UND administrators answer staff questions about the University’s “Smart Restart”
A UND Staff Town Hall was held on July 29 via Zoom to discuss UND’s “smart restart” of classes in August.
The Town Hall was introduced by President Armacost, who then turned the event over to Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations and chief operating officer. Shivers facilitated the discussion.
The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity. Questions are in bold type; they were submitted by UND staff members, and asked of the meeting participants by Shivers.
The full video is available above and at this link.
UND President Andy Armacost: Thank you for attending. This is Andy Armacost, UND’s new president, and it’s good to be here today.
I know what draws your attention to this Zoom session, of course, is a better understanding of how we’re preparing to open the campus this fall. There’s been a great team of leaders and staff members and faculty who have been working hard to assure us that we can do so with minimal risk to every member of our campus community.
So, today, seeing in front of you this Hollywood Squares of people, there are vice presidents or associate vice presidents, there are directors of programs. They’re here to share information and to answer your questions.
And we’re going to start off with a series of questions that we received from you beforehand. A little bit of preparation went into these questions, but after about 10 minutes or so, we’ll go into — I’ll call it the “free for all,” where you’ll have a chance to post your questions to the Q&A section and ask whatever’s on your mind about how we’re opening this fall.
We welcome these questions. We will give you the very best answers we can with the information that we have.
And so, we’re excited to engage today. Let me step off the stage by saying thanks for all the preparation that you’ve been making to help get the campus ready for the fall semester. There’s been a tremendous amount of work, so our appreciation to each and every one of you.
Let me now turn it over to our vice president for finance and operations, Jed Shivers, who’s going to lead today’s discussion.
Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations and chief operating officer: Thank you, President Armacost. First of all, I just want to also echo my thanks. I see we’re up to 384 participants and still climbing, and it’s just really great that staff are turning out to participate in this. I’m sure we’ll have more of these events in the future, and I really appreciate everyone’s participation.
I’m going to just go with a few questions that have been asked ahead of time. We kind of use this to help people to start to think, to hear answers, and to maybe start to formulate questions of their own.
Let’s start off. I’m going to direct this question to Debbie. This comes from a staff person who also teaches, but I think it’s relevant to staff who are wondering what they do if they see students not wearing masks. How should they respond to that?
The question in this particular case was, are the professors and instructors responsible for enforcing the mask requirement? And what coercive measures can we use to deal with the situation?
Debbie Storrs, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs: I will also, after I respond, hand it over to Vice President Halgren to see if she has any additional comments.
I’ll just say again, thanks to all the staff at UND for helping prepare for the fall. You are central to making our campus safer for students, staff and faculty to return, so thank you very much.
What we want to do is make sure that staff and faculty don’t feel a heightened sense of responsibility to do any policing around mask and face-covering use.
We are doing a number of measures to ensure that students will wear masks, so let me just highlight a couple of them. We have a Safe Training that all of us will have to take, including students, about the safety measures including face coverings. Student Body leadership has created a short video that we’re going to put in Blackboard that instructors and faculty can use in their classrooms. I highly encourage that at the beginning of the semester, which covers some of the safe practices that we want students to abide by.
Our Marketing and Communications and Facilities teams have done a fantastic job of messaging across campus about safety measures in every classroom and in hallways. So there will be messaging about wearing face coverings, how to physically distance safely, etc.
We’ve directly messaged students the expectation about wearing face coverings. We also will have a less-dense campus, so there’ll be fewer students on campus in a classroom at any point of time. There will also be fewer students in congested areas, which will help.
And what we’ve encouraged faculty to do is to remind students to wear face coverings. If a student comes to class without a face covering, faculty and instructors will have extra disposable face coverings they can provide to the student. If the student chooses not to wear the face covering, you can ask them to leave. If the student refuses to leave, you could cancel the class.
And I have great faith in our students. I think they’re going to abide by these safety measures. We’ve got great support from our student leadership, and Student Affairs has done a great job of connecting with our students beyond our student leadership.
So I have confidence in that.
One thing I would tell staff is not to take on a heightened sense of responsibility. So for example, we know the class schedules; you know when students will be let out of class and are moving between classes. Those are the times where I would suggest that you stay in your offices to avoid, again, congestion and congested areas.
It is not your responsibility except through modeling the behavior and wearing the mask yourself.
