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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

March 4, Operational Update

March 4 Update (Watch on YouTube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Good morning, everybody. Thursday, March 4th and this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank all of you for joining us. We continue to experience positive trends related to COVID-19 not just within our campus community, but locally and nationally as well. We'll hear more about that in a moment from Blaine. We have also received a limited amount of vaccine supply that we have been able to provide to our community members who qualify within the state's prioritization order. And you should have received an email explaining the use of our vaccine supply earlier in the week.

President Feinstein (00:37):
I also want to thank Governor Polis and CDPHE for adding higher education to Phase 1B.4 for vaccine distribution, which was announced at a press conference last Friday. I know we all appreciate the adjustment and look forward to more of our student-facing, higher education employees being able to receive the vaccine before the state enters phase two. We are currently waiting for clarification from the county and state as to exactly who will be included in 1B.4. And once we have more detailed information, we will share with the campus community. And my guess is that 1B.4 vaccinations will begin sometime around the end of March. And with that, I'm going to hand over to Blaine Nickeson for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:31):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning to you all. As Andy said, it's been a big week, particularly around vaccines. Last Friday, as you said, Governor Polis rolled out a couple of adjustments to the state's prioritization framework. Starting this Friday, March 5th, anyone over the age of 60 is eligible to receive a vaccine. Also, any adult with two comorbidities, those are serious health conditions, they will be eligible as well.

Blaine Nickeson (02:00):
The big news from last Friday, and Andy stole my thunder here is that the tireless advocacy that he did along with his peers has paid off. So starting in late March, again as you just said, we're not sure of the exact date yet student-facing employees are going to be eligible to receive the vaccine. We also received great news on the supply and rollout of the vaccine as the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was authorized and shipped already.

Blaine Nickeson (02:28):
And president Biden announced that due to increase production of the other two available vaccines, along with the newly approved J & J vaccine, the country should have enough doses to vaccinate every adult by the end of May. This is absolutely fantastic news on all fronts and it leads further support to our plans to be back in person for the fall. There's a couple of costumes I want to highlight just because the 1B.4 phase of vaccination starts in late March. That does not that everybody in that group, including our employees are going to be able to get a shot that first week.

Blaine Nickeson (03:05):
1B.4 group is really large. It's over two million people and it includes everybody over the age of 50, restaurant workers, bus drivers, and a number of other frontline folks. Vaccine supplies are increasing every week, but not to the level that we're going to be able to breathe through that phase in just a week or two. I just want to set realistic expectations for folks. If we look at just the medium term here, just a couple months more and we're going to be in a great place when it comes to vaccination.

Blaine Nickeson (03:37):
We don't know yet if we'll receive larger allocations of doses on campus to vaccinate our own folks, or people will be directed to, for example, one of the new large points of distribution that are rolling out in the next few weeks. There's going to be six of those in Colorado, including one at the ranch over in Loveland to serve Northern Colorado's community. These are anticipated to administer thousands of shots per day every day.

Blaine Nickeson (04:03):
We do continue to receive a small allocation of vaccine doses here on campus. We've been moving through our prioritization list based upon the state's requirements. While we've received a total of 200 doses on campus, we've had many other individuals who received the vaccine at Weld County Public Health in January and February. As of yesterday, 884 UNC students and employees had received at least one dose. This includes key priority groups such as nursing students and their clinicals, student teachers, first responders, and healthcare providers.

Blaine Nickeson (04:39):
I really want to emphasize that none of this would have been possible without our outstanding relationship with Weld County Public Health. And that's not a relationship that is new with the pandemic. It's been built over working together for decades. But I can tell you from talking to my peers at other campuses, that's not the case on every campus and I'm very proud of the progress we've made there. We are seeing a slight uptick in cases impacting the campus. Right now, we're monitoring 38 individuals in isolation or quarantine. Of the 38, four employees, the rest are students.

