Cassie Gerhardt, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Diversity and Associate Dean of Students: Let’s get started. My name is Cassie Gerhardt, I have the pleasure of serving as the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity.
And I so appreciate students, in particular, taking the time to join us this afternoon.
So to get us started, it is my pleasure to introduce President Armacost, who is going to begin with some opening remarks. So President Armacost, the Zoom Room is all yours!
President Armacost: OK, thanks, Cassie. I really appreciate it. And to all the people who have signed in today, thank you for joining us.
This is intended to be a good information session to have all of your questions answered; and the ones that we don’t get to today, we’ll make sure that we get to on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
So I recognize that these are not the times that you expect at a college — that with COVID and the restrictions that are put on us and the limits that we have naturally for our lives. We know that you’re feeling it, and just know that the university is behind you.
And really, we want to make sure that your success is at the forefront of what we offer you, and also to make sure that your well being — both your physical well-being and your mental well-being, your emotional well-being — are taken care of.
You have this whole group in front of you and many others who are here to support you through this.
I want you to look out for your friends, make sure that your friends who are struggling through — they might be infected or in isolation or quarantine — look out for them. Make sure they’re doing okay.
But also look out for your friends who aren’t infected, and make sure that they’re doing the right things, making the choices that we expect: keep a safe distance; 6 feet, right, that’s the wingspan.
Make sure that they’re wearing masks and that you’re wearing a mask. Wash your hands and pay attention to hygiene. And then of course, avoid large gatherings. Large gatherings and small areas are not good things to participate in; in fact, we expect that you don’t.
On campus, we have firm restrictions. We would also expect that you abide by them off-campus as well.
It’s all about the safety, the health and safety of each and every one of you, as well as the people that you’re connected with — family members, the elderly people in town, people you don’t know — because the connections are real.
This virus travels quickly between all of us.
More immediate: the most immediate news is, we just heard from Dr. Deborah Birx from the President’s White House Task Force on Coronavirus. She’s asking all college students over this three-day weekend to remain on campus. Do not go home. This is her pledge.
Our campus in particular, we’re testing at the rate of about 10 to 11 percent, and we want to make sure that that you don’t put your families or your communities back home in jeopardy.
So it sounds odd that we’re saying that our positivity rate is high and we want you to stay, but we do, in the interest of not spreading the disease beyond the bounds of Grand Forks.
We also encourage you, most importantly, to get tested. We have three testing events this week; we have a testing an ongoing right now. There’s one tomorrow — and these are all at the High Performance Center — and then there’s one on Friday.
So take advantage of testing. Know what your status is.
And then by all means, if you’re either a close contact or if you test positive, we need you to take care of yourself.
It’s tough, we know. But you need to take the actions to make sure that we can contain the spread of the pandemic.
Again, if we get to the point where the pandemic spreads beyond our capacity to be able to handle it through the resources, the hotel rooms, the people who are taking care of you, then we have no choice but to take the steps of modifying how we’re offering classes by going either partially or fully online, or in the ultimate case is doing what we did in the spring, which is saying we can’t handle it anymore, shutting down the campus and going entirely remote.
So we have some gradations of options. We can go online and keep you here; we can go online and send you home. We don’t want to do either of those things. We want to make sure that you have a great experience, and it’s likely a combination of online and in-person educational experiences.
So do what you can to do your part to make sure that we achieve that goal.
Let’s keep the campus open. Do your part, and hold your friends accountable as well to do their part.
So with that, I think that’s all I have to say. Thank you and welcome. And then let me turn it over to, I think, Cara Halgren, our Vice President for Student Affairs. I think she’s next.
Cara Halgren, Vice President for Student Affairs & Diversity and Dean of Students: Actually, I’m going to pass it back to Cassie.
President Armacost: (Laughs) See? Real-time flubs. I had in my notes that I was supposed to send it to you.
Back to Cassie.
Cassie Gerhardt: That’s all right. That’s how you all know this is live and not pre-recorded. So that was intentional, just to prove it. (Laughs)
Thank you so much, Cara and President Armacost. Students joining us today, if you have questions you want to have us answer, please use the Q&A feature to ask those questions.
Some of those questions, the colleagues who are with me today may answer through the chat. Others of them will be pulled out to answer in a live broadcast.
Regardless, we will take those questions and get them answered and uploaded to an FAQ site, because we value all of your questions and want to get the answers prepared for you.
Also, please note that today’s session is being recorded. So, as soon as we get a chance to get it transcribed — it probably takes us a couple of days — we will also post this. So if you have friends who aren’t able to join today, please let them know.
Speakers, as I call on you to respond to questions, if you could please introduce yourself by name and your position on campus for the students, I would greatly appreciate it and I know they would as well.
Students, as we get ready to go to questions, I want to let you know: we’re going to take some of the live questions that you’re submitting. But please know, some students have reached out to different members of today’s panel with some early questions that we think are probably ones that many people have.
