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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

September 17, Operational Update

September 17 Update (Watch on YouTube


President Feinstein (00:00):
Well, good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, September 17th, and this is our weekly operational status update call. And I want to thank you all for joining us. It's hard to believe that we've now been back on campus for a month, and thankfully we've been able to manage the impacts of COVID-19 at UNC so far. I'm grateful for everyone who's contributed to the planning that took place over the summer and the work that's going on now. It's been effective so far and allowing us to continue to deliver our mission while protecting the health and safety of all of our students, faculty, staff, and the local community. I also appreciate the choices individual Bears are making and the responsibility that they're taking on and off campus. Each of you, every one of us, has really made a significant difference, and we can see what could happen with these precautions are not taken seriously.
When students gather for large parties, don't wear masks, or engage in other risky behaviors across the country and even in our own backyard, we've seen what can happen. Other institutions have been forced to go completely online again. And as we saw recently, entire student bodies have been placed under quarantine. None of us is immune from COVID-19 and this could happen here if we are not careful. Everyone was continued to do their part. Wear your masks, practice social distancing, and taking all other necessary precautions. And my team is doing its part. We're working with the governor's office, CDAG, and the state and local health officials to keep everybody safe, healthy, and on campus. An as I've said many times, we got this Bears, but we need your help in keeping this going. So now I'm going to turn the floor over to associate vice president for administration, Blaine Nickeson, for our weekly report on the current status of public health guidelines and conditions in Colorado. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (02:08):
Thank you, President Feinstein and good morning everybody. Happy Thursday. It's been a busy week for those of us working on COVID planning in response with coronavirus taskforce. This morning I'll be talking about a number of developments, both at the state level and here on campus. On Tuesday, the governor announced the official release of the state's new dial system for COVID related restrictions. I've mentioned it in draft form in the last couple of weeks, but this builds upon the old three tier model of stay at home, safer at home, and protect our neighbors by broadening the safer at home category into three separate tiers. So now there's a total of five tiers. It operates on a County by County basis rather than the prior statewide model. So it's much more responsive to what's happening in your local area. The thing that I like best about the system is that the ratings, both the initial assignments and moving either up or down in the five tier system, are based entirely upon local case data.
The system relies heavily on three metrics. Case incidents, that is how many cases have developed over a prior two week window per hundred thousand people of population. Percentage of positive tests, which is a measure of if you're doing enough testing and hospitalization trends. As the new rating system begins or began on a Tuesday the 15th, Weld County is in the middle tier, safer at home level too, along with about half the counties in the state. On the three primary data points that I mentioned a moment ago, our case incidence in Weld County was a little bit too high to qualify for safer at home level one. The other two measures would have supported that though. The good news is that safer at home level two is no more restricted than where we were currently operating and in fact, gives us a little bit more flexibility around outdoor events.
As I've mentioned in the weeks prior to this official guidance coming out, we've worked closely with the governor's office and as you said, both the departments of higher ed and public health environment, to come up with consensus on language related to higher educations operating status in each of the five levels. We're satisfied with where we landed and the language gives us the flexibility to adjust our operations as the safety situation dictates. It's important to note though as you intimated, universities can have a significant impact upon the counties that they're based in. If you look at what's happening at CU Boulder, for example, the surge of cases with students get counted as part of the County. Poor decisions by students at the university can cause significant restrictions on their county's economy and activities that are allowed, which is not going to be good for their relationship as neighbors.
As we've been doing consistently, we sent out the weekly digest yesterday afternoon with detailed updates on our COVID status here at UNC. While these numbers change frequently as new test results come back and people complete quarantines et cetera, for last week's reporting period we had three members of the campus community test positive for COVID-19. That was among 69 tests conducted at the student health center, plus a number conducted by off campus healthcare providers. Of the approximately 80 isolation and quarantine rooms we have set aside in our residence hall system, seven were being utilized.
While I don't take anything for granted because cases can grow exponentially once they get started, the UNC community has been doing a really great job keeping this virus at bay. We're about to wrap up the fourth week of classes and our COVID impacts of stayed very steady. Across the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students living both on campus and off, we have 39 people that are either in isolation due to a positive case, or they're undergoing a quarantine because they'd been in close contact with a positive case, or they're symptomatic and awaiting test results. To give you a frame of reference last week, that number was 40. So we're 39 this week.
A couple of additional things I'd like to note. The next week you may see increased athletics activity on campus. I meet at least twice weekly with athletics leadership as we navigate COVID, and athletics has been working closely with members of the coronavirus task force as well. Many sports will begin contact drills or team practices, and important to note we're following all the guidelines of the NCAA regarding best practices, testing and screening of our student athletes to keep them in shape but also keep them healthy and safe.
Lastly, I want to address a common misconception that we're hearing on campus around travel. We've had some faculty that are incorrectly telling their students that if they've traveled away from Greeley they need to isolate for a period of time once they return. I've heard seven days, I've heard 14 days. This isn't true. The latest CDC guidance related to any kind of travel, domestic or international, is that you need to self monitor yourself for symptoms, wear a mask, keep six feet of distance, and practice, good hand hygiene. And these are all things that we already expect of people in our community. So just want to try to clear up those misconceptions when we see a trend developing. I believe that's all I have for this morning. Go ahead and turn it back over to you Andy.

