Checking in with Chancellor May: Optimism
To the UC Davis Community:
Fall quarter is underway! We are so glad you are here, or there, wherever you happen to be — all of you in the UC Davis family, meeting the challenge of this pandemic. Kudos to students, faculty and staff who are learning and teaching and working in ways we never expected, certainly not for this length of time.
I extend my gratitude to our front-line workers at UC Davis Health, providing excellent care to COVID-19 patients, and to all of our other essential workers, including our firefighters who have been rotating in and out of wildfire duty for almost two months ... and to our researchers on both sides of the causeway who are contributing greatly to the study of the new coronavirus, and doing considerable outreach via UC Davis LIVE and Deans Discuss and other programs.
Now we begin a new academic term, with most classes still being held remotely, and with a sizeable number of students living on the Davis campus or in the Davis area. We are continuing our gradual approach to reopening even as Yolo County’s COVID-19 infection status improved this week, going from purple to red in the state’s four-tier system.
We are carefully evaluating further reopening in the coming weeks, giving full consideration to public health guidance and our capacity to operate while reducing potential risk of infection. Please bear in mind: The quarter is just a week old, some of our common areas have just reopened, with restrictions, and we want people to have time to settle in and adjust to all the health protocols we have in place. We do not want to go backwards.
So, at this time, we will maintain the status quo in our dining facilities (no indoor dining). But the Segundo and Tercero dining commons, Scrubs Cafe and the Coffee House are open for takeout, and the CoHo is delivering on campus. Information about partial reopening of the Activities and Recreation Center will be provided next week.
Another reason for our gradual approach: We need time to expand our program of collecting saliva samples and having them tested at the UC Davis Genome Center. For now, our COVID-19 testing is limited to students who live on campus — we began testing them as they moved in. They are being tested weekly, and we hope to make it twice weekly.
This is a pilot project. Once the Food and Drug Administration validates it, we will expand it to other students in the Davis area, staff and faculty, and the community at large as part of our Healthy Davis Together collaboration with the city. We are optimistic we will receive federal clearance, but we do not have it yet.
In the interim, we are also using the nasal swab test, for which results are generally received within 72 hours. Read more about the testing we are doing and see the results(which, for now, are from the nasal swabs). Data for the week of Sept. 21 show 2,104 tests administered and one case identified, for a positivity rate of 0.05 percent.
Our own testing system (saliva), on the other hand, can produce results in one day. The quicker we receive the results, the quicker we can begin contact tracing in positive cases. As noted previously, we have set aside nearly 400 beds in campus housing for quarantine and isolation, both for students who live on campus and those who live off campus in the Davis area.
Isolation and quarantine
Public health best practices and local county orders stipulate the need to isolate people who test positive and quarantine those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive — with “close contact” defined as closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes. We agree with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when he says allowing an infected student to go home is the “worst thing you could do,” because it places other people at risk.
This is why we have built infrastructure and support systems around our isolation and quarantine spaces. Our students who must be in isolation and quarantine are expected to remain in these facilities through the duration of the process as directed by their physicians and public health officials.
Flu shot clinic extended
We have extended our flu shot clinic for two weeks, to October 30. Run by Student Health and Counseling Services and Occupational Health Services, the clinic is for students living on campus, and any student, staff member or academic who is not able to get a flu shot through their health insurance. See our Campus Ready flu vaccination webpage for information on how to schedule an appointment. The clinic in The Pavilion at the ARC is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Beyond physical health, we are concerned as always for the mental health of our students, staff and faculty — especially during this time of anxiety and stress and uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders, child care responsibilities (not to mention the role many of you have as your children’s substitute teachers), wildfires, the economy and other issues.
We offer assistance through Student Health and Counseling Services, and the Academic and Staff Assistance Program. And, as luck would have it, we have another great resource in this year’s Campus Community Book Project. The theme is mental health — chosen almost a year before the pandemic — and the book is Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me. It’s not only good reading, but it comes with a long list of programming by faculty members and others. I encourage you to check out the events calendar, which includes, next Friday, October 9, “Mental Health and the Power of Resilience,” presented by Hendry Ton, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UC Davis Health, and associate vice chancellor, Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Ombuds Day Lunch and Learn
You might also want to learn about the services provided by our Ombuds Office — and you have the perfect opportunity to do so next Thursday, October 8, during a virtual open house that is being held in conjunction with national Ombuds Day.
The Ombuds Office is a safe place to talk — a safe space for all members of the UC Davis community to discover pathways for conflict management and problem solving in support of fair and collaborative professional and academic experiences in a diverse and changing world. During the virtual open house, you can meet the staff and watch a live mock meeting with an ombuds. Please register here.
Whether it be counseling or the Ombuds Office, please reach out for help in these trying times.
Optimistic on all fronts
As we close out Week 1 of the quarter, I remain optimistic for the weeks and months ahead as we all work together to stay healthy, allowing us to focus on the UC Davis mission of teaching, research and public service. For even more optimism, I hope you will join us on 10.10.2020: Saturday, Oct. 10, a week from tomorrow, when we present our Virtual Innovation Spectacular! RSVP here today! It’s all about our spectacular research and projects, our imagination and our vision — the work we do to make our world a better place for all.
Gary S. May