So, Dr. Halgren, do you want to add to anything I’ve mentioned in terms of how we’re communicating to students?
Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs and diversity: Sure; thanks, Debbie.
One of the things that will happen when students come to campus is that they will get, at no cost to them, as many as four different face coverings that, we hope, are really cool and that students will be excited about wanting to wear, again to encourage support of the policy.
The other thing that we know is that for those of you who are in the classroom, or those of you who are working with student employees, that sometimes these are really difficult conversations to have. So if you need help having those conversations or how to think about having those conversations about expectations, I certainly encourage you to call the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities and talk with our colleagues over there — because again, this is something that we do on a pretty regular basis, and we can help you frame it and do it well, so that both you and the student are more comfortable.
Storrs: Somebody just posted a similar follow-up question on the Q&A. Are students expected to wear face coverings outside, when they’re moving about outside of the buildings? And the answer is yes, if they’re in close interaction with other people.
What’s really important is the physical distancing. And UND Police Chief Eric Plummer and Rosy Dub, director of student health, can speak to this as well. There are multiple layers of safety that we want people to follow, and physical distancing is really important.
So yes, when they’re outside and they’re close together with somebody, they should be wearing their face covering.
Thank you very much. Let’s move on to our next question. And this is one where our student health director, Rosie Dub, who’s really done just a marvelous job in helping us coordinate our response to this whole pandemic. I think she could be helpful in answering this. So, pretty reasonable question: If one person in an office tests positive, do all the office mates have to go to quarantine and the office closed for 14 days? Also, does the office have to close if an office mate has all the symptoms that needs to be tested? Does that office need to close for 14 days until the results come back?
Rosy Dub, director of student health services: Thank you. The office mates do not have to leave. They may continue to work unless they have been identified by the Health Department as a close contact. So just because you work in the same work environment, you may not be identified as someone who is in close contact, therefore you may continue to work.
It would be cautionary to always be monitoring your temperature and symptoms, but you can continue to work.
Also, regarding the closing the office space: If that particular employee who tested positive has a work cubicle or work office, then yes, we would ask to have that closed down for 24 hours, if possible, to have it cleaned. Otherwise, general cleaning for the rest of the area, increased cleaning for any common areas that person might have been in, such as the bathroom, break room, things like that.
Thanks, Rosy. Now, here’s one that I think people have expressed a lot of interest in. And you can imagine this is my own personal favorite: parking. Will there be any changes to the parking policy or rates? For example, our staff is on a scheduled rotation for the fall semester, and therefore, folks will not be in the office every single day, but rather once per month. What should happen in these situations where staff will be on campus, but in a limited capacity? Another related question: can staff possibly share a pass? So let me turn to Mike Pieper, associate vice president of facilities. I hope that people have seen the parking notification that went out, which described what we hope is considerably enhanced flexibility related to parking. Let me turn that over to Mike.
Mike Pieper, associate vice president for facilities: Just general information: From a customer service standpoint within Parking Services, it’s not unusual for us. We always have full-time, part-time students and faculty coming to the campus. We may see an uptick in that, based on COVID and work plans.
We did make some modifications for this year in terms of, we did not move forward with any type of rate increase. We’re going to expand the Passport Parking and working with departments in areas that may not have been served by that in the past, but are looking to provide parking to those who may need to come on campus briefly, or one or two days a week.
We’re also going to be monitoring the parking lots. So, if we see some underutilized lots and it would be more convenient for customers to park in them, we’ll shift the the permits around so that we can maximize those convenience spots.
And again, we also be monitoring the Passport so that if we see areas starting to fill up, we’ll expand that that.
The other thing we did is created a “semester only” permit option this year. That’s available on the website.
In terms of permit sharing, our system does allow permits to be shared. The one caution that we give people is that it’s one of the steeper fines. It’s a minimum of $50 if both cars or more than one car under the same permit are on campus at the same time. So, as long as you’re sharing with a partner and you can accommodate each other’s schedules, that certainly would be an option.
Thanks, Mike. Another question, which I’m actually going to start to answer and then will turn it over to Rosy: Will employees be regularly tested who are working on campus?
So, we have had reasonably good success so far in working with the state and also, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Josh Wynne, our VP for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, in getting testing focused on college campuses in North Dakota communities. And that’s why we’ve had these testing events are taking place at UND.
