Reopening Update Town Hall Transcript - Aug. 6, 2020
Jim Berscheidt, Vice President for University Brand Strategy and Communications: Good evening everyone, and welcome to the President's Reopening Update Town Hall for, particularly, students, and for parents. I'm Jim Berscheidt, Vice President of University Brand Strategy and Communications, and I'll be serving as the moderator this evening. Tonight we have several administrators who will be sharing information regarding further reopening of the university as well as a lot of work that's been done during the summer. Following the presentation and the slides we'll have a Q and A time. The questions have been submitted in advance, but you can also send in your questions live, for students who are logged into Zoom, through the Q and A section of the portal. For parents, you can email us. We'll be monitoring the account firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you're watching us live on YouTube, we're monitoring that account as well. You can type your comments and we'll be sure to include them. Also, a reminder, the captioned video and the PowerPoint slides will be posted later this week on the president's website. Finally, we’d also like to welcome Kaylee Floyd, who is our American Sign Language interpreter joining us today. Our presenters are UNT President Neal Smatresk, Provost Jennifer Cowley, Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth With, Dr. Cynthia Hermann, Executive Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center, and Dave Reynolds, Associate Vice President for Facilities. Now I'd like to welcome the president and ask him to begin our town hall.
President Neal Smatresk: Well, hello everybody. Welcome, and I'm really glad you're here. You know it's been an odd summer. It's been an odd spring, and we're all ready for a little bit more normal. While I can't promise that we'll be reopening the same way we open every year, certainly, I can tell you that our first concern is to allow students who come onto our campus to have a great experience and a safe experience. One of the things that we're trying to do this year is reopen and reopen in a way that allows people to make academic progress. Many of your students are signed up for classes that really require an in-class face-to-face experience, and I know that that's one of the bigger concerns that everyone has is how is that going to go. These experiential classes are critical for students to make progress, graduating, towards their degree. And so we have placed an emphasis on those classes and in providing our freshmen a chance to have a great experience inculcating them into college and university life. Now, you all have come here because you want to know how we're going to reopen, and you want to know how we're going to do it safely.
So today — if I could have the next slide, Jim — we're going to be covering a wide range of topics. We'll talk first about what's changed since the last safety town hall in June. Today, we're going to cover each of the major reopening groups: our academic Return to Learn group, our Safety and Incident Management group, our Physical Operations group, our Student Life group, and our health groups. We'll be covering a great deal of material that I think you're going to find particularly helpful and will answer many of your questions. I'll go briefly over how we've actually created a very thoughtful plan and a plan approval process. I want to highlight that everything that we're talking about can be found — our plan can be found — on healthalerts.unt.edu, so you can get a detailed view of what we're planning. This website is updated and our plan is updated on a continuing basis so that every time we make major decisions it's reflected in the plan, and this is the first place you should go for information. While we're along the way, I wanted to mention just briefly: this past year we received CARE funding. We distributed over — we're in the process of distributing over 14 million dollars of emergency grant and aid to students who are experiencing financial difficulties. That money will be available briefly in the fall, and we hope that we'll see another stimulus act that will allow us to further fund students.
I know many of you will have questions about athletics. We'll have some specifics, but at this point, we plan on opening athletic competitions in September according to all NCAA guidelines and all Conference USA guidelines. We're hoping for a great season. We'll be taking further steps to understand what socially distanced viewing of our athletics events might mean, and we have not yet reached a decision on that. However, we do plan on having athletic events. Our athletes, by the way, are mostly here already.
I'll give you a quick summer and fall enrollment update as well, briefly, as I close out my next section. You know, the next month here is probably going to be the most critical and important and challenging month in our history. We face uncertainties around enrollment and stimulus funding and the changing course of the pandemic, but a lot's changed since our June 17 town hall. We've added masks are mandatory, along with social distancing. Our research programs are in full swing, and we've been offering face-to-face instruction in the second summer session — very successfully, I might add, with students being very compliant in terms of how they wear masks, and with our classrooms that we're doing currently being quite safe.
So today we're going to go over our capabilities and plans for testing and tracing, our Return to Learn plans for face-to-face instruction, how we're working operations in the physical plant, and we're going to talk a little bit about residential life, dining and events. Again, this plan that we've generated has been approved by the five lead groups that we have. We have advisory groups in a variety of areas, I'll talk about those briefly. And not only have the advisory leads developed all of these recommendations, our cabinet and System Board of Regents and I approve everything and update these as conditions evolve. Just for fun, let's talk a little bit about summer and fall enrollment. Many schools around the country are experiencing major declines in enrollment, in summer enrollment. We saw about 60 increase, so students have been enjoying what we're offering, whether it's remote or in person. We also have seen fall enrollment, which we feared would decline due to lost international students and other factors, is currently about two percent higher than we anticipated, and two percent higher than last year. So we believe that our enrollment will be very strong, and again, that offers strong assurance to you that many other students are making the same choices that you're making. We've also continued to work with our advisory groups and other partners on what the spring semester is going to look like for students, faculty and staff. What i want to assure you of is that we're going to be flexible to ensure we're opening and reopening the safest way possible, and we have many different levels of contingency plans should anything arise. Finally, the work that you see and that you will see today has been done by hundreds of people working very, very hard to try to assure the most safe reopening that we know how to give. So I want to give them my heartfelt thanks, and I hope that you'll also appreciate what you hear today about how well we've managed this pandemic and the amazing job and the many hours of overtime it took to getting us here. Next slide, thank you.
