June 22, 2020
Jim Berscheidt, Vice President of University of Brand Strategy and Communications: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the President's Reopening and Safety Town Hall. I’m Jim Berscheidt, Vice President of University of Brand Strategy and Communications, and I'll be the moderator for today. The next 90 minutes we'll be covering a lot of topics that have occurred over the last three months since we first closed for COVID and what will be happening over the next few weeks as we begin to reopen. Our panelists today will be UNT President Neal Smatresk, Provost Jennifer Cowley, Dr. Elizabeth With, Vice President of Student Affairs; Dr. Cynthia Hermann, Executive Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center and UNT’s Chief Medical Officer; and Brandi Renton, Associate VP of Administrative Services.
Today's presentation will be the panelists outlining again, over the last few months, what has been in progress and the plans for reopening. It will begin shortly with Dr. Smatresk. First, let me tell you a few things about the Q and A for today. We are going to take live Q and A from the faculty and staff through your Zoom feature, but if you are a student or parent, we ask you to email us at email@example.com. That address is being monitored right now, so as we proceed through the presentation this afternoon, you're welcome to email us questions. We've also been receiving questions over the last week or so and we'll be covering many of those as we move through. So let's move right to President Smatresk and ask him to begin our presentation.
President Neal Smatresk: Well, hello everybody. I hope you're having a great time and that you've had a good long weekend and a little bit of rest. Here we are today, ready to talk about how we're going to reopen our campus, and most importantly, how we're going to keep our community safe.
The first thing I want to do before I start jumping into this is to simply say to all of you, our safety and our success for this fall is dependent on how we work with each other. We're all very excited about returning. We're all excited about having students back on our campus. We're excited about pursuing our mission and making sure that our students are going to be able to be successful, graduate on time with the degrees they need to pursue their dreams. In order to do that, we all have responsibilities. Our students, faculty and staff are going to be working very hard together to make sure that we do this in the safest possible fashion, and in a fashion that also supports the directives of our Departments of Health here in the local counties, in the state and the CDC guidelines. So with that, let's go to the next slide.
And I will talk just a little bit about how we're going to be able to govern ourselves and how we're working right now to reopen. We've built five different committees: an Academic Affairs Advisory Group, an Operations and Physical Plant Group, a Research Advisory Group, a Safety and Incident Management Group and a Student Life Advisory Group. Now, each one of these groups is an expert group led by the people whose names you see here beside them on the slide. And each one of these teams is helping us to formulate the specific plans that we're going to use so that we can proceed safely and still pursue our mission. If you’ll go to the next slide, please.
The groups are working with each other. Each advisory group meets every week, some meet twice a week. And of course, there's a lot of conversation that's ongoing. And the recommendations from each of these advisory groups are discussed by the leads group, which is the people who are guiding each one of the groups. They work to make sure that we're coordinating and not duplicating each other's efforts and thinking about all the things we have to think about. These recommendations are then formed by the committee into recommendations that come to me for approval and implementation, along with the cabinet. If we don't get agreement, we go back to cabinet, we have longer discussions and we may send people back to the drawing board. But so far, these groups have worked fantastically, and I want to just say they're great credit to this university that we're really forming strong teams that are getting the jobs done. And the next slide.
I'll start with the Research Advisory Group because our VP for Research, Mark McClellan, is not here right now. We’re five weeks into launching our research. We've got people in research labs already active. These are small groups of people who are working to help make sure that our research is ongoing, and we have all kinds of research — some of it’s even COVID-related. And also, we're making sure that we have a strong guidance in place for how we conduct research, how we safely socially distance. So the group right now is working on making sure that we begin both undergraduate and graduate research in a safe fashion, that each laboratory has guidelines that are understood by those who are participating. We’ll shortly be adding field research and undergraduate research back into our portfolio, and we are beginning to now look at how we can begin to relaunch human subjects research that involves face-to-face activities, because obviously, there will have to be quite strict guidelines for how we do this type of work. So that is a brief summary of how the Research Advisory Group’s going. I’d say right now the plans are very detailed. We've got quite a serious set of documents, and I think that you'll see the same is true for every one of these groups today. You’re just going to be getting the highlights of what we're working on.
So as we proceed to the next slide, I want to turn this over to Brandi Renton, who's guiding and speaking today on the Operations and Physical Plant Group and also is a lead on the Safety Committee. Brandi, take it away.
Brandi Renton, Associate Vice President for Administrative Services: Thank you, President Smatresk. So, the Operations and Physical Plant Advisory Group consists of cross-functional members from across the campus as well and is led by Dave Reynolds, as President Smatresk mentioned. This group’s goal is to make sure that the coordination of building openings is on track and is being monitored, and that our Operations and other teams are available and ready to support openings as necessary, but also to make sure that we can coordinate sanitation and other key elements in the space that needs to happen before we actually open the facilities.
A couple of their main things they've been working on that I'd like to share with you are: making sure that we're ordering and have available personal protective equipment and materials on campus — this can be masks, sanitation stands, plexiglass dividers — and actually, once the pandemic started, we started ordering a lot of these items centrally on campus to make sure that we were ready and had what we needed once we started reopening. They're managing, as I said, the opening of buildings to ensure we can have cleaning and sanitation efforts. They’re also tracking the building openings. So they're working closely with all areas and all advisory groups to understand what the reopening plans look like and what facilities are needed and when.
They're working on other items such as water fountains. We've had some robust discussions as multiple groups around water fountains, and the CDC recommends to turn those off if they can't be maintained well for sanitation. We are allowing water filling stations to be available if they're independent from water fountains, so if you're here now, you'll start to see that change happening as well. This team is working on the flow of traffic within the inside of buildings — so, directional signage, one-way traffic — and they're also working to source face shields in areas, in places and academic classrooms where faculty may prefer to wear face shields instead of face coverings such as masks. And lastly, HVAC systems has consistently been a question. So they've been working to modify outside air intake and the humidity for COVID-19. They've had all the filters changed before the school restart, before folks started coming back, and they've added high-efficiency filters for consideration into systems. They're looking at and investigating different types of air technologies such as UV-C and bi-polar ionization as we move forward.
So from there, those are the things that the group is working on as well as many other items. I'd like to take you to the group that I co-chair with Steve Maruszewski from the UNT System — the Safety and Incident Management Advisory Team — as I know we're all very interested in in the safety and well-being of our institution as we start to come back. Next slide, please. We're actually one of the groups that’s been meeting twice a week rather than once. We have found that there is a lot of activity, and we're needing to talk and communicate and coordinate things pretty quickly in support of the institution. So we are reviewing all reopening plans for colleges and buildings to make sure that those safety measures are ready and in place. And we will start, probably in the next few weeks, reviewing requests for events prior to any final approval that anyone could have as we start going into the fall semester.
