Checking In With Chancellor May: Highs and Lows
To the UC Davis Community:
We started the week with so much optimism: new year, new quarter, 100,000 COVID-19 tests administered by UC Davis in our community and vaccine being administered at UC Davis Health. Then came Wednesday and another shock to our country. That night, I issued a message condemning the violence at the U.S. Capitol. Today I urge everyone at UC Davis to continue following the path we are on — standing strong against such challenges and focusing on solutions for health and justice.
However, as resilient as we can be, we understand the stress brought on by current events. Please continue to care for yourselves and others. We have resources: See them here, on this flyer.
In our fight against the coronavirus, UC Davis Health is enrolling participants in the Novavax vaccine trial, which is our second vaccine trial. The first was Pfizer-BioNTech, which ultimately became the first vaccine to receive emergency use authorization in the United States — and which we started administering to our frontline health care workers Dec. 15.
Yesterday, we learned that our veterinary personnel engaged in patient care and laboratory environments are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, and that UC Davis Health will provide the shots. This is great news for more of our frontline staff who have worked continuously through this pandemic.
In my winter welcome letter Monday (Jan. 4), I noted that I also received the vaccine — but not until after UC Davis Health frontline and other essential workers were offered the vaccine. As I said in my letter, I accepted the opportunity to get vaccinated because of the potential positive impact I might have to encourage everyone else — and particularly other people of color — to do the same. I’m pleased to hear that it is having a positive effect. Thank you for the feedback.
Along the same lines, the African American Faculty and Staff Association will hold an information session at noon Friday, January 22, with David Cooke, associate professor and head of the Section of General Thoracic Surgery at UC Davis Health, discussing COVID-19 vaccines and the African American community. The Associated Press recently featured Dr. Cooke in an article titled “Black California Surgeon ‘Walks the Walk’ on Virus Vaccine,” about being a volunteer test subject in UC Davis Health’s trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Thank you to Dr. Cooke and all the other volunteers.
More on vaccinations
On the Davis campus, we are receiving inquiries from students, staff and faculty about how and when COVID-19 vaccines might be made available to our campus community. Please see the FAQ we have posted to our Campus Ready site. The short answer is, we do not yet have all the information, as planning for much of this is dependent upon receipt of vaccine doses from the state of California and approvals outside of UC Davis. Information will be shared as soon as it becomes available.
Further, for employees, you are more than likely to receive your vaccinations from your own health plans — like UC Davis Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and Dignity Health — and that they will notify you accordingly when your vaccination tier is approaching so you can schedule an appointment.
A vaccination (first or second dose) does not free you from continuing to follow our health and asymptomatic testing protocols. As pointed out by our health system colleagues: We expect immunity to be achieved in about 95 percent of people who are vaccinated, which, across 10,000 people means there could still be up to 500 people who become infected. Additionally, we do not yet know if being vaccinated means people do not transmit the virus, as data only show that most people who are vaccinated do not become sick. Therefore, the protocols remain in place: face coverings, physical distancing and hand-washing. Requirements for asymptomatic testing and the Daily Symptom Survey also remain in place.
Our Genome Center reported Sunday that it had analyzed the 100,000th saliva sample from all locations in the asymptomatic testing program that we developed. The number comprises samples taken since the program began Sept. 14 with a single testing kiosk in The Pavilion parking garage (this kiosk has since moved inside the Activities and Recreation Center), and samples taken elsewhere — for example, at Healthy Davis Together locations serving the community.
We also gather samples through mobile operations in the veterinary sciences district and on the Sacramento campus. See our Campus Ready Testing page for more information.
Have questions about testing? We have answers in this FAQ, and we also invite you to join a symposium next week for a discussion of not only our saliva testing program but also of other kinds of testing: in the hospital (emergency room and bedside) and sewage surveillance. This is another in a series of COVID-19 symposia organized by Distinguished Professor Walter Leal, whose guests this time will be UC Davis scientists Richard Michelmore, Nam Tram and Heather Bischel. I will once again give introductory remarks. Starting time is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13. Register here (and please use the form to ask your questions in advance).
Please take note: We made the decision yesterday to increase the recommended testing frequency for students to every three to four days (one to two times per week) due to a surge in cases and a recent increase in testing capacity. Here is what you need to know:
- Get tested — Since many individuals, including most young adults, have mild to no symptoms, it is critically important for symptom-free students to get tested regularly to help identify and isolate those who have the virus. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier we can engage the contact tracing process. The testing requirement for students to access campus facilities is still in effect with the mandate that students get tested up to seven days before their visit to campus. We strongly recommend that students get tested every three to four days.
- Self-quarantine for the first two weeks of winter quarter — Even if you test negative for COVID-19, stay in your place of residence as much as possible for a minimum of 10 days after returning to Davis (if you have traveled), during the weeks of January 4 and 11.
Please note that testing and quarantine requirements may differ for students living in campus housing, and residents should refer to communications from Student Housing and Dining Services for specific guidance.
Course structure information
As a reminder, the Academic Senate asked all departments and programs to post expanded information about their courses, including how lectures and discussions will be conducted, how exams will be administered, and additional logistical details. The winter 2021 posting deadline is Monday, January 11. For future quarters of emergency remote instruction, the deadline will be the start of Pass 1 registration. Students should check for this expanded information on departmental and program home webpages and course webpages. Read the full request and guidelines here.
Please note that we are evaluating more courses to be offered in person for spring quarter and we expect to return to full in-person instruction in fall 2021. But as remote instruction continues for now, the Academic Senate continues to strongly recommend that instructors implement practices that promote flexibility and accommodation for students.
Child care assistance
We are continuing this quarter with a YMCA Learning Lab on the Sacramento campus, offering tutoring and child care for employees’ children, grades K-6. We have ended the Davis campus lab, but all UC Davis families are eligible for the Sacramento program. Learn more here.
UC Davis has joined with UCSF and UC Berkeley in a Berkeley-based platform, CareBubbles, which provides a parent-to-parent resource to help UC community members meet their child care needs during the pandemic. Find other families looking to trade child care, share tutors, create bubbles and more. Affiliates can either create posts of their own information (what and who they are seeking) or search other people’s posts. This is available to all employees and students. Learn more and log in using your UC Davis credentials. Questions? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As difficult a week as this has been, I remain optimistic about our COVID-19 response and the resilience of our UC Davis community. We are on the right path that will allow us to be together in person again.
Gary S. May