So, I’m going to ask my fellow panelists a few of those pre-submitted questions, and then we’ll get to some of the other ones that you are submitting live.
So, to kick us off: President Armacost, you started to address this. But I’m going to come back to you with one of the questions that is out in the community: There have been some rumors flying, whether on-campus, off-campus in different social circles and among students, that UND is preparing to close and transition to remote instruction, and that we may not even return after the Labor Day weekend.
Can you address these comments and the things that are being shared?
President Armacost: Yes. So, I heard that rumor, and it’s not true.
From my opening comments, know that we’re making preparations to keep the health and safety of the campus at the forefront. We have faculty members to whom we’ve granted the authority to make a decision about their class and how to best operate it for the duration of the semester.
There might be individual decisions that professors make to revert to online or to go to an online setting within their class.
But we’re not at that point where we’re going to shut down the campus. Our resources are holding; I think we have about 165 hotel rooms being used for quarantine and isolation. We’re in a good position with the hotel rooms; we’re waiting to see what today’s testing results yield in terms of positive cases.
But there are no plans to shut down the campus upon the return from the weekend.
Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks. So rumors are just that: rumors. Thank you for clarifying that.
Rosy, I’m going to come to you: President Armacost stressed the importance of getting tested. So a couple of questions related to testing. One that I hear from students quite a bit is, how often do students need to test for COVID-19 if they’ve already tested negative, maybe at last week’s testing event? So if you can just talk about frequency of testing?
Rosy Dub, Director of Student Health Services and of UND’s COVID Medical Response: Thank you.
As far as how frequently you should be tested, it all depends on your risk factors. If you are staying in your pod of just your immediate people that you’re surrounded with, and not exposing yourself to other people, then your risk of acquiring the COVID and need to be tested is definitely less.
If you’re out and about, whether it’s in classes or anyplace else — I take advantage of myself of weekly testing, just because I come out the COVID events here. So there’s nothing wrong with being tested weekly. We’re providing that on a weekly basis on campus, and I highly encourage you — unless you’re holed up in your dorm or your room or your apartment — to come out weekly and be tested.
Cassie Gerhardt: Rosy, we’re gonna stay on testing a little bit, because there’s a few questions coming in. So can you discuss: Why do people get tested if they don’t have symptoms?
Rosy Dub: We know that a large percentage — at least 45 percent of people who test positive for COVID — do not have symptoms. We also know that those people are infectious and can be spreading the disease to others.
So in our efforts to curb the spread of COVID, we’re asking all people, whether they have symptoms of not, to be tested so that we can isolate those people and do contact tracing and minimize the exposure to others, keeping our community safe.
Cassie Gerhardt: For the follow-up from the testing, how do students learn if they are a close contact? And then, what do they have to do in terms of reporting, if they’re a close contact and they live off campus?
Rosy Dub: First of all, I’m going to address the reporting: nobody is required to report, but we do highly encourage self-reporting on the Veoci link on the und.edu/covid-19/ website.
By taking responsibility to self-report, it helps us identify if there are clusters on campus, it helps us reach out to you with resources if you need them to get through the quarantine isolation period.
So, we highly encourage you, for your benefit, to self-report on that Veoci link.
The first part of the question was, how do you find out if you’re a close contact?
Always when you test positive, the North Dakota Health Department will reach out with a phone call to do a case investigation. They’ll inform you of your positive test results. And they’ll do an investigation to identify who your close contacts are.
That would be people who’ve been within 6 feet of you for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or more.
When they identified those close contacts, they will reach out to them and ask them to quarantine for a period of 14 days following their most recent contact with a positive case.
So typically, the close contacts are called as soon as possible. The positive cases — as soon as the results are back, within a few hours the close contacts are usually called as well. Some of that may take longer, depending on the volume of positive cases in our state and the ability to reach out to those people.
In some instances, the positive cases have been asked to notify their close contacts, pending the phone call from the Health Department; but all should be called.
Cassie Gerhardt: Great, thanks, Rosy.
The next question probably is for a couple of you. It really is about face coverings and the enforcement of policies that we’ve put in place.
So, Provost Storrs, Dr. Halgren, Chief Plummer, I’m going to take this probably from a couple of different angles.
So in terms of face-coverings-in-the-classroom expectations, Provost Storrs: the students are in classroom environments where they don’t feel that those expectations are being enforced. What should they do to follow up?
Debbie Storrs, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: Hi, everyone. Before I answer that question, Cassie, I just wanted to, on behalf of all the faculty and your deans, thank the students for choosing to study at UND.
The other thing I want to remind folks of is the need to be adaptable and flexible to the situation and to communicate. If you have concerns about what’s happening in your classroom, please reach out to your faculty. They have dedicated their lives to the study of whatever they’re trying to teach you. They want you to be successful.