We have worked on the development of face coverings, and I'll talk a little bit about that in one of my slides as we go forward, as well as other personal protective equipment out there. So we do have general guidelines around personal protective equipment, specific around face coverings, but also around social distancing and travel and some other areas. We've worked diligently in conjunction with Jim’s team in UBSC to develop guidance on self-monitoring and created an at-home self-monitoring tool. And we're also getting ready and revealing all training for university employees as they come back. And some of you, if you're a faculty or staff member, may have already seen that we've launched our first module of our COVID safety training.
We're in the development of a tool for non-compliance of personal protective equipment to try and help guide some conversations that may be necessary for individuals that may either struggle to be able to follow the guidelines or may have other needs that would require them to operate outside of the guidelines. An exciting item that we launched about a week and a half ago is, we were able to work with the Student Affairs team, and we actually expanded the parent/family hotline to be a general COVID-19 hotline to create a central kind of streamlined approach to cope with questions, calls or concerns about symptoms or COVID testing, and that hotline is already available and ready to be used. And this group is also talking through testing, contact tracing and other pertinent safety measures that Dr. Hermann will share with you in just a short period of time. Next slide.
So, a couple other key safety items that we wanted to share with you. When we talk about isolation spaces, this is an area that we really felt we need to firm up, especially when it comes to students and when we bring more of our resident students back in the fall. So we made a recommendation to have designated isolation spaces in specific dorm areas or off-campus hoteling for any students that may test positive with COVID. We recommend this only for our students. We have had questions about whether or not isolation spaces should be considered in other buildings for visitors or guests, should they come on campus with an illness or symptoms of COVID. We do ask that, if anyone does express that, we do ask that they be instructed to leave campus or try to reschedule their visit with us if they've had contact with someone with COVID-19 or if they have any type of symptoms or concerns about it.
Plexiglass dividers and hand sanitation. So, the next couple on this slide are really a lot of the work around that that the Facilities and Operations Physical Group has been doing. So plexiglass dividers and sanitation stands seem to be an incredible challenge to find over the last few months. We've overcome many challenges, even to the point where the teams that have been in facilities have been developing their own dividers and trying to source new vendors. So that's been a great success as they've been trying to work through all of that where needed, where social distancing is a challenge, and they could put or place those in certain places on campus. Sanitation and stands. We had some significant supply chain issues, as many did throughout the country. We were able to overcome all of those as well as having some employees build stands of our own when we had some concerns that they may not being able to source them. But between our System Purchasing folks, my Risk Management team and Facilities, we have significantly overcome that challenge of not having enough stands.
Water fountains and elevators. I mentioned water fountains and the CDC guidance. So we're working to adhere to that as well as elevators. So there are some smaller elevators around where you can only limit it really to one person safely to socially distance, and then other elevators, you can actually go ahead and put four people in there. We do strongly recommend that face coverings be worn in elevators, and that you should start to see some of the great signage that you'll see later in the presentation on those elevators, as well as a reminder of how many should be in the elevator. Next slide.
So a COVID safety training is being built for students, and I mentioned it for employees as well. So, faculty, staff, all hourly employees (and including student employees) should have received their information link to take our first module of our COVID training recently, and the one module, or the modules, for students are being developed as we speak and are forthcoming or coming soon. The topic that we have significantly spent a lot of time discussing is face coverings. And right now, we are following the CDC language, but we're also being very mindful of our local and state and county mandates as well. So we're paying very close attention to what's happening out there. So as you can see, we strongly recommend face coverings when social distancing is not possible or where it's significantly challenged. There are individuals in the community that cannot wear face coverings for specific reasons, so we do ask that to be mindful of that, that some folks do have extenuating circumstances.
We do strongly recommend that they're worn during times of transition, such as elevators, hallways, doorways — anywhere where you may be close in close contact with someone, even just in passing. And I guess, lastly, what I'll mention about face coverings is that we do have some areas on campus that will make them mandatory due to the instructional requirements or simply the activities that take place in that space where social distancing may not be possible. Any facilities that have that requirement will resubmit request for approval to our Safety Advisory Group and we'll review those and make a final recommendation to the advisory lead team. Next slide. And I'm going to go ahead and pass it over to Dr. Hermann. She's going to share a little bit more about face coverings and then take you into some other aspects of safety that we've been working on.
Cynthia Hermann, Executive Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center & Chief Medical Officer: Thanks, Brandi. So I wanted to go into face coverings just a little bit more. Research has shown us that face coverings, as well as social distancing, are two of the best things that we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets that an infected person produces when they cough, sneeze or even talk. We know these droplets can travel up to about six feet, which is where the six feet that we've all been hearing so much about comes into play. And those droplets can land on another person and then thus infect the person next to us.
If you're wearing a mask or a face covering, it helps protect you from passing an infection along to other folks. There are times when someone might not know they are infected, and this is one of the ways that we can help stop that transmission. It's really important to wear face coverings in areas where you can't socially distance. So on campus, some of those places, like Brandi mentioned, are in hallways, maybe really small classrooms, laboratories, common spaces in the Union and in residence halls. And we know that face masks are — face masks and coverings — are strongly recommended for the UNT community. It's important that we all do our part to help protect each other.
One of the key things that we've been hearing about on a state and national level is the importance of having adequate testing and tracing capabilities. I'd like to talk a little bit about that next, and what you UNT’s plans are. Here at Student Health and Wellness Center, we are currently collecting nasal swabs, and we are sending those samples off to an offsite lab for testing. That test will look for viral particles, and we typically get those results back in about two to five days. We're looking at obtaining equipment and testing kits to be able to conduct tests here on campus in our in-house lab, where we can get results back in as quick as five to 15 minutes. This would be really helpful for us in clinical decision-making and especially when we need to make decisions on whether folks needs to be isolated from others or not. Timing is really the essence, and so having those results quickly instead of waiting two to five days is really key. I've also been charged with leading a committee of faculty members to create a random sampling test group that will help establish a baseline of prevalence here on our campus. The goal is to start that at the beginning of the semester, and right now I intend to focus on students living in residence halls.
One key piece of testing that is currently taking place is with the Athletics Department, since the Athletics Department was one of the first groups back on campus. Since March, they, along with several Division One peer institutions, have made the decision to test all staff and student athletes. Staff and student athletes are brought onto campus, they have their test collected, then they're sent home. They only get to return to campus and begin their training programs after they received negative test results. The next step that I'd like to talk about is case investigation and contact tracing. There's a lot of buzz going on around contact tracing these days. Oh, next slide, I'm sorry. And the next one, even.