So one of the things as we prepare the campus is we have made student training mandatory. Students should take this training. It’s available on Canvas as of last week, or two weeks ago, and they should take it before coming to campus. While the training isn't tedious or onerous, it does explain that being safe is a social responsibility we all have, and we want our, all of our students, faculty and staff to be ambassadors for modeling the right kinds of safety behaviors. We have a health and safety awareness campaign, so you'll find ongoing information to keep our campus community safe, and we have a COVID hotline that we launched in June to help community members report and understand COVID symptoms, testing information and results, to receive guidance on the actions that they might need to take following exposure. And with that, I want to say we've installed a lot of signage around our campus, and I've already talked to you about the email@example.com. Can I have the next slide, Jim?
Okay, I talked about five reopening committees just briefly. Academic Affairs, Operations and Physical Plant, Research Advisory Group, Safety and Incident Management and Student Life have all been very, very busy launching what we're going to hear about today. And the next slide. So let's talk a little bit about where we are currently. First of all, we have division plans for each office complete, and students will be able to access both virtual and in-person services where they're needed. I know it's been a little challenging sometimes in the virtual environment. We plan on being staffed as needed, of course, with students wearing masks when they're in buildings and/or when they're within six feet of each other. We're ready for student move-in the residence halls, and we're scaling dining to support the expected campus population. Our classes will commence August 24, barring further incidents. Our UNT Recreation Center is open. Again, sports attendance will depend on guidance provided by the conference in the state of Texas and NCAA. And we'll be going remote after Thanksgiving. If students still need to live on campus that's fine, but we plan on offering virtual sections so that people don't have to come back from all of their holidays and possibly risk the spike in the contagion and finally the next slide.
All right, I’m now going to turn it over to our provost who's worked incredibly hard to try to make sure that there are seats available for our students for face-to-face classes and that they're done in a very safe way. Provost Cowley.
Jennifer Cowley, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs: Thank you. We are so looking forward to having our students back in person, whether that be fully remote, partially remote or in person. We had to make a number of changes to our academic schedule this fall to accommodate social distancing and to help support students who need fully remote schedules or have preferences for in-person classes. I really encourage everybody to take a look at your schedule and to make sure that you understand how each of your courses is going to be offered. Next slide, please.
So, if you go to my myunt.edu, that will provide you the information about your particular classes that you've enrolled in. Some students use the visual schedule builder, and we encourage you, for that final schedule check, to please use the myunt.edu and not the visual schedule builder because you have more complete information with this search mode. Next slide, please. I'll just show you one example from Spanish 1010. This is an elementary Spanish class. And you'll see at the top that there are multiple tabs including meeting information, enrollment information, class details and class availability. What's important to note here is this one is listed as a hybrid delivery format that's on Tuesday/Thursdays from 2 to 3:20 p.m. And what's important to note is in the enrollment information it designates that half the class will meet once a week in a classroom. What will happen is, as a follow-up, the week before classes start you'll receive an email from your instructor letting you know which day of the week you are scheduled to attend in person. So in this particular place, half the students will attend on Tuesday and half the class will attend on Thursday, with remote instruction for the remainder of the week. So be sure to check your notes section to make sure you understand if there are any specific details related to your class, and that you can expect more detailed information the week before classes start from your instructor themselves. Next slide, please. One other thing to note is that for classes that are meeting in person, students will have an assigned seat for the semester and attendance will be taken in each class session. This is an important part of our contract tracing program that Dr. Hermann will be explaining more about in a few moments. Additionally, that first class day, faculty, review the safety protocols for example cleaning workstations and entry and exit to your classroom. Next slide, please.
To help support our students’ learning we have installed in all of our general-purpose classrooms cameras and audio so that persons who need to remain in isolation or quarantine will be able to join their class remotely while instruction is delivered in person. Additionally, we have prepared 23 classrooms that are equipped as high-flex, allowing for an enhanced remote experience for those students that need to be separated from campus for a period during the semester. And finally, our computer labs have been enhanced as well to allow remote access from home to access software programs that are available in our campus computer labs. Next slide.
We understand that some students have mixed schedules with in-person and remote classes mixed together. We've designated Perch Points that are rooms dedicated across our campus allowing for students to take a remote class from a room on campus. That will help with those students who may have back-to-back courses (one in person and one remote) and for our students in the residence halls or who need a quiet space in order to engage in their remote instruction. So, more details to come on the specific locations of those Perch Points in the coming weeks. Next slide.
We have added some new programs to help support our new students. We know that some of our traditional freshmen, those first-time-in-college students, are going to be participating in a fully remote or online schedule. We've created a new program called UNT to YOU to add many of those engaging experiences that students would get from living on campus in a virtual environment. We also have our First-Year Experience pilot program that we've invited several hundred of our students to participate in. Those are residential students that are first-year students. Many of our international students have been unable to get their visa to come study in the U.S. because embassies have been closed due to COVID. We've created an International Remote Start program to allow those students to enroll this fall in a fully remote schedule and then join us in the spring in person once they've been able to obtain their visa.
And finally, we understand for our recent graduates in May and August, that some of their plans may have changed as a result of employment changes due to COVID, and so we've created a fast-track graduate admission program to allow our students to continue studying at UNT. Next slide.
Now, a few things about our return to campus. At the present time, all events are currently on hold, and that includes our student organization meetings. We do hope that we will be able to allow events in the future, but they will require prior approval so we can ensure the safest meeting environment possible. Additionally, university-sponsored travel is not permitted at this time. And, while we welcome our family members to come help our students move in during our move-in period, visitors are not allowed on campus outside of that designated move-in window. Next slide. From our health alerts website, we have a link to the Return to Learn website—that’s our academic affairs site that talks about all of the changes that are happening on our campus that are directly related to our improvements in classrooms and changes so that we can support our students and faculty and their learning in the upcoming fall semester. Next slide.