Shivers: But the amount of people who can be tested at any one time is really limited by the number of test kits that we’re assigned. So far, I think the maximum we’ve reached is maybe between 1,200 and 1,400 test kits at any given time. And that’s so far on a weekly basis, and we’re looking for weekly tests.
So you can imagine that if there’s 13,000 people on campus, when we come up and are fully on campus at the end of August, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to test everybody every week.
So what we’re hoping to do is develop a plan to test people in certain parts of the campus, based upon their role, in other words, how many people they interact with. Focus on those people, and also allow for widespread testing of whoever wants to use the service.
It will be a function of how many total tests we have available to us on campus — and honestly, to the extent to which people show up for these events. Because a lot of people are committing resources, both in the state and here at the university, to make those testing events successful.
Rosy, do you want to add anything?
Dub: We do have five testing events scheduled between tomorrow and Aug. 23 that will be open to the UND community. Targeted testing has been aimed, as Jed described, at those who cannot maintain physical distancing of 6 feet, specifically athletes and aviation students (who are in the cockpit together with their instructor).
However, it is open to everybody and as we move forward, we do know we’ll be doing testing. The exact strategy is still dependent on what kind of testing supplies and equipment we can get hold of; but we will be doing testing, and more information will follow.
Thank you, Rosy. Now we’re going to move to questions that people are asking via the Q&A. We have 491 people participating at this moment, and so, we really appreciate that and are looking forward to answering some of your questions directly.
This question, I’m going to direct to President Armacost: What is the tipping point to move back to Stage One, moving completely online and working fully remotely when possible? Our numbers keep going up, and students keep asking me what the magic number is. They want to know how to prepare for that transition.
Armacost: Thanks, Jed. That’s a wonderful question and one that we’ll all be paying very close attention to. Everybody on this call is involved in that decision. It involves a trade-off between all the resources that we have to respond to minimize the risk on campus and paying attention to markers, both on campus and off campus, about where the direction of the pandemic seems to be heading.
So, we’ll look at things like, what are the number of cases? And what’s the rise of the cases on campus? We’ll look at how our tracking is going. Do we have the ability to do contact tracing, and to make sure that we can identify and put kind of a bubble around those who are likely or who may be at risk because they were a close contact? We’ll also look off campus as well, and what’s the local hospital system’s capacity to be able to handle additional patients if people would require hospitalization?
So there’s not a firm number. It’s paying attention very carefully to all of those trends, and to really make a judgement about whether the system is too taxed to be able to respond safely.
In addition, we’ve had over the summer the opportunity to kind of test out these response systems. We’ve had a number of students on campus, and therefore we’ve had a number of cases as well.
What I’d really like to note is that contact tracing has been a really important component. Testing is important, but contact tracing is equally important to identify those who are close, and to really put kind of a bubble around them, get them into quarantine and make sure that we minimize the risk. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the summer.
I hope that helps. If you want the details of what the switch is or what the factors are, go to the Healthy Hawks page: und.edu, click on the COVID-19 Blog link, and it’ll take you right to the Healthy Hawks description. Take advantage of that resource; thanks!
My next question is for Eric Plummer, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police. Pretty straightforward question: When can staff expect to receive their masks?
Eric Plummer, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police: Masks are already in on campus, and we have a COVID supply process, in which Jaggaer (or UND Supply Management) approvers within your particular areas are filling out their needs for those areas, and we are consistently getting those supplies out. Once you come on campus, you should have masks available within your area. If not, send me an email, and we’ll make sure that those get over as soon as possible.
Shivers: I think we also have 240,000 disposable masks on hand or somewhere in the neighborhood of that number. And I believe we are starting to receive the sort of cloth masks and branded masks that are coming.
And if I remember correctly, I think I might have seen President Armacost displaying one of these branded masks? President Armacost?
Armacost (wearing UND-branded mask): Yes, here they are. It’s a well-branded mask. You can hear me very well as I’m speaking, so it has great acoustic properties as well.
Shivers: And I can quickly demonstrate the Bammie look (pulls up Bammie multi-use headwear). I like these because you can always wear them. So anyway, that’s probably my sum total of my modeling career for the rest of my life. (Laughter)
Okay, question for Mike Pieper: are there going to be spaces available for students to attend their asynchronous classes between the courses they have on campus? Can someone translate — Debbie, can you translate that question?