There's a lot going on, a lot of buzz, around contact tracing, so I wanted to go into that in just a little bit more detail and let everyone know what is involved and some of the more specifics about it. So contact tracing is a core disease control measure that's been used by health departments for decades. It's key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Informal case investigation has actually been going on here on campus since March, while we were looking at positive cases, and if we felt that the UNT community and campus was safe as far as risk of exposure. We have a health crisis team, and this is something that the health crisis team is used to handling with other communicable diseases on campus. Some examples would be tuberculosis or measles or mumps. So this is nothing new that we are coming up with, it's just simply going to be on a much larger scale. Recently, the CDC had specific instructions and guidelines about how to develop the case investigation and contact tracing program. Following these guidelines and working closely with Denton County Health Department, we are creating a robust program that will help mitigate risk and decrease exposure for the campus and the UNT community. Case investigation and contact tracing is a highly specialized skill, and not just anyone or everyone should be doing it. It requires specialized training that really focuses on providing support as well as confidentiality. And in order for it to be effective, it depends on everyone's participation.
Lastly, as Brandi mentioned earlier, we did create a tool to help folks self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. I think that's going to be really useful and handy to help people keep track of what symptoms they may or may not be having and when they might need to contact someone else for more investigation. And I will turn it over to Provost Cowley.
Jennifer Cowley, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs: Thank you so much. Our Academic Affairs Restart Committee has been working hard to make our classrooms as safe as possible in all of our other academic learning environments. We're working through the details of how to create a socially distanced classroom and making decisions about what our class schedule is going to look like. As you can imagine, with more than 10,000 courses offered on our campus, it's a complex exercise in order to determine how we can best create a socially distanced classroom and a safe environment for our students and faculty to learn in.
For faculty and academic staff, tomorrow we have an Academic Affairs Restart Town Hall where I'll be going into much more detail about what fall planning looks like, and I'm happy to provide more detail at that time. So I encourage you all to attend that event as well. Next slide, please. I'm going to provide a very brief update on the staging of our reopening, just to give you a flavor of the kinds of things that are going on and the work that is happening across our campus to create an environment where we can all be safe. I won't be going into all the details of the bullets — it’s just a taste.
In June, we focused on a very limited reopening. This has meant that, for example, our MFA students could access their individual studios and our music students could practice individually in a music practice space. Next slide. As we look into July, we will begin the next stage of our reopening. That means that we're going to have a limited number of in person classes that are being offered — a total of 13 will be available. And we’ll begin to start offering student services that are available in person, as well as continuing with the great virtual services that we have been offering.
As we head into August and prepare for our students to come back in the fall, we’ll be ready with full-scale dining and residence halls, which Elizabeth With will speak to more a little later. Next slide. Once we get ready and get back for the full fall semester, we expect that about 50% of our staff will be back and providing services on our campus community. We also expect that about 50% of our classes will be available in person. Those are going to be largely smaller classes in socially distanced classrooms. Additionally, we expect to be able to offer group events and begin to have the kind of student engagement that our students really want to be a part of.
With that, I'm going to turn it over to Elizabeth With. And again, I invite you all to participate in tomorrow's Academic Affairs Town Hall meeting for a deeper dive.
Elizabeth With, Vice President of Student Affairs: Thanks, Jennifer. I'm going to talk a little bit about what the Student Life Advisory Group has been working on and then I'll kind of flow into kind of what the student experience, what we anticipate the student experience will be for folks in the fall. Right now, the Student Life Advisory Group is looking at events and programs in basically four facilities — and you'll see that the Union, Coliseum, Apogee Stadium and Gateway Center are our large facilities. Our ability to have large programs, that will have to be in those large facilities. So we're evaluating those programs and seeing which ones can move forward, and those programs are based upon — we really are looking at those that are helping with student retention. We're reviewing all our departmental events and programs and that folks want to have an August and September to try to make sure that we can, that they make sense for us and that they're important for our campus community. From there they go to the Safety Committee to be evaluated to make sure that they can be a part of the opening in fall. We're reviewing all of the student life reopening plans — whether that's housing, dining, Rec center — all of those are working their way through our processes as well as the Safety Committee as well.
We know that some students will have to isolate or quarantine during their time in the fall, and so we're making sure that there will be support available for those students. We don't want them to be on their own, and we want to make sure that we can provide as much outside the classroom and inside the classroom support as we can for those students. And then finally, we do anticipate that student organizations are going to be functioning in the fall, and so we're reviewing that plan with our students right now to determine what that will look like. Now, I know there's some perspective — you can keep it on the same slide if you want, we'll be going to that one next. I want to talk a little bit about what the fall will look like for any prospective parents in the group.
I'm one of you. I have a child that just graduated from high school who's going off to college in the fall, and all she asks me is, “What’s college going to be like? Will I have a real college experience?” I know at UNT, our hope is that students will have as real of a college experience as possible. But we want to make sure that we're safe. And so I want to talk about a few of our buildings and a few of the activities that we know we will have in the fall and kind of what we're doing to get ready for those.
You've heard a couple of times — this form, this self-monitoring form has been mentioned. The social responsibility is going to be critical for our success in the fall. So students and faculty and staff, our ability to monitor our own health to ensure that we are not negatively impacting others is going to be crucial to our success. So this form will be sent to all students who will be living in the residence halls a couple of weeks before they come into the halls. We're going to be asking them to monitor their health because we know that we want our students living on campus to be safe as well. We will have two students living in each room, unless it's a single room. We do have some triple rooms on campus, but we will not be tripling them this year. There will only be two in those rooms. Our whole point is that we want to make sure that we can be as safe as we possibly can. We've got cleaning protocols in place in all of the halls, making sure that we are sanitizing and cleaning daily, especially in the public areas. We want to make sure that doorknobs, all of that is cleaned routinely so that we're keeping the spread of the virus down.
Know that Move-In Day is August 14, 15 and 16, and during this time we're going to do all that we can to limit the number of folks that are in each hall and moving in each day. It's important that people make reservations and we'll have that reservation process up soon so that we don't have people all over. And we're going to ask you to stay to that reservation, because we will be planned by building, by floor, by wing even, just to ensure that we don't have — we have as few people passing each other in the hallways as possible. We’ll have sanitizing wipes, we’ll have carts, we’ll be cleaning the elevators. All of those things will be done during that time frame. And also signage talking about social distancing and wearing masks where appropriate. Roommates will have some guidelines. They’re going to have to come up with an agreement. So they're going to agree to where they will go in making sure that they understand that they trust each other about what's happening within. How they're going to be cleaning their room.
We're still evaluating the types of visitors that we’ll allow in the halls, whether that's another resident from another hall, whether it's a family member, that's still in our discussion and we'll have more information about that as we get closer to the beginning of the semester. Like I said, we will be cleaning daily there will be signage available all around our residence halls. We had music practice rooms in some of the residence halls and those will be available to reserve and we'll keep an hour in between those residents — in between those reservations, so we can go in and make sure that we're cleaning those rooms adequately. For those that will require delivery process for food, we will have that available.
We talked a little bit about isolation and whether or not students will need to be isolated or quarantined. We will have the ability to isolate some students on campus. We are holding back some rooms where our residents only —should they need to isolate or quarantine, during this time. We'll also have a contract with a local hotel and in case will need to go to more than what we have reserved on our campus. Dining — and I think there's been several questions already in the chat about “what will dining looks like?” Well, think about what it looks like at your restaurants.
