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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

November 5, Operational Update

November 5 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Good morning, everybody, it's Thursday, November 5th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank all of you for joining us. We announced last week that we anticipate a change in our COVID-19 dial designation and more restrictive public health guidance in the coming days. I believe that a change is imminent as Weld County and other counties across Colorado experience increases in the numbers of COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate and testing.

President Feinstein (00:31):
While our case numbers at UNC has still been manageable, we have seen an increase in positive tests and close contacts associated with each case. Ultimately, state mandated restrictions will be determined not only by conditions on our campus, but also neighboring communities. I ask every member of our UNC community to do your part to help curb the spread of COVID. And I know you know what to do. So, thank you all for keeping us safe and for taking care of our fellow Bears and our neighbors in Weld County. So now I'm going to turn over the floor to Associate Vice President for Administration, Blaine Nickeson who's going to provide an update on what's happening here at the university and in Weld County. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:20):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. You've hit on many of the important points regarding the status of COVID in our community. I'm going to be direct this morning. The status of the virus is not good. New cases are growing exponentially. We're logging between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases a day. In September, that number was around 300 a day, and a certain percentage of those new cases are going to require hospitalization. We're seeing the number of folks hospitalized grow significantly.

Blaine Nickeson (01:48):
The state actually expects that we'll exceed our spring peak of hospitalized COVID patients here in two to three days. In April, we were putting heroes work here signs outside of hospitals and our neighborhoods were howling support every night at 8:00 PM. I don't think there's anywhere near that level of awareness right now about what is happening. We are doing a lot more testing, but the positivity rate just continues to go up. It was over 11% statewide yesterday. It tells us the virus is spreading widely. We've got to take some significant steps to slow this virus down before it overwhelms our hospitals.

Blaine Nickeson (02:26):
We continue to do screening testing among our residential students in athletics. Last week, we did about 500 tests. For the first time since starting our screening testing, we actually identified asymptomatic positive cases about 10 total. That allowed us to swiftly put those students in isolation and contact trace to identify folks that needed to be told to quarantine so the system worked. We're seeing an increase in positive cases reported to us amongst the campus community monitoring what's being seen in the broader community and the state. We're currently monitoring 49 positive cases, which is up about a third from where I reported last week. Four of those cases are among employees and the remainder are with students.

Blaine Nickeson (03:08):
On campus, we're currently only using 24 of our approximately 80 isolation quarantine rooms, so that's down a little bit from last week. We continue to manage a robust case load as it relates to the number of people within our tracking protocol. As of this morning, we were at 275. And a reminder to folks that the state has mandated that no one should have personal gatherings larger than 10 and that only two households may gather at any one time.

Blaine Nickeson (03:36):
As you mentioned, because of the continued deterioration of the COVID situation in Weld County as well as at the state in general, I fully expect that we will be moved to a more restrictive level of the state style framework. Yesterday, we saw Jefferson, Boulder and Broomfield counties all ordered to more restrictive orange level and all three counties have better statistics than we do. I believe we'll hear news today or tomorrow as to whether we're being moved to orange, which is the second most restrictive level, or, unfortunately all the way to red, which is the stay at home order.

Blaine Nickeson (04:08):
Weld County's data is currently in the red. We'll inform the campus community as soon as we have any information. And I know that as a community, we'll be able to pivot and react to whatever it is we need to do. We've shown that we have the resilience to respond to changes ever since the spring. And I know that as Bears we will continue to do so. I'll go ahead and turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (04:30):
Thanks, Blaine. Do you have any updates on the saliva PCR testing center that we're going to be installing somewhere near our stadium?

Blaine Nickeson (04:40):
You are absolutely right. Thank you for that prompt, Andy. I realized that I didn't scroll down here to my last paragraph that I'd prepared. But we continue to make progress with our new State of Colorado testing site on campus. Yesterday the team kiosk and equipment were actually delivered to Nottingham field and unloaded with a forklift, getting ready to go there. Once activated that free testing site will serve both our UNC community and the wider Greeley and Weld County community.

Blaine Nickeson (05:11):
The test is a sort of oral swab. So you'll walk up to the little kiosk. A staff member inside of it will sort of show you how to swab on your mouth. You'll submit it into the little testing bin and should have results within a day or two. Those results will come by text and by email, and for members of the UNC community, our case investigation and contact tracing team will be able to learn about those positive cases and take swift action to make sure that folks are appropriately isolated or quarantined. But yeah, we can definitely use that extra testing capacity here in Weld County. No question about it.

