Friday, August 19, 2022

Wanted - comments on the current @ucdavis COVID plans

 So - I have been publicly and privately critical of some of the recent @ucdavis practices regarding COVID. If you want to know more about my areas of concern see for example this Twitter thread which I posted today: 

After I posted that, The Chancellor of UC Davis Gary May posted an article with some details of current UC Davis COVID plans. See https://leadership.ucdavis.edu/news/checking-in-with-chancellor-may-planning-ahead 

What he wrote is below - but rather than comment myself right now, I am wondering - what do people out there (especially those at UC Davis) think of all of this?

Coronavirus

Davis campus students are required to be compliant with the UC Vaccine Policy by Sept. 21 either by being up to date on vaccines and boosters or submitting a religious or medical exception request. Students who are not in compliance by Sept. 21 will receive a registration hold on their accounts for fall quarter. Please visit the Information for Students and Families page on the Campus Ready website for additional details about the vaccine policy compliance process. The vaccine policy also applies to employees.

It’s clear that COVID-19 will be with us for some time. UC Davis continues to monitor for the virus through weekly wastewater testing, which helps inform our decision making. We have reviewed the scientific literature and heard from many people, and, at this point, we are not likely to increase the frequency of wastewater testing given that Davis is not a large urban center. Also please note: We have access to daily test results from Stanford’s Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN).

We encourage our students, faculty and staff to get tested regularly for COVID-19. The Davis campus testing kiosk — offering free, asymptomatic testing (saliva-based) — remains in operation, although in a new location: Human Resources Administration Building (1050 Blue Ridge Road), across La Rue Road from the ARC. The kiosk is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (closed Fridays and Saturdays). Testing is by appointment only through the Health-e-Messaging portal. Please note: Testing appointments are limited from Sept. 13 to 15, due to move-in.

At-home antigen tests are available for free as follows:

  • By mail from the federal government.
  • From no-charge vending machines around Yolo County. The machines are accessible 24 hours a day at the Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St.; West Sacramento City Hall, 1110 W. Capitol Blvd.; Winters City Hall, 318 1st St.; and Esparto Regional Library, 17065 Yolo Ave. (with one more to be installed in Woodland).
  • From Yolo County libraries during open hours.

I would also like to recognize the effects of long COVID and the impact it continues to have on people. We are learning more about it every day, in UC Davis Health’s Post-COVID-19 Clinic, which opened in November 2020; and in our research and clinical studies, including one assessing the risks for children.

Students affected by long COVID should work with the Student Disability Center for resources and support. Employees should work with Disability Management ServicesThese units are busy, so please reach out to begin the interactive process as soon as you can.

Masking and air filters

I recognize that there is still some anxiety about masking. While the Davis campus does not have a mask mandate in place, we strongly recommend that people wear masks indoors to reduce risk.

Free masks are coming soon. The university plans to distribute one N95 mask to every student and employee this fall quarter, with this one-time distribution to take place in September. For more information about the distribution, students should contact their major departments, and employees should contact their departments or units. See “Directions for departments” on how to acquire mask supplies.

Remember that a proper mask fit is especially important. A 10-minute video is available for students on how to properly use N95 masks, also called respirators. They are rated to filter out 95% of particles.

Employees are required to complete a 10-minute video training about the proper use of N95 masks.

Yolo County also offers video guidance on masking. Further information can be found at Campus Ready and through the California Department of Public Health.

If you’re concerned about air filtration at home, a Corsi-Rosenthal Box is a cost-effective device that can be built with just a few components. The box was co-invented by Richard Corsi, dean of the College of Engineering, and has received acclaim nationwide. Visit this link to learn how to build your own Corsi-Rosenthal Box.




1 comment:

  1. I am not in favor of the current campus COVID-19 plan, particularly the removal of the mask mandate.

    When we resumed in-person instruction at UC Davis in Fall 2021, I was prepared for lots of arguments and non-compliance with the mandatory mask policy. I developed a plan for how to deal with non-compliance and trained my TAs on the plan. Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, with a combined enrollment of over 2300 students, I heard zero complaints about the masks and didn’t have a single case of non-compliance that even came to my attention, let alone rising to the level of needing to initiate a disciplinary referral. Zero. That shows that, at least in my very large sample size of biology students, students will wear masks without complaint if they are required to do so. Given that there didn’t seem to be much of a push from students to drop the mandate, I’m confused about the rationale to do so, particularly when other universities and colleges have either kept their mandates or have reinstated them for Fall semester.

    I understand that running the testing program is very expensive and likely isn’t sustainable long-term. However, if we need to cut the testing program for financial reasons, it would make sense to at least keep the mask mandate as a precaution. During the last school year, I averaged 1-2 students per week that were testing positive (mostly through the campus surveillance program). I always asked how they were doing after they let me know that they had tested positive – most said that they were either asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms. This means that in the absence of required surveillance testing, those students would have come to class.

    If we’re not testing anymore, there will be more students with COVID in the classrooms, so requiring masks would be a sensible precaution. Now that masks are optional, I’m seeing only about 40% of my students wearing masks. Given the still high levels of community spread, some of those unmasked students are likely to be positive.

    I think it’s also important to consider the impact of students and staff testing positive. For students, immediate make-up work may not be an option (particularly near the end of the quarter), resulting in them needing to complete the course in a future quarter, potentially delaying graduation. I currently have one TA and my co-instructor that are out sick, which has resulted in us needing to temporarily shift to remote lectures and in me needing to cover 12 hours of lab instruction. That’s not sustainable and doesn’t provide a consistent learning experience for students.

    I’m really concerned about what’s going to happen in Fall quarter if we proceed with the current plan. The course I support will have 32 lab sections and 16 TAs, so staffing shortages could quickly overwhelm my ability to provide coverage for absences, leading to some lab sections needing to go remote, resulting in those students missing the hands-on aspects of the lab. In my opinion, dropping mandatory testing, but keeping the mask mandate would be a reasonable and relatively low-cost intermediate step on our road to the post-COVID era. Requiring masks would reduce transmission, reduce student absences, and cut down on staffing shortages – a lot of benefit for a relatively low impact intervention.

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