President Feinstein (07:02):
Thanks Blaine. And now let's hear from Provost Mark Anderson on our academic mission.

Mark Anderson (07:08):
Thank you, President Feinstein. I'd just like to reiterate what President Feinstein and Blaine have said. We're four weeks into the semester and we've done a great job as a community at maintaining the health and safety of the community. I'd like to thank everybody for all you're doing and wearing your masks, maintaining social distance, et cetera. It also is a testament to all the work that our faculty and staff put in over the summer to make a great plan in place to keep the health and safety of our community first and foremost as we entered into the fall semester. And that really gives me great hope for the rest of the fall semester, but great hope for the rest of the academic year. We have to remain diligent. We cannot relax. We have to maintain our diligence with respect to wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing.
Despite the fact that we're four weeks into the semester, we're already deep into planning for the spring semester and the work that we've done for the fall gives me great hope that we will be able to continue to have and increase the number of on campus face to face classes for the spring. We're working with our academic colleges to maintain and increase the number of either face to face or hybrid courses for the spring, and all the work that we did in the fall and the successes we've had so far indicate that we'll be able to do that with great certainty. One of the first impacts of coronavirus way back in March and really late February, was the impact upon travel, particularly international travel. We made the decision prior to the beginning of the fall semester to limit international travel for the fall and we're continuing to monitor what's going on across the world as we consider our travel for the spring. And I would like to call upon our director of the center for international education, Olga Baron, to give us an update on travel. Olga.

Olga Baron (09:13):
Good morning, everyone. I am sharing an update, difficult decision that's been recommended and put forward to continue the suspension of education abroad programming to all destinations in all countries. We have about 26 exchange partnerships and affiliate providers all over the world in 50 locations. This impacts international internships, this impacts study abroad exchanges, or individual research that takes place outside of the United States. This decision's been really supported by a number of factors. Part of it is the benchmarking with institutions that have similar level of international activity as we do, but also continuing travel restrictions. These are delays. US passport services processing delays and continuing concerns about the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. I must also say that in the past two weeks, 50% of our partner institutions and affiliate providers have canceled inbound travel. So we are carefully monitoring the situation, and we're also working very closely with the individuals who have made plans to travel in the spring, help them find alternatives. Mark, over back to you.

Mark Anderson (10:51):
Thank you so much Olga. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our community. And these are difficult decisions, but we're doing the best we can. And for those who have made plans, we're working very closely with them to find alternate solutions. So thank you so much for being with us Olga. And with that, I will turn the floor over to my colleague, Katrina.