And so, I encourage you to reach out to them if you have questions, if you’re not sure what’s happening in the classroom or where to be at what date and what time, please reach out to your faculty.
For the case that you mentioned, Cassie, if somebody is not adhering or implementing the best practices that we’ve required in the classroom, please reach out to the dean of every college. Every college has an academic dean, and that person is responsible for ensuring the health and safety and educational outcomes of every student in their college. You can find the name of the dean on the college website; or, you can reach out to me as provost.
And what we’ll do is, we’ll reach out to the faculties to remind them of why those safety measures, including face coverings, are important to implement and to ensure that students and faculty are wearing them.
Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, would you mind responding to this question in terms of people asking about areas such as Wilkerson Commons and the non-classroom areas. What is enforcement in those spaces in terms of physical distancing and face coverings, and where do students go to follow up?
Cara Halgren: As we all know, it’s required that people would wear face coverings in public spaces, including Wilkerson Commons.
Our director of housing, Troy Noeldner, is on the on the Zoom here today with us, so I know that Troy is taking this information in.
One of the things that you do, I think, is talk to the person who has oversight for the building. So, in Wilkerson Commons, again, it’s Troy who’s probably the best person to follow up with.
But I urge you to follow up, because it’s the expectation. We want students to wear face coverings. It’s about good public health.
We know that sometimes it’s really hard to confront other people or your friends about not wearing face coverings. But we are trying to do that, and we will do our best to help you with that.
So please, again, keep letting us know where you see pockets or spaces on campus where you know that to be an issue.
Chief Plummer, I’m going to ask you: can you just clarify face-covering expectations when people are walking outside to and from classes?
Eric Plummer, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police: While walking to class outdoors and when you’re more than six feet away from others, you do not have to wear a face covering. However, once you enter a building and common space such as hallways, other study areas, you are required to wear the face covering at that point.
Cassie Gerhardt: Jed, I’m going to give this one to you. I think this one might have been sent to you by a student. The question is: why is UND operating with in-person courses when the website says we are still transitioning to Safety Level 2? If it says ‘transitioning,’ it seems to be that we are still in the worst level, which I understand to mean all work and school is completed remotely. Just curious if this is going to be updated.
Jed Shivers, Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer: When you look across the country and you look at our state, there’s all kinds of gradations of what phase we’re in. We really thought about this extensively, and we wanted to try to adopt a reasonably simple one.
The worst state is red, and that’s when you have widespread, community spread of the virus and your health system is in trouble, which, unfortunately, we’ve seen in many states and cities around the country.
The prudent thing to do – either for the entire university or for large portions of the university – is to say, ‘Okay, we’re going remote.’ And that’s basically what happened in the spring when the virus first came, and we had no idea where we were or what was going on.
Who had it? Who didn’t? There was no testing. There was nothing. That’s really where we were before.
Now, we’re in a very different position where we’re actually doing robust testing. We are quarantining and isolating people, which basically helps to stop the spread of the virus.
But we are looking carefully because as anyone can see when they look on our transparent website, we have a lot of cases. To say that we’re into the green zone, which says we can go back to where we were, that’s not where we are. But, because our systems are holding, we’re not in the red zone either.
At this point, as you heard from the president, we don’t need to be going remote. We’re really in that middle area, and I think that’s where we’re going to remain for quite a while – unless things get worse and we get overwhelmed, or until there are good therapeutics and a widely available vaccine.
Think about this from your point of view – the students – or my point of view – the staff member. In this time, until there are good therapeutics or a good vaccine, you’re going to have to wear a mask. You’re going to have to wash your hands. You’re going to have to practice social distancing. You’re going to have to avoid large groups.
From your perspective as the user of our campus, until there are good therapeutics and/or a vaccine, you’re going to be doing all those things. Hence, you’re still in that middle cautionary zone.
Of course, if things get worse, then we do have to pull the trigger and go remote.
Cassie Gerhardt: Karyn, I’m going to give this one to you. One of the problems that students are experiencing is the 15-minute time period between courses. Students are finding they don’t have time to drive back and forth from an off-campus location to a classroom. Just wondering if you have any advice or suggestions on how to navigate going from your apartment remotely from an off-campus location to an on-campus location in person?
Karyn Plumm, Vice Provost for Student Success: We know that students have a mix of online and on-campus courses, as well as on-campus courses they sometimes attend online. We’re aware that everybody has that mix going on.
We do have spaces on campus where students can participate in their online courses or work in their online courses in the work that they have between their on-campus courses. There are spaces in the library, for example. Columbia Hall’s another example. There are spaces all across campus.
I would encourage you, if you’re in that situation to where you don’t have time to get to an off-campus apartment in between your courses, to reach out to your advisor. They can get you the link that has every space we’ve designated across campus for students to be able to use in that in-between time when you’re not sure where to go or where you can be to work on your course material.
Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, this one’s for you. Does a student have to attend class face-to-face? Can they just decide to attend remotely?
