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COVID-19: News and Campus Updates

September 24 , Operational Update

September 24 Update (Watch on YouTube


President Feinstein (00:00):
Good morning, everybody. It's Thursday, September 24th, and this is our weekly operational status update. I want to thank all of you for joining us. This morning we sent a message to all of our spring and fall graduates announcing our plans to hold virtual commencement ceremonies December 11th, through December 13th. We certainly wish that we could have convened in person for graduation as planned, but it is clear to us now that public health restrictions will not allow us to do so this year.
We care deeply about the health and safety of our students and their families, as well as our faculty and staff. COVID-19 is causing us to reimagine our plans and our traditional ceremonies. We plan to make the best of the circumstances before us and we'll host ceremonies that honor our graduates. Regardless of how we celebrate, I know that I speak for our entire university community in saying how proud we are of our graduates' accomplishments.
And we look forward to recognizing you in a way that will make you proud to be at UNC bear. Whenever we are able to come together for commencement in person again, all of our graduates will be invited to join us and crossing the stage in front of their fellow bears, friends and their families. And we are hard at work developing the details for these virtual ceremonies and events. And we're engaging student leaders, faculty, and staff, to ensure that we can create a memorable weekend of celebration. Just last night, I met with student Senate to begin collecting their ideas, and we hope to share with you our own ideas, as well as reach out for additional input as we progress. Before I turn the floor over to Blaine, I want to also remind everyone that we have a board of trustees meeting tomorrow morning at 8:30.
We're going to be discussing the fiscal year '21 budget, and a lot of the details can be seen if you go to the unc.edu website. So with that, I'm now going to turn the floor over to Associate Vice President for Administration, Blaine Nickeson who's going to give us our weekly report on the current status of public health guidelines and conditions in Colorado. Blaine.

Blaine Nickeson (02:22):
Thank you, President Feinstein. Good morning, everyone. Have a bit to cover this morning. It's been a busy week for the team on the coronavirus task force as we work to roll out new initiatives, manage the flow of suspected and actual cases on campus and monitor the changing landscape within the state. I'm very pleased to report that as of yesterday, we finally received rapid test kits at the Student Health Center. Given that supplies are limited both nationally and here at UNC, we only have a limited number of them.
We're reserving these tests for specific types of individuals. Those that have been symptomatic for three or days, because they're more likely to be accurate on the tests. Those folks that live in congregate living situations like residence halls, fraternity or sorority houses, or those that work closely with the public. Think about our dining services staff, our athletic trainers, things like that.
These antigen tests can deliver results within 15 minutes onsite and are very reliable in diagnosing positive COVID cases. The same machine that runs these rapid COVID tests can also run rapid strep and flu tests. So we'll be running those as well to detect their prevalence because both of those illnesses generally mirror COVID symptoms and the fall and winter coming, we're going to see flu and strep. Just to plug a reminder here that we'd really like folks to get their flu shots. I got mine last weekend, along with my family. For students, you can do that through the Student Health Center and for faculty and staff, it's really easy to go to your local pharmacy, your medical provider. We went to King Soopers to get ours done with no cost out of pocket.
Yesterday evening, we sent out the weekly digest that has detailed updates on the COVID situation on campus. One of the things we highlighted is that there have been a number of positive cases at a sorority house. All residents have been identified and isolated or quarantined depending on their status. We responded quickly to the situation in partnership with the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. But as bears were a tight knit community, we knew where this would spread and we wanted to be transparent about the issues that we're dealing with on campus. We currently have that situation under control.
We're currently monitoring 81 individuals through our tracking protocol. This protocol includes positive cases in an isolation period, close contacts of those that were positive, who are now serving a two week quarantine, as well as the largest groups symptomatic individuals who were awaiting test results. That number, 81 is higher than in prior weeks, but isn't yet cause for concern because it's explainable. In the past month or so, we'd been receiving PCR test results in about 24 hours. Unfortunately that's now delayed again, back to about 72 hours. So usually we were clearing out a large group of people from our monitoring list every day as negative results came back on folks that were symptomatic, but hadn't had close contact with a positive case.
But this is an example as to why our ability to ramp up rapid onsite testing is so important. Additionally, one number I haven't shared in the past, but I thought I would share this week is the number of resolved contacts. That's at 211 right now. So these run the gamut as to why we were tracking their case. The largest group is individuals that were tested because they were symptomatic and then they had negative test results and we were able to resolve that case. But the group does also include folks that have completed an isolation or quarantine period.
Currently we're monitoring nine COVID positive individuals that includes both staff and students living on campus and off. In fact of the nine, seven are off campus. Of our approximately 80 isolation and quarantine rooms on campus, we're currently using 14. Half of those are folks that are awaiting those delayed test results. One of those 14 is a positive case. As we adjust our response throughout the semester, when different challenges come up and more resources become available, and we're constantly evolving there, we're going to start doing some screening testing among two higher risk groups on campus. Student athletes and residential students those who live on campus.
Surveillance testing is when you're taking a group of people who are not sick or symptomatic, and you're testing them to identify positive cases that are asymptomatic, meaning they're not showing any kinds of symptoms. If you can identify those positive cases and get them into isolation, you can help stop the spread of the virus. Starting October 1st, we'll be testing between 50% and 100% of most student athletes every week. This meets and exceeds the requirements from the NCAA as our student athletes begin to practice.
Shortly thereafter, we're hoping to start doing pop-up onsite testing at campus residence halls and apartments with a goal of testing approximately 25% of our students living on campus each week. A quick reminder here that any symptomatic students, staff, or faculty can be tested at the Student Health Center. Just make sure you call ahead and they can get you in the same day. One of the most common topics that we get questions and concerns about is classroom transmission of the virus. Through contact tracing and case management, we have not detected any cases of the virus being spread in our classrooms.
CU Boulder, which is dealing with nearly 1,300 positive cases among their students recently stated the same. They had no evidence of the virus being spread in classrooms, even when an infectious individual had been in the class. And this is because of the protocol and measures that we've taken with masking, distance furniture, cleaning protocols, and increased ventilation. In CU Boulder's case again, they're dealing with 1,300 positive student cases and 12, yes, 12 cases among faculty and staff. So I think that the data is really supporting that.
To wrap up today, I'd like to share a great story that I got from one of my staffs last night, Cindy Vetter is our Campus Medical Officer and oversees the health center. She had a parent phone call last night. Cindy has a lot of parent phone calls and the mom wanted the university to know that the quote-unquote health lady that helped her daughter get through quarantine is amazing. Her daughter was very scared, felt so alone, but when she spoke with the health lady every couple of days, it helped her get through the situation and felt she had someone that cared and understood.
Mom said, thank you to UNC for taking care of her daughter, and that this confirms why choosing UNC was the right decision. That health lady is Deb Miller, one of our case managers that's been working tirelessly. And when I say tired asleep nights, weekends, long, long days to manage the variety of student cases that we're dealing with. I want to publicly thank both Deb and Cindy for their work on behalf of UNC. They've truly been rock stars, even as health ladies. Hi Andy, I'll turn it back over to you.

