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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

October 15, Operational Update

October 15 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. Thursday, October 15th. And this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to thank all of you for joining us. As I said, today is October 15th. It's halfway through the month, which also means we're halfway through the fall semester.

President Feinstein (00:18):
And Colorado is facing an increase in the positivity rate and state leaders are cautioning us about the need to stay safe. Blaine will share some additional information with us in his report. But I want to urge all of you to keep your defenses up, wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands.

President Feinstein (00:39):
Last week, we started our screening testing for student athletes. This week, we begin surveillance testing of our residential student population, administering hundreds of tests for students living in residence halls and university-owned apartments.

President Feinstein (00:55):
These new measures are going to make it much easier for us to catch any emerging outbreaks on campus as we press forward the semester and into the spring. We're also just a few weeks away from the general election. And I want to take a moment to remind every bear just how important it is to exercise your right to vote.

President Feinstein (01:16):
There are a lot of important issues on the ballot, directly and indirectly, at the national state and local levels. Make a plan to cast your vote. If you are a Colorado resident and have not registered yet, it's not too late. You can register online or by mail, if your application is received by October 26th, or in-person through election day on November 3rd.

President Feinstein (01:42):
For those of you who have registered in Weld County, there is even a secure ballot drop on campus outside the university center, making it easy for you to make sure your ballot makes it to be counted. So now I'm going to turn it over to Blaine Nickeson, our AVP for administration, for an update. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (02:03):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning. I will also note that in our campus commons facility on campus, we'll be having an in-person voting center the day before, as well as election day. And you can register in person, just as you were talking about there, a day off for election.

Blaine Nickeson (02:18):
So we're trying to do everything we can to make it simple to cast that ballot and have your voice be heard. I'm excited as well that we've made it to the halfway point of the fall semester. I was giving an interview to a reporter yesterday from The Colorado Sun about UNC's fall semester and our COVID response.

Blaine Nickeson (02:36):
And she asked me why I think we've been successful so far. And I attributed it to three things: the significant amounts of planning that we did over the summer, the care and effort of our faculty and staff that they've put in doing whatever it takes to make this semester work, and I really mean that, and last but not least, the hard work of our students to stay safe and engaged.

Blaine Nickeson (02:59):
I might've said a fourth one, which is luck. I feel like we've had some luck on our side, but really those three things have made a big difference. As you mentioned, we're continuing to ramp up our surveillance testing on campus. Surveillance testing is taking a community, in our case, our athletics program and our group of on-campus residents, and testing groups of folks in that community who are asymptomatic to try and identify cases before they spread.

Blaine Nickeson (03:27):
Last week, we did 115 tests on student athletes, coaches, and trainers. And again, for the second week, we had no positive case, which was great. This week, as you mentioned, on Tuesday and Wednesday, we started that on campus resident testing, and between the two days we did about 270 students. We hope to ramp that up to around 500 students per week in the coming weeks.

Blaine Nickeson (03:49):
That would represent about 25% of our residential population each week. When we pick the groups that are going to be tested, it's generally based on some type of batching the groups, offense this week, defense the next, or maybe it's last names, A through M this week and N through Z the next.

Blaine Nickeson (04:06):
In residence halls, we just took the total population and randomly split it into four groups. And those groups will sort of stay the same as we move forward. We're currently monitoring 70 individuals through our tracking protocol, which is about the same as last week.

Blaine Nickeson (04:19):
As a reminder, it includes positive cases in isolation, close contacts of positives who are in a two-week quarantine, and symptomatic individuals who are waiting test results. That's usually our largest group of folks that we're monitoring.

Blaine Nickeson (04:34):
Currently, we have nine COVID positive individuals associated with the campus. It's down from 13 last week and 21 the week before. These positive cases are all students; two of them live on campus, but both of them are completing their isolation period at home.

Blaine Nickeson (04:49):
Of our approximately 80 isolation quarantine rooms, we're currently using six. Last week, I reported that at the state level, we were seeing new cases plateauing after a third peak. Unfortunately, in the past week, that plateau has turned and continued to escalate.

Blaine Nickeson (05:07):
We saw multiple days in the past week where the state had over a thousand new cases each day. That's a record for us. You might attribute the additional cases to increased testing. As a state, we're doing a lot more testing than we have in the past.

Blaine Nickeson (05:21):
But unfortunately the positivity rate of tests tells us that's not the case. That it's higher than we want to see. On Monday, it was over 6%. I've mentioned it before, but the threshold we need to stay under is 5%. Anything above that means that we're not doing enough testing to handle the amount of viral spread that's happening in the community.

Blaine Nickeson (05:43):
Right now in the state, the hotspot areas are Adams and Denver counties. Both counties have been put on notice that they're at risk of having to move to a more restrictive level by the state if they can't turn things around in the next two weeks. As Adams County is our largest neighbor, we need to keep our guard up.

Blaine Nickeson (06:02):
Hospitalizations are also very concerning. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado with COVID-19 is the highest it's been since late May. There's been a steady upward trend of hospitalizations over the past month. This isn't just a blip.