Debbie Storrs: That’s a great question. This gets me back to my initial suggestion to communicate with your faculty. All faculty have been asked to come up with a plan and explain to students how they’re going to manage their on-campus course, and because I need to have fewer students in the classroom at any point in time because of the physical distancing requirement for your safety.
Often times, the plan will be to rotate small groups of students on different days. Many faculty – but not all – will also offer students the option to fully engage remotely. But it will be up to the faculty.
If your faculty has not provided that as an option, you could certainly have an email conversation with them. It is ultimately up to the faculty, who are trying really hard to accommodate students’ needs. That is often available, but will be on a case-by-case basis by faculty.
So communicate. Ask your faculty member.
Cassie Gerhardt: Staying in the academic area, either Provost Storrs or Vice Provost Plumm: Students have some confusion over organizing their schedules and figuring out when they’re supposed to be in class and when they’re supposed to be remote. Can you give some suggestions on how to navigate that?
Karyn Plumm: Advisors across campus are well aware that students are trying to find information about how to engage in each course. We’ve spent a lot of time working with students one on one, going through the syllabus or the announcement posted on Blackboard. Some faculty have posted in both places. Some faculty have it in one or the other.
We’ve been trying to help students figure out what their individual specific schedule looks like, given how often they’re going to be in on-campus courses and how often they will have to be remote.
If you’re still unsure or not really finding the information, please reach out to your advisor. They’ll help walk you through it. If you have any questions about contacting your faculty, if it’s unclear and your advisor can’t help you find it, the advisor will help you compose an email.
If you’re unsure about how to email a faculty member, about what to say or how to put it in a positive frame to get a good response, advisors also will help you do that. Reach out to them if you have any questions or any concerns.
Cassie Gerhardt: There are a couple of questions about dining in Wilkerson Commons. People see others not in compliance with masks and physical distancing in the dining room. Who would they follow up with at Wilkerson Commons or Squires?
Orlynn Rosaasen, Director of Dining Services: If a student is in the dining center and sees a student not complying with face coverings, the first student should just notify one of the dining staff who’s working there. If the dining staff doesn’t address is immediately, one of the managers will.
We’ve been pretty diligent about addressing it in the dining centers – the physical distancing and the face coverings.
Cassie Gerhardt: Orlynn, a follow-up question is: Why can’t I sit with my friends in the dining center, but I can if I go downstairs to the lower level of Wilkerson Commons or outside?
Orlynn Rosaasen: The dining centers are following the guidelines that are put in place by the University. We’re adhering to physical distancing, whereas with some of the other places that are unmonitored, it’s extremely difficult to enforce.
Basically, what’s going on in the other areas is not in compliance. In the dining centers, we are complying.
Cassie Gerhardt: I think as Dr. Halgren said, in those situations, follow up with staff in Wilkerson Commons, and they will get involved to help the students out.
Another question related to dining is a suggestion/question. As far as dining goes, is it possible to have prepackaged food, such as small containers of cereal, prepackaged wraps, etc., in an open area for students to grab instead of needing dining center staff to hand it to them? Dining has slowed down, and sometimes I don’t have 15 minutes to wait to be handed a package of cereal before heading to class or logging in to an online class.
Orlynn Rosaasen: That’s something we certainly can evaluate. Our goal is to minimize the touch points in the dining centers so we can reduce the amount of people touching products.
But our real issue with the lines, especially if we’re talking about Wilkerson, is we’re still serving 75 to 80 percent of students through Wilkerson Dining Center and 20 to 25 percent through Squires Dining Center. We really need students living in the Walsh complex and a good chunk of them living in the Johnson complex to find the Squires Dining Center, so we can spread out the serving to then speed up the lines.
Cassie Gerhardt: Vice President Shivers, can you explain why student fees have not been adjusted since fall sports have been cancelled?
Jed Shivers: It’s a great question that will force me to get into two aspects of student fees.
You have one set of costs that are really based upon what you use. I enroll in student housing; I pay for that. I do a board plan; I pay for that.
As we’ve talked about in prior meetings and as we did last spring, should we go remote and people leave those areas, then they’ll get those dollars refunded on a prorated basis.
But there’s another set of fees, things like athletics and the Memorial Union. These are fundamental investments that students make to better the campus, not only for themselves – and I hate to sound corny – but also for future generations of students.
For example, a really good way to think about COVID for a second is the Memorial Union. Students voted to have student fees support the construction and operation of the Memorial Union, knowing that at that time, they would never see it. But yet, they felt so committed to our campus and our University, that they wanted to make that investment.
And so, there’s a whole series of fees that really relate to these investment type of functions. These are things that we want, not only for the current year in which it’s taking place, but for future years and, in some ways, for future generations.
I think that’s a really important concept.
