Ready to return

President Armacost leads second student/parent Town Hall, answering questions about UND’s Smart Restart

President Armacost and other leaders at UND held a Student and Parent Town Hall on Aug. 18 to answer questions about the University’s Smart Restart.

A video of the Town Hall meeting is above, and a full transcript – lightly edited for clarity – is below.

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Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt, associate vice president for student affairs & diversity and associate dean of students: Welcome. My name is Kathy Gerhardt, and I have the pleasure of serving as the associate vice president for student affairs and diversity here at the University of North Dakota.

We so appreciate you taking some time to join us in this evening’s Open Forum Town Hall. We know you have questions as we get ready to return to campus and start the fall semester. So we appreciate you taking time to join us and get some updates.

And to kick us off this evening, it is my pleasure to introduce President Andy Armacost to start with a few comments. President Armacost, it’s all you.

President Andy Armacost: Great. Thanks, Cassie. I really appreciate the warm introduction.

And I wanted to say to everybody, thanks for dialing in, and we’re eager to see you. I suspect there’s a whole bunch of students and family members out there, and hopefully tonight, you find all the information that we are providing to be useful and informative.

Andrew Armacost

And trust me on this one when I say that we’ve been working on this a long time. Our Pandemic Working Group has been at it since mid-March, planning and getting ready for the return of our students this fall.

So tonight, you’re going to have a chance to fire off all the questions that you have. If we don’t get to them, rest assured that we’ll answer them and post them on our Frequently Asked Questions page on the Coronavirus blog on the UND.edu website.

But tonight is about all the steps that we’re taking. My comments are really to share with you what our expectations are for you when you come, and that’s about the safety protocols that we expect you and will require you to follow when you come on to the campus. These are things like making sure that you’re wearing face coverings when interacting with others, that you’re keeping a safe social distance of at least 6 feet, that you avoid large gatherings and that you take care of hand hygiene – washing your hands frequently.

Take advantage also of our testing. And for those who are in North Dakota, there are testing sites across the state that have been advertised. When you show up on campus, we’ll have testing available as well. So do your part; keep each other safe; and take all the precautions that we need you to, to keep all of us safe.

We also ask you to do your SafeColleges training; it’s COVID-19 prevention training. That’s due by Aug. 21, so you still have three days to finish. Don’t put it off until the very last minute.

And then, again, testing before you come to campuses is so vital. We’re all in this together; actions that we take individually and collectively will be the determining factor in what allows us to keep operating the campus safely. We’re seeing examples around the country, whether it’s University of North Carolina, Michigan State, Notre Dame – we want to be in a position that’s not where they’re at.

So, we really will rely on you and your efforts to keep us all safe and to keep yourself safe.

Those are my words. I know that our student leadership put together a quick video to share with you. So, stay tuned for that, and thanks for joining us.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks, President Armacost. I’m now going to share my screen so that you all can see the video. … Here we go.

(video starts)

Matt Ternus: Hi I’m Matt Ternus, Student Body President.

Kaelan Reedy: And I’m Kaelan Reedy, Student Body Vice President at UND.

We’re so glad to be on campus again.

Matt: And as you can see, things are a little different.

Kaelan: Our goal is to help keep everyone on campus safe this semester, to keep campus open and to get us back to normal or at least a new normal as soon as we can.

Matt: When in class and other places where you may interact with others, you will need to wear a face covering.

Kaelan: I will wear a face covering to keep you safe, and you will wear one to keep me and others safe.

Matt: Wearing a face covering does not replace the need to continue frequent handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and practicing physical distancing.

Kaelan: We’re asking you to be flexible with course arrangements, as well.

Matt: With fewer students able to be in the classroom, flexible arrangements are most likely needed.

Kaelan: Continue to work closely with your instructors throughout the semester.

Matt: Stay safe, and we’re all in this together.

(video ends)

Cassie Gerhardt: I apologize that the sound wasn’t there via shared screen. So that is posted on our COVID blog, which we will also talk about throughout today’s session.

As an FYI, today’s session or Open Forum is being recorded. We will get this uploaded and transcribed in the next couple of days, and we’ll send out notification in case you want to view it later, or if you have a friend who’s not able to join us.

We are going to get some questions submitted through the Q&A. So students, parents, family members, if you have questions you would like to see asked, please feel free to add them to the Q&A feature. We will try to get to as many of the questions as we can.

And some of them, my colleagues who are with me tonight may be able to answer in real time in the chat. But please, submit your questions.

And I will ask my colleagues who are serving as panelists that as I send a question your way, if you could please start by introducing yourself and sharing your position, that would be helpful.

We know you have lots of questions. We’ve received lots of questions in advance of the open forums. And so a few of the questions we’ve received in advance of tonight’s session, we think are probably questions that many of you will have.

So we’re going to start with a few of those, but you’ll get a chance to submit your questions this evening.

The first question I have this evening – President Armacost, I’m going to come back to you. You kind of mentioned some of the news we’re hearing from other institutions around the country. Can you share a little bit about what thresholds UND will monitor in terms of making the decision to cancel in-person classes or to shift to a remote delivery?