We are, we will socially distance as much as possible, especially in our lines. We will require masks for students that are in line and getting their food. Think about the retail sites in the Union, especially in the seating area though masks will not be required. It's difficult to eat with a mask. And so we will be separating tables as much as possible within our dining facilities. And we're going to use all the space that we can across campus. So, for example, we'll use some of the Library Mall until it's too cold to be able to be out in the Library Mall for tables for students to be able to eat.
We’ll hopefully be able to utilize some space in the Union as well. Maybe one of our ballrooms to be able to expand seating. We're going to get rid of all the self service options so that people can't be taking things, everything will be served to them or it will be grab-and-go. We’re doing all that we can to make sure that we are limiting the spread of the virus. Our Rec Center opened on July — opened on June — will open on July the 1st, excuse me, and we're excited about that opportunity. Many of you may have visited gyms already in your areas.
And we're doing a lot in that building to make sure that it's safe as well. Limiting the capacity and making sure that we've got sanitation available to clean equipment before use, after use. We want to make sure that we are spreading out and not having. We know that it's difficult to wear a mask when you're exercising. It's not recommended to wear a mask when you're exercising. And so we need to make sure that we've got this bubble of room between people while they're on our equipment within the Rec Center itself. By the fall we're hoping that we'll be able to have intramural activities in some form or fashion. That's still up for discussion, figuring out how we’ll be able to do that, but maybe spreading it out over multiple fields, or multiple courts.
We’ll indeed have cleaning stations still in the facility, when we get to the fall. And also making sure that we utilize our weight equipment — it’s going to be off on one of the courts as well so that we can spread it out and have more use for our students. From the student activity/student organization perspective, you heard me mention that we‘ll have student organizational meetings, we believe, and so we're finalizing that process and what it looks like. We want our students to be able to gather and we want them to be able to learn and grow from each other, outside the classroom as well. And we'll make sure that all of the requirements are up and working. Many of our students meet in the Union, so the spaces are being evaluated for what the capacity is in the rooms in the Union and outside those spaces, making sure that social distancing is in place. We've got some great signage that I think the President will talk about as we look at our opening. So I'm going to kick it back over to him and let him tell you about what we're — how we're preparing the campus for you in the fall.
President Smatresk: All right, let's take a look at the next slide please. One of the things that we have to do is make sure the campus is ready for you. And we've done all kinds of different things. You've already learned a little about the safety training that we're going to have for students, faculty and staff. We've got a creation of ‘return to campus’ guides that will be shared with the community soon. It's quite detailed, as you know. Some of you have probably already taken the safety training. There'll be several different types and they'll also be some tips and traps for people who are concerned about those who aren't following their social responsibility for us.
We also have a health and safety awareness campaign so that you can go ahead and check the COVID-19 section in every one of our UNT Today — they come out three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Installation of signage in the high-traffic walkways, restaurants, and so forth is going to be there. We hope people will actually look at it, it's very attractive created by our UBSC group. And continued updates to ‘HealthAlerts’. Whenever something changes and you need to know it, you can find a complete record of all of our alerts there. Can I have the next slide.
So the guide for returning to campus, as you can see here, will be fairly extensive. We'd like each of you to be able to get this online as soon as it's completely covered. We're still having our groups finalize this now, so I don't believe it's quite ready yet, but it's close. Next slide. I thought we’d show you some pictures of the signage around the campus, for example, ‘Heroes Wear Masks’. About social distancing, ‘Eagles Disassemble’ and, of course, encouraging people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer to avoid spreading COVID.
These signs will be placed around campus and you'll sometimes see signs that say, ‘Entrance Only’ as opposed to ‘Exit’. Although, in many cases, it's very difficult for us, because of the age of our buildings, to limit traffic to one direction or another through a building. Next slide. Next slide. You'll see that we've got social distancing guidance in place, some will be for the various shops that we have, we're going to, especially in queuing areas. We hope to have some queuing software available too to let people order food and pick it up. There'll be a lot of grab-and-go options available. Next slide.
In classrooms we’ll make sure that people are socially distanced. Each classroom will have a cleaning kit and students and faculty and staff can use them as needed. This type of arrangement will be quite common. And in fact, it's one of the reasons why we haven't gotten a published class schedule yet because it's pretty hard to assemble all the classes that we're going to. We hope, as you heard from our Provost, about 50% of our classes can be appropriately given in a socially distance environment. Of course, in these environments we want people to wear their masks. Next slide.
Here's a look at a residence hall. They’ll be spaced out. We’ll ask for the dining to be spaced out as well so that people aren't — especially in an unmasked situation because when you eat, you have to be unmasked — needlessly spreading COVID. Okay, the next slide. I want to thank you and we're ready to do some Q & A now. I know that there's many, many different questions that have been put forward and we're here to address them. I believe that Jim will be reading them out and he'll see which one of the panelists might be most effective at answering them. Thank you all, and I hope this at least brief introduction that we've given you gets us off on the right foot and answers some of the questions that you've had. Jim…
Jim Berscheidt: So Neal, why don't we just stay with you for a moment because we have a question from faculty or staff, I'm not sure which one, but it's about the five advisory groups that you mentioned, and we’re — this person is wondering if those groups are soliciting feedback from department stakeholders, and if so, how is this happening, and if not, is there a formal way to engage with those leaders.
President Smatresk: Well it all depends on which groups you're talking about. Some of the groups, like the ones that Academic Affairs has going, are groups that are getting a lot of feedback from across campus from the different colleges and the chairs and the campuses. We've been having regular meetings there. Other groups around operations have been getting feedback from within the specific areas that they're going — that they're concerned with. If you want to give feedback in general, a good way to do it is through these types of town halls. So the Q&A process.
And if not, you can send an email to any one of those leads that we put in that slide. And since this is a recorded presentation, the ‘Reopening and Safety’ PowerPoints that we have will be posted here after so you can determine who the leads for the different groups are so you can always email them.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you Neal. And let's go to Elizabeth for the next question. Someone wrote in and asked about living arrangements for freshmen. So the parents said that they already have one child at UNT and they're wondering whether or not the freshman requirement to live on campus could be waived. So the siblings could room together off campus and be able to have some social distancing.
Elizabeth With: Sure, happy to answer that one. So, well, we're not going to waive the living requirement for on campus. We do have an exception form. And so if you would like to go to the Housing website that's available there. To be able to complete that exception, and one of the exceptions is living with family, so please go to that Housing website and complete that form.
Jim Berscheidt: All right. Thank you, Elizabeth. So let's go to Cynthia Hermann. Cynthia, we had a question about procedures at the onsite clinic and what — what do you have in place to safely treat and isolate potential COVID patients?
