To the UC Davis Community:
Students are moving in. They’re gathering their textbooks. New and returning Aggies are excited about the future, eager to get the new academic year underway. And so am I.
Of course, this is not your typical fall quarter. We’re wearing face coverings and maintaining 6 feet of distance between one another. We are not having gatherings. We’re completing the Daily Symptom Survey before entering campus facilities. Students who are moving into campus housing are being tested for COVID-19.
All this in addition to the numerous other health protocols we have implemented, such as having our dining facilities serve only to-go meals. And, of course, almost all instruction is remote.
Despite all this, the start of the new term is still one of my favorite times of the year, and we are trying our best to make this time and the entire fall quarter feel as welcoming as possible. We have great virtual orientation sessions planned for next week, and I am optimistic our Aggie Pride will prevail as we all work together for the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and visitors, and the surrounding community.
Our COVID-19 testing right now is limited to students who reside in campus housing, although the test site — we call it a kiosk — made an exception Wednesday morning for me, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Croughan and Vice Chancellor Ratliff of Finance, Operations and Administration so that we could understand the process and see how things were going. Exceedingly well, I must say, thanks to a massive amount of organization in a short amount of time, and a well-trained crew of health professionals and other staff members (many of whom have been redeployed from other units) and students.
Kudos to Cindy Schorzman, medical director at Student Health and Counseling Services, who leads this project, and Jeremiah Ray, director of Intercollegiate Athletic Sports Medicine, who leads the kiosk team. Credit also goes to Richard Michelmore, director of the UC Davis Genome Center, where, under his leadership, we are screening saliva samples in a pilot project.
And kudos to our students who are being tested (saliva for our pilot project, plus a nasal swab). They are taking it in stride, knowing they are doing their part to protect the health of our community.
Once our saliva testing is validated, we will expand it to students who access university facilities at least once a week. We fully expect we will turn up positive cases, and, when we do, we will assign case investigators to isolate the students, per Yolo County public health order.
We will also do contact tracing and direct students to self-quarantine if they have had close contact with someone who tests positive (close contact defined as being within 6 feet of each other for more than 15 minutes). If a student cannot quarantine effectively in their living space, the contact tracing team will coordinate with Student Housing and Dining Services to help that student move into a quarantine space.
We have almost 400 beds available in student housing for isolation and quarantine, during which time Student Health and Counseling Services conducts daily check-ins, and Student Health and Dining Services provides meals. And, like all students, those in isolation and quarantine will have access to a wide range of remote services such as counseling, tutoring, academic advising, and community building and engagement.
With weekly (at least) testing and rapid results (24 to 48 hours for saliva), as well as quick contact tracing, we hope to keep the virus in check on our campus, so we can go about the academics of fall quarter.
Another helpful factor: The state last weekend amended its public health guidance for “gatherings,” defined as meetings or other events that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place.
Under “Social Circles” on our Campus Ready Information for Students and Families webpage, we had already recommended: “Do not allow guests in your place of residence.” We have now included a link to the new state guidance, which states: “To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, gatherings unless otherwise specified are not permitted across the state of California until further guidance is issued by the California Department of Public Health.”
The state says, “When people from different households mix, this increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19.” We agree, and we urge our students and employees to follow this guidance, on and off campus. If you do get together with others, even in small groups, please note that wearing face coverings at all times is the strongest preventive measure we have to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep you, your family and your friends healthy.
And an important reminder about face coverings: We require them at all times, on everyone, at all UC Davis locations. Indoors, the only exceptions are when you are eating or drinking or in private spaces such as dorm rooms, single-occupancy offices, showers and the like. Outdoors, you must keep your face coverings on when 6 feet of distancing from others is not feasible.
Don’t forget: Flu shots
Remember, all students, faculty and staff who are living, learning or working at any UC location this fall, must be vaccinated against influenza by Nov. 1. This is a key part of our COVID-19 response, in that we are hoping to minimize flu cases that could put further strain on medical resources during the pandemic.