President Armacost: Often when I hear the term threshold, I think of a specific number that will have a certain infection rate or a certain number of people impacted. But our guidelines are a little more nuanced than that.

If you go on to the blog – it’s at UND.edu/Coronavirus – there’s a packet of information there. It talks about our Healthy Hawks initiative. And it also describes the thresholds that will determine how we move between different safety levels on campus.

It’s really a combination of factors, both of the trends on campus in terms of infections and close contacts that are identified, as well as a number of factors off campus – things like the capacity of our local health care system to really take care of the most urgent needs with respect to the Coronavirus.

So there’s not a magic formula to get there. Instead, it’s going to require a constant monitoring of those levels, and also of this issue: how are the resources that we’re using to handle the cases faring?

There are a lot of people involved in contact tracing and providing responses to family members and to taking care of the needs of the people who are impacted by the coronavirus and so on. It’s just a constant monitoring of those items.

We do have some experience doing this over the summer. We’ve had a number of infections as well. And what we see is that when we rally the resources, and we conduct contact tracing, that when we have a spike or a flare up in cases, we’re generally pretty quick to tamp it back down.

These are the systems that are in place. We’ll monitor them very carefully, and we’ll make sure that first and foremost, your health and safety is our top priority.

Cassie Gerhardt: President Armacost, along those lines: When and how will the university determine if changes are needed for the end of the semester? We’ve seen some institutions come out with decisions already regarding Thanksgiving and going remote after that. Can you speak to that decision process?

President Armacost: I sure can. There’s a lot of uncertainty associated with the coronavirus and the direction of the pandemic. So what we’ve chosen to do is make a hard determination on the first of October about what to do at Thanksgiving and beyond.

So if we do decide to go online after Thanksgiving, we’ll make that determination by the first of October. We think that’s a fair balance, to give families and students enough opportunity to plan for travel, for example, but it allows us to progress and hopefully keep the campus open the entire semester and really give a great experience on campus.

However, let me focus on the fact that if we do toggle it anytime, whether it’s at Thanksgiving, or other points, our online programs are absolutely fantastic. The faculty and our Teaching Transformation and Development Academy have really done amazing work to transform our online offerings. Really, the education you get whether it’s on campus or online is truly remarkable.

So if you do have to go online, you’ll get a top-notch experience.

Cassie Gerhardt: Next question is probably for two of you; Provost Storrs and Vice President Halgren, I’m going to ask you each to respond. I think you will each bring a perspective to this one.

How will the university handle students who refuse to wear face coverings or who do not abide by safe practices? Provost Storrs, perhaps you could discuss a faculty response in the classroom in that situation.

Debbie Storrs

Debbie Storrs, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs: Sure. Good evening, everyone. My name is Debbie Storrs, and I’m the provost and vice president for academic affairs. Looking forward to having our students back on campus!

So we’ve worked really hard to communicate with our students about the importance of masks or face coverings. It’s really about caring for one another. And so, there’s a lot of messaging. There’s the training that President Armacost mentioned. All students, staff and faculty, including administrators, have to take that training, so we all have the same amount of education.

In addition to the education that we’re getting, there’s a lot of signage everywhere reminding students to wear face coverings, and we’ve encouraged faculty to communicate to students as well.

You know, a lot of our faculty are at higher risk than our students. And so, faculty really want to make sure that the students in their classroom are engaging in safe behavior. They also don’t want to police students, though.

We’ve encouraged the faculty to share the same video in class that our student leaders have created to wear your face coverings. If you don’t bring a face covering, they’ll have extras, and they’ll provide you a face covering.

Until we get used to wear face coverings, we want to remind students many times. If there’s ever an issue, we’ve encouraged faculty members to reach out to the students by Zoom or by email or by phone to have a conversation, to talk about what that issue might issue be.

If there are some reasons why you can’t work face coverings, we’d like you to work with your academic advisor and your faculty to see if you can take that course via remote or distance – you know, to “remote in” so that you don’t put the faculty member or your peers at risk.

There’s going to be a lot of education, a lot of conversation. Ultimately though, if a student doesn’t engage in the behaviors that are required to keep everybody safe, we will encourage them to work with the faculty member, to work with our colleagues in the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. So I’ll turn it over to Dr. Halgren.

Cara Halgren

Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs & diversity: Thanks, Provost Storrs. My name is Cara Halgren, and I serve as the vice president for student affairs and diversity here at UND. And everything that Provost Storrs said, Absolutely.

You know, one of the things that we’re doing right now is that when students come to campus, the full first week after they arrive on campus, we will have face covering distribution. And we have a number of really cool face coverings available for students who live on campus, students off-campus, online students.

So our hope is that again, educating folks about the importance of face coverings and actually getting people to abide by that is all that much easier if you’ve got a really cool, branded face-covering to wear, or better yet, several of them if you don’t do laundry as often as maybe others do.

That’s the first thing: we’ve got face coverings available. But to Provost Storrs’ points: there may be a point when students just say, “This isn’t for me.” And if that happens, we have colleagues in the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities who work very closely with faculty to help students find the place that is best for them.