Cynthia Hermann: So we're doing lots of different things. We've never been closed the entire time. So we've been open the whole time. And we've had to adjust some of our processes as we go along. Whenever anyone calls in to schedule an appointment, they're being asked some screening questions to figure out exactly what type of appointment they need and also to get them — to see what their risk might be for having COVID. When folks come in, they are advised to bring their own face covering with them. We do have a nurse sitting in our rotunda, who is again going over screening questions and taking people's temperature before they enter the clinic.
If someone has a fever, they answer ‘yes’ to some of those screening questions, or they tell the nurse that they have potentially been exposed to COVID, that person is set in — set aside for just a second. The nurse comes down, gets them, and take them up directly to the clinic through a back elevator so that they're not sitting in the reception area. They're not, you know, worrying about paying their copay or this or that. We kind of get them back. Get them isolated very quickly.
The medical provider comes in and assesses their symptoms to determine if they need testing or not. All of our stuff had been trained and appropriate PPE, masks are required in the clinic at all times for our staff and we asked the students to wear them as well whenever they come in. So I feel like we've been doing a really good job of staying on top of what we can to protect the health and safety of not only our students, but our staff working here at the Student Health and Wellness Center.
Jim Berscheidt: All right, thank you Cynthia, appreciate that. I'm going to address one question that just came in and it is, “Is the ‘Return to Campus Guide’ document that will be posted online Screen Reader accessible?” First of all, just to let you know it will be posted at the ‘HealthAlerts’ site. And we're going to make it so that we can continue to update it. So if you go there versus downloading it and passing it around, you're going to see the latest document at all times and our team will make it accessible. So they are aware of your request and they'll make certain that happens. We're just in the final stages of editing it right now. So let's go to an academic-related question go back to the Provost. Jennifer… Somebody asked the question, “What is the purpose of switching to online after Thanksgiving if we have already been on campus?”
Jennifer Cowley: The main reason for choosing to move to remote instruction after Thanksgiving, and this is a choice that many of our peer universities have made, is that we know that our students are going to be traveling. And some of them traveling significant distances, and some of those locations where they may be traveling to may be remote hot — hot spots. And given that we only have one week of instruction and then final exams, it isn't practical for students to potentially self-isolate for that two week period. So we made the option to go ahead and move to remote instruction for that last bit of the academic semester. That way, our students can stay put. Or they can return back to the residence hall, whatever their choice is, but we're limiting the risk of potential spread of the virus on our campus during that time period.
Jim Berscheidt: Alright, thank you. So the next question has to do with campus jobs. So maybe Elizabeth, would you like to take this one? And it has to do with how campus jobs for students are going to be handled, considering that they rely on the jobs for some income.
Elizabeth With: So we will have students working on campus again. So, and our hope is to have as many students working on campus as we can. As long, as well, as long as we can socially distance them. So pay attention to the Handshake website that's part of our Career Center and they would have — they will have open positions. But the same process that we will have for faculty and staff on campus we will have for students working in positions. And we anticipate that we likely will have some students telecommuting in the fall semester as well for their positions. If those positions allow for telecommuting. But the, strongly encouraging masks, having social distance while they're in the office, and you saw some of the things that the operations committee is looking at, whether we need plexiglass in some of those areas. So all of those same conditions would apply for our students as well.
Jim Berscheidt: All right. Thank you, Elizabeth. Let's go to Brandi for a question about quarantines. I know the safety committee has been spending a lot of time talking about quarantines and this may also be something that Jennifer wants to weigh in on. But Brandi, one question specifically had to do with 14-day quarantines related to international students and if international students might be handled differently. Do you want to talk about the whole reporting procedure? And maybe the Provost would want to talk about anything related to the international students returning.
Brandi Renton: Sure, absolutely. So I see a lot of questions — and they're great questions — around, “What do I do if I develop symptoms of COVID-19 or I test positive, or I may come in contact with someone that has a tested positive?” So I want to make sure I give you all the information for our COVID-19 hotline. And that can be reached, you can call there any time, it's 844-366-5892. And we also have an email address as well. And that's simply COVID@unt.edu. If you, a student, faculty/staff member, anyone in our university community that's coming on site or is on site, if you experience any of those or if you have employees that call you or students that call you, and tell you that they have symptoms, we ask that you stay home and that you call the hotline to report it.
From there, we have a team. Some of my team members in Risk Management, as well as some under Dr Hermann's guidance in the medical center, work very closely together to begin the case investigation and then they also work on our UNT, or our on-campus community contact tracing protocols from there. So that, that's kind of what starts happening behind the scenes as far as the reporting process. So just really important that you do report. All that information is kept confidential obviously, it's protected under medical information or HIPAA. So it's shared on a very limited basis. As far as individuals that need to self-isolate, we, Elizabeth, Dr. With talked about isolation spaces in the dorms. We also have some options for hoteling off campus if that's necessary as well. But the specific question around international students. I will let Dr. Cowley or Dr. With explain that process as the students start to come back from where they might be and get ready to come back on campus.
Jennifer Cowley: Absolutely. We will be reaching out to our international students and communicating to them about orientation and about procedures. We're asking anybody that has traveled internationally and is coming to our campus, such as visiting scholars and others, to be able to self-isolate and self-monitor for 14 days before coming on campus. And so I will be providing those instructions for international students as it gets closer to the start of campus.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, thank you, Provost Cowley. Let's go back to the President for just a minute because we have a question about financial assistance — financial assistance related to COVID for our students. And of course, we've talked a lot about some of the federal funding we have received and President Smatresk, I wonder if you wanted to talk about the funding that's been given, and anything that, you know, students might want to know right now about the future?
President Smatresk: Well, I'm not exactly clear what someone means when they say, “What kind of funding is available because of COVID?” What we have had is the CARES Act. And there's a portion of that CARES Act, $14.5 million, that's available for direct support of students. We've passed out around 10 million of it right now from last spring, and in this summer. There'll be some additional monies that are available for the fall to support students who are financially distressed. During this time, the application process through tiny URL at UNT at ‘dot UNT’ I believe ‘dot edu’ is available now. Jim, I know you're aware of that website as well. So if someone's experiencing financial distress every semester that you're enrolled in this institution, you can apply for this funding.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay. Thank you, Neal. One other question that a faculty or staff member wrote in had to do with what the school districts are doing in the fall as compared to what we might be doing with some starting back up and folks are a little bit concerned about taking care of school aged children and maybe, I don't know if you'd like to make a comment about this? Or talk to, maybe we ask Brandi to address it from her conversations with HR, but…
Brandi Renton: Certainly, so I would ask a couple things. If there's anyone in our community as an employee that is high risk or at risk, I do ask that you reach out to HR and discuss your different options with them. There could be some alternative options for you, but also as we move into the fall semester I know we're all concerned, I'm concerned as well, I think many of us are, with school aged children at home. We don't always know what their school is going to look like this fall.
