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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

November 12, Operational Update

November 12 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, November 12th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. We want to thank all of you for joining us. A few weeks ago, we notified the university community that we were preparing for a change in our safer-at-home status based on the state's COVID-19 dial. And while that change in status has not yet been announced, although I think it's coming soon, we have made the decision to take proactive measures for the health and wellbeing of our campus community.

President Feinstein (00:29):
So beginning Monday, November the 16th, we will begin implementing the state's guidelines for safer-at-home orange status and Provost Mark Anderson and Vice President for Student Affairs, Katrina Rodriguez will share additional information this morning about impacts to our academic mission and student life in these final weeks of the spring semester, excuse me of the fall semester. My cabinet and I have monitored conditions locally and in Colorado since early in the spring semester, last year. And we continue to watch trends, monitor impacts to our university community and make adjustments that allow UNC to continue to serve its mission and provide support to students.

President Feinstein (01:13):
The health and safety of our students, faculty staff and community is my top priority. It is also important to me that our students can be successful in their academic work and make progress towards degree completion. We continue to work closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Weld County Public Health, the governor's office, and other stakeholders. And yesterday members of my leadership team and I met with executives, epidemiologists, and public health experts from Greeley's two hospitals and District Six Superintendent Dierdra Piltch. And we are sure that measures that we are taken and that we will continue to take to protect our university community are allowing us to limit the spread of the virus.

President Feinstein (01:57):
And I believe that our classrooms continue to be safe places to learn. When we see the virus spreading, it is usually associated with relaxed adherence to social distancing and masking guidelines. Throughout the fall semester, the university community has done a tremendous job following guidelines and keeping our case counts low. We'll hear more about that in a moment from Blaine, but we need to do more. And each of you needs to do your part for our fellow bears. So thank you for your help in keeping our fellow bears and our neighbors in Weld County safe.

President Feinstein (02:34):
Before I turn over the floor to Blaine, I want to remind everyone that there is a board of trustees meeting tomorrow morning. It will begin with the finance and audit meeting at 8:30 AM. And then we'll have a 9:30 meeting, which is our full board presentation. I hope that all of you will tune in and you can stream the meeting at unc.link/trustees. So with that, I'm going to turn the floor over to Associate Vice President for Administration, Blaine Nickeson. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (03:04):
Thanks, Andy. Good morning, everyone. Just a fair warning here. Comcast is having internet issues in my neighborhood, which is perfect timing when my wife is interviewing vice chancellor candidates and my kids are both online for getting started for school and I'm presenting to all of you. They're working on it, but I hope I don't get dropped. I'll keep my fingers crossed for it.

Blaine Nickeson (03:29):
The status of the virus in Weld County, the state, and quite honestly, the nation is not good right now. Colorado is experiencing exponential growth and spread of the virus. Yesterday, the state added nearly 4,000 cases. We also had a record day yesterday in Weld County for new cases. A month ago, statewide, we were adding about 600 cases a day as we were starting on this climb up to the top of the roller coaster. We've also seen our hospitalizations in both Weld County and the state spike. Tuesday, we hit a sad new record in active COVID hospitalizations, we eclipsed the spring peak.

Blaine Nickeson (04:08):
I want folks to think about that for a moment. Record hospitalizations, coupled with record new cases, day after day. As Andy said, he and I met with our local hospital leaders yesterday, and they're extremely concerned both with their capacity challenges, but as well as having enough medical staff and taking care of their medical staff. Their staff's getting sick with COVID in numbers similar to the general population, not because of what's happening in their hospitals, but because of what's happening outside in the community due to that widespread community transmission. One of the folks we met with yesterday was an epidemiologist for the Banner Healthcare System. They're the entity that runs NCMC. She was adamant about wanting to dispel a common myth. COVID-19 is far more deadly than the seasonal flu. Their modeling shows that COVID has a 2.4% fatality rate, that's compared to half a percent in a bad flu year. So significantly more fatal.

Blaine Nickeson (05:11):
I'm not sharing the information to scare people. Although, if it causes someone that isn't taking COVID seriously to change their behavior, I'll take it. Rather, I want people to think about the things that they care about and the impact that further restrictions would have on those things. Will your favorite restaurant or brewery or coffee shop survive another shutdown? Will your kids at school have to shut down? Will you be able to go to church in person? What about your local gym? If we, as a community, don't take immediate significant action, major restrictions are going to be necessary to save our hospitals.