Sometimes we find if a student isn’t interested in wearing a face covering to class, then we may look at trying to find alternative ways for that student to complete the class.

But ultimately, the faculty have the right to say to students that they’re not able to do the class one on one in person if they choose not to wear the face covering.

There may be a point, if you are a parent and listening to this, that we call you. And the reason why we would call you is because research continues to tell us that you are the greatest influence on your students all the way through college.

And so, we may be in contact with you about some of the concerns that we have, in hopes that you can help share the message with your students and again, stress the importance of wearing masks and face coverings on campus.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thank you both.

Rosy, I’m going to come to you with the next couple of questions. I don’t mean to rapid-fire, so if you need me to repeat what I’ve asked, just let me know.

But can you start with talking a little bit about what we’re doing in the area of testing for students? You know, does it cost anything for students, upcoming testing opportunities, and so on?

And make sure you take it from the question of, what happens if a student tests positive or is identified as a close contact?

If you would, please take us through the whole testing process here at UND.

Rosy Dub

Rosy Dub, director of student health: Sure, thank you, Cassie. I’m Rosy Dub, director of UND Student Health Services, and I’m happy to be here tonight.

First of all, we do have free testing for students. And our testing protocol right now is, we use a PCR test with swabs, and they’ll go to the state Health Department. The testing results take anywhere from two to five days to get back.

Positive results are always called back to the students. So the person is notified of a positive result by phone call within 48 to 72 hours.

The negative results come a little bit slower, sometimes five days, and those are typically by email.

We have testing opportunities — again, with free testing for students – coming up this week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday (Aug. 19-30). Just check our blog again for reminders of the dates and times.

We do expect to have ongoing testing throughout the fall semester to include particularly groups of higher risk students, students that aren’t able to maintain the sc for the program that they’re in, and also a percentage of students at large, just to have an idea of what we’re seeing on campus.

So yes, testing will be available.

As far as what happens when a student tests positive: if we get a positive result, as I said, they will be called and notified of their positive results. That student is then isolated, and they are isolated for a length of time, depending on how they were identified.

People can be tested at, like, surveillance testing and not have any symptoms. If that’s the case, then they isolate for 10 days after the date of the test.

If they have symptoms, and they’re tested because they’re not feeling well or they have a symptom, then their isolation period goes for a minimum of 10 days from their symptom onset. Plus, they have to have improvement in their symptoms before they’re released, and they have to have no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medicines.

We do have places in mind for students if they do need isolation, if they cannot safely isolate where they are. We have protocols in place where we can provide housing, meals and IT support so the students are able to continue their classes as usual.

Then with that student, the state Health Department is who conducts the case investigation. So, if somebody tests positive, they will be called in an investigation by phone, where they identify who their close contacts are. And their close contacts are persons who have been within 6 feet of that person with for greater than 15 minutes – 15 minutes or more – regardless of face covering.

So if you’re wearing a face covering and your friend was wearing a face covering, you still are considered at risk.

Those persons that are identified as close contacts are also, if not able to quarantine safely where they are, we provide quarantine services for them as we do for the isolation students.

Quarantine takes longer if you’ve been exposed to someone. Quarantine is meaning that you’ve been exposed and you have the potential to become infectious. The quarantine period is 14 days following your last contact with that positive case.

So quarantine, unfortunately, can be longer than the isolation period.

The point I’d like to make is you cannot test out of quarantine. If you are testing – ideally, the test is seven to 10 days after you’ve been exposed; but if that test is negative, you’re still not clear. You still need to complete that 14-day period.

A negative test is only a negative test at that point of time, so you can still convert to positive in those 14 days.

There is one caveat when I say you can’t test out a quarantine, and that is for students returning from international countries and that information is on our blog as well.

Cassie Gerhardt: Can you clarify? When we have a testing event, how we learn about a student’s results? We don’t get the results. Can you clarify that we’re relying on students to let us help them?

Rosy Dub: We do. We have a self-reporting site where students are asked to go in and submit their own information when they are notified of both being identified as a positive case or being identified as a close contact. When they enter that information, that allows the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to contact that student to verify that they do need help with housing or help with meals or anything to safely isolate or quarantine.

We do ask students to self-report in the Veoci (self-reporting software and form). Again, there’s link on our blog that really gets things in motion so we can provide them services.

Cassie Gerhardt: Again, that’s student reporting that gets the Veoci on the blog under student reporting. It’s pretty easy to find. The next question is for Vice President Shivers. Will housing and dining refunds be given if the University transitions to remote instruction?

Jed Shivers

Jed Shivers, vice president for finance and operations: I’m Jed Shivers, vice president for finance and operations. I’m also the COVID lead person here at the University and working with all my colleagues every day, Monday through Friday.

The answer to your question is that we’re going to do really what we did last semester in the spring. If we do go remote and we send people home, those people who are leaving – because remember, there are some people who need to or elect to stay – for those who are leaving, we’ll treat them fairly. We’ll do exactly what we did before: we’ll prorate the refund based upon the number of weeks used and number of weeks not used. We’ll refund those dollars for housing and dining.

