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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

October 8, Operational Update

October 8 Update (Watch on Youtube)


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning everybody. Thursday, October 8th. And this is our weekly operational status update call. I want to ty vote for joining us. I also want to start by wishing everyone a happy homecoming week. And as you can see, I'm wearing my blue and gold today, and I hope you are too. And I hope you wear it throughout the weekend. If you have not had a chance to participate in one of our homecoming activities, it's not too late. There are a number of events remaining. And since so many of them are virtual this year, you can join in the fun no matter where you are. I suggest you head on over to unco.edu/homecoming for more information on what's going on this weekend.

President Feinstein (00:43):
We are continuing to manage a fairly limited number of coronavirus cases on campus. And as you may have heard, we've also started to conducting weekly screening testing of student athletes this week. And out of the more than 60 tests, I think we administered 66 tests to be exact, all of them came back negative. We're also preparing to begin screening testing in our residence halls as well next week, to monitor [inaudible 00:01:10] on campus.

President Feinstein (01:13):
We're also receiving periodic reports that some members of our university community have not been adhering to our public health guidelines and rules that are in place. You may have seen an email that came out yesterday from Provost Anderson and Vice President Rodriguez about this. And I know they're going to be talking about more information on this matter in just a couple of moments.

President Feinstein (01:35):
So I'm looking forward to today's updates and let's get started. I'm going to hand it over to Associate Vice President for Administration Blaine Nickerson for weekly update, Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (01:45):
Thanks, President Feinstein and good morning, everyone. As we wrapped up the seventh week of the semester, who would've thought we got here, we continue to evolve our response to COVID-19 as state guidance, access to testing, and just the body of knowledge about the virus change. As Andy said, we're excited [inaudible 00:02:07] started our NCAA required screening testing of student athletes. Like you said, with the first large batch of tests, we had zero positive cases. And throughout this month, while we only started with 66 tests last week, we expect to be doing about 200 tests per week.

Blaine Nickeson (02:24):
As they approach competition in late November, our athletes that are competing either on the court or the field will be tested multiple times per week. We've heard some apprehension about student athletes being a high risk population because they're practicing and things like that. But honestly, they are going to be the most tested group on campus. It's important to note that screening testing of student athletes is not impacting or taking away from our general campus testing capabilities. Actually, athletics is in partnership with a group called COVID Check Colorado that's separate from the rest of the testing we're doing on campus. COVID Check is providing their testing supplies and the tests themselves. And then our athletic trainers are actually the ones that are doing the test swabbing. So we're able to utilize their medical training to do that.

Blaine Nickeson (03:14):
Speaking of testing capacity, I am very excited [inaudible 00:03:19] we're starting our screening tests [inaudible 00:03:23], not just our residence halls, but our Arlington Park apartments and some of our houses that the campus owns. We know that communal living is a risk factor for COVID-19. We're partnering with our student health center to offer convenient walkup testing on both Central Campus and West Campus twice next week. Our goal is to test 25% of the residential population each week. We started signups a few days ago with our first group, what we're calling our A group. We've broken folks down into four, randomly selected clusters. And the response rate has been really strong with people signing up. We know these locations, dates, times won't work for every residential student, but that's not really the point of the screening testing. Our goal is to test if somewhere between 10% and 25% of the residential population each week, so that we have a glimpse into, if we have virus spreading within our campus residences.

Blaine Nickeson (04:17):
Our peers, we talked to Colorado Mesa university, Fort Lewis, School of Mines. They've been doing similar testing and experiencing positivity rates of approximately 0.5%, sometimes as low as 0.2%. If that were to hold for us, it means we'd identify two or three positive, but asymptomatic students each week and be able to rapidly put them in isolation before there's additional spread.