President Feinstein (09:21):
Well, thank you Deb and Cindy. I also greatly appreciate the work that you're doing to keep us healthy and safe. And thank you Blaine for your presentation. Now let's hear from Provost, Mark Anderson. Mark.

Mark Anderson (09:35):
Thank you, President Feinstein. And I would also like to thank everybody at the health center for all the good work they've done to support our community. I think Blaine really said something very important that I would like to reiterate. And that's because of all the health and safety precautions the university has put into place along with the community's adherence to those health and safety precautions that the instructional spaces on campus are among the safest places to be. No documented cases of transmission of the coronavirus through an instructional activity.
And that's really something that we should all be grateful for, but also very proud of. Our faculty continue to do an excellent job in our instruction and they've been supported through Siedel and IDD in the changes in instructional modalities that we've asked people to have to do this semester because of capacity issues, et cetera. And I'd like to thank Siedel and IDD for that support, but also call to people's attention that on October 7th, Siedel sponsoring a panel discussion with students on their experiences in online, hybrid and fully face-to-face courses. I think that'll be an exceptionally interesting panel discussion and I would encourage everybody to sign up and attend.
Also, Academic Effectiveness has recently sent out a survey to a random sampling of students to get their impressions of how the fall semester is going. We need to use this feedback from our students to continue to be a student centered organization, a student centered university, to get that feedback so we can continue to meet the students where they are at and help them to achieve their education and professional goals. So I'd like to thank everybody for being a student centered campus and really meeting those students where they were at. I would like to now bring in Stephanie Torrez into the conversation so she can talk a little bit more about the student experience. Stephanie.

Stephanie Torrez (11:46):
Thank you, Mark. Good morning? We've spoken before about the opportunities for academic support offered on campus remotely and in person. Tutoring, advising and writing consultation are examples of academic supports we have available. The writing Center is offering email and Zoom sessions this fall and overall we're happy to see that usage is up from last fall at the same point in the semester. It's too early to share student outcome success, but the evaluation feedback has been very positive. The writing Center provides consultation to graduate and undergraduate students. About 25% of their clientele so far this fall has been graduate students.
Tutorial services, as a reminder, offers peer led tutoring and supplemental instruction for approximately 130 undergraduate course offerings. This fall, students have the option of online or in person support. So far, 50% of the tutoring and SI sessions have taken place in person. Feedback collected from the evaluations suggest that students prefer to be tutored in person, but appreciate the online option. And as an aside, this is one of those gifts I suppose, of the pandemic. We will continue to offer those options here on forward. This is the first time that we've been able to provide online and in person as the delivery mode.
The Advising Network launched their fall progress report campaign, which will provide early performance feedback on approximately 2,000 of our undergraduate students. Advisors meet with students to discuss the feedback and explore strategies for increasing their success. Advisors are also busy gearing up for spring registration advising. For NHS advising, for example, they are also in the throes of the inaugural bear admission application process for the nursing program. The bear admission application expands the opportunity for students to apply to the nursing program.
Another example of positive theme noted among the Soar Advising team is their observation of the shift students seem to make from skeptical to relaxed by the end of their first appointment. About this time of the semester, course demands seem to scale up for students. So I want to encourage our UNC students, graduate and undergraduate to reach out to their advisors. Our college advising and success center staff, our professional success coaches and teams are caring and knowledgeable and want to help.
Lastly, as Mark mentioned, I've been collecting feedback from advising and tutoring areas on what they're hearing from students. At least for first and second year students, there seems to be an interest in and appreciation of instructional modes that include a face-to-face component and/or are delivered synchronously. Students have appreciated when faculty take the time to explain how their course canvas shell is set up or define things, et cetera. Advisors and tutors also shared that students appreciate opportunities to ask questions about assigned readings and/or recorded lectures, but are also reporting challenges and understanding course content when the time for question and discussion is not available.
As Mark said, we're all doing our best to meet students where they're at. And I think the Siedel and IDD opportunity coming up on October 7th is a nice opportunity for us to learn a little bit more about those experiences. And that's all I have to share. Thank you, Mark. I'll hand it over to you.