Blaine Nickeson (05:12):
We have 13 positive cases with all, but one of those being students. After a run of 10 days without using any of them, we do have one person in our residential isolation and quarantine rooms. Don't worry. They're not all alone in a building. For about the last month cases in Weld County in the state have been hovering pretty steady. COVID isn't gone yet. The state's averaging about 1,000 new cases a day. Weld County, we had 115 new cases yesterday. And we do continue to identify cases of the more transmissible UK variants in Colorado, 114 so far.

Blaine Nickeson (05:48):
The good news is that hospitalizations continue to drop, which is what you would expect as high risk groups get vaccinated. For example, we now know that we've vaccinated 71% of our population over the age of 70, and that's one of our biggest high risk groups. With more things reopening, and a light at the end of the tunnel with great news around vaccines, we really need people just to keep up the precautions for a few more months, but I'm extremely optimistic about what this summer and this fall are going to look like. So with that, I'll turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (06:23):
Thanks, Blaine. It really was a team effort regarding 1B.4 with all the CEOs and the state, the work of our campus and the work of your team as well. So thank you very much for that. And now I'm going to turn it over to our Provost, Mark Anderson and our Vice President for Student Affairs, Katrina Rodriguez. Mark.

Mark Anderson (06:40):
Thank you very much, Andy. Good morning, everyone. We are one week away from spring break, halfway through the spring semester. This week also represents the one year anniversary of the first impact of coronavirus on the university. And it was this week, one year ago, we made the decision to restrict international travel. At the time, that was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but in retrospect was probably one of the easier things we've had to do over the last year or so.

Mark Anderson (07:15):
It seems like so long ago, but just like yesterday. As I talked about last week, we have several recruiting events planned for the coming weeks as we plan to continue building our entering class for next fall. On March 8th and 9th, the Admissions office is hosting experience UNC college sessions. On Monday, the 8th, sessions will be held for the College of Education Behavioral Sciences and for College of Business and the College of Performing and Visual Arts.

Mark Anderson (07:48):
And on Tuesday the 9th, sessions will be held for College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Natural Health Sciences, and the SOAR program. These events will have representatives to host question and answer sessions for students and their families. On the 11th, the SOAR program will be collaborating with the Denver Scholarship Foundation and the Independent Youth Program to host prospective students. These programs support students in the bear's first program to facilitate academic success strategies.

Mark Anderson (08:21):
And it's just one example of how UNC is a students' first university. Please be available to participate in these events if you are asked to do so. Continuing to highlight different ways that faculty are serving our students in spite of the restrictions of coronavirus, in Anthropology 300, Professor Michael Kimball's class is participating in the applied anthropologies Reclaiming Heritage project. This project is a collaboration between the communities connecting heritage program, and that's a program administered the World Learning program and funded by the US Department of State.

Mark Anderson (08:59):
The UNC library's digital archive, the English language learners at the Immigrant & Refugee Center of Northern Colorado, colleagues in India, and the students in the class. This is a unique international collaboration aimed at creating space for disparate cultures to come together in a virtual exchange to represent and advocate for cultural survival. This experience is an example of a reciprocal community engaged learning project and research that is occurring at UNC.

Mark Anderson (09:32):
Having this experience as part of the curriculum is a way of teaching core anthropological concepts and practices such as cultural relativism and pluralism, rapport building and the ethical practice of applied anthropology. I'd like to congratulate Dr. Kimball and all of his students for finding new ways of meeting and exceeding the learning objectives of the course during this time.

Mark Anderson (09:57):
And again, this is just one representation of the many, many different ways that our faculty continue to serve our students during this time. Finally, our students have had to adjust their learning and their university experience the most during this past year. And I'm continuously impressed by their adaptability and resilience. It has been a challenge for all of us, but especially for them yet, our students persevere and many continue to thrive.