Storrs: Are there going to be parking spaces available for students to attend their asynchronous classes between the courses they have on campus? Yes, parking spots available for students in between classes, whether those courses are synchronous or asynchronous. Faculty are making those decisions now; we’ve shifted some to on campus, and we’re continuing to work with faculty as they make decisions.
And Mike, I presume that what you referred to earlier in terms of the parking spots will be available for students as well. They could use the hourly rate, correct?
Pieper: Yes. We’ve had parking spaces in the past for that type of scheduling. We’ll continue to have that moving forward so that the student permit would allow either/or scheduling.
Two other quick things on parking that I saw some questions on: how many permits can be shared? The answer is, three cars per permit.
And the one thing I failed to mention is the free parking that starts at 4 p.m. and runs until 7 a.m., as well as the free parking on the weekends, will continue. So people who just need to stop in could use those times without permits.
Halgren: I think what they’re asking is this: is there going to be physical space for students to do their asynchronous classes on campus, in between their on campus courses? I think that’s what the question is.
Storrs: Oh, if there are places for students to hang out or to park?
Halgren: I don’t think it’s related to parking. I think it’s, is there going to be space for the student to do their asynchronous classwork while they’re on campus?
Storrs: Oh, OK. Thank you for the clarity, everybody! I think Madhavi could also speak to this.
There will be spaces in the library, for example. There are lab spaces.
But remember, we are still maintaining that physical distancing. And so our safety office has gone into the public spaces and ensured how many people can be in that space at any one point in time. There’ll be markers about how many students can be or people can be in those spaces for studying in between courses.
Madhavi, any other comments from you about where there might be other studying spaces?
Madhavi Marisinghe, chief information officer: We will have the same spaces that we used to have. The only difference is the capacity: how many can be hanging around in this area. And of course, the students would want to bring their headsets so that when they’re in an asynchronous class, they’re not disturbing the other students who are around that area as well.
Thank you. Happy to note that we’ve actually hit the milestone of 500 total participants at this moment, which is terrific.
Next question, and this one is going to be for Debbie: Face shields have been offered as an alternative to masks for instructors, but they have recently been shown to be ineffective when used without a mask. Will this policy be adjusted to account for the new information about their effectiveness? Cloth masks with a clear window are available and could be a viable alternative.
Storrs: We’ve worked really closely with faculty who have requested face shields, which we’ve approved, as you’ve noticed, only in the classroom. And the reason why we’ve approved that is, it’s not just the face shield. It’s the face shield in combination with a number of other safety features. There’s the distancing between the faculty member and the students. And there’s plexiglass that facilities has put in every classroom. So we’ve got layers of safety for faculty. We prefer faculty to wear face coverings rather than the face shield. But faculty want that option, and we’ve provided that for them.
There is a statement that faculty read that tells them we prefer them to wear the face coverings. But it is their choice, because we have the layered safety features. I don’t know Rosy or Eric want to speak to that, but we feel comfortable because there are multiple layers.
And what I understand from Rosy and Chief Plummer is that the distancing is very, very important. And that’s something that we’ve really held to, both inside the classroom and outside the classroom, anytime we’re interacting with anybody on campus.
Dub: I’m good with your answer, Debbie. It’s not the option that we would prefer people to use. But we do want to stress the physical distancing of 6 feet as our priority.
Thank you, Rosy; another question for you. This is about testing logistics. Do we need to pre-register every time we choose to come to a testing event? And I imagine the question may also be, why do we need to pre-register?
Dub: Yes, we do need you to pre-register each time you attend a testing event. It goes into a process or a program called Dynamics, and that is run through the State Health Department. By registering for each event, that elicits an automated response back to you with a negative result, which I recognize has been not very fast, but they are working on improving that. So when you’re registered, that will help an electronic result get sent to you. However, if you’re positive, you will be called.
In short, yes, we need separate registration for each event.
Thank you. Cara, I know you answered this one, but just in case people aren’t seeing it: “When is the Wellness Center going to be available? It has been closed since the campus moved to remote learning and working, yet they’re still charging me.” I think the Wellness Center is actually open, is it not?