Blaine Nickeson (06:18):
Of all the trends that the governor and public health officials watch, hospitalizations are probably the most important factor that they look at. We're still within capacity of our hospitals. But if the trend continues, you can be certain that additional restrictions are going to be put in place.

Blaine Nickeson (06:35):
If we had to move to the next level of the dial system of restrictions, for example, like Denver counties are up against, some of the things that would happen: we'd have to shut down our rec center and gyms, our workplaces would go from 50% capacity to 25%, sports would be limited to groups of 10.

Blaine Nickeson (06:54):
That makes it pretty tough to do a lot of our sports. And restaurants will be cut back from 50% indoor occupancy to 25%, right at a time where the colder weather is making their business so much more challenging. So it's incumbent upon all of us, not just students, but also faculty and staff, to maintain our commitment to fighting this virus.

Blaine Nickeson (07:15):
According to public health officials, the biggest driver of virus spread has been small private gatherings. After seven long months, we all want to get together with our friends and family. I get it. I do too. But in doing what feels like a relatively low risk activity, the virus is spreading.

Blaine Nickeson (07:32):
And we're seeing that from looking at identified positive cases and doing the investigation into what types of activities they were doing before they were diagnosed as positive. So that's the important message that I have this morning for everyone. And I'll turn it back over to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (07:50):
And now we have reports from academic affairs and student affairs. So I'm going to turn the floor over to provost Mark Anderson. Mark.

Mark Anderson (07:58):
Thank you very much, Andy. Thanks, Dan, for the tributes to Eddie Van Halen. I'm sure everybody was wondering how I was going to dress this morning. I couldn't find my Eddie Van Halen replica Frankenstein guitar, so I just went with my normal attire. But thanks for that, Dan. I appreciate it.

Mark Anderson (08:18):
Spring semester academic schedule has been put into the system and we're beginning to advise students in preparation for registering for the spring. So we are fully in force, ready to go for the spring. We've conducted a survey of the students relative to their experiences in the fall.

Mark Anderson (08:39):
We're collecting that data and we'll have that available for distribution early next week. But some preliminary information, which is relevant, as we get ready for the fall, what we should be cognizant of is that many students are reporting a lack or an inability to make connections to the faculty or other students in the class, particularly in a virtual environment.

Mark Anderson (09:03):
So we want to be very aware of that as we're finishing out the semester, but also getting ready for the spring. How can we help students to make those connections to other students, but also to the general community? As we know that a sense of belonging and a sense of community is a critical important for students for retention and general outcomes for student success.

Mark Anderson (09:27):
So we want to be aware of that. As Blaine and President Feinstein have indicated, we need to remain diligent in our efforts to keep each other safe and healthy throughout the coronavirus. And there's a few things that we can do to do that.

Mark Anderson (09:48):
Whenever a student lets a faculty person know that they're either self isolating or quarantining or experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, we would really like the faculty person to report that through the unco.edu coronavirus portal, specifically the report is students with symptoms portal.

Mark Anderson (10:09):
Also, if students report to a faculty person that they've tested positive, we would also like the faculty member to report that through the unco.edu coronavirus portal. (unc.link/reportcovid) And I'm going to ask Blaine if you'd put the link to that in the chat, I'd appreciate it. Oh, it looks like Nancy already has. Thank you.

Mark Anderson (10:31):
The reason for this is if students are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to somebody who's tested positive, we don't want them to come to campus, but we want them to continue to engage in their academic activities. If somebody has tested positive, we don't know if the test was on campus or elsewhere.

Mark Anderson (10:52):
And if it's elsewhere, it takes a little bit of time for it to come back to the campus. And we want to start any contact tracing as quickly as possible. And so if people would help us out by reporting to the unco.edu coronavirus reporting portal (unc.link/reportcovid), whenever anybody tells you they've had symptoms, have been exposed to somebody with symptoms or have tested positive, that will go a long way to helping us maintain the health and safety of our campus community.

Mark Anderson (11:26):
So thank you for doing that. I started last week wanting to highlight some of the good work that has been going on in campus, despite the restrictions from coronavirus. So I want to continue that. In the Department of English, professor Jerry Craver has been selected to serve Colorado's Holocaust and Genocide Studies Committee.

Mark Anderson (11:47):
This is a highly selective process with many applications. So congratulations to professor Craver. Andreas Mueller, professor of English, has joined the editorial board for the Stoke Newington series, published by Bucknell University Press.

Mark Anderson (12:08):
Jim Doerner from Geography, GIS and Sustainability, and Emeritus faculty member, Robert Brunswig, have published some work recently in the North American Archeologists Journal. And professor Jessica Salo also from Geography, GIS and Sustainability recently published work in a special edition of the Journal of Wetlands.

Mark Anderson (12:31):
In the Monfort College of Business, Professor Yazan Alnsour, published some work recently in the Journal of Global Information Management. And in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, professor Christine McConnell recently had her book, Lesson Planning with Purpose: Five Approaches to Curriculum, published by the Teacher's College Record.