Blaine Nickeson (05:48):
I was looking just this morning at the homepage of the Washington Post. And right now it shows the dissonance of the situation we find ourselves in. There's two headlines for two stories. They appear right next to each other. The first one is, "At dinner parties and game nights, casual American life fuels the surge." The next article right next to it is, "Hospitals near agonizing choice, who gets care?" As we talked about this morning and Andy, others will talk about as well, UNC is taking some proactive steps to align with more restrictive health guidelines that are sure to be coming soon.

Blaine Nickeson (06:25):
We continue to do screening tests among residential students and athletics. Last week we did around 400 tests. We had a handful of positives that we were able to swiftly put into isolation and contact trace to identify folks that needed to be told to quarantine. And in partnership with the state, the new campus and community testing site is up and running at Nottingham Field. I've just heard from the company running the site, that yesterday they did over a thousand tests. It's great news for our community, both here on campus and the broader Greeley community as well. We're seeing a steady increase in positive cases reported to us amongst the campus community. It's mirroring what we're seeing in Weld County and the state. We're monitoring 82 positive cases right now. That's up from 49 last week. Nine of those cases are among employees, with the remainder being students. On campus, we're using 41 of our approximately 80 isolation quarantine rooms.

Blaine Nickeson (07:20):
We continue to manage a robust caseload as it relates to the number of people within our tracking protocol for isolation and quarantine. As of this morning, that's at 324 active contacts, but this semester we've resolved over a thousand contacts. The team tackling this is working seven days a week, about 16 hours a day. They're doing amazing work, but it's really taxing. Lastly, I just wanted to finish with, a few weeks ago, I talked about the state's new exposure notification app that can be on your iPhone or Android. It is something you have to manually activate on your phone. It's secure and simple. In the first week we had about 10% of Coloradans set it up, but we need to keep it up. It's estimated that even if 15% of the population sets it up and uses it, we could reduce infections by 8%. That's pretty significant for not a lot of effort. So please join me in setting up your phone. And again, to emphasize, no personal or location information is tracked or shared, it really uses the secure Bluetooth tokens that get handed off between phones, but doesn't share any information about who you are or where you are.

Blaine Nickeson (08:34):
So that's all I have for this morning, Andy, and I'm happy to turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (08:38):
Thanks Blaine and I'm using the app and monitor that every day. I also went last Friday to our new testing site over at Nottingham Field. Maybe someone can share that link for everyone to make a reservation. Glad to hear that we were able to test a thousand individuals yesterday. It's pretty quick. I think they had a learning curve over the weekend and Monday, but I'm glad to hear that they're able to address those issues and really make it a pretty seamless and fast process. It's an oral test. It's not the brain tickler. So it's literally wiping a swab in your mouth and dropping it in a vial. And then they send you an email response. Mine was about 36 hours later.

President Feinstein (09:27):
So I strongly urge you to do that. It's free. They're not asking for your insurance information. So I think it's vital that if you have an opportunity in the next couple of days, that you go get tested. So thanks, Blaine. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Mark Anderson and Katrina Rodriguez. Mark.

Mark Anderson (09:46):
Thank you, President Feinstein. As Blaine and President Feinstein said, the spread of the Coronavirus in Weld County has increased to levels that we've not seen since May and June. Although there's so far had been no documented cases of transmission within our instructional spaces, we do understand the concern that our community has about these transmission rates. I want to thank all of our faculty for following the health and safety protocols when teaching in person classes. It's been through those efforts that we've been able to maintain and continue to serve our students well. The faculty know best how to teach their classes so that students can achieve the learning outcomes of the course. And over the course of this semester, they've also learned how to do that within the safety protocols. We really very much appreciate that.

Mark Anderson (10:39):
As President Feinstein said, although the county has not yet been designated as reaching the safer-at-home level three orange designation, the campus is starting to implement some of the protocols associated with that. CDPHE has changed the guidance with respect to the orange. And so our current instructional practices fall within that guidance. So we don't have to change any of our instructional practices, but as Thanksgiving approaches, we want faculty to use their best judgment as how to best teach their classes in the modality that they're using to teach their classes so that we can continue to serve our students and so that the students continue to make progress towards meeting the learning objectives of the course.

Mark Anderson (11:27):
What this ultimately means is we want the faculty, we're allowing the faculty, to make a decision regarding how they will teach their courses following Thanksgiving. All of our courses have met the Colorado Department of Higher Education Guidelines regarding their designated modality. So if, within the context of meeting the objectives of the course, the faculty believes that they can move to an all online environment, then they should do that post Thanksgiving.

Mark Anderson (12:04):
We would like the faculty to inform their students about the teaching modality and any changes to the modality that you might think are warranted by next Monday, November 16th, and also let the Dean of your college know. And that is so that we can continue to support the students and support you in your teaching activities. Again, we want the faculty to be able to use their judgment, to make a decision on quality the course will continue for the rest of this semester and communicate that to students so that they can prepare for the remainder of the fall semester. Communication will be coming out, the details, that's a little bit more later today or early tomorrow.