Halgren: My understanding is is that they’re bringing folks back on the third of August to get the Wellness Center ready to open. And I believe that Chris Suriano, wellness and health promotion director, has just answered this one online, and I’m looking for the response. I think it’s Aug. 17th when they open again? .
I think the point is, is that it will be opening.
Halgren: Yep. Again, it’ll be opening with some modifications, but I know that if people have questions about their memberships, or about services that are available, they certainly can call the Wellness Center directly about that.
This is a question for that suggested for Rosy, but I also want to involve Chief Plummer as well. So please, both of you contribute. The question is, will there be drive-through testing versus walk up? As you know, right now we’re using the High Performance Center, which is a “park/walk in/get your test done” facility. It’s a large, open, extremely well-ventilated area. But certainly, there are proponents of drive through. So, I’m looking for both of your thoughts.
Dub: We do expect to look at other options, especially as the weather changes and gets colder. People are having some preferences to drive up. We have not finalized that yet, but we are looking at all options.
Plummer: Rosie is correct. We want to offer the method which will draw more people into the testing. And we have seen a lot of people come through the drive through because they feel a little bit safer staying in their vehicle versus queuing up in a line. Just note that even if we do have a walk-in, there is appropriate physical distancing taking place as well as other safety precautions.
So nobody’s going to be standing in line next to one another for an extended period of time. We want to really try to use both combinations and offer, hopefully, multiple locations on campus. We just still have to work out the logistics of that.
Thank you. Another question, again, along the theme of testing. Since there will be multiple testing opportunities on campus, how often should a person get tested? Rosy, could you comment?
Dub: At this point, before the students come back, we’re asking anybody who can get tested to be tested, including family members of the UND community. As students come back, we will be focusing more on those who are at high risk. If you are working remotely and not having any contact outside of your pod of people, you don’t necessarily need to be tested frequently.
We encourage the opportunity to be tested now so we have an idea of what is going on on campus also. But if you’re not exposing yourself and taking risk behaviors, there really isn’t a need for you to test weekly. However, if you cannot avoid those opportunities, then you should be testing every week.
Just to give an example, I’m sitting in my conference room in Twamley and I see virtually no one physically, and I don’t get tested every week. I get tested at a less frequent rate because I don’t see myself at much risk. That’s me, and I think Rosy’s point is well-taken. I think if you have higher risk, because of what you do on a regular basis, in terms of frequent contact with people outside of your immediate family or group, then it makes more sense to get tested more frequently.
Dr. Joshua Wynne, vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences: One of the things that will help inform and answer that question as we move forward is that the Department of Health will be coming up with more guidelines and plans for recurring testing early in August. So the Department of Health is really focused appropriately on the initial surge that’s going to occur as faculty, students and staff return to campus. Guidelines on later in the semester will be forthcoming, probably in the first week in August. So we’ll be able to answer that with a little more granularity.
Will there be mandatory testing for students? I believe this refers to students before they come to campus. I think that’s a work still in progress. There are efforts to do widespread testing in cities all over the state. Dr. Wynne, do you want to comment on that at all?
Wynne: To the maximum extent possible, we would expect students to be tested and optimally before they come to campus. The Department of Health has released an even more expanded range of opportunities for students from all over North Dakota to be able to go into the local facility to be able to be tested. UND students do not have to be tested in Grand Forks. If they live in Dickinson, Fargo, or wherever, there are dozens of events that will be taking place around the time that students will be returning to campus, where they will be strongly encouraged to avail themselves of those opportunities.
What are facilities and HR doing to address the immediate severe shortage of building services technicians, leads and supervisors?
Peggy Varberg, associate vice president for human resources & payroll: We are currently actively recruiting for all of those. It is my understanding from their HR manager that we have eight pending hires at the BST level.
Pieper: I think we were actively recruiting 18 positions. We’re having internal dialogue about setting up a voluntary overtime program to back-fill some of those positions. If needed, we’ll look at some contracted services to augment our full-time staff.
I have heard of other universities doing a mix of online and in-person classes until Thanksgiving. After that, they would go online only. Is that an option or plan for UND?