Mark Anderson (10:26):
For example, graduate student [Marco Corona 00:10:28]. He's a graduate student in the school psychology program where he's pursuing an education specialist degree. Marco was recently recognized by National Association of School Psychologists receiving a $5,000 scholarship than a national competition. So I'd like to congratulate Marco for this recognition and the faculty of the Department of School Psychology for all the good work that they continue to do. And with that, I will turn it over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:01):
Oh, well, good morning, everybody. It's great to be here with you this morning. And today I'd like to share with you a little information about our DREAMer Awareness Month, which is March and the term DREAMer is commonly used by students who created a movement with the goals of working toward lawful immigration and interrupting socialized ideas and terminology that are often used to describe them such as illegal, alien, criminal and so forth. Which of course you can imagine how disparaging that is for folks to be turned in that way.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:34):
And there've been a lot of political and legal action taken on both directions as to whether or not our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA who were also dreamers, in terms of their status in the United States. So currently as many may know that the Biden administration is looking at ways to grant permanent legal status and other protections, which will certainly help our students in this effort and their families.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:05):
And so let me tell you a little bit about who our UNC scholar DREAMers are. And here at UNC, they have a GPA of 3.03 and for the students we have right now, they're seeking majors such as nursing, criminal justice and human services. Aside from their academic life, they are provided outreach and support through our DREAMer Engagement Program and our undocumented student services. And that is led by Rudy Vargas, who does such a great job with community of students and we've just very much appreciated his leadership.

Katrina Rodriguez (12:40):
This also offers to students other campus services, legal support. We do some things with DACA renewal services and just really helping students find their way through institutional navigation, as well as looking at scholarship opportunities and admissions and those kinds of things. So for this month, Rudy will be leading our DREAMers zone workshops. So I'd encourage you folks to engage in that opportunity. It's a really fabulous professional development opportunity that helps us really gain awareness of the DREAMer experience.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:18):
And there are a number of other things that folks can do. Actually this evening, President Feinstein and Jesse Tijerina who's Director of Cultural Excellence and Parent Programming for District 6. They will both provide live audio biographical readings at an event tonight called the Undocu-Monologues. So if you want to go to the DREAMer engagement page or equity inclusion, you can find the link to register for that event this evening.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:46):
So we'll look forward to hearing the stories and the journeys of our DREAMer students. Please go ahead and check out that website. There are a number of things that folks can do to take action to support our dreamer students. Again, they're magnificent and have such a spirit for their education and dreams and goals that are amazing and there's so much accomplishment there. So thank you to Tobias Guzmán for providing some information to the campus on our DREAMer engagement.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:21):
The other thing I want to share this morning, we had three individuals join cabinet yesterday, Evan Welch in Student Life, Paige Johnson from New Student Orientation, and Michael Klitzke from Housing and Residential Education. And they shared with us the plans and the work that has been conducted as a committee on campus from all areas of campus, looking at our new student days, which will be the Thursday through Sunday, just prior to classes starting on Monday.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:57):
And the message I want to share with you all is that we have a really robust student experience plan for this fall. And as Blaine shared earlier, that we're encouraged by certainly the vaccines and the hope that we can be really engaged with our students in a face-to-face kind of way in things that make us excited about getting to be with students directly. And so they've got a whole calendar of items planned.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:28):
Some are traditional heritage like tastes of UNC and the carnival, complication, as well as some items that we used to do when we had in-person new student orientation that are ways for students to connect and to get to know each other, but also learning about identities. We do a basic workshop with various identities, and we also do some things around consent. So consent in terms of sexual consent, as well as bystander intervention, which is helping fellow bears to navigate situations and step in and some really great opportunities to practice how one would do that, especially in an environment where they may not know a lot of folks yet. And so trying to kind of find their way.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:20):
So just know that we've got some great plans there in the making in terms of some opportunities to engage with the city, as well as campus. And so more to come on that, but just a little bit of seed planting in terms of what that's going to look like for fall. And as Paige said yesterday, it's a bucket filler to think about how exciting it is to think about engaging with our students in ways that are traditional and things that we enjoy. So thank you so much. And Andy, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (16:53):
Thanks Katrina and I'm really looking forward to new student days, looking forward to the carnival coming back, taste of UNC, hopefully some pancake. Breakfast coming on, too. I'm looking forward to doing some work. So thanks again for the update. Thanks Mark for your update. Thanks everybody for tuning in this morning as always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next week. Take care, everybody.