Cassie Gerhardt: While we’re on the topic of dining, Orlynn, I’ve got a question for you. Can you talk about how the dining halls will be open and what that looks like, the precautions that have been put in place to reduce COVID spread and the whole dining experience and what students can expect when they return to campus?

Orlynn Rosaasen

Orlynn Rosaasen, director of dining services: I’m Orlynn Rosaasen, director of dining services. I’m just going to start with the dining rooms themselves. We have set the dining rooms up to accommodate the physical distance requirement. We have one student per chair, and there is actually 6 feet between each chair. That does limit the amount of seating we have inside the dining centers.

To accommodate that, our primary service is takeout. Students will be able to come into the serving area. Everything will be served on disposables. Students will be able to either take that to the dining room if there’s seating available, or take it with them to another location.

In addition to that, we have a number of hand sanitizing stations throughout the service areas. There’s also one as students enter the service area where they check in with their mobile phone.

One of the features we’ve implemented this year is that students will be able to download an app on to their mobile phone and use that as their ID. The app is available in their app store.

The other thing is that we have a lot of high-touch points throughout the dining centers. The dining staff will be circulating around and cleaning those as much as possible.

We also realize that the dining staff isn’t going to be able to physically get to every single high-touch point in between each student touching it. So, there will be a number of disinfectant stations around the service are also, for students to utilize and go ahead and grab a wipe to disinfect that high-touch point before and after they use that surface.

The other thing we’re doing is a contactless service of the food. The dining staff will slide the food over to the student on the counter or slide it over on a tray, which brings me back to none of the food being self-service this year. Everything will be served to the students, which will have a little bit of impact on the customization, especially during the peak density time periods. We’ll need to limit that a little bit.

There will still be plenty of choices and menu options available for students.

Our retail locations are also going to be open. We’ve got some safety protocols in place there. The big one I want to mention is that we’re implementing the Grub Hub mobile app, so students that are looking to order – especially coffee drinks that we have to make and blend – they’ll be able to preorder those, pay for those or prepay for those. Just come into those areas, pick them up and go.

We’re seeing that as a way to really increase the traffic and speed through those areas so we can decrease the density during peak time periods.

Lots of changes.

The other thing we know is that students utilize these areas for socialization. I need to stress that even though there are six-foot spaces between the tables and the chairs in the dining rooms, that still isn’t that far. Student who are sitting there using that space can still talk to one another. It’s not an issue.

We are working with students. If students have concerns, they can certainly reach out to any staff or me any time. We’re open to suggestions. We’re willing to listen and accommodate where we can.

Cassie Gerhardt: Lots of work done by Orlynn and his colleagues to get ready for the dining centers to open this fall.

Dr. Storrs and Dr. Plumm, I’m going to give this question to the two of you. You might want to tag-team on this one.

The question is about faculty. If faculty are prepared to move to online learning, are they ready for the fall semester and the way classes are to be delivered, whether we are in person or remote? Could you just visit a little bit about the faculty preparations that have occurred over the summer?

Debbie Storrs: In the spring, we had to go remote quickly, as did all institutions. And so, I think we were less prepared in the spring, although we’ve always had a robust number of online courses and programs.

In general, when you compare our faculty to faculty at other institutions, we have a lot of faculty who have experience with online teaching. That being said, not all of them did. We’ve worked really hard this summer to support faculty working with our instructional designers so that they can come together to figure out how to teach a course online.

Remember, the other thing that’s happening is we want to bring fewer students into the on-campus courses at any given time. Faculty are also using remote features so that student can, at times, remote in while other students come into the physical classroom, and then they (the students) will rotate.

I’ve been really pleased with and proud of our faculty. They’ve worked really hard all summer to prepare for this week and for the semester. They’re ready to move online, should we need to, and they’re ready and prepared to remote certain groups of students in because of the COVID capacity of classrooms.

The thing I’ll say is that faculty are really committed educators. They care about your money. They’re committed to their disciplines. They wake up every day living, dreaming, breathing their discipline. Their goal is to help engage you in your academic goals. They’re really committed. They’re ready and they’re excited to see you on campus.

I’ll turn it over to Dr. Plumm in case she wants to add any other comments.

Karyn Plumm

Karyn Plumm, vice provost for student success: My name is Karyn Plumm. I’m vice provost for student success. The only thing I would add to that is that faculty aren’t the only ones who are committed to our student success. Our advisors are also offering all of their advising remotely, whether it be by phone or by Zoom meetings.

We also have learning services available for students. If you have a course that goes online, and you’re uncomfortable with that or unused to learning in an online environment, we have learning specialists who can help walk you through that, help make sure you’re successful in your class.

We have other services. Tutoring is available in a lot of our courses where we will be having some online peer-led group sessions. Writing centers are available for students who are having writing courses and trying to manage that, should it be remote or online or look different for them.

Those services are also available for students who are in on-campus courses as well. We are fully committed to making sure that our student services remain at the high levels they always have been.

Cassie Gerhardt: Vice President Storrs, I’m going to stay with you. This is a question for you.

Could you visit a minute about the music department and how they’re going to handle physical distance, being that they can’t wear face coverings while playing their instruments? Are face coverings a barrier to students understanding faculty or peers?