So a lot of a lot of us are very concerned about that. What I will say is that I think the best thing for everyone to do that has those concerns, is discuss it with your supervisor to find out what kind of options you have as far as teleworking, remote working, whether it's fully or partially, or changing hours or shift times and things like that. But there may be some other options as far as leave options as well. So I would ask you to reach out to HR. They can be reached at 940-565-2281 and they also have an email address and it's HRadministration@UNTsystem.edu. But they would definitely be able to help you talk through your concerns for the fall and possibly what options you have.
Jim Berscheidt: Brandi, maybe we just stay with you for a minute since you are one of the leaders of the Safety Committee. We've had a lot more folks writing in about the mask question. And even though it was brought up briefly, people were wanting to know more about the requirement versus not required or when those decisions could be made. Would you like to address that in more detail?
Brandi Renton: Sure, I will definitely do my best. And we are obviously monitoring this very closely. I know there's a lot of questions. And there's a lot of concerns out there. We're continuing to follow the CDC guidance. There is some syllabus language that has been adopted that will allow some classrooms to make face coverings mandatory if necessary. But as far as overall, what you'll see in our guidelines is a strong recommendation to wear them and what we do ask is, and I think about it in terms of myself, that even if, you know, there are folks in our community that may feel that they're not at risk, or they are not maybe concerned, or choose not to wear a face coverings for whatever reason that may be, we want to really think about our community around us and the family that we have here at work and to try and be helpful and help not spread the virus. So we strongly recommend the use of them. And we are working through guidelines to help with situations and circumstances where they are required around non-compliance. So Jim, I don't know if that helps. But I know there's a lot happening right now and we're seeing some cases rise throughout the country and in our local areas.
Jim Berscheidt: And we’ll continue to post the latest guidance, of course, on the ‘HealthAlerts’ site and send out messages in UNT Today about that work. Let's go back to the Provost to ask a question about students and in class. So one person submitted a question, Jennifer, about how can, “How could professors help the students, if a student contracts COVID?” I assume they mean related to your coursework. And then, “What is our protocol going to be if a faculty member happens to get COVID when they're teaching here in this semester?”
Jennifer Cowley: Great, thank you. So for our students who are experiencing in person classes and they become ill, we're asking them, of course, not to come to campus. If they contract COVID then we have a process in place for making accommodations. And so what will happen is we'll have drafts. We're working on draft syllabi statements that can go into the syllabus, that provides direction for faculty and students about making up exams and other kinds of activities that will be necessary. In addition, all of our general classrooms have technology that allows for students to participate via Zoom if they’re home and ill and unable to participate, or in that self-isolation period. And then, of course, we’ll make accommodations to be able to make up work if students are too ill to participate in class. As for instruction, all of our department chairs have been asked to come up with plans should there be a short term need to step into a class because the faculty member has become ill.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay. And I just want to make a quick point that we just discovered that someone has been using inappropriate language on the chat. So we're in the process of deleting that right now as fast as we can. And I just want to remind people to please be respectful. We have faculty/staff on and students and parents that will be watching this as well, and please conform to our guidelines for a conversation that is appropriate. And again we apologize, but we will delete the comments as quickly as we can. So, Brandi, let's go back to you for just a minute on a safety question and it has to do with monitoring fevers and and the criteria for people monitoring, and when they should call into the hotline or maybe excuse themselves from work. Do you want to address that point? I know the fever question has been discussed a lot about self-monitoring or potentially, you know, having assistance at work in that regard.
Brandi Renton: Yeah. Sure, I'd be happy to. There — when the pandemic started, we had maybe, what, two or three symptoms that we really had to monitor for. So high fever, persistent cough. And now we have many more. So we, we do have self-monitoring guidance out there and ask you to do that off site before you come on campus. We do ask that if you have any of those classic symptoms of COVID, or a symptom of it, that you go ahead and call your supervisor and let them know, but also call our hotline. You will be referred to someone who will be able to talk you through that situation. But we want to be mindful of the fact that you may need to counsel with someone. And there'll be able — that person that you speak to will be able to give you advice of what you should do next.
They will ask you a lot of questions, potentially about who you've been in contact with and if you know that you've been exposed to anybody with COVID-19, but they do, they’ll do a full discussion with you and, if needed, to provide you some guidance of what to do next. And they work closely, if you're a faculty or staff member, with HR. And if you're a student, they're going to work very closely with you and refer you directly to Dr. Hermann's team at the Student Health and Wellness Center, so you can get medical advice right away.
Jim Berscheidt: Alright, thank you Brandi. I want to address one question that came in and it had to do with the announcement about the town hall. And just communications that we're sending related to, anything related to COVID or other things. For those of you who have been gone, of course, during the summer so far, but also maybe we're not as active in the late spring due to the COVID situation. In May, we launched UNT Today, and that is a daily newsletter, it will be daily wants to semester resumes. Right now, it's Monday, Wednesday and Friday and that goes to all faculty and staff, you do not need to subscribe to it. That contains information about these town halls, HR related, anything else that you need to know as a faculty or staff member. So if you just look for your email every day.
It's in the vicinity of 9 or 10 O'clock each morning. UNT Today will have the information about future town halls and information you need to know. Let's go back to the Provost for just a minute. Jennifer, someone asked a question submitted in advance, “What can a student do if they do not feel comfortable in the in-person classes?” And I know we touched on that earlier. But I think people may have joined late, so if you could go back over some of that.
Jennifer Cowley: Absolutely. So we have certain students who may have health conditions that really limit their ability to participate in a fully in person schedule. If that's the case, they can reach out to their advisor and see what may be possible in terms of creating a fully remote or online schedule. So our advisors are prepared to help support our students who may have a need to be fully remote in the fall. For our students. Some of them may have courses that they absolutely have to have and can only be available in person because of the nature of the instruction, we're doing everything we can to create the safest environment possible to help support our students’ learning.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, so there is a follow up question. Jennifer and it has to do with the academic advising so you address going into class and someone wrote in and asked how we would handle academic advisor appointments, you have students refuse to wear a mask or aren't abiding by the social distancing. Has that been discussed?
Jennifer Cowley: Yes. So we are working on social distancing plans for each of our advising offices to make clear where students should sit and stand so that we can help support our students get the advising that they need. As for guidance about how to handle situations as it relates to face coverings, our safety committee is working on guidance that will be available to help support our staff and faculty in covering the various situations that may come up. So please stay tuned. We'll we intend to have a greater guidance that will be forthcoming in the near future.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, thank you. Brandi, let's go back to you for just a second. One person wrote in to ask about again, an HR related question potentially related to workers compensation. If they contract COVID, has HR been working on different documents related to, if someone contracts COVID, then how they file to be inactive as a staff member temporarily?
Brandi Renton: Um, I would recommend reaching out to HR for that question specifically. I will certainly check on it as well. But I would recommend reaching out to HR and we can definitely for whoever the person is that asked that, if you'd like to contact me directly, we can definitely get you an answer.