I should also point out that in the case of athletics, the costs don’t go away. You don’t see us laying off coaches. You do not see us dismissing student athletes. In fact, I can make a reasonable argument that there’s more high-touch going on right now related to taking care of our student athletes than there may even be normally because of the extraordinary circumstances.
But really, fundamentally, it’s about the type of fee that invests in our campus for the long term.
Cassie Gerhardt: Chief Plummer, I’m going to bring this one your way. It’s a question about the COVID dashboard that’s online.
A student notes: While checking the UND dashboard, I noticed the total positive cases decreases sometimes. Why is that? Yesterday, the website removed over a hundred positive cases within an hour of checking.
Eric Plummer: If you noticed, the first couple of times we had testing on campus was the week prior to school starting – around the 15th, 19th, 20th and 21st. Those are 10 days ago. As cases come in and report as positive, they are listed for positive for 10 days after their diagnosis. After that 10 days, they roll off that list because they are no longer positive. That number is removed from the dashboard automatically.
For quarantine, if somebody is contacted as a close contact, they are put in the system for 14 days, and then they roll off that quarantine as well after 14 days.
Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, we have some international students who have elevated levels of concern. Could you address what happens to international students if the worst happens? Could you speak to our international students and how we would work with them?
Debbie Storrs: Our international students are an important part of our student community. We want to serve and support them, just like we do our domestic students.
Should we go online and remote, those students will be provided the same support from our staff and faculty to continue their education online.
I think the question might be in terms of whether they can live on campus. I’ll defer to Dr. Halgren on this. We accommodated those students in the spring, and I would assume we will continue to accommodate them. Many of them would choose not to go home and instead to stay on campus to study.
But I want to confirm that Dr. Halgren. Can I turn it over to you, Cara?
Cara Halgren: Last spring, when we moved to remote, our residence halls stayed open. We would anticipate that that would happen again if we choose to go back to remote status.
Cassie Gerhardt: Troy, this is a question for you related to students living in our residence halls. If a student living in a residence hall tests positive for COVID, do they have to stay in a hotel or could they go somewhere off-campus to isolate?
Troy Noelder, Director of Housing and Residence Life: Students in the residence hall, by the nature and style of living that they’re in, being congregate housing, we are asking that they do relocate to a hotel or work with moving to home or an off-site location – out of the residence halls – if they are determined to be a close contact or tested positive for COVID-19.
We have a pretty streamlined process in place where they would work with a campus representative to discuss what their options are, where they’re going to complete their quarantine process.
Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks. Dr. Halgren, somewhat related, but if students live off-campus and test positive while their roommates do not, how can we work with those students? So a student lives off-campus, in an apartment, and they tested positive but their roommate(s) is not positive.
Cara Halgren: This is what I now refer to as the “hamster wheel of COVID.” One of the things that I think we spent a lot of time talking to students about is if you’re a positive student who is living with other students – who most likely in this case would be identified as close contacts – that one person who’s positive isolates, while the other three are quarantining.
The challenge is that unless you find a way to do that separately from one another, you risk the quarantined person also becoming positive.
So this is one of those situations where it’s great to have an honest conversation with your roommates about what’s happening.
If you need additional support from Student Health Services to talk through what you might want to do to protect the health and safety of those in your apartment, that’s great. But that’s exactly why we have the hotel spaces that we have off-campus. It allows people to go to the off-campus hotels, quarantine and isolate separately, so that hopefully when you’re all better you’re able to come back to your apartment without risk of infection for one another.
Cassie Gerhardt: Thank you. Rosy, I’m going to do some rapid-fire with you, with a few questions related to testing and results. The first one is: any idea how long free testing events will continue to be held on-campus?
Rosy Dub: Our plan is to continue them at least weekly throughout the semester, until we have an adequate treatment or treatment available. So we’re pushing to have it weekly, if possible.
Cassie Gerhardt: A follow-up question related to testing: someone raises the question of whether we’ve seen that people with asthma are more severely affected by COVID.
Rosy Dub: Have I personally seen that? I can’t say that I have. I do know that that is a high-risk diagnosis, and you definitely are at greater risk of having complications from COVID. So we know that, scientifically, that is true. I haven’t seen it.
What we have seen, particularly in the past week or so at testing events, is a higher number of students who are actually symptomatic and sick. I’m not aware of any UND students who have had to be hospitalized, which we’re grateful for, but we do know students who are symptomatic.
Cassie Gerhardt: Next question – and I feel so proud because you’ve taught me so much that I could answer, but I’m going to go to you and be official. If I’ve been exposed – close contact – but then tested negative, do I still need to quarantine for two weeks?
Rosy Dub: This is probably one of the greatest area of misunderstanding that people have voiced. The important thing to know is that when you test, that test is just for one point in time. You may be negative that day, however you have the total quarantine period of 14 days following your close contact to become positive.