Maybe when you’re done, Dr. Halgren can help answer that one, in terms of the face coverings.

Storrs: Sure. And then I’d also like to turn it over to Madhavi Marasinghe, because she’s done a lot of case testing of the masks and the coverings in the classroom to make sure that faculty voices will be projected. She can speak to that as well.

I like this question because it really gets to our process here at UND. Vice President Shivers mentioned that he’s the lead of the pandemic group. What that means is that there’s this group that meets every morning, and it’s across all sectors of the University. We go through every sort of “How are we going to manage this? How are we going to make sure that we heighten safety, etc.”

What we’ve asked every department to do is think through how they’re going to teach, including band. How are you going to teach music lessons? We asked them to come up with a protocol on how they’re going to modify it, and then they submit that for consideration.

Rosy Dub sees it. Chief Plummer sees it. Jed Shivers sees it. I review it. The deans review it. There are a lot of eyes on it to make sure this is a viable way to bring students back into the classroom in a safe way.

I pulled it out because I saw this question. It’s like a 10-page document. The music faculty, they’ve been very thoughtful. They’ve been paying attention to what their music association has suggested. These are professionals in the field. How do we do this safely?

Just to give you a couple of examples, they will require face coverings or masks. There are specific masks that will accommodate the kinds of instruments that they’re using. They’ve thought through the distancing, how they’re going to do the ensembles, how the Pride of the North is going to work. Everybody’s thought through that.

What I’d say to students in those courses or ensembles, talk to your instructors to learn how they’re going to manage those. We’ve asked every faculty member to post on their Blackboard site how the course will work so students know in advance.

Cassie Gerhardt: Madhavi, did you want to add something in terms of what’s been prepared in the classrooms for communication from faculty?

Madhavi Marasinghe

Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information technology officer: Yes, thank you, Cassie and Debbie.

I’m Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information technology Officer at UND. We have added a microphone, a camera and a digital whiteboard in every single classroom that will be hosting classes this semester. In addition to that, we have offered training sessions for faculty.

So last week and the week before, even this week, we have opened up our classrooms for faculty to stop by, try out the technology and see how it works as faculty, as well as what a student is going to hear when they use the microphone, camera and digital whiteboard.

We have also tested the microphones with five types of masks – the cloth masks, the clear ones as well, because some disciplines need to lip-read. We have tested the microphones with clear masks and even a shield.

There has been a lot of testing going on, on the technology side, as well as the faculty testing the equipment.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, do you want to add to that in terms of students finding the masks to be a barrier, either because of their verbal communication skills or needs, as well as the faculty other accommodations that could be made?

Cara Halgren: Again, it goes back to our Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. They really are the conduit for faculty members, as well as students, who identify other accommodations that may be appropriate.

Someone asked online, what happens if someone comes to a class and they’re not wearing a face covering? That’s not appropriate, nor is that something that we will allow to happen.

In terms of public spaces, classroom spaces, students need to wear face coverings. If they come and they don’t have one, then they will be provided a temporary face covering. But really, that’s an expectation that we’ve set, and it has to happen.

But we recognize that not all students feel comfortable wearing the same kinds of face coverings, and there might be issues that are specific to that individual that need to be worked through. Again, our Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities can work with students one-on-one to find a solution that works for them.

Cassie Gerhardt: I’m going to take this question to Jed and then maybe Dr. Halgren and President Armacost.

We’ve got people who are following the blog and are aware that we have 44 active cases on campus. The question is, how do we, as a university, expect to bring students in when there are already 44 active cases, and school isn’t in session?

Jed Shivers: As I think President Armacost said, we look at a variety of factors in terms of how well we’re doing. At the moment, we would love to have zero cases or only a few, but the reality is we have a few dozen.

What that means is we’re activating our system. We’ve been very successful in working with the state, first in getting testing focused on our campus, as in all college communities. Because in a state like North Dakota, where you have people coming together is in these college communities – more than in any other type of situation, in this particular state, which is a fairly less-densely populated state.

So first we have our testing. Then we have, and are developing, a robust contact-tracing mechanism, both in conjunction with our local county Department of Health as well as the state Department of Health, and even our own cadre of contact tracers.

Those folks will be reaching out to people who are positive, and working with them and/or their close contacts. We’ll be managing those folks.

As Rosy Dub just mentioned, we have a whole protocol related to quarantining and isolating people, and providing them with housing if necessary. There is a system in place, and I think that system is currently working.

One of the ways, interestingly, that we know it’s working is that we’re picking up positive cases who are in quarantine. In other words, you have people who are positive, and then you have people in quarantine who are close contacts. A lot of these folks we’re picking up, who are positive, are because they’re in quarantine, they’re getting tested and they’re converting –  which doesn’t mean some magical process, it just means that the viral load is growing to where it can be detected.

They’re positive, and we wish that they weren’t, but it suggests that the system we have in place is working.

From the standpoint of people being anxious about it, some degree of anxiety is perfectly reasonable. I have white hair; that puts me in a more vulnerable place, so I have some anxiety about it.