I just want to conclude by saying that our response to COVID-19 has been comprehensive, as President Smatresk talked about, and we've been working hard to create the safest environment for our students possible. And students have been part of those changes. This summer, our textile lab students were busy creating cloth masks and sewing those for people across our university community. And our College of Visual Arts and Design and College of Engineering partnered to use their fabrication laboratories to fabricate face masks that— face shields that are going to be used by our College of Music students. So it's a partnership with our students, faculty and staff all together working to create the best learning environment possible for our students this fall. With that, I’d like to turn it over to Dave Reynolds, who's going to be talking to you about changes that you'll see inside our classrooms.
Dave Reynolds, Associate Vice President for Facilities: Thank you, Dr. Cowley. And teamwork really is kind of the key strategy that's been going on across the campus. It's been incredible to see everybody work together. I'm going to talk to you a little bit about the teams that have been working across the campus to get our facilities ready and talk a little bit about this approach that we've taken with over 170 facilities and 7 million square feet. It's been a pretty herculean effort through the summer — 300 plus people working on it and just doing a fantastic job.
First thing I want to talk about is kind of our approach to this. So, it's not a single line of defense, if you will, against the COVID virus. It's a multi-prong approach. And I'll talk through many of these in the following slides, but we're reducing densities which means we're putting fewer people into classrooms, we're reducing rooms and use. All of our classrooms will not be used in the fall. We're doing things with our air conditioning systems like increasing ventilation and outside air, managing the humidity and changing out filter types. We'll talk more about that. Disinfecting and cleaning has been going on throughout the campus since the beginning of this pandemic in March, and that's across all classroom facilities as well as residence halls and dining. We've been stressing wear masks, wear masks, wear masks, and you will hear that a lot on campus. Students will hear and see a lot about that as well. And then, finally, we've been stressing communications — and that's not only communications amongst our teammates that have been working on buildings to get them ready, but communications across the campus amongst all of our other teammates, and then communications with our audiences out there: parents, students, faculty and staff. Next slide.
You’re going to see a lot of signage across our campus as we get back in place this fall. We've got social distancing signage that we worked with our university branding team on, and these signs, similar to this one you see, they say “Don't perch here” using our Scrappy themed social distancing. You'll find these signs all over seats, tables, entrances to buildings just to continue to remind us to maintain our social distance, wear masks. Hand sanitizers are placed — hand sanitizer stations are placed at the entrances to buildings and other floors of buildings near elevators, near stairwells, and these are across the campus. I'll show you some numbers and examples a little bit later on. We're also still in the process of putting out hand sanitizer. Lots and lots of bottles of hand sanitizer in common areas and lobbies, with the goal that if you look around you're going to find a bottle of hand sanitizer very, very readily available. Following CDC guidance we've turned off our water fountains. Where we can we've left the bottle fill stations associated with those working. We've even worked on our plumbing systems throughout the summer; while we're focused on COVID there are other things that can go wrong if you don't use plumbing systems and buildings that are not as heavily used as they normally are. So we've been flushing our plumbing systems to make sure that we can maintain a chlorine residual in all of our pipes and sinks. And finally, we've marked our elevators and changed the occupancies. All of our elevators now have a maximum occupancy of two people, and there's a couple that actually can only hold one person because of their size. And again, that's all about social distancing. Next slide.
Signs, signs everywhere. There's safety signage for you. Here's a few examples of our Scrappy themed signage. More signage. We've got it on the floor reminding people for cueing distances to stay six feet apart and also in going up the stairs. Next slide. Air filtration. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning has been one of the great topics you've seen in the news media. We have been staying abreast of the latest guidance, we've worked with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, also APPA — which is a professional organization associated with higher education facilities management — staying in line with what they're recommending and the changes that have been coming down. For our HVAC systems we've modified our outside air intakes and our humidity controls, trying to make sure we're optimized right in that sweet spot that these agencies are recommending for outside air changes and humidity levels. We have the ability to remotely check those. We've got energy management control systems that report back to a central location, and we can actually monitor those from a distance. In fact, we can monitor them from telephones and many of our technicians. We've replaced HVAC filters actually multiple times in some of the buildings because this has been one of those changing recommendations from the regulatory agencies. The first recommendation was replace your filters immediately. So, we did it. Then it was maybe not. Dirty filters actually do a really good job of helping filter out viruses and contaminants. So, we started to leave them in until we got newer guidance that says increase the efficiencies of your filters with going with a high MIRV level filter and so we're accomplishing that.
Many buildings are accomplished, others are still in progress but they'll be done before school starts and then finally, we've been keeping abreast of the latest in technology. Whether it's ultraviolet air cleaning technology or bipolar ionization and we can actually have installed some of the bipolar before the pandemic. We're installing more now in fact as we were on this call, I just got a note saying three more buildings are underway. So, we continue to work the latest technology. Next slide.
Classrooms. A lot of social distancing in the classroom. So, our space management team on campus and our facilities team following CDC guidance have gone into our general-purpose classrooms and modified the seating. So that we have six feet between students and six feet between instructors. All of our enrollment capacities or what we call caps have been tied to this socially distant seating and again it maintains that we have that six-foot spacing.
You're going to see floors and you're going to see some examples and pictures here in a little bit of how we've marked the floors, we've got blue tape that shows where the chair legs should sit and how the students should be situated to be apart from the professors. Next slide.
Terms of numbers and some fun facts. We've already done almost 160 classrooms and 22 buildings and moved a lot of tables, a lot of chairs, a lot of tablet desks and in fact in some rooms we found out it was better if we changed the type of furniture and moved it out because there was furniture that could make that room more effective for social distancing. Thousands and thousands of signs and stickers are scattered across the campus, now in these buildings and we're still working more rooms. The two images on the right are one of the standard operating procedures that our project managers and our facilities design team used to train other members of their team how to lay out a classroom and we took it a little bit further than some universities.