President Feinstein (05:46):
And just to remind me that there's no fee initially for utilizing this service? There may be in the future the need to go insurance, but for right now, the state is covering all costs for the test.

Blaine Nickeson (06:00):
That's correct. There's zero cost to anybody who's getting tested. There's no qualifications for getting testing. You can get tested for whatever reason. Yes, you're completely right. There's no fee. They're handling it through CARES Act dollars to cover the cost of the testing for at least the next couple of months. We may have to pivot again as we move into the new year, but we'll figure out a way to do that.

Blaine Nickeson (06:23):
The other thing I would mention is that while that testing facility is going to be available, we really want to encourage all of our faculty, students and staff if they're experiencing symptoms, and that's why they're getting testing or they're a known close contact of somebody that has been sick, we'd really like to direct them into our Student Health Center and make sure that we can handle them with the appropriate clinical care.

Blaine Nickeson (06:49):
If you're interested in getting tested for maybe peace of mind or things like that, the kiosk is a great option, but especially for our students, we want to be able to provide that elevated level of care at our Student Health Center.

President Feinstein (07:02):
How do folks make an appointment or is there a... We might not know this yet, but are there periods of time during the day that are walkup?

Blaine Nickeson (07:13):
We are working out those last details right now. Our marketing and communications team at UNC is in partnership with the state and we'll be announcing those details shortly. It'll be an app based system where you go, you'll be able to select a window of time that you'd like to come by and get tested, but we'll also have walkup hours. So folks, if they haven't made an appointment, they can still just walk up to the kiosk and get tested.

Blaine Nickeson (07:36):
I mean, the reality is, is that the test itself takes just moments. So it's not like it's a big lag time or lots of people waiting in line to get tested, should be really in and out.

President Feinstein (07:48):
Thanks, Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (07:50):

President Feinstein (07:51):
And now let's hear from Vice President of Student Affairs, Katrina Rodriguez and our Provost, Mark Anderson. Mark.

Mark Anderson (07:59):
Thank you, President Feinstein. As Blaine and President Feinstein talked about Weld County's case count as well as positivity rate is moving us up the dial. We sent a communication out to the campus community-

Mark Anderson (08:15):
... about moving into the orange range on the dial, which at the time required some changes to our instructional practice. Since that announcement the Governor's Office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have changed the restrictions for higher education. And now when we go to the orange level, we will be restricted to in-person classes of 50 or fewer. The communication on Friday was 25 or fewer. So this change is a little bit less restrictive and in fact it means that we have very little impact upon our instruction at the orange level. Should we go to the red, and another communication came out earlier this week, we need to be prepared to pivot to a different instructional modality. Most likely all online.

Mark Anderson (09:16):
We should point out that we have neither, the Weld County has not yet been moved into the orange although we expect that as Blaine said, that that will happen soon, nor have we been moved to the red. So there's no change to our instructional modality at the moment, but we need to be prepared to pivot should that designation occur. In the orange level, it's a remote instruction, should that change occur we need to be ready to pivot. So thanks for everybody for all you do to be prepared, to continue to serve our students, regardless of what restrictions we are faced with.

Mark Anderson (10:02):
On another note, this week, we are beginning to host candidates for the finalists candidates for the position of executive director of extended campus. Our first candidate is here today and have an open forum beginning at 1:30 today, which will be held by Zoom and we'll send around a link for that. The others will be here next week and then the following week. You can get more information about the finalists for the executive director of extended campus position at unc.edu\provost\searches\ecdirector. So we encourage everybody to participate in that and help us to identify the next executive director for extended campus.

Mark Anderson (10:46):
Finally, I just want to close out with some good work that our faculty are doing to help our students remain engaged with the campus community. In the College of Business, they've reminded me that students are being awarded research awards from the Office of Undergraduate Research. And Professor Yazan Alnsour has five students in the Department of Computer Information Science who are participating in undergraduate research with him this semester. Undergraduate research is a great way for students to integrate their learning and to get engaged with the campus. And so Dr. Alnsour's students aren't the only ones and the Office of Undergraduate Research is actively engaged with helping students find and fund undergraduate research opportunities.

