option. And so just know that our folks in HRE are really taking care of students in this way. Also, we will be providing meals to our few students in quarantine and isolation. And so that those will all be provided to them well in advance of the storm, so they've got some options there too without having to miss a beat on that. I appreciate everybody's efforts in HRE and dining in our COVID group who's making all this happen.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:41):
The other thing I wanted to share today was our true excitement about a return to campus in-person in the fall. You'll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming weeks in terms of the types of events, engagement opportunities, learning opportunities, social events right there. It's the whole gamut of things that we create on campus for students to feel a full sense of belonging as a UNC bear as well as getting to meet other people and really creating a vibrant campus community, which is something UNC is absolutely known for.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:21):
You'll get more information. I shared with you, last week I believe, that we have the four day new student days that are being formulated with both some classic events that we have had for many years like a Taste of UNC and the Carnival, but also additional events that we are looking to put together to have a really action packed fun and informative first four days and things with our local Greeley community, downtown district, and some of those other areas. So more to come on the detail, but what you'll also be seeing, which I think is a great practice pandemic or not is to really highlight the types of events that you'll be seeing in the fall. We'll be sharing those this spring. Typically what we do is we have a great splashy rollout of sort of August or so for our welcome week and some of our early events.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:15):
But what is really fun to think about is letting all of our students' families and support people know at this time of year what some of those things are going to be so they can see them now. So anyway, more to come on that. We'll have some descriptors and places that you can go to get more information. And of course that will continue to grow as the spring continues and into the summer. So, super excited to think about that, especially thinking about that great fall weather, warm weather when we're anticipating a big snow event here. Happy spring break, be safe out there, and we'll see you when we get back. Back to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (13:54):
Thanks Katrina. Thank you Mark for your presentations. Thanks everybody for tuning in and as always, stay safe, be healthy. We'll see here again next week. Happy spring break, everybody.