Armacost: This is an option we talked about over the summer. And what we opted to do was to wait to see how the return to campus plays out in August and see the direction that the pandemic goes. For now, everything will be offered as-is, as currently planned, after Thanksgiving. So we won’t revert 100 percent to online after that holiday. Individual faculty members are of course making decisions about how to construct their courses. In fact, most of our courses will have some in-person and some online component to it already. The question will be whether we switch to entirely online. Let me reiterate a point I always make: the pandemic doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It could very well be that the direction of our operations changes before then, as well. As I said in my earlier comments, we’ll monitor the situation very carefully. If we have to go back to Level 1, we will have to do so prudently, with the safety of the campus in mind.
Storrs: You’ve captured it, President Armacost. We’re being really responsive to faculty’s interests and needs. Like you said, they’ll be making adjustments to their schedules and how they’re managing their classes both on-campus and online.
I’ve heard the library is remaining closed for the fall. Will it actually be open for students to use? I heard it was by reservation only.
Storrs: The library is really a central hub for many of us and our students. You probably haven’t had a chance to visit the library because they’re working remotely. I’m excited for the fall because there have been incredible updates and changes, so it’s going to be an even more amazing place. Our dean, Stephanie Walker, has gotten many inquiries from the general public about wanting to use the library, and we aren’t open for the general public until move-in weekend.
In fact, we’re still serving students, staff and faculty remotely and citizens remotely, but we won’t open physically until move-in weekend. That being said, all the services you need are still being met – you can still meet with reference librarians via Zoom, you can do computer searches, but once move-in weekend occurs the library will be open.
We encourage students, staff and faculty to use the library. The thing that will change, of course, is how many people can congregate in any one space. Part of the reason we’re waiting is that we’re adjusting the library – staff are working remotely, so we’re bringing them back in. We have to do a lot of the signage; we’re waiting for cleaning materials.
So that’s why we’re waiting on the physical opening, but we’re still operational remotely. I hope you do visit this fall, because it’s incredibly beautiful and a huge transformation. It’s going to be a great place to hang out.
For some of the departments that have face-to-face meetings, is it possible to have a clear desk shield so that masks can be avoided? I would say a few things. First of all, wearing a face covering is mandatory. It would suggest that if you’re in a meeting where you’re near other people, you should be wearing a face covering. That’s the first rule of this. Secondly, I have no idea whether or not a desk shield would be particularly effective. Then lastly, we would encourage that if you have in-person meetings you need to wear a mask or have your meeting by Zoom. I welcome anyone adding other comments.
Pieper: The only other comment I would add is we’re also encouraging people if they have to have a meeting like that, to seek out a larger conference room and hold it in there, so every work station doesn’t have to be prepped for that. There are other spaces that will accommodate
Dub: Based on the phone call I had with the health department this morning, that does not invalidate the use of face coverings. You still need to wear those.
Storrs: I want to encourage everyone to try to use technology, rather than face-to-face. We’ve encouraged our academic advisors, department chairs, department meetings to happen via Zoom. It just prevents more contact. It also makes it easier. If you’re going to have a department meeting you’re going to have to have space where you get six feet between each person. Again, look at what great outcomes we had with Zoom via the Senates. We had great attendance, better attendance at the Zoom Senate meetings. It can be exhausting, but we have to be thoughtful about how we can do meetings and doing them virtually, if possible.
When you have a test done, do you receive the results if they are negative or positive, or only if positive?
Dub: You’ll receive results whether they’re negative or positive. Negatives come electronically and they’re taking a long time to return, but you will get those back. There also is a website that I’ve posted that you can go to after 72 hours after your testing to look for your test results. Positive results are always called to you. We are fortunate to know that the positive results are called out, I think the average is always less than two days after the testing event. Positives are contacted quickly.
Can masks be changed to have different kinds of fittings? The key is to wear something that is approved by the CDC, that reduces the probability of viral transmission.
Plummer: I would like to make sure that if you are modifying the masks, you don’t modify it beyond the manufacturer or the way it was designed to be used. So try not to modify the facial features – if you’re just modifying the ear loops, that would be okay. Just be mindful of that.
Can we get hand sanitizers at lock box locations in mechanical rooms due to multiple employees utilizing keys?
Pieper: I would make a request via supervisor and we can get some out for either personal use or put out in those areas, high-touch areas. So, yes.
Will more outdoor seating be provided so classes can meet and students can study in between classes without grouping in enclosed spaces?