Some places, largely due to their size, had to settle for just doing a percentage of their original seating and that would be the new capacities. We actually used computer-aided design techniques and drawings to lay out room by room the six-foot distancing requirements and specifically be able to identify how many people could safely meet CDC guidelines in that space. Next slide.
On this one you see some little blue dots at the legs of the chair so that indicates where the chairs should stay to avoid six foot, breaking the six foot. Next slide. The music classrooms have been also realigned so that we've got more spacing between members there and practice sessions.
Next. Laboratories and in this one you can barely see the plexiglass because it's so clean and new but we've got a lot of Plexiglas and I'll show you some numbers again in a minute but again, separating the laboratories not only are the students separated by space but also by Plexiglas. Next slide. We've created these sanitation kits and deploying them out into classrooms across the campus sometimes multiples of these and so you know how do you make something stand out you make it camouflage right but actually the camouflage buckets really stand out in the classroom environment and within that you'll find disinfectant bottles, spray bottles, hand sanitizer and paper towels. So that everybody can participate in wiping down seats and tables as we finish classes.
Custodial has been on campus the whole time and these slides will be available but there's a link to some frequently asked questions as well and then my last slide just some fun numbers here. Sneeze guards, we bought a mix of off the shelf sneeze guard, special order and we made a lot of sneeze guards. We bought a lot of plexiglass and we've got some great technicians who could very cost effectively make these plexiglass stands. They also made some hand sanitizer stands and again we purchased a lot. We got almost 400 hand sanitizer stands on campus and another 100 in reserve 100 plus in reserve once we see how the student traffic flows and where else they might be needed. And you can see here the wall of buckets as we were bringing these in and preparing them to stock them and to keep it above the line is just a reminder of our staff. Keep their attitudes above the line stay positive keep moving forward and keep working a positive manner. Over 500 of these buckets and I'll turn it over to our next presenter.
Cynthia Hermann, Executive Director of the Health and Wellness Center: Thanks, Dave. My name is Dr. Cynthia Hermann and I’m here to talk about safety and incident management as well as health and wellness. So, I’m a member of the safety and incident management advisory group that was mentioned earlier in the presentation. We are a very busy group and there's lots of things that we look at and take into consideration at our meetings twice a week. One of the things that we've asked all departments and divisions and offices to do is to turn in reopening plans and so it's the job of the safety and incident management group to review each of those reopening plans to make sure that they meet all the criteria we're looking for as we work to bring folks safely back to campus.
Earlier you heard about safety trainings for students that are required but also know that this is also a requirement for faculty and staff members. We have developed two trainings so far and each person is required to complete those. I went through them and I think that they're really excellent and a great way to just kind of, some helpful reminders for folks as we all return back. As the Provost mentioned, we are not hosting any events. Right now, they are on hold but in the event we're able to return to those, there is a form that will be filled out that we can use to help determine that the event or make sure that the event is as safe as possible. The next thing I want to talk about is the COVID dashboard website and so that'll be a place where people can go to at any time to look at active cases, current numbers of infections got different definitions on there that can help people out and other helpful information.
Next slide. This is an example of what the website, the dashboard will look like. We expect that to be up and running within the next week. You can see here it lists active cases and there is an important reason to make a distinction between active cases that have a direct impact to campus and active cases that don't have a direct impact to campus. Our students have been fantastic about calling in to the COVID hotline reporting their positive cases and when we talk to them and ask them there are several folks that haven't been on campus or quite a few folks that haven't been on campus since May, whenever the university went remote. So, while this is important to note and count as an active case, excuse me not May, March. This is important to count as an active case but this person would not be directly impacting campus by having their positive case. They haven't been here or had any exposure to anyone within our UNT community. A different example of an active case that would have a direct campus impact is if we had someone in a class test positive or someone in our residence halls or a student employee test positive. So, it is important to make the distinction between the two of those and that's one thing that we're looking for our dashboard to do. It’s a place to go where people can get more information. Next slide.
As you've heard from several different folks, face coverings are now required for everyone on campus. Faculty, staff and students. You've seen pictures of the hundreds of face shields and face coverings that have been distributed throughout campus. If someone needs a face mask they can go to different locations across campus and pick one up. Say if they have one then it falls out of their backpack or maybe one of the ear loops breaks, they can go find other ones there so they can continue to be safe as they travel our campus. If there are any questions about accommodations regarding face masks, we ask that students reach out to the Office of Disability Access and faculty and staff reach out to HR.
You can see on the bottom there are some examples of just some different kind of fun things that we've been able to do to help educate folks about wearing face masks and you can always head to our Health Alerts page for more information. We're trying to do a good job of making lemonade out of lemons and so we had a student contest where we asked folks to design a fun mask for people to wear. So, this is the winner. I think it's really a great design and I really appreciate our shoot, our student’s creativity and their enthusiasm for getting behind this initiative. These are going to be given to all of the students who are going to be living in our residence halls. Next slide.
Again, just some more contact information regarding any questions or guidelines about face coverings so please contact the Office of Disability Access. If you don't have time to write this information down, just find it on our website there and it can get you connected to the folks that you need to be. Next page is our student Health and Wellness section. So, this is the area where I’m a little bit more comfortable with as I’m the executive director of the Student Health and Wellness Center. You've heard a mention of our hotline. This was launched in the middle of June for faculty, staff and students. We're asking them to call with anything that is COVID related whether that's calling to report symptoms, calling to report test results, questions, people thinking maybe they've been exposed and what they need to do to keep their campus safe. We're really allowed to give a lot of guidance on here and provide some direction and I’ve been very impressed with the level of attentiveness that people have given this and wanting to call in, wanting to make sure that not only they're keeping themselves safe but their fellow UNT community members.