Mark Anderson (13:01):
And finally, also from the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, professor Jennifer Ricciardi and Amy Graefe won a Legacy Book Award for their book, Start Seeing and Serving Underserved Gifted Students. For the near term, I want to highlight some of the good work.

Mark Anderson (13:23):
A lot of this work was in service and research and creative activity. I'm going to also highlight some good work that's going on with students and faculty in teaching, in future calls. And with that, I will turn the podium over to Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:43):
Thank you, Mark. Good morning, everybody. I wanted to focus on two of our services in student affairs, the Center for Career Readiness and the Counseling Center. So the Center for Career Readiness specializes in career exploration for students, assisting them with the type of career they might want. And then what are the majors that they might consider for attaining that career?

Katrina Rodriguez (14:08):
We have some really fun tools like assessments; students can answer lots of different kinds of questions about their preferences. Do they enjoy working with creative materials, enjoy solving puzzles, enjoy being outdoors or working outdoors? Those are just an overview.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:26):
But they get those results from that assessment right away as they're finishing. And then they talk with a career counselor to see what types of careers are connected to those assessment preferences. So it's kind of a fun way to explore, what does somebody... How do they want to spend their time and their career?

Katrina Rodriguez (14:45):
I also liked the idea of a card sort. So there are various decks of cards with symbols and words and different things like that. And so they walk through like preferences based on what the cards are and then they talk through what are...It can be things on life values and how those connect to perhaps work values or career values.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:03):
So it's really a great way to explore and kind of a fun way. And I also want to encourage students not to wait until their senior year to visit the Center for Career Readiness. They can visit with a counselor as early as their first year. They can find out about all the resources that are there as well as...

Katrina Rodriguez (15:21):
They can be really helpful to students if they're looking for a campus job, to work on resume together, if they're looking for internships. So there's a lot of opportunities to really help students sort of refine their skills as they think about looking at various jobs.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:37):
The other thing that the center does is they host, this year, virtual job fairs. And so actually today they have a fall job internship and graduate school fair happening from 11:00 to 3:00 that's virtual. So if you want to go to the Center for Career Readiness website, there's information there to link in.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:59):
And also on the 27th of October, they'll have a K-12 educator employment day that is also virtual. Right now they have 75 employers and graduate schools and 34 school districts registered. And so I imagine those will increase as the month goes along.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:17):
So please, if you're interested, even if you just want to kind of check out, what are the things that they talk about? Even if you're not ready to maybe go into one of those fields today, but just to see what employers are looking for and what types of questions so that students can explore those.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:32):
It's nice to always get a hunch on what it's all about before you're going into actually conduct something that you're really passionate about or need right away like an internship. For me, it's like the answers to the test. You kind of get a sense of it beforehand.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:49):
The second center is the Counseling Center. And I wanted to just give you a little bit of an overview of where their services are and what they offer. So they have remote appointments right now. They're all remote. So virtual through phone or through Zoom, whatever, as preferred.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:09):
And they also have what are called quick access appointments. So students can get immediately, whether something that's a crisis or something that is really on a student's mind they need to see somebody that's immediate. And we also have alcohol and drug assessment, after hours, crisis support. And there's also psychiatric services.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:32):
So let's see. Same day access to quick access appointments. Really the purpose of those appointments are to address immediate needs a student has. They can provide some skill development, some resources. Sometimes that's enough to kind of get students to where they want to go and they can develop an individualized wellness plan.

Katrina Rodriguez (17:53):
So those things are available immediately. There are also the crisis services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So a student can absolutely call and get those services immediately, which we're really grateful for. When the student reaches out to initiate services, they will see a therapist to determine what services are most appropriate.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:15):
So we do have things like individual sessions, group sessions. Sometimes it's a referral to a service that we may not provide, but we can provide you with services that are available in the community. Those are the things that might be more beneficial for the student.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:32):
So those are some things that are sort of right away. Now, I know that there can be a wait list for individual appointments, and that is true here. Sometimes it's two weeks for an individual appointment, after the initial assessment, the quick access, a therapist working with the student on what is best.

Katrina Rodriguez (18:53):
So students are always welcome to join a group, which we know for traditional age students that can be the preferred method for students on campus, based on the things that they're presenting as the things that they're really dealing with.

Katrina Rodriguez (19:08):
For example, there's a group on anxiety that we know students are working through. So we have some really great opportunities for students to access. And so allowing yourself just to even explore that, if that's something you're interested in, to get a sense of what the offerings are and what is best for each individual person.

Katrina Rodriguez (19:29):
You can contact their regular number, 970-351-2496, and as well visit their websites on the UNC website at Counseling Center. Or you can also email them at unccounselingcenter, all one word, @unco.edu to just even explore. So please feel free to do that.

Katrina Rodriguez (19:56):
It's really a powerful resource that we offer here. And we know that many, many students get relief and resources so that they can meet all their goals and be successful. So thank you very much. I'll turn it back over to President Feinstein.

President Feinstein (20:15):
Thank you, Katrina. And thank you, Mark, for your presentations. I want to everybody for joining us today. As always, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.