So if I was exposed to somebody on Sunday and I get tested ten days later, and it’s negative, that doesn’t give me a free pass. I need to complete my 14 days of quarantine because I could still become positive the next day.
So the pearl of wisdom is that you cannot test out of quarantine. As much as we would like to, you cannot.
Cassie Gerhardt: Rosy, if a student suspects they may have had COVID a few months ago, or during the spring semester, but were never tested, is it too late to check for any antibodies, and what are those timeframes?
Rosy Dub: It’s not too late to test for antibodies, but we just have not found them to be a reliable test. We are not at this point recommending testing for past illness with COVID – it’s just not a common practice at this point.
Unless you’ve had a positive test, we are not assuming that you were positive.
Cassie Gerhardt: Related to that, students who may have tested positive for COVID 90 days ago – again, they may have been led to believe or told they have immunity for 90 days – as some of those 12 week/90 day markers come up, can you help students understand their expectations going forward?
Rosy Dub: Sure. We know that we have a presumed immunity, as Cassie mentioned, for 90 days following a positive test. But we now know that the antibodies wane after certain periods of time, and we don’t know what level of antibodies are protective.
So the best advice we have right now from the CDC is: 90 days after you’ve had a positive case of COVID, you go back to being susceptible all over again.
If I tested June 1, and 90 days have passed since then, I’m now back to being susceptible. And if I am exposed to someone, I would be considered a close contact. Does that make sense?
Cassie Gerhardt: Yes, thanks Rosy.
President Armacost, I’m going to give you this question. Why doesn’t the University do a two-week close down quarantine – go all online – to help mitigate the spread, as we’re seeing some other institutions do?
President Armacost: There are certainly a large number of options we could consider. I mentioned earlier that faculty members have the choice of moving their individual courses to a purely online setting, if they feel that their own personal safety is jeopardized.
But keep in mind all of the steps we’ve taken in the classroom. We’ve reduced the density to 30 percent of what it normally is. We put up plexiglass shields. We’re requiring face coverings.
So the classrooms – our public health people have said – appear to be very safe places to be.
Much of the transmission, we suspect, is happening outside of the classroom.
In terms of going to online, we could. It’s really at the preference of the individual faculty member at this point.
As far as an overall quarantine, that’s something we could do, but we can only do it if the State Department of Health gives us the authority to do so. Right now, there is no stay-at-home order given by the governor. We just have to be very careful that the steps we take are consistent with what public health officials allow us to do.
We’re exploring a whole bunch of options to minimize the risk of transmission on the campus. The most important thing that we can all do are the four things that we outlined up front: wear face coverings, wash your hands a lot, keep distance from each other and avoid large gatherings.
That’s the coin of the realm here – prevent, prevent, prevent. So keep it up.
Cassie Gerhardt: Thank you. Chief Plummer, you noted we’re currently using about 155 hotel rooms for quarantine. What is our estimated capacity for the point in which we would be in danger of running out of quarantine or isolation spaces?
Eric Plummer: Right now, we have a total of 322 rooms available to us for quarantine and isolation. As President Armacost has mentioned, we are using approximately 165 at this point in time. We have the ability to expand that 322 number if needed.
Right now we are observing this on a status board on a day-to-day basis, and if we feel like we’re getting strained or stressed on quarantine/isolation space/locations, that’s when we would have conversations with the president and the rest of the executive council on what our alternatives are to being able to maintain that level of protection for our community.
Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, a few questions have come in related to Greek life. And I think these are some that you and I will tag team on.
I’ll give the first one to you. There are students in the fraternities who are sick and quarantined, but who have not been tested. Should they get tested?
Cara Halgren: Yes. And just as a clarification, one of the things we tell people is, “Hey, during quarantine, don’t go anywhere.” Right? One of the only things that you can do that’s ok, during quarantine, is go get tested. So wear your face coverings, and go get tested.
Cassie Gerhardt: Why are statistics on positive cases in Greek life being made public by the University, but not those of athletes?
Cara Halgren: That question has come up a lot. One of the things that we have to try to help people understand is that we recognize that if you wear Greek letters, you are attached to that chapter. That chapter, though, at the University of North Dakota, has a physical address.
While students might not see the differentiation between that, in terms of public health we do. The reason why, in this case, we’ve named chapters is because they have a physical address – a house – and the notification is done for public reasons, so as to make people aware of what’s happening in the community, so people can make the decisions that are best for them about whether they’re engaging in interactions on that property or not.
Similar thing – if we had something that happened in a residence hall, it’s not specific to the students that it happens to; it’s specific to what’s happening at that address. And again, we would deal with it in the same way.
Whereas, with student athletes, they don’t share that physical space.
Cassie Gerhardt: I think I’ll take this next question: How will recruitment week or rush week be approached, especially for fraternities, since they have not been asked to go online for recruitment/rush?
I will say that we’re continuing to meet with our fraternity leaders, and we’re also monitoring the status of their chapter facilities. A number of them, their houses, are considered quarantine and wouldn’t be able to welcome potential members into their facilities.