Mark Anderson (12:51):
Earlier this week, the faculty senate endorsed a change to the grading option to include the satisfactory, unsatisfactory grading option for students for this fall. This policy is equivalent to the SU grading option that was endorsed by faculty senate for the spring semester. Again, details about the change in the grading option will be made available later today or tomorrow. And we strongly encourage all students who are considering changing their grading option to first talk to their advisor, to make sure that they understand the overall implications of changing to an SU grading option in any course relative to their personal situation. So again, faculty senate has endorsed the SU grading option similar to the one we had in the spring, but we encourage all of our students to talk to their advisors prior to selecting that as their grading option. More details will be following on the SU grading option.

Mark Anderson (13:57):
Finally, I want to acknowledge the continued good work of all of our faculty. We have two really outstanding things to acknowledge this week. Professor Tracy Gershwin in the School of Special Education is the PI on a recently awarded $2.4 million grant from the Colorado Rise Programs. Tracy and her colleagues in this program, will be working with District Six to provide support to at-risk students, particularly in PK through kindergarten and our partner teachers within District Six. So congratulations to Tracy and all of her colleagues in Special Ed who will be working on that program.

Mark Anderson (14:40):
In addition, Professor [Athur Zia 00:00:19:34] received an honorable mention for her book titled, Resisting Disappearance, Military Occupation in Women's Activism in Cashmere, and this book received an honorable mention from the 2020 Gloria E [Alsdoua 00:19:34] . I apologize if I mispronounced that. The Gloria E Alsdoua Book Committee. So this is quite a significant honor for Professor Zia. So congratulations to Athur. And with that, I will turn the podium over to my colleague, Katrina Rodriguez.

Katrina Rodrigez (15:17):
Good morning, everyone. So great to be here with you this morning. To continue the conversation in terms of our student life and students on campus, in terms of our dining facilities, they will remain pretty much like they have. We will have some limited dine-in capacity, but minimal compared to where we have been. And so in the orange, we're going to continue. We will have a little bit less staffing in our Einstein's retail in the UC, as well as the Missioner Coffee Corner, we will have a little bit of limited staff, but still, those spaces are open and we want everyone to be able to access those as they have in the past. In terms of our campus recreation, we will be limited to 25 guests per room and campus rec is already making those adjustments. So it is open to faculty, staff, and students, again, as it has been, just be a little bit reduced capacity. So I'm happy to have that still working for us.

Katrina Rodrigez (16:32):
We also, for our club and intramural sports, it will be out outdoors and we have to have groups of less than 10. So again, some of those popular... Well, it's getting cool. So maybe not so much right now, but some of the hammock Hangouts and those kinds of things, we'll just have to limit some of the size on that. Like the rest of campus, we will be reducing the staff in offices to 25% capacity. We've been at 50%. So we will be making those adjustments.

Katrina Rodrigez (17:07):
We do have a number of small offices or some of our centers that might have one or two individuals and a few students who staff those spaces. So reducing that to 25% may mean that we'll be shifting our hours for a few places where we know we've seen an uptick in students who've been exposed to the virus or who may have contracted the virus. We may be closing some of those spaces temporarily, so we can do some additional cleaning and give time for a quarantine and isolation to occur. And then we'll be opening those spaces back up. So we will continue to broadcast that information so that the campus community is aware of what is open at what time.

Katrina Rodrigez (17:55):
The other thing I want to articulate is that we are excited to keep our residence halls open throughout this rest of the semester and certainly after Thanksgiving break, have students join us and remain in the residence halls. And additionally, for any students who require winter break housing, we do have that available. And so if you will contact our housing office, we will be happy to accommodate anybody who would like to have that winter break housing. So we are excited for all the opportunities that we can still provide to students. We'll have a number of virtual opportunities, as we have in terms of virtual programming and conversations.

Katrina Rodrigez (18:42):
So look forward to that and we will continue to share various aspects and operations that will have any adjustments as we go along. To let you also know, all of the rest of the services, our disability resource services, counseling services, career readiness, all of those spaces, Bear Pantry is still open for a grab and go. So you certainly may continue to use those services. So please just know that students have access to everything they have had. It just may be shifting just a little bit. So with that, I'll turn it back over to Andy.

President Feinstein (19:22):
Thanks Katrina. Thanks Mark for your presentations. I want to make everybody for tuning in this morning and as always stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next week. Take care, everybody.