Blaine Nickeson (04:42):
We're currently monitoring 64 individuals through our tracking protocol. That's down from last week. As a reminder, this includes positive cases that are isolating, close contacts to those that were positive. And they're serving the two week quarantine, as well as symptomatic individuals awaiting test results. They may only be on our tracking protocol for a day or two until we get test results. In the last few weeks, I've shared another important data point. The number of results [inaudible 00:05:12]. There's a variety of reasons why we might have been monitoring those contacts. Obviously, the largest group is individuals that went in to get tested because they were symptomatic. They weren't feeling great, but they had negative tests. They didn't have any close contact with somebody that was a positive. So yeah, that group includes our folks that have completed an isolation or quarantine period.

Blaine Nickeson (05:34):
I'd like to say both with the screening testing that we're putting in place, as well as the managing of the different contacts that we have, I'd really like to recognize our case management team members. Health services, the Dean of Students office and housing and dining. They all have an extremely heavy lift with the work that has to take place. This case management requires meticulous work that very often extends well beyond the normal business day.

Blaine Nickeson (06:04):
Currently we're monitoring 13, COVID positive individuals associated with the campus. That's down from 21 last week. These positive cases are all students and only four of those are living in isolation rooms on campus. Speaking of those isolation and quarantine rooms, we're currently using 17 of that [inaudible 00:06:23] level.

Blaine Nickeson (06:23):
We're seeing new cases plateauing after sort of a third peak. The first two peaks were the main one back in April. And then we had a large peak after the [inaudible 00:06:36] With both of those peaks, we saw rapid drop-off in cases, really pressing down the case counts of the state. But at least as of now, we're not seeing that drop. We're seeing more of a sort of flattening of the curve at the high level, not down at the bottom of the trough like we'd like to see, and that's concerning. The state's particularly concerned about the increase in hospitalizations, Governor Polis and Dr. Herlihy, the state epidemiologist this week in a briefing that I participated in said that hospitalizations are up 40% week over week. We're well within our hospital capacity as a state, it's just that kind of and increases in sustainable as we move into the fall and winter.

Blaine Nickeson (07:18):
Public health officials, they're just concerned with that as fall progresses, with each of those case spikes that I mentioned just a moment ago, we were really successful at driving down those cases over the next spike, but with the rapid succession of holidays and events at the end of the year, we don't think we're going to be [inaudible 00:07:38] those [inaudible 00:07:40] spikes. If you think about it, before the end of the year, we've got Halloween, Election day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve. It's just really critical that people don't let their guard down against this virus. Otherwise, we're going to have a very difficult winter as a state.

Blaine Nickeson (07:58):
So we're in good shape for now. The message is no need to panic, but also keep it up, keep the guard up, make good decisions about your family, particularly as we head into the holiday period here. And let's keep on moving forward the way that we are now.

Blaine Nickeson (08:15):
Andy, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (08:18):
Thanks, Blaine. Now let's hear from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, Mark and Katrina?

Mark Anderson (08:24):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning everybody and happy homecoming week. [inaudible 00:08:33] And Feinstein said we're in the seventh week of this semester, basically halfway through the fall semester. And I want to once again, thank the community for all the care that we've demonstrated for each other by mask wearing and social distancing. Because of that, we've been able to hold down the transmission of coronavirus on our campus to a pretty low level that Blaine just explained.

Mark Anderson (09:00):
But occasionally we have to remind our community about the responsibilities that we have to each other. And that was the case yesterday when Katrina and I sent a communication to the campus about reports that we're hearing about students gathering to in groups to listen to their courses together in an online environment, or to get together and study in groups.

Mark Anderson (09:26):
Last Friday, we closed a survey of students to get a sense of their experience from the fall semester. We're accumulating the data and analyzing that data right now. But one of the early results that we're seeing from that survey was that the students crave that personal interaction that they would typically have in a "normal" semester. So given that general result, it's not surprising that students would want to gather in groups to either listen to the course online or to study in groups.