A couple of things that we're doing here as far as health precautions, we're asking everyone who's going to be on campus to self-monitor for any symptoms before coming to campus every day. This includes looking for the various symptoms of COVID-19 as well as taking your temperature. We're all pretty familiar with what the symptoms are but if there's ever any question, you can go to our health alerts page or you can also check the CDC website for any reminders or any updates on symptoms. We're asking that folks limit interactions that could put them at risk for COVID-19 exposure. If anyone has symptoms or has tested positive, you are not supposed to come to campus. This also goes for anybody who's awaiting their test results. Sometimes there can be some delays in testing so until we know for sure exactly what's going on, we ask that you stay home. If the student is on campus and expresses that they're ill whether they're maybe talking to one of their professors or talking to an RA or their supervisor, students will be directed to visit the Student Health and Wellness Center. When there, we can do a more thorough evaluation, figure out what it is that's going on and work to get people feeling better. There's information on the side there about the COVID hotline number as well as an email that is very similar. So people can send in questions, comments, concerns to the firstname.lastname@example.org and we can also address things there. Next page.
So, contact tracing and case investigation is a big part of our COVID response. So, we've worked very diligently over the last several months to develop a contact tracing team that focuses on our UNT community. We have seven to eight full-time staff members that have been identified. These folks will be doing case investigations, answering the COVID hotline number, responding to those emails we discussed. We also have approximately 50 people trained to help assist as needed as the volume goes up. When we get positive test results, we ask those folks to self-isolate and if we find out that we have close contacts of someone with a positive test, we ask those folks to self-quarantine. The next slide has a great definition of those and I’ll go over those in just a second but it is important to differentiate and try to use appropriate terminology when we're talking about this. If a person has a positive test, we get in touch with them and we conduct a very thorough confidential interview and we ask lots of questions. Where they have been on campus, did they attend classes in person, do they live in the residence halls, do they have any residents?
We're also looking for any people that could be identified as potential close contacts during their infectious period. We confirm people's class schedule with the registrar so we know exactly what classes people have been in and then we're able to reach out to faculty members and ask for the seating chart and for the attendance record that Provost Cowley mentioned earlier in her presentation. This is really important when we work with our contact tracing team to reach out and identify folks that may be affected by this positive case. Next slide.
So, very quickly we'll go over these important terms on the side here because they do help kind of tie together some of the things that we've been talking about. So, a close contact. The CDC finally put out some recommendations and some very specific definitions which I’m thankful for. A close contact is defined as someone who is within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes and the time frame we're looking at is two days before that person started developing symptoms. Close contact does not depend on whether you do or do not have a mask on. So, if you've met that definition then you meet a close contact whether a mask was worn by either party or not. It's also important to note that the 15-minute time frame is cumulative, so it's not just little pieces throughout the day but we're looking for any time that adds up to 15 minutes or more. When we talk about isolation, isolation is where we have people who have symptoms or who are ill or have tested positive and we want to keep those folks removed and separate from the general community to help prevent other folks from getting sick, so that is self-isolation where we talked about that. Self-quarantine is those people who've been identified as a close contact according to the definition above. We are keeping those people away from the general population as well in the event that they might develop symptoms over the next two weeks. So, these people aren't sick, they aren't developing any symptoms but we know that there is a potential there based on their contact so it's important that we keep them separated as well. There are differences between the isolation time periods and differences between the quarantine time periods and that is based on the incubation period, how long it can take before the virus presents itself with various symptoms. Our contact tracers interview people and they find folks that are identified as the close contacts, we reach out to those folks that are directly impacted so they'll get a phone call from one of our contact tracers letting them know that they have been identified as a close contact. This is all done confidentially. We never disclose the identity of the person who's tested positive. Many times people know because it's their friends or family and they've already reached out and told them that. We never confirm or deny who the positive case is during these phone calls. People usually have a lot of questions that we're able to answer for them but this is the time for us to provide them instructions, letting them know that testing is available for them, monitoring what symptoms they need to be looking for, when they can be eligible to end their quarantine and come back to campus.
So, there's a lot of information that's passed back and forth between these people. Facilities is notified and they provide appropriate sanitation for the rooms. If there was a positive case in a classroom and then last but not least faculty are expected to show a video that lets everyone know of the positive case. Again, just because there's a positive case in the class doesn't mean that the entire class is a close contact. If the positive person's sitting in the front and we know that because of the seating chart and someone else is sitting way back in the back that person isn't in close contact and they are not considered to be at risk for an infection but maybe the person right next to them is so that's where that seating chart and attendance records come into play. During this video though we want to be open and transparent and let people know that there was a case in their class. We can review symptoms that people might want to be on the lookout for, remind people to seek care at the Student Health and Wellness Center and just provide some general information and some reassurance we've done this in the past with other types of communicable diseases but we decided that a video might make more sense logistically.
Next slide. Last but not least I want to talk a little bit about testing information. So at the Student Health and Wellness Center, we do have the capability to test symptomatic people. We do have a rapid antigen test, so typically results are ready within 15 minutes. It's very helpful because we know at the time that the person is here, what they're going to need to do and able to start the case investigation piece and provide specific instructions for them. We talked about people identified as close contacts within the UNT community, so we will also let those folks know that they can come to the Student Health and Wellness Center and be tested free of charge if they have been identified as a close contact of a positive case. Now one thing that's important to note and that can get a little bit confusing is that say a person is identified as a close contact, they come in and get tested, their test is negative which is great but that does not change their need to quarantine for the next two weeks because we know symptoms can develop at any point in time over that two-week period there. So, negative test results are great and reassuring but they don't change our quarantine requirements and one last thing that I wanted to just kind of comment on and help make folks aware of is testing. Testing prior to returning to campus and should everybody be tested and all folks who are coming to campus be tested before they get here. I know there are some universities that are following that game plan.