Jim Berscheidt: All right, thank you, Brandi. We had someone write in and asked whether or not there's going to be a transcript available of the town hall. And yes, there will be. So as soon as we are able to post it, and then we'll have a transcript that's associated with it. So Dr. Hermann, I wanted to go back to you for just a minute and ask you a question related to appointments and how students would be able to come in and see you and any concerns about COVID? So do you want to cover that again since we will have parents and students also re-watching this town hall?
Cynthia Hermann: Sure. Of course. So right now, there are three different ways that students can make appointments at the Student Health and Wellness center. One, they can call in. Number two, they can schedule online through our student health portal. And then the third way is they can walk in and ask for an appointment, talk with a nurse, let them know what symptoms they have going on. At each of the points there asked screening questions and sometimes they’re asked those screening questions multiple times. On arrival to Chestnut Hall, folks have their temperature taken. They're also given a mask if they don't have one already.
If someone has a fever or if they report “yes” to any of the symptoms, or if they say that they've been exposed to COVID that person is not going to be in the reception area. They're not going to go to our front desk. They’re not going to stay there waiting to be called back for the appointment. The nurse is going to come down and take the student back upstairs through our back elevator to the clinic, put them in an isolation room directly and then the medical provider will be in and fully assess whatever issues they have going on, make the determination if they need a test or not and then go from there.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay. Thank you, Dr. Hermann. Let's go back to Elizabeth With for just a moment. I know the President earlier showed a slide at one of the residence halls … the dining facility … but we've had a question come in, sort of in mass about dining halls, dining facilities in the residence halls, so I didn't know if you'd like to maybe readdress that in more detail about some of the work that you and your team are doing on the dining facilities.
Elizabeth With: Sure. So we're working on spacing up tables and places as much as we possibly can. So from a seating perspective that we can provide social distancing. But remember, I think I said earlier is that we're not requiring masks in the seating area just because you can't eat with a mask on. So, similar to what you've seen restaurants if you've gone out to restaurants lately. We are ensuring that there will be social distancing in place and you saw from some of the signage that when people are in line to get their meal, or in the retail spaces even, not the dining hall, but even in the retail spaces that there is signage on the floors that students can utilize to make sure that they are properly social distancing. We are asking that students were there masks when they're in line as well.
And we’re hopeful that that's going to be helpful. We have taken away all options for self-serve in the residence halls so students will be able to serve themselves with condiments with anything. All of that will be given to them, whether it's a grab-and-go type of meal, or whether or not it's a served meal in the dining halls. And so sanitation has been stepped up in the dining halls, you'll see a lot more cleaning that will be happening routinely as students are in there as well as in the retail spaces in the Union, trying to make sure that we're doing all that we can to help limit the spread of the disease.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, thank you, Elizabeth. Brandi, let's go back to you because there's another safety related question. This one is about the Plexiglas that was discussed and the installation. Someone, who apparently will be returning during the first week of July, wanted to know if all of the dividers will be in place where they've been identified they need to be by July 6th?
Brandi Renton: Sure, I know that the facilities team is working diligently to get all the Plexiglass that we've requested to install installed by July 6th. Because I don't know what specific area this is, if someone could reach out to myself or Dave Reynolds, who oversees facilities, we’d like to make sure that the specific question you have about your area, let's make sure that we have all the information and we're all connected. But they are doing their best and working very diligently to get everything out as quick as possible to make sure we're ready for July 6th.
Jim Berscheidt: Let's keep this with you for a second, Brandi because somebody asked about the one-way traffic in buildings and whether or not that's going to be practical. Do you have a particular answer to that one? I know that it can be difficult.
Brandi Renton: This is what I will say. I know that the facilities and operations advisory group … this is a continual conversation I know they're having and they're working through. Some areas it's a little easier to do things like this. And in many cases, it's a little, little more of a struggle. So what I will say is I don't have a definite answer today about what that will look like broadly because it could look very different in every building. But I know that they're working on it. And I know that they're having those robust discussions about how, if, when and where could that happen.
Jim Berscheidt: And then also related, Brandi, is a question about accessibility and for people with disabilities. And I know that has been discussed in the safety committee. Do you want to talk about that?
Brandi Renton: Well absolutely and I saw some questions about the social distancing and the signage. I know it was developed, Jim your team did a great job building it and developing it in high contrast to try and help those folks that are visually impaired, but we are having discussions around all the other types of signage and things like that. So again, we don't have specific answers. I know we are working diligently with a couple faculty members that have reached out to help provide us with some guidance. We've also been in contact with the ODA office, as well as HR, to talk through what are some other options … some things we could consider. So while it's not all employed just yet out on campus, I know we're having those discussions and we're working through that. And there are a lot of really good comments and questions out there about that. So we'll be making sure that we take that back to the group to make sure that we're discussing it and that we address it as we can.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, thank you, Brandi. So we've also had quite a few questions related to
water fountains and other things in the buildings and how they're going to be kept safe. So I think Brandi, since safety is such a big part of this conversation today, maybe we go back through a couple of things related to what facilities is doing related to water fountains and some of the other things, where are high-touch items and maybe just cover that for a moment.
Brandi Renton: Sure, absolutely. So the, the water fountains, just a little bit of clarity on that. They're actually turning those off. So they're not able to be used but leaving the other filtration devices if it's not attached to the water fountain on to fill bottles for bottle filling. The elevators signage I know it's going up as we speak, as well as the rest of the signage across campus. Jim, what else? I know there are other comments out there want to try to address those.
Jim Berscheidt: That's what I was trying to look at some of them because there's been a lot of questions about the safety piece of it, especially, you know, the mask and the one-way directional signage. And I'm just trying to see if there are some here that we have not gotten to yet. What are some of the other things that you can think of from the safety committee, we have not dealt with so far that might be helpful for faculty and staff and students and parents to know?
Brandi Renton: Sure. So let me, let me think a little bit here. We've talked about the different guides that we're developing and putting out there. We've talked about the guide around
for students and employees for 14 days before they come back to campus to use as a self-monitoring tool to take their temperature and symptoms before coming back to the institution. I think some of the other things that would be really important, making sure that any questions that you all have related to leave, high risk, staying at home, whether or not you can remote work or telework to make sure we work through that with HR. We are working on and have we're just finishing up finalizing some scenario guides. I saw some questions out there about how do I know what to call, who to call when? And we hope that those guides will help guide you through that whether you have symptoms, whether you've been in contact with someone, or whether you're just concerned. So we'll have a guide for faculty/staff and we'll have a separate guide for students to help walk them through the different scenarios. I'm trying to think of what else that we haven't hit yet. Okay.