At this time, I feel like the systems we have in place, and what’s happening the community around us, really do argue that we have the ability at this moment to open safely. That’s what we’re planning on doing.

President Armacost: Jed Shivers just talked about the response system. Let’s not forget what you, as individuals, can do to keep yourself safe. That is: keep a safe distance from others; wear a mask – and we’ll even give you some nice, branded masks. You’ll get one or two of these.

And take the steps you need to prevent yourself from being put into quarantine as a close contact, and do the things that you need to do to keep yourself safe. Expect that of others as well, so, the impact that you can have on other people and say, “Let’s keep our distance.”

You can still have a lot of fun coming to UND while still abiding by the principles we’re talking about.

It’s going to be different than last fall, but just keep in mind that this is not forever. Let’s take the steps we need to get out of the pandemic, but, for now, do the things you need to do to keep yourself safe.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, I’m going look ahead a couple of weeks, and maybe if you have something to add to that previous comment. As we look ahead two weeks between now and Labor Day, regarding students and their ability to leave campus what are we recommending? Stay on campus, travel home, any thoughts about Labor Day?

Cara Halgren: Before I answer that, I want to go back to the previous question. The only thing that I would offer that I don’t know has been included so far is that, if there are parents on the line listening here: we know that you are entrusting us with the people that you value most in your life – your kids, your students.

One of the things that we take great care in – and I know there are a couple of people on the panel today that all graduated from UND – and we take great care in how we work with students. You need to know that while none of us has a crystal ball and we can’t determine whether or not your student will be a close contact or will test positive, we’re doing our best, as we said, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

But you need to know that if it does, we will do everything that we can to make sure they are safe, they are able to continue their education here, because we know how important that is to you.

It’s important to you, it’s important to us, and you need to know that this is something we take very seriously; and it’s about providing great care and compassion for those that need it, so we will continue to do that.

In terms of Labor Day, there is no policy that says people need to be here, or they have to leave, or they can’t go anywhere. The only thing I would ask – and I know we’ve talked about it as colleagues – is to be thoughtful about the choices that you make.

We recognize that while it seems hot here in North Dakota, it may be a lot hotter where you come from. Someone leaving for a weekend might actually not be such a great idea.

Think about where you are, where you’re going, and what that might mean in terms of coming back to Grand Forks.

Again, it’s simply one of those times in our history where what we do as individuals has such a potential to impact other people. We’re asking you to think about making choices that are best for you, but also recognizing that we want to keep the community as safe as possible.

Cassie Gerhardt: Troy, I have a question for you. We’ve made some changes to residence halls and move-in processes, so one of the questions asks: are there restrictions on family members visiting their students in their residence hall rooms?

Troy Noeldner

Troy Noeldner, director of housing and residence life: Hi, I’m Troy Noeldner, and I’m Director of Housing and Residence Life at UND. Glad to be here.

No, we do not have any restrictions on family members visiting their students at this point, other than our normal visiting policies. We would just ask that our parents and family members who visit continue to respect our Healthy Hawk initiatives by wearing face coverings, respecting physical distancing and respecting our community standards. We’re happy to have family members here.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, I’m coming back to you with a couple of questions that center around our Greek community. If you could speak to our relationship with our fraternity and sorority community and the ability to control some of the gatherings that might be planned by the organizations and then, same thing, in terms of our fraternities and sororities: if someone were to test positive who lives in one of the chapter houses, what would that response look like?

So, Greek life and COVID.

Cara Halgren: One of the things that I would love to say is I am non-Greek. What I would tell you, foremost, is that everything you see in social media about Greek life is typically wrong and not representative of the best of our students.

The two students that you saw on the video, today, the Student Body President and Vice President, both happen to be leaders in the Greek community. Several members of our panel here, today, are members of Greek chapters.

Again, to say that everything is all about the Greeks who live on University Avenue I don’t think is fair, and I just want to throw that out there for consideration.

Many of our Greek chapters live very close to University Avenue, but they’re actually on private property. They have the responsibility of taking care of those properties and determining who lives or doesn’t live in their house.

What you should know is that we have ongoing conversations – and Cassie is involved in leading the group in those efforts – with our fraternity and sorority advisers and leaders of those chapters to help them think through these things, and specifically COVID-19.

If someone in the chapter is either positive or they are designated as a close contact, again, that information would come from the North Dakota Department of Health. That ND Department of Health will also work with the chapter and us, the institution, to define what are the best steps forward for that chapter, whether people need to quarantine or isolate in place or whether members need to go somewhere else.

Again, I think it will be based on the situation, but you need to know that we work closely together to try and figure these things out.

The other thing I would say is that as students come back to campus, they want to be together – and for me, for all of us who work in higher ed, it’s great. I love this time of the year; I never get tired of it.

So, we work with students now to help them understand ways to hold events where they are able to stay connected while physically distanced. That’s a conversation that we keep having with folks.

It’s a continual educational process. We’ll have some groups that do it really well, and we’ll have others that struggle a little bit. If they struggle, we’ll bring them in and help them understand why it’s important.

Again, it’s about education and doing our best to make sure that people understand why those expectations are the way they are, and why they’re so important.