That is not something that is recommended by the CDC at this time. It's also not recommended by the American College Health Association which is the national organization for Student Health Centers at universities across the nation. Testing before people come to campus is a snapshot in time. It's a one moment kind of time where you can see what is going on. Right after you have that test and you go to Kroger afterwards or you go to the store or you go to work the next day, you could be exposed and test positive and those negative test results that you had the day before really don't provide us as much information as we would like to.
So that's one of the reasons why we have chosen not to institute mandatory testing for everybody coming onto campus. So, next slide. And now I will turn it over to Dr. Elizabeth With.
Elizabeth With, Vice President for Student Affairs: Cindy, thanks. It's my pleasure to be with all of you tonight and talk a little bit about what Housing and Dining are doing to be prepared for the opening of the semester and so move-in begins August 14. So that's a week from Friday and we've asked folks to sign up for times, for 30-minute time slots. Note that those 30-minute time slots are your time to get in, get your keys and get your things to your room. You'll have time to move-in and set up your room in addition to that 30 minutes, not just 30 minutes for the entire time. I noted on the slide that random testing we described it earlier. Let me tell you a little bit about the random testing we're doing for our residents. Cindy did a great job as our Chief Medical Officer talking about why we aren't requiring testing of everyone but we do think it's important to do random sampling testing because it will allow us to get an idea of our baseline, how many folks on campus might have the virus and it'll also help our ability to also isolate the virus and get it off campus and so we're testing about 400 students between Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th. Those students have been sent an email and already asked to participate in the in the testing program and we want to be able to get a baseline for those particular students. Students will go to the health center before they report to their residence hall so we won't be have them move-in and just in case someone is positive but our hope is to identify who is positive for the virus, allow them to isolate on campus or off campus their choice.
And then be able to follow up again with testing on the Thursday and Friday before school starts also by wing. And so, you'll see as you're looking at this slide that we're doing everything we can to create a pod, a family, a group. We really want to phase in students to our campus.
We have a large housing system that typically has about 6,800 residents. We anticipate we will be about 90% full this Fall but we're giving each wing a different colored wristband and those groups, those wings are somewhere between 25 and 35 students and we're asking those students and their RA’s to stay together that that will be the group that they will be hanging out with from the time they move in until classes begin on Monday the 24th. We really want to limit their interactions with others. We want to get an idea utilizing the testing of our baseline and where we are, so that we can slowly integrate students into the campus community. Social distancing and masks will be required so it's not that it's a free for all for the 25 or 35 students on that wing but it's all about getting used to the requirements being on campus, being able to be ready for classes beginning and doing so in a small cohort of folks that they can develop bonds with that we know will help them into the future.
We won't be allowing guests or visitors during the first few weeks of school. We're going to evaluate that as the semester progresses. We'll have everything to do with what's happening in the community. The only exception to that is during move-in. Parents and guests will be able to accompany students and help them to move-in. We have first flight activities and first flight is our help students to transition to campus. All of those activities will be virtual this year and students will be able to do those asynchronously. So, they'll be able to do them at any point in time during the week before classes begin. There are a couple that will be at set times that are traditional events that we have including our convocation and that happens at four o'clock on Wednesday the 19th. Other programming will be led by our resident assistants within their wings and all helping to develop the community and helping them to acclimate to our campus community. Cindy mentioned that if someone tests positive what will happen with them and so if they are a resident of our campus, they will have the ability to isolate on campus, quarantine if you remember for those that are identified as close contacts. We will have space on campus for both of those to happen. Students who test positive during the movement process will have the option to isolate on campus or to go off campus and students during this the semester will have the ability to go home. Go to a family member's house off campus if they so choose, they do not have to isolate or quarantine on campus but they do need to isolate or quarantine and would not be allowed in their classes during that time frame for students who are isolating and quarantine on campus we will be we will be delivering meals to them.
Cindy indicated that folks will be contacted so if most of the situations that we've dealt with thus far almost all of them actually have been with students who are asymptomatic but health center folks will be checking in on people who've tested positive to ensure that they're doing well and recommending other types of health care should they need it during the time frame. Next slide please.
International students we always monitor the travel of international students and we're doing that again this this year specifically during the pandemic. Students who are coming from international locations will be required to quarantine for 14 days if those students are residents of our campus community. They will be able to quarantine in our housing.
Next slide please. So a few things about dining because obviously it's important to eat and we know it's difficult to eat and wear a mask. So let's talk about all the things that we're doing to help provide a safe atmosphere. Masks will be required as folks enter into our residential dining locations and students can eat in those locations or we will have takeout options available upon request for students. We're identifying one-way traffic patterns into the dining halls with all of the types of markers that Dave talked about earlier. We will have exit only as well we really want students moving in one way and out a different way so that we don't have a lot of traffic going in and out in different ways for that would increase contact. All of our food is full service. There will be no buffet lines where students can serve themselves. We want to reduce that contact we're providing additional dining through outdoor tents outside of our residential dining units and we will be cleaning and sanitizing all spaces as we always do but it will be heightened and increased during the fall semester. Additionally we'll have box lunch options that will accept residential meal plans. One will be available in the university union ballroom as well as at the Taco Bueno location as a backup in case we need it from a retail dining perspective. We'll have additional temporary seating in the library mall through October so tables and chairs set up outside. We know being outside is better and so students and faculty and staff will have the opportunity to eat outside. All of our satellite locations will remain open to ensure that we are having as many options available, as many spaces available. And those exist in the GAB the BLB and also in Wooten.
As I mentioned, we're eliminating all self-service options especially in the Campus Chat, food court, Avesta, which is our on-campus restaurant will be open as well and students will be able for breakfast and for lunch. We're not normally open for breakfast but we will be this year and we'll have limited dining room seating, but also have the opportunity to take out food if they'd like. What I want you to hear about dining is that they're scaling up to support the expected campus population but we're prepared to move to 100% takeout service model should that be necessary for our campus.