Cynthia Hermann: Um, so one of the things that the safety group has been working on is just about every department on campus has been turning in reopening plans. And so before people come back onto campus or as they come back onto campus, they're submitting different plans that cover lots of different things that are specific to that area. So social distancing in the area, sanitizing the area, different things like that. And so each group or each department turns in this reopening plan. And then our safety group goes through all of those and makes any changes or recommendations before that goes on to the lead group to be decided on before someone comes back on campus.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay, thank you, Dr. Hermann. Thank you, Brandi. We're just looking at some of the questions coming in and trying to make certain that we can cover a majority of them. And just so everybody knows, there was a problem with the feed to YouTube. So we had a few dozen folks that were out there trying to watch. We are going to be posting this, the entire broadcast and sending a note out to students and to parents so that they can watch it all and read the transcript. We apologize. There was a technical issue moving it from Zoom into YouTube for some reason. So that is being looked into, but unfortunately we were not able to resolve it for today. But this will be posted so everybody can watch it. So at this point I think I'd like to move around to each of the panelists one last time and just ask them to make any closing comments. And then we can continue to answer questions offline and see what other things that people might have questions about. So let's start with the Provost. Provost Cowley, do you have some closing remarks?
Jennifer Cowley: Absolutely, I'll just reinforce Jim that we are taking every step we can to focus on all of the issues that need to be thought through as we’re planning for the fall. One of the topics that I saw raised a number of times was around how do we help support our faculty, students and staff with disabilities and how do we create the most accessible campus possible? And so I typed in one of the comments that Jim, we’re working with your team in terms of thinking about the signage, and how do we make sure our students, faculty and staff who have visual impairments are able to be able to understand the changes that we're making on our campus. And so I'll just point that out as one of hundreds and hundreds of examples of issues that we're working through. This is a very complicated challenge that we are all committed to sorting through together. And so I know we don't have answers to everyone's questions today, but we're continuing to make progress and are committed to regular updates to our community to let you know the progress that we have made.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you, Jennifer. Dr. With, do you want to close it out related to your portion of it and Student Affairs and the student portion?
Elizabeth With: Sure, happy to. And I think I just want everybody to know that we are planning for as many scenarios as we possibly can. We want your students, we want all students to have the most robust campus experience as possible in the fall, but within the guidelines of being safe. And so know that there are numerous folks working now and late into the evenings and weekends, every day, every week doing all that we can to make sure that the facilities will be open and safe and sanitized and clean with proper signage. And that we're developing protocols and we're developing processes so that as many student groups can meet and as many activities that students want to engage in that they have the ability to do so. We know what's important for student retention for them to be able to become connected to their campus and we want to provide as many opportunities as possible for that.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you. Dr. Hermann, do you have any more words about the health care?
Cynthia Hermann: Thanks. Good. So one thing that's important is that this is ever-changing. And I think that we've all learned that lesson from when this started in late January, early February. Up until now, things change. It seems like sometimes on an hourly basis, but please know that here at the Student Health and Wellness Center that we are constantly monitoring the changing guidelines and recommendations from the CDC. We also take guidance from the Texas Medical Association. There is an organization called the American College Health Association that I'm a member of that is for college health centers all across the United States. We're not isolated in dealing with some of these issues and figuring things out. And so, that always helps me feel a little bit better knowing that there's other folks that are working towards the common goal that we are. I work very closely with the Denton County Health Department.
I probably have at least one conversation with them a week. And so anything that we do moving forward, especially with the case investigation and contact tracing portion, it's going to be critical that we work hand in hand with them. And then lastly, at the Student Health and Wellness Center’s, my main goal has always been the health and safety of our students. So we are here. We're committed to doing what we need to do to take care of folks and we're ready to have folks back on campus and keep them safe.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you, Dr. Hermann and before we go to the President to close us out, Brandi, from the safety committee, would you like to say, any final words?
Brandi Renton: Sure. And you know, I think, I think the three of them … everybody has said things very well and our Safety Advisory Team and Stephen and I on behalf of him as well. We are all working very diligently and very focused on the safety and health of our campus community as we slowly start to reopen. If there are questions that we weren't able to answer or concerns. I see some folks emailing now about Plexiglass … I know that's been a lot of questions around that, please feel free to reach out to us. As they've said, some of this feels like it's changing sometimes hour by hour and we're doing the best we can to pretty much work around the clock to adapt and adjust and be flexible and also to make sure that we're supporting the other advisory teams and the institution as a whole. So please feel free to reach out as necessary and let us know if you have any questions.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you, Brandi. Now let's go to the President and asked him if he could just close this out for today.
President Smatresk: Yeah, first of all I want to thank everybody. Jim, great job moderating and to all the panelists: Brandi, Cynthia, Elizabeth, Jennifer, you've done a good job I think trying to outline the high points. We recognize that not everyone will have their questions asked because there are 1200 people right now in this town hall. A good turnout and indicative of the interest that everyone has in the topic. I think that what's critical here is that we are adapting to news on a nearly daily basis. I've heard major concerns around masks and mask usage. I will tell you that I feel we're moving progressively toward a required mask policy, however, enforcement is very, very challenging. And no one … I'm in communication with 30 to 40 presidents every week … no one yet has an answer to that, especially when that may fly in the face of certain other mandates or executive orders out of our governor's office. So we're working very diligently to try to come up with progressive educationally satisfactory and caring approaches to how we get and how we interact as a community to keep ourselves safe and to make sure that we can continue with the important mission of educating the students who come here and I can't emphasize that enough.
There were a lot of, also concerns about telecommuting and rotations. And while we haven't settled on any of those as a university wide policy, it's pretty obvious that some units will be more engaged and some units will be able to continue greater amounts of telecommuting. If you're working in the physical plant telecommuting doesn't work very well. If maybe if you're working in the finance section, telecommuting may continue to be very strong options for us. We will not overload office spaces. We will not overload shared spaces. And we will be committed to making sure that whatever happens allows for a great deal of feedback between our employees, our faculty and our students to make sure that we're doing the best job possible. And I'm confident that I've seen incredible coming together as a community. I've seen really creative solutions to the different problems and challenges that we have and you know that if we continue to care and respect each other that will be able to move through this as well or better than any other institution in the country. And that's what we're shooting for. We're shooting to be an exemplar of how to do this. Do it right and make sure that people still get the kinds of on-campus experiences that they really want to have. So I hope I've addressed most of your questions.
I noticed there were some questions about football. I really won't be able to answer those very directly, other than we will have football, provided that there are challenges with COVID in the athletics groups and that we have right now, no particular solid plans about how we're going to populate the stadium. Next time we'll have to bring Wren Baker back so he can talk to you a little bit more about how we can do larger scale events still safely and make sure that we're being considerate of everyone.
With that, I hope that you've learned a little bit today. I hope that we've answered a lot of your questions. I know that the transcript of this will be available. And the Q&A questions will be done. I've we've been doing them with every town hall. We've been making those transcripts available so that people can review them. With that, I want to thank again everybody who took the time to come here and I know that working together, we're going to be strong. We're going to be socially responsible. We're going to take care of our Mean Green family. So thank you very much.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you, Mr. President. And with that our town hall on safety and reopening comes to an end and we will keep you updated on the latest, again for you in UNT Today and other communications. We’ll eventually have another gathering like this down the road. Thank you for joining us.