Mark Anderson (10:07):
[inaudible 00:10:07] appropriate health protocols, wearing masks and remaining in a socially distanced environment. And so we want to thank everybody for everything they're doing so far, but we have to remain diligent. I think just in the last week or so, all of us have seen just how pervasive coronavirus is and that nobody is immune to transmission of the virus, particularly when you put yourself in situations where you're not masked, you're not socially distanced. So again, encourage people to get together, study together, but do so in a safe way, following the health and safety protocols.

Mark Anderson (11:03):
I'd like to take the rest of my time to really highlight some of the good work that's going on. Oftentimes we're focused on, on coronavirus and we lose track of a lot of the good things which are going on. And I'd like to first start off by saying, there's a lot of good work and it would take me probably all morning long to highlight everything. So I'm just picking out a few and I'm going to do this every Thursday from now on. So if I don't mention something, it's only because of lack of time.

Mark Anderson (11:33):
First, I want to start off by mentioning our student affiliates group for the United ... of the American Chemical Society. Student affiliates, as a club on campus of students, who are the majoring or interested in chemistry and the American Chemical Society, a national organization for chemists, something I'm a member of, has recognized our local student affiliate for the work they do in promoting chemistry, through outreach and education. And that's a real feather in the cap for our chemistry department and the student affiliates group.

Mark Anderson (12:07):
University libraries just received a grant recently to support voter engagement and participation, particularly among students. And they are working with student senate to help students learn about candidates and issues up and down the ballot. And so that's a really, really wonderful effort.

Mark Anderson (12:26):
Despite coronavirus, faculty are still engaging in their scholarship and research work. Just want to highlight a few recent publications from the Monfort College of Business, Daniel Brannon and Jim Reardon published a paper that was looking at complimentary product displays and how that impacted marketing. Christina Kuchmaner published a paper on consumer self authentication processes. In addition to publishing, faculty are continuing to write and submit grants to federal agencies. And just this past week, Jill Bezac from the College of Natural and Health Sciences received an award from the rehabilitative long-term training program from the Department of Education.

Mark Anderson (13:15):
This is just a small sample of the good work that's going on at the university and continues to go on despite some of the restrictions that we have with respect to coronavirus. Again, just a small sampling. I'm going to try to highlight others throughout the rest of these Thursday calls moving forward.

Mark Anderson (13:33):
And with that, I would like to turn the podium over to my colleague, Katrina Rodriguez.

Katrina Rodriguez (13:39):
Good morning. Thank you so much, Mark. Great to be with you all today. Today, I'd like to highlight the 35th anniversary of our Ceaser Chavez Cultural Center here at UNC. They've done some tremendous work in a reflection of past directors, some video cuts of our past directors talking about their time here. So they've had [inaudible 00:14:04] programs and will continue. So I want to invite you to tune into some of these items.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:11):
On October 15th, they have a speaker whose name is River Mason, and they're for a Latin X heritage month, as well as LGBTQ history month. We have a keynote speaker who identifies in both communities. And so that's something that I think is going to be really a powerful conversation from River Mason.

Katrina Rodriguez (14:34):
Also on November 10th, there is a mural project that alumni alumnus, Armando Silva, who's an amazing artist and painter here in Northern Colorado Greeley area. And he's going to be talking about some of the murals and meaning and some of the work that he's done locally, which you can see all over the city. So I was so excited to get a chance to talk with Armando on that. I would encourage you to go to the Ceaser Chavez Cultural Center website. You can see all of their upcoming events and the various resources that they have [inaudible 00:15:18] city.

Katrina Rodriguez (15:18):
I also want to share with you a video that was created by some of the folks in our student affairs media area. And it's both students and faculty talking about how to talk to your professors. We know that sometimes it can be intimidating, especially first year students who haven't done that yet, or they want to understand content a little bit better, or they've got something of a personal nature that they want to share with a professor in terms of maybe why they might not be in a class or any of those items. And so this is a really terrific video brought to you by students and by faculty. So if we can go ahead and queue that up, that would be great.