Katrina Rodriguez (11:16):
Thank you so much, Mark. Good morning, everybody. I want to share a few items with you on our student engagement. We do have a really exciting initiative that we've just begun. We know that first year students in particular can be tentative about approaching their faculty to ask questions about their classes or things that they want to have more clarity on. Or also to let their faculty know that they are dealing with a personal item or issue. Maybe they're dealing with an illness, particularly in COVID times, a family matter, those kinds of things. And so there's a little trepidation. So what we would like to do is provide students with some intel. We have put out a call to faculty and students to create some videos that we are happy to share on this medium as they are developed. And so for faculty, we are asking them to share with us why they desire our students to approach them on classes or personal items, and why they believe it's so important for students to reach out to the faculty. They want to help.
So we're excited to see our faculty share all the different things that they think about this. On the other side, we're also asking students to supply video on how they approach their faculty, the positive responses they get, and why it's so beneficial for students to do this. So I'm really excited to see this come together because I think this is information that students learn over time. Faculty certainly encourage and invite students to contact them, but there's that feeling, especially for our new students, that they're not exactly sure if they should or how they should. So I'm really excited about this. Along the lines of intel, we do have a parent newsletter that goes out monthly and in that newsletter it has all kinds of information about deadlines, like say for a FAFSA that's due on October 1st, so in a few weeks here, as well as other things that parents might like to know.
Parents, or also individuals who support a student, may not always be a parent, and you can sign up for that newsletter. You go to our student affairs website and the very last tab on the left, it says parent support. And it's just a quick fill in the blank information so that you can get those materials monthly. So I encourage you to do that if you're not already on that newsletter. In terms of some student engagement, we are really excited for our family and friends weekend coming up next weekend and check your social media for UNC social media. There's a lot of information coming out about family and friends weekend. We have a number of workshops on communication. We've got a scavenger hunt that's going to be really fun that's done virtually.
And for those who haven't done a virtual scavenger hunt, escape room, they're really neat. I got to participate with students last week in an escape room that was virtual and it was really fun to work with a team and to figure out the puzzles. There's a lot of good math. So we're getting to use math in a fun way and seeing how fast you can get through it. So it was just a lot of fun and really engaging. So I just think really encourage students to participate in those kinds of things, because it a whole new way of thinking about puzzling out with the team, how to move to the success. I have to say our team, the Sunflowers, we were the fastest, so a little shout out to the Sunflowers.
Okay. And then the last thing is I want to invite students to attend our student senate meetings. They are on Wednesdays beginning at 5:30. If you go to the student senate webpage, there's a Zoom link there. And just to see what's going on, students can voice their perspectives. There's some funding options for various types of programs. So please go ahead and sign into the student senate meeting and see what's going on on campus. I want to echo previous reports about the health and safety of our campus community.
Students really are doing a great job in refraining from having large parties. While we see that in other parts of the country, that is not happening here. Each weekend we're monitoring those parties and of those reports, we either have zero parties happening or perhaps one. And so to let you know that we are holding accountable to the student code of conduct anybody who sponsors a large party. And luckily for us, we have really seen such low numbers. And so I'm really grateful to our students for really doing a great job on that. The last fun thing is, I want to give a shout out to our UNC alumni football player, Jacob Bobenmoyer. He plays for the Denver Broncos. He's a long snapper on punts and field goals and it's another example of seeing a UNC alumni doing great work in all kinds of fields and careers. So go Bears. Thank you. Back to you, Andy.

President Feinstein (16:40):
Thanks Katrina. Thanks everybody for your presentations today. And I just want to ask that as we've been watching these Thursday calls, if there are things that we should include or make any changes, I'd love to hear from you love your input and feedback. Please send me an email at andy.feinstein@unco.edu. And with that, stay safe, be healthy, and we'll see everybody here next week. Take care, everybody.