Sorority recruitment will be delivered completely virtually, and we’re continuing to monitor situations with the fraternity community. Some more information will be posted on websites as the details for fraternity recruitment are figured out.
Dr. Halgren, the next question is also coming to you. Some different information is being shared with students as we approach Labor Day weekend, so the questions are – should our parents visit or not visit? Should I go home or not go home, especially this weekend? Just advice for visitors for the three-day weekend and/or going home for the three-day weekend.
Cara Halgren: Let me talk about parents coming to Grand Forks. Certainly, there is no policy or state order that says your parents can’t come visit you here, in Grand Forks.
At the same time, I would urge you to consider what we see are the growing numbers here in Grand Forks. I would be concerned about your parents coming here if there were any underlying health issues that might be exacerbated by being here in Grand Forks. I’d be concerned about what ultimately family members might take home to their home communities as a result of being here.
Again, not trying to put a damper on what sounds to be a great weekend with your mom and dad, but those are some of the things that we’re considering.
In terms of students leaving town for the weekend, you heard President Armacost talk about Dr. Birx’s plea to us to have students stay on campus during the long weekend, if we can. And so, again, there’s no policy or state order, but we are asking students to do that because we think it’s a good thing to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
We know the numbers are rising. Our goal continues to be to keep the campus open, to keep students in the classroom; and in order to do that, we have got to drive the numbers down. They’re not moving in the right direction.
We all need to be committed to doing everything that we can to drive the numbers down, whether that means staying in place or not doing some things that we might normally do. Because, again, all of that means that there is a greater opportunity for public spread of COVID-19, which adds to issues and concerns for the safety of all of us.
Once a vaccine is developed, will UND require students to get vaccinated?
Cara Halgren: Currently, there are a number of vaccines that students are responsible for getting prior to coming to UND: mumps, rubella and others. When there’s a vaccine that becomes available, my guess is that there will be talk at the NDUS level about whether or not we would require this of students.
That hasn’t been decided yet, but I would anticipate conversations and decisions in the future. So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Eric Plummer: I want to make a point about the Care19 alert app. It would be very beneficial for students to go ahead and download the Care19 alert app. It really helps the North Dakota Department of Health in their contact tracing efforts. It checks your phone several times a day to really notify you if you’ve had any exposures detected.
So if you would, please download that Care19 alert app and really work to keep your campus community safe.
What is the COVID end goal? What is the end goal of this? COVID-19 is not going to go away as it is an airborne flu virus.
Rosy Dub: We don’t know for sure what the end goal will be. We do know that until we have a vaccine that’s effective or treatment that is effective, we need to continue these processes and these prevention measures that we’re in.
We do hope that the vaccine will have good efficacy. We know that the seasonal flu influenza vaccine does not always give 100% protection. We are hoping for a high rate of effectiveness with the COVID vaccine. We’re hoping for a high participation rate, and we’re hoping that people will buy into the vaccine and use it.
We are looking at that is a way to get us all back to a new normal. Normal as we knew it, may never be exactly the same. COVID is an airborne virus and likely here to stay. But as we go into the future, we hope to have more immunity and herd immunity and some effectiveness of the vaccine or at least being able to treat people when they do have COVID.
We’ve got students who are observing what they assumed to be parties going on in fraternities and sororities, and now that there are 15 of them with positive cases. Can we restrict the parties? Is there a reason why we just haven’t shut the fraternity and sorority community down, because clearly this is a recurring issue? Some of them maybe need to be quarantined all semester.
Cara Halgren: One of the things I’m going to start with is to debunk some of the rumors. Yes, we have a number of fraternities and sororities that are in quarantine right now. But because of the nature of the houses and the congregate living facilities, all it takes is one positive person in a household to cause the whole house to be in quarantine.
Realistically, you could have one positive person in each of those 15 houses that results in the house being quarantined.
We already know that some of the cases we’ve been dealing with have not been as a result of students doing things after hours. Rather, they’re a result of people coming to Grand Forks having already been infected and their interactions with other people.
I know that there are concerns not only in the Greek community, but also in those people who live in apartments and private homes in Grand Forks. That’s not the only way that the virus is being spread.
In terms of shutting down fraternities and sororities, the majority of our Greek chapter houses are actually privately held homes. There are two of the 20 houses that are on land that’s owned by the institution, but otherwise, they’re private entities.
And so, while they’re registered with UND and the organizations are affiliated with UND, the properties themselves are private. It is not about the University going in and shutting anything down.
To that end, though, I will also say that we have worked a great deal with our Greek student leaders, as well as our advisors to help them understand what the expectations of the University are. We’ve had a lot of cooperation from a couple of very strong chapters in particular. We really do appreciate that working relationship that we built with them.
We know that the Greek experience, when done right, is a great experience. We support that and want to protect that.