Cassie Gerhardt: President Armacost, I’m going to ask you to dust off your crystal ball for these next two. You’ll need to look into the future.

Could you speak to any information you have about a hockey season or winter commencement?

President Armacost: Nothing in my crystal ball, sorry to say, but the hockey decision will certainly depend on conversations with other members of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

First and foremost, we’ll consider player safety and health – that’s our dominant piece. As we saw with some other sports, we made the decision for football and other fall sports to push that until the spring semester.

No decisions made yet on hockey; that will happen in the next two to three weeks, perhaps.

For winter commencement, this will depend on what happens with the pandemic over the course of the fall semester. If we’re still in class at the end of the semester and physically on campus, we’ll certainly plan to have an on-campus ceremony; but what we don’t know is how we’re going to finish the semester, at this point.

Our plans, of course, are to finish on-campus.

Cassie Gerhardt: If a student were to test positive, will another test be taken to check for a false positive before isolating?

Rosy Dub: No, it will not be done. We do follow CDC guidelines. And right now, there are no recommendations to verify a positive test with another positive test. Tests are running close to 100% accuracy if they’re performed correctly.

The other thing is if you test somebody and they test positive, you really don’t want to retest them again for about 12 weeks, because even once they’re recovered, they can still show those antibodies and turn positive for up to 12 weeks after their initial test.

Cassie Gerhardt: If a student already had COVID-19 earlier in the summer, would you still encourage them to be tested on campus? And would they be required to quarantine?

Rosy Dub: If it is still within 12 weeks, we would not recommend that they be retested. There is an assumed immunity for up to 12 weeks following a positive case of COVID. So, if I tested positive and I completed my isolation period, and my husband tested positive, I do not have to go into quarantine. You’re protected for up to 12 weeks, we believe.

Cassie Gerhardt: Where are we testing when we do it here at UND?

Rosy Dub: Our mass testing or surveillance testing is all done at this point at the High Performance Center. However, you are welcome to come to Student Health, particularly if you have symptoms and you need to be tested. Please call first.

But yes, we do do testing at Student Health, and we would welcome you to come. Please, call first so we can be adequately prepared to greet you.

Cassie Gerhardt: How would a student be informed if they were exposed to COVID?

Rosy Dub: If their result is positive, they will be called, regardless of if our clinic tested them or the state Health Department. They’re always called with the positive results. The negatives may come by secure message. They may come by email or text message, but for sure the positives are called.

Cassie Gerhardt: There’s currently some concern amongst some students that the administration will be more willing to return to online classes once we pass some of the deadlines for tuition, refunds and payments. What assurance can you give that this will not be the case?

Debbie Storrs: It is really echoing President Armacost’s initial discussion about when would we go online. And it’s really based on a number of factors and conversations with the pandemic team and our leadership team. It’s not a week or tied to tuition refunds but tied to health and safety. Can we manage the number of cases? Can our operation continue? That would be my assurance: we care deeply about student learning, and students’ health and safety, and that’s what’s most important to us.

President Armacost: This is not a bait and switch idea. We’re going to judge the environment. We’ve heard our students loud and clear that an on-campus experience is something that is highly valued. And we’re doing our very best to make sure we deliver on that promise.

And as the pandemic evolves, and as our response evolves, we just have to consider those factors that Provost Storrs and I have mentioned. The timing has nothing to do with it. The pandemic doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I mean, we just don’t know. We don’t have a crystal ball.

Storrs: We’ve asked our faculty, and we work with them with our instructional designers to be prepared. We may have to go remote for a week and then come back. We may have to go back and forth. We’re prepared to do that. It’s not tied to anything except to health and safety and our ability to offer that.

Jed Shivers: We’re really monitoring the health and safety of our campus. And of course, we have the desire to stay open for the entire semester. That is, I would say, the goal of all universities if they’re able to do it, and we will strive to do so.

But I would say it has literally nothing to do with specific dates related to refunds, etc, etc. I just honestly don’t see that as a factor at this point.

One thing to keep in mind is, of course, to the extent that people work hard to comply with the guidelines that we put in place around mask wearing and physical distancing, etc., that increases the probability that we will be able to stay open. It’s really not like the administration is going, ‘Come on, come on, we’ll suck you in. And, then, we’re going to go remote.’ We have a desire to stay on campus, and it’s going to be dependent upon our campus community and the behavior of that community. It’s really a two-way street here.

Cassie Gerhardt: Are students able to take online courses while they are in isolation or quarantine? And how does that affect their grades?

Chelsea Mellenthin, co-director for the student academic success and career engagement: We ask  students when they do test positive to work with their faculty members. We have asked that the faculty allow students to remote in via Zoom. It’s really important just to make sure that students are staying in contact with their faculty members. You can certainly also let your academic advisor know as well.

We can just make sure that we are providing as much support for the students as possible.

Debbie Storrs: We’re working very closely with our faculty. If the faculty member isn’t able to accommodate you, then we’ll work with a student to find an alternative, an online session of a different course. Our goal is to make sure that students can continue their education. Faculty care deeply about students learning, too. They’ve been very accommodating, and we’re prepared to help support students.