Student Health and Counseling Services and Occupational Health Services opened a flu shot clinic this week in The Pavilion at the ARC, where they are administering the vaccine at no cost, by appointment Monday through Friday through Oct. 16. Face coverings and physical-distancing precautions are strictly enforced.
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, and to learn more about the flu vaccination requirement.
Town and gown
Our behaviors off campus are just as important as our behaviors on campus. We are all part of our university town, with a responsibility to help protect everyone’s health. This was the impetus for our campus-city collaboration, Healthy Davis Together.
We expect to have 23,000 to 25,000 students here for the fall quarter, living in campus housing and in surrounding communities. Healthy Davis Together aims to facilitate a coordinated and gradual return to regular city activities and reintegration of UC Davis students back into the community.
Here’s what I told the Davis Enterprise about this partnership: The university and the city have been talking for a while, sparked by the understandable concern of residents in the community about several thousand students returning to campus and the possibility of outbreaks. We developed a plan that has components around technology, epidemiology and, more importantly, modifying behavior. Not just students but all community members.
Daily Symptom Survey
Every day you come to campus, starting the first day of the quarter, Sept. 28, you must complete the Daily Symptom Survey and show your result before entering a campus facility (take a screenshot!). Some facilities will employ checkpoints, while others may have a different process, but either way you may not enter a facility until you have been “approved” by the Daily Symptom Survey. The Qualtrics survey takes about 30 seconds on your smartphone or other device.
Beginning Monday, a Qualtrics-based survey will be available for campus visitors, including vendors. The visitor survey and the one for students and employees are both available at symptomsurvey.ucdavis.edu. (Students and employees: Once you get to your survey, you may wish to bookmark it; your email address and phone number will be prepopulated after your first visit.)
About those textbooks ...
If you are an undergraduate student participating in the Equitable Access textbook program this fall, all of your required digital textbooks and other course materials should already be available in your Bookshelf account. For textbooks that are available only in print, you have two options to get your books:
- If you are in the Davis area — Visit the Campus Store at the Memorial Union to pick up your print textbooks in person beginning Monday (Sept. 21), and avoid possible shipping delays. Your required print textbooks are included in Equitable Access and there will be no additional cost when you pick them up. If you would like to have your textbooks delivered to you, use the next option.
- If you are outside the Davis area (or in the Davis area and wish to have your textbooks delivered) — UC Davis will pay for shipping during remote instruction this fall. Fill out this form and your textbooks will be shipped to you at no cost.
Meeting the challenge
Our new UC president, Michael Drake, attended his first Board of Regents meeting this week — his first as president — and I’d like to share some of what he said in his opening remarks, which should have all of you bursting with pride, as I am. He offered a few highlights of campuses that are rising up to meet the challenges of this “unique moment” in time, referring to wildfires, COVID-19 and systemic racism:
“The UC Davis Fire Department contributed hundreds of person-hours to firefighting efforts locally and in Southern California. UC Davis Medical Center also treated injured patients, and the School of Veterinary Medicine sheltered and cared for animals and provided search-and-rescue services in the Vacaville Hills. Many of our campuses and medical centers are involved in critical COVID-19 research that is helping us both prevent and treat infection. ... Our campus leaders continue to engage with their communities on the issues of anti-racism, community policing and public safety. ... Important conversations are happening across the University of California system, including at the Office of the President, and I am encouraged to be a part of some of these long overdue dialogues.”
To which I would add, “This is who we are.”
More top rankings
Earlier this week, it was U.S. News & World Report that made us proud in its annual “Best Colleges” rankings. We maintained our standing at No. 11 among public universities and No. 39 overall, while also coming in at No. 15 among “top performers on social mobility.”
Today (Sept. 18), The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings came out, and I’m pleased to report we held our position at No. 5 among public universities in the United States. These rankings are based on 15 factors across four main categories: student outcomes, including graduates’ salaries and debt; academic resources, including how much the college spends on teaching; student engagement, including whether students feel prepared to use their education in the real world; and learning environment, including the diversity of the student body and academic staff.
Well done, UC Davis! More great achievements lie ahead, I’m sure of it, starting with this fall quarter.
Gary S. May