By Samantha Hum
Through their Campus Ready Plan, UC Davis has committed to limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Fall quarter at UC Davis will be dominated by safety protocols and measures outlined in the Campus Ready Plan. The usual hustle and bustle of students in the Memorial Union, Shields’ Library, student dormitories and everywhere else on campus will be nearly nonexistent – at least for the foreseeable fall quarter.
As thousands of universities around the nation undertake the unprecedented process of considering whether or not to bring students back during a pandemic, ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved is the most important issue.
UC Davis plans to tackle a gradual return of campus activities through efforts branded as “Campus Ready.”
Kelly Ratliff, Vice Chancellor of Finance, Operations, and Administration presented the following plan to the Davis City Council on Tuesday, September 15th.
The Campus Ready Plan, a dynamic, overarching framework for the entire campus community, calls for safety protocols to be endorsed with education, outreach and disciplinary action if needed.
One of the focuses is broad communication. This means extensive signage, use of social media, video, email, print and verbal outreach. Aggie Public Health Ambassadors, a collaboration between the Department of Public Health Sciences and UC Davis’ Student Affairs organization, will be run by 150 UC Davis students who will assist with education and outreach.
As for testing, UC Davis is currently developing a comprehensive program. Screening and validation testing started on Sep. 14.
The 650 students moving into The Green at West Village this week are required to participate in a two-step testing process before they can move in. First, they provide a saliva sample (with results run at UC Davis’ plant genomics lab) and second, a self-administered nasal swab that is sent to a private company for validation.
The school hopes to switch entirely to its own screening within two weeks, then expand testing to students living on campus, as well as employees and essential staff. The goal is to get everyone on an initial once-a-week testing schedule and eventually move to a twice-a-week schedule.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, UC Davis’ contact tracing team plans to follow any on-campus contacts and will work in partnership with Yolo County, who will pursue community contacts. If the student has a safe space to self-isolate off campus, they will work with Student Health and Counseling Services to do that- if not, UC Davis will provide on-campus space for students to self-isolate.
In addition, flu shots are mandated by the UC system this season. UC Davis has established an on-campus, no-cost flu clinic for students and employees that began Sep. 14 and will run until the end of October.
As expected, there have also been substantial efforts to make spaces on campus as safe as possible. The university has worked to reduce the density in all classrooms, campus living and study spaces in order to reduce risk.
All lectures and classes with enrollment over fifty students will be remote. Ratliff stated, “One of our general themes is if you can do it remote, it should be remote.” In-person instruction for courses under fifty students will be limited to those with a “clear pedagogical rationale,” and require daily compliance with online screening, well-defined safety protocols and mandatory training.
The university is planning for expanded in-person offerings in the winter and spring quarters as it aligns with public health guidance.
Meanwhile, mandatory face coverings, daily symptom screening, consistent signage and the prohibition of events and gatherings are only a few of the measures to be enforced on campus.
On-campus research is a crucial part of UC Davis’ mission. UC Davis is currently in Phase 2 of a “research ramp-up and ramp-down” process that began in mid-May, in which time-sensitive research activities are permitted on the condition that there exists a carefully defined plan and the program has been through a central review.
However, Ratliff made it clear that the university’s main focus right now is safely getting students back on campus.
A large part of that is ensuring the safety within residential dorming. Residence halls will be moving in about 1,850 students next week, as opposed to the usual 6,200-6,500 students.
Single occupancy residence halls as well as identified rooms for isolation and quarantine will be provided to all students.
In order to move in, students need to schedule an appointment online and are allowed a maximum of one guest. Once on campus, they are required to be tested and screened at the campus’ testing center before they are able to receive their key.
Campus recreational services such as the ARC remain closed at the moment, but will reopen with appropriate protocols as public health guidance allows.
As for childcare options, the university has offered various resources and is trying to partner with the YMCA to potentially offer some programs on campus. Ratliff, acknowledging that this is a difficult area, stated, “We’re doing what we can there, but this clearly is an area where we’re not able to meet all the needs yet. And so we just keep trying.”
All team sports activities are paused, but UC Davis hopes to support its student-athletes by continuing to honor athletic scholarships and permitting voluntary, individual training opportunities with “vigorous safety controls.”
In order to provide more space for individual training opportunities and other purposes such as studying, the university placed tents on campus and amplified WiFi. These actions, they hope, will encourage students to spend more time outside and facilitate those activities.
Ratliff ended her part of the presentation by touching on a common theme of questions she received: “What will the trigger be? How will you know when something has to scale back?”
This was her response:
“There’s not a fixed number. This is all stuff we’ll be working closely with Yolo County Public Health-all of our reporting and our contact tracing is immediately in collaboration with them…. What we will be doing is very transparently working with them… If something happens and it looks like we either need to find ways to disperse, we have a number of contingency plans that’ll both look at individual student needs and think about what might be happening in the context of the pandemic. And in all cases, we’re meeting with Yolo County public health…There’s a lot of good collaboration there.”