I want to talk a little bit about services that we're providing for students. All of our student-facing offices are returning to normal working hours by Monday, August 17. We will have limited staff available in person, but we will be serving students in both an in-person, as well as a virtual format and it might mean that a student walks into an office to meet with somebody and is seated at a table or at a computer having a virtual meeting with someone but we want to be able to accommodate students in all forms and fashions because we want to be able to support them. So we will meet them in the environment with the mode that they are most comfortable with. As I said staffing will fluctuate to accommodate our on campus on campus students’ needs. We will still have staff telecommuting on a rotation basis throughout the fall semester.
Next slide please and I'm going to turn it back over to Jim Berscheidt to close it up for us and move to questions.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you Dr. With and I'd like to remind folks about the health alert site healthalerts.unt.edu. We started this in March and at the beginning all the content was on the home page, but now it has grown substantially and so be sure and look for all the drop down menus at the top of the page. We have segmented information for faculty, students and staff and a lot of other things about personal protective measures. And there's just a lot of information there as you can see on this slide. So we'd like to remind you that it's out there and encourage you to visit it frequently for updates. We also take things like these town halls and other important information and we link it from that site so you'll have sort of one-stop shopping. So let me stop the share and we're going to go into Q/A for just a little bit with a few of our presenters. And so a lot of our folks behind the scenes have been answering questions while the presenters have been going so we don't have time to of course get to everything but hopefully we've answered most of them again through the Q/A but let me ask a few questions that have been particularly repeated and let me go back to Dr. With because one of them has to do with move-in day and you mentioned the 30-minute window but here's several questions that came in about who's allowed to accompany the students on move-in day. Can there be visitors and can the parents stay longer than the 30-minute window?
Elizabeth With: Yes they can. So the 30-minute window is really about getting students in with their keys and getting their stuff up to their rooms. We will have some volunteers that will have bins that will help to bring all of their things to their rooms. Once they're in their rooms they totally have time to be able to spend and set them up and get them to the direct to the place they want them to be. If they need to run to Walmart and come back, they certainly have the opportunity to be able to do that. We want parents and students to have that support and parents to be able to participate in that type of exercise having a freshman move into college. I'm doing that this year myself and I certainly want to be a part of that process and we understand that parents and families want to be a part of their child's process as well.
Jim Berscheidt: All right. Thank you Elizabeth. Let's go to Dr. Hermann. As you would expect there are a lot of medicine related questions health related questions for you Dr. Hermann and one of them has to do with appointments in your wellness center. Somebody asked whether or not the health center will provide telehealth appointments?
Cynthia Hermann: Yes, we are providing telehealth appointments. That's something that we have not done before but when we went remote in March we started doing it. We initially started with our psychiatry clinic but we've expanded that to our regular medical clinic as well. It has worked fabulously and that's something that we can plan to continue on doing moving forward because we have had such positive success with it.
Jim Berscheidt: And then we've had some additional questions about the 72 hour versus 24 hour and since that has been a recent change people have heard about the news. Would you like to explain that?
Cynthia Hermann: Sure, I'd be happy to try to explain that. So as we've learned more about COVID since everything started and we've been trying to look at different aspects of it. When I say we, I mean the CDC, not me. But the time frames have moved from 48 hours fever free to 72 hours fever free back to 24 hours. I think that one of the important things to note is 24 hours fever-free is typically the number that we use in medicine as when we consider people no longer infectious or being able to pass along an infection to other people. One of the things that has changed significantly as far as ending isolation periods for people, that's another question that has come up. It used to be based on repeat testing or people could be based their return to isolation on repeat testing. We know now that people can test positive for COVID-19 for up to three months after their initial infection but research has shown us that just because they test positive it doesn't mean that there's live viral particles there that are transmitted to other people. So some folks will be considered persistent positive but it doesn't mean that they are able to infect other people. That's why the CDC has moved away from repeat testing as a return plan and basing it more on symptoms. So things that we look for ending isolation now are that it's been 10 days since symptoms first appeared or for those that have been asymptomatic and never had any symptoms 10 days from their positive test that their symptoms are improving. The symptoms don't have to be resolved completely because there still can be some things that linger and that they remain fever-free for 24 hours, which is more in line with what we do for other typical infections.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you Dr. Hermann. Appreciate that. Let's go to Provost Cowley. We have a question about classes and actually two-part questions. Let me ask you both of these. How will instructors handle makeup work for students who are ill? Are there any changes I guess to what maybe has been in place? And will there be increased tutoring?
Jennifer Cowley: Okay I'll take the second part first and then follow up on what happens if the student's ill or self-isolating. So we have expanded the Learning Center's hours of operation and so we'll have more evening and weekend hours that will be available. All of our tutoring services are also available in a virtual format so students can choose to have in-person tutoring or virtual tutoring. For the math lab, writing, accounting … any of those types of tutoring services will be available in both formats. As for the second question, we have asked all of our faculty to modify their attendance policies. We recognize there may be times where students are required to self-isolate or quarantine and so attendance requirements will not be the same as they have been in the past and faculty are prepared to be able to support students who need to be absent for a period of time and to arrange for makeup work. Additionally we have invested in technology in our general classrooms. Those are our lecture style classrooms to allow students to remote in so if they're simply quarantining but not sick then they would be able to join the class remotely where possible. So those are all the options that we have available to help support students continued learning.
Jim Berscheidt: So Jennifer, one more question before you go. There is a question about specifically for music students. Are there restrictions or things that students need to know about playing instruments?