Speaker 5 (16:08):
Hey fellow bears, we are all going through a difficult time right now. And we as students, may be a little scared to approach our professors, or may not know how to approach our professors. So we ask students about their advice contacting your professors. And we also ask professors about their advice, which you can see towards the end of this video. For me personally, I know to contact my professors as soon as possible with any questions or concerns that I may have, because they have probably upward of a hundred students that they have to communicate with every day.

Speaker 6 (16:36):
Being yourself. Not trying to be somebody you're not. Making sure you're [inaudible 00:16:44] doing that faculty even though it can be intimidating talking to them for the first time, they're humans too.

Speaker 7 (16:51):
One thing I wished I would have talked to my professor sooner about was actually receiving and asking for help. I felt as though I was too scared at the beginning, and I felt like they were going to be mean and they were going to tell me no, but once I did get over that fear, I was able to ask for help. And I felt like they helped me better understand and comprehend what was being taught.

Speaker 8 (17:13):
My advice for students contacting their professors is to not be afraid to ask clarifying questions. These can get very misconstrued and lost over zoom and online classes. And your teachers want you to succeed just as much as you do.

Speaker 9 (17:27):
Don't be afraid to reach out to your professors and let them know you will be missing class because you are sick or have other priorities that you must take care. Contact them as soon as possible and let them know what classes you are contacting them about.

Speaker 10 (17:41):
And I'm Dr. Tara Wood, I'm faculty in the English department. And I have three tips for how to approach your professor. The first is don't wait, do it early in the semester. Let it just be a get to know you, find out who they are. Talk about the course. Don't wait. The second is do what works. So we all have office hours, but we can meet by appointment. We're all getting really good at Zoom. So do what works for you in terms of accessing us. The third tip I have is don't be afraid. We all got into this profession because we want to meet with you. We want to talk about your learning in our courses. So don't wait. Do what works. And don't be afraid to seek us out.

Speaker 11 (18:25):
When dealing with student faculty interaction, I tell my students to treat their coursework and the communication with me like a job where they give it the attention that it deserves. The number one thing with me is communication. Start early and it's better to over-communicate than to under communicate. If something's due at 5:00 pm, don't wait until 4:00 pm to start it and assume that I can respond immediately. It's best to tell them the course that you were referring to when communicating.

Speaker 13 (18:48):
One tip to remember that you need to approach your professors. We want to hear from you. It's important for me personally, to hear from my students, especially if you're struggling or if you need extra help. We are all invested in your success, so please reach out. We'd like to hear from you.

Speaker 14 (19:10):
The first way you can communicate with your faculty. You can visit the office, every single faculty members and professors provide office hours, and will be there for you.

Speaker 15 (19:20):
When you approach your professors, let me give you a little pro tip. We aren't grumpy if you need to talk about dropping a class or changing your major. I think sometimes folks think, Oh no, that's my advisor. She's my history professor and now I want to change my major. Well, we know that college is a time to explore, find yourself, and discover all sorts of new things that you didn't have the opportunity to find before. So believe it or not, we're actually really excited to help you find that path. What we want is for you to be successful, to be happy and to find your life's calling, not to feel stuck in something you don't want to do.

Speaker 11 (19:59):
Thank you. And remember this, we're here to help.

Katrina Rodriguez (20:01):
I really appreciate the faculty and the students who put that together, to Jacqueline Vegas and her team for constructing that and editing it for us. I do think this is something that students and faculty clearly, we want to have that communication and is really needed. So hopefully this was helpful and please feel free to share with students and folks that you know to be able to promote this. So thank you all so much and good to be here with you today. I'll turn it back over to President Feinstein.

President Feinstein (20:45):
Thank you Katrina. Thank you very much for showing that video. That was great. And thanks [inaudible 00:20:50] for your presentation and Blaine.

President Feinstein (20:52):
Remember again, it's homecoming week. So I hope to see you in your blue and gold for the next couple of days, and as always stay safe, be healthy. And we'll see you here again next week on Thursday. Take care of everybody.