For students in isolation and quarantine, in addition to feeding them, we’re feeding their brains. We’re going to do as much as we can to make sure they can do so at distance. We also have a lot of support in terms of technology. If they need a laptop, we can provide a loaner.

There’s a lot of support to ensure that they can continue their courses, while they’re quarantining or in isolation.

Cassie Gerhardt: Students should be aware if they are identified as a close contact or positive, when they do that report that helps get them to housing and meal service, that also will help with some follow-ups, some absence notifications to faculty, things like that. That really starts the process in motion, and allows us all to work together to support the students while they might need to be away from campus for a couple of weeks.

Will an iPad work for the touchscreen computer requirement for tests, and do all online tests for any class with an online test require a touchscreen computer?

Karyn Plumm: Not all courses have the same requirement for proctoring or testing. That will be up to your instructor. There are some courses that do have a touchscreen requirement because of the type of tests that you’re taking. It’s our goal that most of them don’t have that level of requirements.

The program that you’re in should be able to provide the specifics that you will need for the technology pieces in your course.

Madhavi Marasinghe: If you do need a touchscreen and you do not have one, do reach out to UIT, the University Information Technology. We will do our very best to provide you one for the semester as a loan.

Cassie Gerhardt: This questioner writes, ‘I’m very concerned with the positive cases that are already on campus among student athletes. The cases are rising weekly, and I would like to know what is being done to reduce the transmission. There are still parties happening frequently. Should coaches not mandate for student athletes refrain from these group situations?’

Cara Halgren: Tonight, you’ve heard really what our plan is, what our approach is. It is consistently working with folks to help them understand what our expectations are. And as I mentioned earlier, it is the challenging line, I think, for students about wanting to be together and yet helping people understand that the best way for them to be together at this point is to be together in a physically distant way.

If all of us continue to work to that effort, then that gives us a greater opportunity for all of us to be here together on campus more.

Our goal is not to close the semester down. Our goal is to keep people here as long as possible, as long as we can do so safely. It will take all of us – on campus, off campus, in the classroom, in the residence halls, in Greek chapters, downtown after hours. It’s going to take all of us thinking about ourselves and other people to try and keep the community healthy.

It’s about education, helping people understand the expectations, and then reinforcing those as we’re able to.

Cassie Gerhardt: You can find the COVID-19 blog easily linked to on our website. So there it is. There you will see the Hawk is wearing his mask or its mask when it is within 6 feet of any of our students.

A couple of things we talked about recording. So what students need to be aware of here on the left-hand screen is where students would go to find the student reporting procedures. The Veoci form – this is the form that students, if they are identified as either a COVID positive tastes or close contact, by completing this, it will then sent back an email of how we in real time can help the students.

If they need to move to isolation or quarantine housing, it will provide a phone number for them to call so that we can have staff that start working with them, whether that is in the evening or on the weekend.

We’re ready to go. If students are notified on a Saturday or Sunday by Public Health that they have tested positive, this is ready to go.

It all starts with the testing. So I also want to make sure that students are aware of what is available and where they find information about the testing. So again, pretty easy to find here. Testing dates are here. Our amazing team from UIT have also updated the website. So when tomorrow’s testing event starts at 9 a.m. at the High Performance Center, we will throughout the day be updating this site so that students, staff, faculty will know what kind of wait time they might have.

I have worked most of those events, and I’ll tell you I don’t think I’ve ever seen the wait time be more than 20 to maybe 25 minutes. They really are getting through people and through the process very quickly.

What really helps is if people pre-register for the event. Not registering is really what delays the process.

So, pretty quick and easy, people can register there. For students who are coming, there are additional testing dates on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, if they are not going to be on campus tomorrow.

The thing I want students to be aware of is our University leaders, the Executive Council, the administration are so supportive and encouraging of testing and realize how important it is that they identified resources that for the next four days of testing, the 19th through the 23rd, each day, we will draw the names of five students who’ve been at the testing event to each receive a $500 gift card to the UND bookstore.

You can get tested, find out how you’re doing as well as have the chance to win a pretty valuable prize at this time of the semester. That is indicative of how important people find testing.

The site is very easy to use; we just want to make sure that you’re aware of some of those resources. And we will encourage you to do so, and we hope to see you at testing events in the next couple of days.

We’ve highlighted the face coverings that you have seen both the Hawk and some of our student leaders wearing, and the one that President Armacost shared. We will start distributing those to students on Monday the 24th. So we’re going to get through Welcome Weekend and then starting on Monday, students probably have already received communication to that end.

I also would point on the website, you can sign up to subscribe to get updates that are posted regarding COVID-19 and the University’s response to Coronavirus. I would encourage you to do so; and then anytime that there is new information, you would get an email notifying you that that’s been available.

President Armacost: Thanks for tuning in, and let me reiterate what Vice President Halgren had said. Our goal is to remain open. Our goal is to keep you safe. That is also your goal. That’s why you signed in today. And so the steps and the actions that you take and that you can encourage your friends to take will have a huge impact.

So let’s take this seriously. Put your masks on. Let’s keep our distance, and we’ll see you when you get here on campus in a few days!