Mark Anderson (11:40):
It's also a time when graduates need to be recruited and we have to do recruitment in different ways and the Department of School Psychology led by Professor David Hulac hosted a virtual recruiting environment or virtual recruiting activity last week, where they hosted 20 students who were interested in pursuing graduate degrees in school psychology. And then finally, Patricia Jolly a faculty member who teaches in the Honors Program and Honors Critical Thinking, historically in their class help students to understand different cultures and particularly the plight of refugees. And they generally participate in an activity, A Walk in Their Shoes, sponsored by the Immigrant & Refugee Center of Northern Colorado.

Mark Anderson (12:37):
That activity was canceled this year due to COVID-19 and so Dr. Jolly replaced that by having a series of speakers come and talk to the class. One speaker talked to their experience during an ice raid and how that fractured their family. Other speakers were refugees and talked about their pathway from their homeland to Greeley, Colorado. Some of the student feedback says that these experiences inspired them to make a difference through volunteering. The stories changed their lives, and it completely opened their eyes to different cultures and different ways of life. So, all of our faculty are doing a super job reaching out to students and helping them to engage with the material in different ways to meet the learning objectives of the course.

Mark Anderson (13:28):
So we'd like to thank again all of our faculty for going above and beyond to make sure that the student experience this semester is a good one. And with that, I'd like to turn the podium over to Katrina Rodriguez.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:41):
Thank you, Mark. Appreciate it. Good morning, everybody. So for student affairs, as others have shared in anticipation of our changing COVID levels, I want to remind everyone that our students will continue to live with us in the residence halls and dine on campus. All of those services are available and will remain available even if we go into the red level.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:07):
As has happened for many, many years, we have students who live with us throughout the Thanksgiving break and throughout the winter break. So this year we are also sending out a survey, that'll come out either the end of this week or first of next and asking our residents students, what their plans are for both fall and winter break, and also wanting to know what their meal needs are. So we typically don't serve meals during Thanksgiving or winter break. And this year we are modifying that. Of course we'll continue to deliver meals to our students in quarantine and isolation and we will have opportunities available for both of our breaks coming up.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:54):
Our staff in housing and dining also want to offer a winter break housing if students have a need or their plans have shifted or whatever. So if they want to contact our Housing and Residential Education Office, we can certainly make arrangements for that to happen. So if you could help us in passing along the word that regardless of what level we are going to be in with our COVID cases that our residence and dining are remaining open. So anyway, I'll leave it right there. But I just-

Katrina Rodriguez (15:29):
... because sometimes that gets a little muddled in terms of what that actually looks like. I'm being direct with you here on that one.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:40):
The other thing that I want to share is our cultural services. So it's our four cultural resource centers have a Student Success Series every semester. And so for fall, the one that's coming up on Monday the 9th is a virtual self care workshop. We know that at this time of the year, the fall semester that students report a mental fatigue, they've been working hard. It's the second round of exams likely right in this period or just ending. And so we certainly see this every year, certainly with COVID, with uncertainty around the election results. And plus just the regular things that happen in a person's life. We know that students are experiencing a lot of this, and as I've mentioned before, our counseling center has all kinds of resources available and can get students in right away to see somebody. And there are groups and other types of things that students can participate in when they're feeling that high level of anxiety or whatever it is for them that that they're feeling.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:52):
And so, this notion of self care, both for our students and ourselves, I might wonder if anybody listening to this conversation that we wait to take time for self care until we have time, which, I don't know about you all, but sometimes that can never come when we have time. So I would like to invite us to take an hour or a week or anything, if you can even do it a few days to find ways to recenter and de-stress, because I think it's important to get a little sense of ourselves again, before going back out there and the same for students.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:31):
Some of us walk or run or binge watch our favorite episodes on our favorite streaming device. We bake, we cook. Sometimes I like to clean out closets. It just feels like when you're done, you see it all. It feels nice and neat and clean, but whatever that might be, I certainly want to encourage you to do that. And on Monday, the Student Success Series, we'll host guest facilitator, Jolie Shelton Zaremba, who is one of our doctoral interns at the counseling center. And they are going to provide many techniques to incorporate self-care into our schedule. And so, it'd be a really powerful opportunity just to be there and see what those are like.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:18):
The first 10 students to arrive will receive $10 in a Bear box gift card, so additional incentives. So please forward students onto that opportunity. If they just go onto the UNC Calendar, there's a link to click and then you'll be sent the link for the actual session on Monday. So anyway, little self-care tips, I think it's important this time of year and I'm grateful that this collaboration between the counseling center and our cultural services is happening. It's very important. So thank you so much. And I'll send it back to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (18:54):
Thanks Katrina for your update. Thank you all for tuning in today and as always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next week. Take care, everybody.