Jennifer Cowley: In this era of COVID, absolutely we're making a number of changes in the way that our music is operating. We will not have large ensembles this year. We will have smaller ensembles so students will be placed into smaller groups. We will have social distancing in some cases. The social distancing is increased to nine feet separation depending on the nature of the music that's being performed. We are acquiring additional PPE and specialized air filtration where appropriate to help support the musical instruction of our students in the safest environment possible.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you Provost Cowley. Dr. With, would like to go back to you for just a minute. We've got a couple of questions related to students on campus. One of them … let me ask the first one and then I'll throw the second one at you after that. How will students get their ID card changes?
Elizabeth With: Well, so they usually get them at orientation over the course of the summer but they have not been able to do that obviously because we've had virtual orientation. So the ID office will be available during opening to be able to distribute those for students and that will be in the University Union as well as in the ESSC? I'm saying that as a question mark and if somebody else knows a better answer please jump on but we will provide some clarification on the website when we post the answers to these questions but they will be available during the time of move in.
Jim Berscheidt: Okay and then the other question has to do with conduct on campus. Obviously some students are a little bit worried about things like COVID parties and how that could spread. So somebody wrote in and asked how do students report misconduct if they know about it?
Elizabeth With: Well anytime there's an allegation of a violation of policy students can report that to the Dean of Students office and so that website we can also add that email address. We can add to the responses to the questions when they go online. The behavior regarding people hanging out with groups and other places … I don't believe that that's going to be something that the Dean of Students office is going to respond with sanctions. I think those would be conversations that we'll have with students. We're talking a lot about social responsibility and social distancing and that our behavior can negatively impact the health of others. That's what all of our training is about and that's what we're hoping to instill in our campus community. And so we hope that other members of the community are helping other students and other members to see the importance of being responsible about their health and that is making sure that they social distance and wear masks.
Jim Berscheidt: Thank you, Dr. With and let's go back to the president. As we start to wrap this up we have one question. President's Smatresk, and then maybe you could just then jump in and sort of summarize and maybe close us out here. The question has to do with none other than football. Somebody is asking are we going to have football? And if so, how are we going to handle seating capacities and such?
President Smatresk: So the plan right now is currently to have football. Everyone should know that the players will all be tested prior to every game and if there were any needs for quarantining or if a significant number of players were to contract COVID that we would cancel the games. A lot of conferences have gone to increase conference only games or substitute games with schools that are active and open and are within bus distance.
As far as fan capacity outside of basketball and football, I don't believe that there'll be any issues with viewing. We'll be able to socially distance for soccer for volleyball and many other events. Volleyball might get a little tricky because the quarters that we use for volleyball is quite small but we will be guaranteeing that we will socially distance. From what I understand that from the governor's orders, no more than 50 capacity will be allowed. I believe that our plans are somewhere more like 25 to 30 capacity, so should we pass games, should there not be restrictions, further restrictions from the NCAA, our conference public health officials or the governor's office, we would plan on having socially distanced fan viewership available. Although we will very much limit the number of people who are on the fields and exposed to the football players.
Now just as a point, we've had very good luck so far. We have no active cases on campus, which is great. Even though our athletes have returned and are in the residence halls. We did have some asymptomatic cases. They were self-isolated and they're out of the woods now. So right now we have high hopes that our student athletes will actually be amongst the healthiest of our populations and so using the lessons that we've learned from our athletics and from our face-to-face experiences this past summer we hope we can maintain that level of safety and that level of low incidence going forward.
So as a wrap up, I just wanted to say to everyone who showed up today, thank you very much. Your questions have been great. You've helped us think about a whole lot of different issues and we hope that we've been able to address them you should know that we'll continue to address the questions that have arisen with the various members of the panel and our leadership team and our town hall team to supply answers that will be posted and available online. The most important thing that I want to say is you know this is tricky. No one ever said the COVID situation was going to be easy to deal with. This is the most serious health event that's occurred in our lifetimes and perhaps over a century, in the last century. We are extremely conservative in how we are approaching this. We meet virtually daily. We are continuously updating ourselves on the risks on what's going on in our county in the region.
We have gone to deep preparation and I want to really thank the team that presented today. I thought they did a terrific and very thorough job. What I will tell you is flexibility is the watch word of the day. Over the next month we hope to see a flattening and a diminution of the number of active cases and active infection rates here in Denton County and across North Texas. If that continues I believe we're going to have a good launch to the fall semester. You should all understand there will be incidents. We have had incidents amongst our student athletes and I believe that those may be somewhat representative of what we're going to anticipate with our general population, but given that about 50 to 60% of students at any given time will be remote or online and then about 25% or so of the students will be on campus, we believe that we offer safer alternatives than the community. So for example when you dine with us, we believe it'll be safer than going to a restaurant which are currently open. When you take a class with us, we believe it will be safer than a public school system classroom. When you have a residence hall experience especially given that we have testing and tracing and that will be doing statistical monitoring of all the halls, we believe that it's safer than being in an apartment complex. We can't guarantee everyone that they won't get COVID. What we can do is take great steps to track and contain any particular COVID related situations that arise and to do the best we can to create a healthy environment. I for one feel a whole lot more comfortable and I've been around campus almost all summer. I feel much more comfortable on campus than I do going to Walmart. So just as an example, I believe that we're going to offer a much safer alternative than many community venues and we'll continue to work hard to keep that. If we can't, then we'll make the next steps and we'll decide whether we need to go remote or take more stringent measures. So with that, I thank everybody and I'll turn it back to Jim.
Jim Berscheidt: Thanks for the closing comments. Thank you President Smatresk and just to remind everybody that this video and the transcript of Q/A and other important materials will be located on the president's website, also on the health alert site so you can link to things. So please visit that if you'd like to re-watch or send this to folks and also we'll get to the answers to some of the questions that we weren't able to answer tonight. We'll have those posted so again thank you to the presenters and especially thank you to Kaylee Floyd, our American sign language interpreter for being with us tonight. It's been great to have someone from the ASL with us for the last couple of town halls. Thank you for joining us and have a good evening.