To the UC Davis Community:
There was no better sight this week than one of our UC Davis Health nurses giving a COVID-19 vaccination to another of our nurses. Similar scenes are playing out across the country, in what we all hope is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
How proud I am of this incredible institution. UC Davis Health led a part of the clinical trial for this vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech — just one of dozens of ways our entire university is researching and fighting the coronavirus.
Marianne Russ Sharp, a Public Affairs writer at UC Davis Health, captured Tuesday’s historic events in a web story describing the first shot given by Heather Donaldson to Eva Teniola, who, after receiving the shot, threw up her arms and exclaimed: “See, we did it!” Some who had come to observe the first vaccinations wiped away tears.
Other frontline workers who received the vaccine included Shashi Kant, a custodian for 28 years, who works in the intensive care unit and the emergency department — who lost his daughter to COVID-19 three months ago. We mourn our losses together as a community, even as we celebrate our shared triumphs.
Nurse Teniola shrugged off the suggestion she was a hero. “The vaccine is the real hero!” Yes, the vaccine is a hero, but so is she, along with everyone else on the front lines all across the country, who, at this very moment, are dealing with the biggest surge of the pandemic. As they continue their valiant work, let us not forget there is work we can do, too.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and another one coming, from Moderna, are two important tools — but there are other tools the rest of have at our disposal: face coverings, hand-washing, physical distancing, testing. We cannot let our guard down. It will be months before the vaccines reach the general public.
Now is not the time to let up, especially amid the holidays when the urge to gather with family and friends is strong. Please, gather only with your households. By doing so, you will be protecting the loved ones you cannot be with. And you will be honoring the memory of all those we have lost.
Testing and travel
- COVID-19 testing — The ARC kiosk for employees and students will be closed from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1 (with the exception of a half-day of operation, Saturday, Dec. 26). If you need testing in the interim, please make an appointment with Healthy Davis Together.
- Updated travel advisory — UC Davis is reminding all members of the campus community to avoid nonessential travel, and that all UC Davis-sponsored international travel requires approval.
- Students, if you are traveling — Remember to get a COVID-19 test before leaving Davis and at least once per week for the first two weeks of winter quarter. Also: Upon your return, self-quarantine in your place of residence for 10 days — even if you receive a negative test result.
- Employees, if you are traveling — Please observe self-quarantine guidance outlined in the travel advisory.
Winter quarter ...
As we prepare for another quarter of mostly remote instruction, we have the results from the survey we asked students to complete last week — telling us that about 22,000 of them plan to be in or around Davis for the winter quarter. That’s about the same as fall quarter. The students’ responses also indicate an 82 percent compliance rate with the flu shot mandate, and an acknowledgement by a majority of students that they understand the importance of regular testing as a critical public health measure. That’s what we like to hear, Aggies!
This week brings a new survey for students, asking: How can we support you? Please help us plan classes and services by responding to the Technology Access and Support Survey. Please note you may receive multiple requests from faculty and staff to complete this survey — you need to answer only once.
As for coursework, I echo the words of the Academic Senate chair, Richard Tucker, in a letter he sent this week to members of the Academic Senate and Academic Federation, acknowledging the increased economic and mental health challenges our students are dealing with in the pandemic, and continuing to urge instructors to be flexible and accommodating — as outlined in guidance from the Committee on Courses of Instruction.
“We do not want students’ educational experiences to contribute to these challenges, and we do not want these challenges to adversely affect students’ educational outcomes,” he wrote.
... and beyond
Today we have exciting news about our instructional plans for the spring quarter (with an expanded range of learning activities that may be offered in-person) and the fall (when we are optimistic for a return to in-person instruction):
Spring 2021 — All lecture courses will continue to be offered only through remote instruction. However, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan told deans in a letter today, “With spring graduation in mind, we invite proposals for in-person courses for graduating students. More generally, we invite proposals for courses featuring experiential learning or hands-on learning, and also other small class-size offerings that might have been canceled in earlier quarters or might be appropriate to hold in spring quarter.”
Separately, the Academic Senate sent a letter to members of the Academic Senate and Academic Federation with guidance on remote and virtual instruction in the spring quarter.
Fall 2021 — Provost Croughan and Academic Senate Chair Tucker, in a letter to faculty today, conveyed their expectation that instruction in the fall will return to pre-pandemic, in-person delivery, basing their optimism on the vaccines now being distributed and UC Davis’ robust testing program.
“We will remain in close partnership with our public health colleagues and we will continue to base our decision-making on then-current public health guidance,” they wrote. “We acknowledge that we may need to provide accommodations for some members of our campus community whose health circumstances require continuing caution with respect to potential exposure.
“But we hope that you will share our excitement with the prospect of returning our campus operations to something very close to normal. We ask that all faculty, staff and students plan accordingly with the expectation of resuming in-person instruction in fall of 2021. We will provide additional information in the months ahead, including our plans for summer 2021.”
New notifications in 2021
Starting in January, upon learning anyone infected with COVID-19 has accessed campus facilities, the Davis campus will notify employees of possible worksite exposure, as required by a new state law, Assembly Bill 685. The email notifications, starting as early as Monday, January 4, will go to employees who we know from their Daily Symptom Surveys were on the campus within 30 days prior to the potential exposures, and we will continue sending notifications for 30 days after the potential exposures. Students will receive the notifications, too, based on their Daily Symptom Surveys. We know many of you are weary of email, but we strongly encourage you to read these notices.
These notices will indicate only that you MAY have been exposed on a certain day or days (chances are you were not even in the same building). The notices will provide a link to our AB 685 webpage, where you will see reports of potential worksite exposures, including dates and locations. You will hear from our contact tracing team if they determine through their interviews with people diagnosed with COVID-19 that they had had close contact with you (close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes). Otherwise, there’s really nothing else for you to do — we are certainly not trying to alarm anyone; we are simply following the law.
Another useful resource is our COVID-19 Dashboard, which as of today provides a more complete picture of the incidence of COVID-19 on campus. Until now, the dashboard showed only the results of our asymptomatic testing program (for example, the dashboard shows a positivity rate of 0.34 percent in the last seven days of saliva testing). Now included are cases identified by testing at the Student Health and Wellness Center, and self-reported cases — bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases on campus to 301 since Sept. 14.
This morning’s online celebration was just the beginning of what we have planned for our new graduates today! At 4 p.m. we will host an online watch party where the graduates can join the UC Davis community on Facebook, to relive this morning’s celebration or watch it for the first time. Your graduation is huge, and we want to give you the opportunity to share your achievement with family and friends. Be there! Once more, congratulations to the fall graduates of the Class of 2020. And we hope to see you back here when circumstances allow in-person commencement.
Hope for the new year
This week our world received the gift of hope in not one but two vaccines. My wish this holiday season is for all of us to deliver hope of our own — by following health and safety protocols, by looking out for one another, by calling those who are alone, by keeping spirits high.
I am proud — and you should be, too — of all that we have accomplished this year under trying circumstances. We have come so far, and I have every confidence that all of us, together, will see this pandemic through to its end.
That, my friends, will be a Happy New Year. We will be back in touch with our next letter January 8, after taking off the next two weeks. Happy holidays to all.
Gary S. May