At the same time, we will continue to address issues that we know that are contrary to what we as an institution believe should be happening during this period of time.
Are you concerned about students who aren’t planning on getting tested, given they may have COVID?
Rosy Dub: We do have concerns about that. We ask you out of respect for the health of the community and people around you, please get tested.
We know this is a hard time. It’s a bad time. It’s not a good time for anybody to go into this. And we know that when you get tested, you end up isolating for 10 days, you end up having your friends and your acquaintances and people close to you having to quarantine for 14 days, and you feel bad for them. You feel guilty.
However, in the long run, you’re protecting a massive group of other people from contracting the illness.
We know that, as a rule of thumb, people in the average college age get very minimal symptoms or illnesses. However, we are responsible for people around us, which includes faculty, staff, students who may have high-risk illnesses like asthma and diabetes and other things.
Out of respect for the health and the well-being of those around you, we ask you to step forward and be tested. That’s our best defense to stay open and to take care of each other.
So, without any doubt, please be tested.
It was mentioned that COVID cases fall off after the 10 days of isolation. Does that mean the person no longer has COVID? If I test positive, should I be retested before moving back into the residence halls?
Rosy Dub: No, we don’t recommend being retested after you test positive. You’re not considered infectious after you completed that 10 days of isolation.
However, you still may have a low level of virus that will be detected if you are tested. So, the advice is not to be tested for at least the next 90 days.
The one caveat is if you’ve recovered and you suddenly become very ill again. But the rule of thumb is to basically not be tested again for 90 days. You are not considered infectious anymore.
Has there been any COVID spread in the residence halls?
Troy Noeldner: I don’t know if I can define if there’s been a spread, but I can indicate that there have been individual cases in our residence halls that have been identified. We’ve worked with quarantine and isolation, but we haven’t identified what I would call a spread that’s warranted any further action beyond that.
A student has missed the virtual Involvement Fair that you and your staff ran, and is looking for ways to get involved. Can you also provide information on opportunities for intramurals this fall?
Kristi Okerlund, Director of Student Involvement and Parent Programs: If you happen to miss the virtual organization fair, we would be very happy to chat with you one-on-one and help get you connected to student organizations you might be interested in.
Our office is located in Wilkerson Commons, Room 103. You’re welcome to stop by anytime that we’re there or give us a call at 701.777.4200. We are always happy to help you.
For intramurals, there’s quite a variety of opportunities this fall. At und.edu/intramurals, you’ll be able to see that registration is open for a wide variety of sporting opportunities. So check that out, and please reach out if you have questions.
What if a student still has symptoms after 10 days. Should they be retested?
Rosy Dub: The criteria to release someone from isolation after a positive test include having no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications, at least 10 days since your positive test or since your symptoms started, and also improvement in symptoms.
It doesn’t mean that your symptoms are gone. It means that your symptoms have improved. We’re finding very lengthy periods of time when people may experience the loss of sense of taste or smell. And you may not be 100 percent at 10 days, but if you’re improved, that still meets the criteria.
If for some reason you’re not improved or you’re still having additional symptoms and worsening symptoms, definitely contact the health care provider for further advice.
Cassie Gerhardt: A couple of reminders I have for you: if you have not yet completed your COVID-19 training, please do so. If you weren’t able to pick up your UND branded face coverings last week when people were out on campus, please connect with the Student Involvement office in Wilkerson Commons, Room 103. Kristi and her team will get those for you.
I will also say, come out and get tested this week. And with that, because I think President Armacost will probably say the same thing, it is always good to give your president the last word. President Armacost to close this session; it is all you, sir.
Andy Armacost: Just a couple of reminders. One, take advantage of testing. Two, don’t go home this weekend if you were planning on. Dr. Birx, the President’s White House Coronavirus Task Force chair, says, “No way; stay home.”
The third is do all those things to prevent the spread of this infection. I’ll say them one more time: wash your hands, wear a face covering, keep a distance and avoid large groups. It’s that straightforward and that simple.
The infection does spread beyond what you might expect. I’ve seen a case trace from one person to 41 others. When you say, “I don’t want to get my roommate sick” or “it doesn’t really matter, I don’t have to come in and report myself,” the impact on a large number of others is huge.
Take care of yourself, get tested, and when you’re expected isolate, do so.
What you hopefully heard today was a great sense of this blend of what we can do to enforce. And we have the Code of Student Life. When there’s violations that relate to COVID in that Code of Student Life, we will pursue those. We will pursue them aggressively and fairly, as it has to be abided by.
But the majority of the actions that we’re seeing don’t necessarily fall into the Code of Student Life. This is where we have to plead to your good senses to take care of others.
The University of North Dakota way is to look out for one another. So do those things, prevent the spread, protect the flock and let’s do this right. And keep each other safe.
Have a great week. Stay here for the weekend, and let’s get this thing under control.