Checking In With Chancellor May: Continued Vigilance
To the UC Davis Community:
I hope you are all doing well as we reach the heart of fall, the season of change. Thanksgiving is next week, final exams are approaching and fall commencements (including makeup ceremonies for 2020) are right around the corner. No doubt we are all looking forward to the winter holidays for time to rest and reflect.
I would like to thank everyone once again for making our return to in-person instruction go as safely and as smoothly as possible. UC Davis has truly emerged as a role model for our response to the pandemic, on campus and in the community, through Healthy Davis Together (a collaboration for which we received an award in July from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities). Your continued diligence in following our health protocols has made all the difference.
Now, with our COVID-19 Dashboard showing a Davis campus vaccination rate of 98 percent and a positivity rate of 0.06% for the last 30 days, we are announcing a change to one of our Campus Ready protocols: Starting Monday, January 17, asymptomatic testing for vaccinated students, faculty and staff will be “strongly recommended/encouraged,” but voluntary, instead of required every two weeks. The requirement for unvaccinated members of the UC Davis community will stay the same: testing every four days.
In the meantime, continue testing as you have been doing and in accordance with our guidance for the Thanksgiving break and your return to campus. (We will be posting winter break guidance to the same page.)
We will remain vigilant as ever in the fight against COVID-19 and persistent in our message that vaccines work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents the data here and states: “COVID-19 vaccines protect everyone ages 5 years and older from getting infected and severely ill, and significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.” Also, the Food and Drug Administration today (November 19) gave approval for booster shots for all fully vaccinated people age 18 and up.
And please keep this is mind: Many public health experts are predicting a surge of COVID-19 during the winter months as more activities move indoors, more people come down with viral illnesses and the holiday season begins. Hospitalizations are already rising in several states. Here in our community, we are happy to report our Healthy Davis Together partnership with the city and school district will continue through June.
We continue to monitor the pandemic and follow orders from our public health officials. This means that universal masking indoors and the Daily Symptom Survey may continue for some time. How long we do this really depends on whether the virus continues to mutate, and on vaccination rates around the world. However, I’m confident in your commitment to campus health mitigations combined with our extremely high vaccination rate to see us through.
Special note for students about Daily Symptom Survey incentives: Our Aggie Public Health Ambassadors will soon be roaming about, asking to see your surveys — if you’ve completed yours, you will get a $5 gift card for the Coffee House, UC Davis Stores or other campus establishments. And you will be entered into a drawing for a bigger prize to be awarded at the end of fall quarter.
More on COVID-19 and flu
I think you will be impressed by an academic study showing the University of California as a whole fared especially well last fall, minimizing campus transmission and outbreaks and limiting the virus’s spread to surrounding communities, thanks to our COVID-19 mitigation measures and partnerships like Healthy Davis Together. Read more about the study in this article from UC Davis Health.
Equally concerned about the flu, the UC Office of the President issued an executive order for flu shots — and gave students, staff and faculty until today (November 19) to get them. I thank all those who have complied. I also understand that many people have been unable to get their flu shots recently due to supply issues. If you cannot meet the deadline, please get your shot as soon as you can and record it in Health-e-Messaging.
Faculty and staff accommodations
In-person instruction will continue to be the default mode of teaching in winter quarter, but, as in fall quarter, exemptions will be considered due to COVID-19-related circumstances. Requests to teach remotely in the upcoming quarter are due by December 3. More information is available on the Academic Affairs website.
In regard to staff, we have listened to and responded to your requests for greater flexibility in hours and work location since the start of the pandemic. For almost two years, thousands of Davis campus staff worked under temporary, remote and hybrid/remote work schedules. Now, well over 2,000 staff members across campus have entered long-term flexible work agreements.
Flexible work is an incredible benefit to staff and can help ensure the delivery of services vital to our operations. To remain an employer of choice in this competitive labor market, and retain our great staff members, UC Davis will embrace flexible work arrangements where they make sense. I’d like to commend the Davis campus’s Workplace Reimagined and UC Davis Health’s Digital Workplace Program for making flexible work part of our university’s new normal.
As you know, guidance about public health and our UC Davis community is constantly evolving. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for a letter from Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan, which will detail some new COVID-19 protocols and updates that will be of interest.
One of the best parts about campus reopening is the return of in-person graduation ceremonies. Caps and gowns will make a return in just a few weeks with a series of graduation ceremonies at the University Credit Union Center, formerly The Pavilion.
We certainly haven’t forgotten the Class of 2020, the students who received their undergraduate degrees but were unable to be recognized in formal ceremonies. More than 1,600 of these students accepted our invitation to come back for makeup commencement — so many that we have broken it into two ceremonies, morning and afternoon, on Friday, December 10. By doing so, we can guarantee four guest tickets for each graduate.
In addition, Graduate Studies will have a makeup ceremony on Thursday, December 9, and the Graduate School of Management will have one on Sunday, December 12. In between, we will hold our 2021 Fall Commencement on Saturday, December 11.
The ceremonies will be full of joy and mark a great milestone during these historic times. Our organizers could also use some help in making these days run smoothly. Any UC Davis staff and faculty who’d like to volunteer for a commencement work shift are asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On a final note, I look forward to sharing a great conversation that I recently had with San Francisco Mayor London Breed. She’s the next guest for the Chancellor’s Colloquium, a series that generates dialogue with some of the most thoughtful and creative minds of our times.
This edition was extra special given that Mayor Breed is a UC Davis alum. Before leading one of the world’s great cities, she was a chemistry and political science student who lived at the former Castilian residence hall. Our conversation covered her years at UC Davis, along with such pressing issues as COVID-19 response, climate change, unhoused people and social justice. She also had great tips on effective leadership and how students can best prepare themselves.
This episode will be presented at 4 p.m. PST Tuesday, November 23, via Zoom. Please register here.. I hope you will take the time to tune in.
In the meantime, I wish you all the best in this last stretch of the fall quarter. We have so much to look forward to in the near future, such as the return of in-person Picnic Day in April with its parade and Doxie Derby.
Coming up tomorrow: UC Davis hosts the 67th Causeway Classic football game against Sac State. It’s going to be a Big Sky Conference Classic as well, with both teams — the Aggies (5-2) and the Hornets (7-0) — hoping to get to the playoffs. Let’s show our Aggie athletes some well-deserved support.
Best wishes to you all as we enter the 2021 holiday season. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Gary S. May