Mark Anderson (15:28):
Thanks, Stephanie. I think what I've learned from talking to you over the course of the fall semester is that the students really are putting in a really solid effort to be successful this semester and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help facilitate that. We should always be focused on the student and their success, but also maintaining the health and safety of the community is critically important. So thank you for all that you're doing for tutoring, advising, et cetera. As we get ready for really the final push in the fall semester and getting ready for the spring. Thank you for being here today, Stephanie, and with that, I would like to turn it over to Katrina Rodriguez.

Katrina Rodriguez (16:14):
Good morning, everyone, and good to be here with you this morning. I want to share a shout out both to Deb and Cindy and the health ladies. I think definitely tireless work and working with our students who were trying to figure out their quarantine and isolation and what all that means and helping them navigate that. We also have an additional staff member, Kendall Kelly, who sort of been assigned the role and excited about the role of being our COVID resource coordinator.
And Kendall has the opportunity to work with Cindy and Deb in our Student Health Center, and then coordinate with Housing and Dining so that students are able to get into their quarantine or isolation room, ensure that meals are delivered, do that check-in with students to make sure that they have what they need and if they have questions or any of that. So hopefully that also takes a little bit of the load off of Cindy and Deb, as they work all together to support our students. So I really appreciate the work that everybody is doing there.
Also, we have had our first Zoom bombing situation here at UNC. And this occurs when an outside entity has access to a Zoom link and password, and then they come in and post really inappropriate content. Where are we seeing this is in a club or organization. So we will be putting some tutorials and videos out there about how go about posting and creating those access points for folks to join but to also not give access to folks who don't belong in that space and so we'll get some things out because nobody wants that to happen to them.
So I'm excited to see the materials. As another reminder, next Thursday, October 1st, our FASFA materials will go out to students with various instructions and those kinds of things. Ways to contact to ask questions. And so please encourage students to complete the FASFA. It's a way for financial aid to certainly award our overall scholarships and opportunities from the federal government, as well as our UNC scholarships. And the only way to access those UNC scholarships is to fill out the FASFA. So please go ahead and do that.
There's some fun news from our campus rec center. We are going strong with all kinds of programs and activities. In outdoor pursuits area, we've got a number of upcoming trips that are not long trips, but a chance to get out. And so things like biking to the farmer's market and doing some outdoor rock climbing, The Hammock Hangout series, which I think is so cool. Students getting together and putting up hammocks and chatting and that kind of thing. There's some mountain biking, trail running. So please see our outdoor pursuits site at campus rec to get involved in some of those things.
We also have a lot of equipment that students can check out from our gear shop. So please do visit if you'd like to see what the offerings are and things that folks might be interested in. We also have a number of intramurals happening, tennis, disc golf, which our president loves as well as our Cornell competitions and a lot of e-gaming which is really popular. So there's all kinds of things that students can get engaged. The homecoming 5K is also coming up later this semester. So please get involved for those runners who want to get in that homecoming 5K. There are also a number of fitness and wellness opportunities. There are in person classes. We have nine per class capacity that they can join.
Karate, zumba, stretch, yoga, the list goes on. Dance 45. I wonder what that is. That sounds really interesting. So there are still personal trainers in some of these things. We also have virtual options every single day. So please check that out at the campus recs. So, folks can make reservations on the website for campus recreation. You don't have to download an app or anything. You just simply click in when you want to come in and they'll let you know if that time is confirmed for you.
And you do have to wear a mask, which of course is safe. And then there's also a lot of extra cleaning going on, a lot of deep cleaning throughout the day. And so there's a lot of things that campus rec has done to ensure that students, staff, and faculty using the rec center have a safe environment from which to get some physical activity. And so appreciate all of the hard work that folks are doing across campus to make sure that we both have options for students to engage as well as making sure those options are as safe as possible. So turn it back over to you, President Feinstein.

President Feinstein (21:22):
Well, thank you Katrina for the update. Thank you everybody for tuning in and listening, and as always stay safe, be healthy and we'll see you here again next Thursday. Take care, everybody.