Pieper: We are adding more outdoor seating with every project that we’re doing and planning, but we aren’t planning any additional outdoor seating solely for COVID compliance. We have, in the plans, some outdoor classrooms that have been requested by faculty, but none of that will be available this fall. So, yes to more seating outside, but targeted around active projects where we’re wrapping up landscaping.
Can we get hand sanitizer bottles at lock box locations in mechanical rooms due to multiple employees utilizing the keys?
Pieper: Yes. I would just make a request via the supervisor and we can get some bottles either for personal use or to put out in those areas on campus that are high-touch areas.
Will more outdoor seating be provided so classes can meet and students can study in between classes without grouping in enclosed spaces?
Pieper: We are adding more outdoor seating with every project that we’re doing. We’re not planning any additional outdoor seating solely for COVID compliance. We have in the plans outdoor classrooms that have been requested by faculty, but none of that will be available yet this fall. So, yes, on more seating outside, but really targeted around our active projects where we’re wrapping up landscaping.
Will all tests be free to UND employees?
Shivers: When you go to these testing events that we announced, thanks to money coming from the federal government, the efforts of our congressional delegation and our state, our state executive office, and our state legislators, there is no charge. The reason for that is to encourage people to get tested because of the overwhelming benefit to public health when they are tested.
Are there any guidelines as to inappropriate face coverings and who decides what’s appropriate or not?
Halgren: Students will be provided with four different kinds of face coverings that are branded by the University. They’re slightly different styles. We hope that students will take to wearing those. But like others, students may want to personalize what face covering it is that they’re wearing. I would suggest to you that it’s a balancing act between protecting someone’s first amendment rights but also having the opportunity to talk to them about something if you think it’s inappropriate.
If I’m a supervisor, working with a student employee in my area, I can certainly set expectations for face coverings with the students and share with them if they don’t meet those expectations. I think it is a learning opportunity. We find that when we talk with students about these issues, a lot of times they are not aware that they are creating the perception for people that they actually are. Again, educate, set the expectation, do the follow up. If you need some help in terms of having that conversation, by all means, let us know we can help you do that.
When testing, are there any requirements to quarantine? There are other entities in Grand Forks that require individuals to wait for their results before they return to their work, daycare, etc., even if the testing was done voluntarily.
Dub: You do not need to isolate. If you’ve not been identified as a close contact and are not symptomatic, you’re just doing routine testing. You do not have to isolate nor if your family member is doing the same.
If students are supposed to self-report if they are COVID positive and don’t, how will we be able to keep an accurate count of cases on campus when positive cases are associated with a student’s home county and many undergrads are not from the immediate area?
Plummer: We’re working with the North Dakota Department of Health. If the student is affiliated with a North Dakota University System institution, then that information will come back to a point person at the University of North Dakota. So, even if the person does not report and the person is tested here in North Dakota and is reported to live in North Dakota, that information should come back to the point person here at the University. We should be able to keep a pretty accurate count but we do want our students to self-report because it does allow us, especially if they live on campus, to give them some resources and support not only through Housing and Dining, but also through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the University Counseling Center as well as Student Health Services.
Can Building Services custodians get disinfecting wipes to allow faster and frequent high-touch cleaning in buildings? They’re in supply but my supervisor said he’s not allowed to order them.
Pieper: My recommendation is to reach out to the associate director, Chris Ostlie. Our cleaning is based on meeting CDC guidelines. We just want to make sure that the wipes or products meet those guidelines. That may be the reason why they’re not being used. I would just reach out and get some additional information.
What is being relayed to students to encourage physical distancing off campus?
Halgren: We are working with student leaders specifically to educate them in terms of expectations and why we think that this is important. At the same time, we’re also helping them understand how physically distancing themselves from others doesn’t have to mean being disconnected from other students. We know that creating those relationships is exactly what students are most hungry for once they come back to campus. One of the easiest ways to do this is to help students understand what the event guidelines are that the University has adopted. We’re sharing those with University student leaders.
People have raised questions regarding our Greek community. For those of you who may not be aware, a lot of those residences are private properties. At the same time, we’ve got colleagues that are having conversations with advisors and student leaders in those organizations. A lot of students are doing a lot of really great things right now. They understand why this is important. We hope that students will physically distance from other people but if that doesn’t happen, then we’ll work with students to reinforce the message and help them understand why this continues to be important to the health of all of us.
Are there times when masks would not be required inside a building or student residence, if they’re alone in a hallway, or in a lounge/common space? Will they be okay not having their mask on?
Shivers: The key aspect here is they’re alone. For example, when I walk down the hallways of Twamley, the building is mostly empty, but soon that will change. But I always have my bammie on, so I can deploy it whenever I need to. People really need to use their common sense here. If you’re sitting alone in a lounge and there’s nobody around you, you may be fine. But you ought to have your mask at the ready, so that you don’t have to move. You just put your mask on and you’re good to go. Those are the sorts of common sense things I would recommend.
Will students have their temperatures checked before entering classrooms or dorms?
Halgren: No, they will not. However, if you’ve been on campus lately, you’ll see that in the residence halls and on other doors on campus, we make it clear that we’re asking students, faculty and staff and others if they think that they have symptoms related to COVID-19, not to enter, to go home and to check it out. We hope that people will adhere to that language and follow up.
Plummer: Every morning at about 7 a.m., if you have the Safe Campus app, you will have a message push to you to do a daily wellness check. It asks several questions regarding travel and if you are experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19. Based on these questions, it gives you information on whether you should not come to campus or if you are cleared to come to campus. It’s just something that puts in our mind that we need to be doing this for the protection of our community.
What are the criteria for being exempt from wearing a face mask?
Varberg: If a person has a health issue that will not allow them to wear a face covering, then we want them to go through the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, to let us help them through that process. There’s a form that’s available on the HR website. We would want you to complete that and then send it to your local HR manager, who’s going to give you a call and have really great dialogue with you about what your concerns are, what the health issues are that won’t allow you to wear the mask.
These are sensitive conversations. Any health issues that you might have or any documentation that we get are not shared outside of HR. We don’t share it with a supervisor or department head. That’s between you and the HR partner. We’ll just validate that this is a concern and then we’ll open a dialogue up to visit with you and HR and the supervisor to see what we can do, what kind of accommodations we can make and how we can help with the situation.
Will UIT be offering solutions for those with limited technology in their areas to meet remotely?
Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information officer: I would suggest talking to a supervisor and let us know what it is that you need. Right now we are assessing what’s needed and sending it back to the department heads to verify what their staff is asking for. And, then, we’ll go ahead and order the needed equipment.
Will staff continue to be required to complete weekly COVID productivity reports throughout the fall semester?
Shivers: If they are working remotely, yes.
Has there been a decision yet about fans attending athletic events?
Bill Chaves, athletic director: Not yet. But our first football game has been canceled relative to the Pioneer League deciding not to play non-conference games. But we are awaiting a decision from the NCAA and it could be as early as actually next Tuesday when the Board of Governors meet.
Will all paper materials, i.e. promotional flyers, newspapers, etc. that had been distributed across campus, be prohibited for the fall semester?
Storrs: In the classroom, we have encouraged faculty not to hand out or collect papers, but rather to use Blackboard in order to maintain that six-foot distance.
Halgren: A lot of folks have found that flyers don’t necessarily do everything that they hoped or thought that they would do. We don’t have a policy that prohibits that per se, but we encourage students to use other means to communicate as possible.
Plummer: The COVID event policy actually speaks to this. It depends on what you’re actually doing and submitting through the events process. You would be notified by the Office of Safety if it is prohibited.
Armacost: I want to thank everybody for signing in and listening to the questions and the answers. Hopefully what you gained was an appreciation for the sheer amount of planning and expertise that has been put forth to make sure that we can open our campus with minimal risk. I appreciate the time and efforts of this entire team. They’ve done wonderful work. As I said in my opening comments, thanks to each person who is signed in today for all that you’ve done to make sure that we can operate our campus effectively come the fall semester.
I do have homework for you. This is the old professor in me coming out, but make sure that you start taking the steps to create habits that are good for our campus. Even in your personal lives, I ask that you start developing the habit of keeping distance from others, that you choose to wear a face covering when you can’t keep the separation from others, that you avoid large gatherings, and that you take advantage of these testing opportunities. The testing is important for the identification of the virus and to make sure that we can effectively contact trace and put that closure around the pandemic spread. Take these actions as your homework. Let’s get in the habit of doing it now rather than waiting until the campus bustles back to life. So thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you soon. Be safe.