UGA top brass hosts Zoom call to update plans for fall semester

University plans to spend millions to combat COVID

The University of Georgia, still aiming for an August 24 start for fall semester classes, goes virtual this afternoon, with a Zoom call that will be open to as many as 5,000 University faculty, staff, and students.

From UGA president Jere Morehead…

As part of our ongoing communications outreach to the campus community, we are pleased to announce a webinar open to faculty, staff, and students to discuss campus COVID-19 planning efforts. This live presentation will occur Tuesday, August 4 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., and a reminder with the Zoom link will be sent via ArchNews on Monday. The session will be open to as many as 5,000 viewers, and you can access it by logging in to Zoom with your MyID and password. The webinar will be archived later that same day on UGA’s Coronavirus website (https://coronavirus.uga.edu/). Questions for the program may be submitted in advance (through August 3 at 6:00 p.m.) via this Qualtrics form: https://ugeorgia.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1N6kNEX5gsQ4DSB

Participants will include President Jere Morehead, Provost Jack Hu, Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav, Vice President for Student Affairs Victor Wilson, University Health Center Executive Director Garth Russo, AU/UGA Medical Partnership Campus Dean Shelley Nuss, and College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Lisa Nolan. Libby Morris, Director of the Institute of Higher Education and Zell B. Miller Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, will moderate the discussion.

We hope that many members of the University community will join us for this important webinar. We understand that some of you are apprehensive about returning to campus next month. By answering questions, we hope to address many of those concerns and better inform you of the careful planning that has gone into preparing the campus for the collective return of our faculty, staff, and students.

As we conclude July and approach the beginning of Fall Semester, we thought it also would be constructive to review some of the steps we have taken. Collectively, they add up to an investment of nearly $6 million in preventative measures.

SURVEILLANCE TESTING: $2.44 million

  • UGA plans to conduct 24,000 tests by Thanksgiving at a rate of up to 300 tests per day on samples collected from volunteers among our faculty, staff, and students. The specimen collection will be conducted at Legion Field, in the center of campus, led by the University Health Center. Testing and analysis will be performed by the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL), which has earned certification to process human samples. Altogether, the University is hiring eight staff members to administer the program (three medical professionals and two staff support for specimen collection, and three technical staff for the VDL). For more on the plan, see the overview of the Medical Oversight Task Force—which recommended it—in our July 22 update to campus: https://coronavirus.uga.edu/2020/07/22/plans-for-surveillance-testing-and-notification/
  • To ensure that we have adequate test supplies on hand, UGA has been working through the University System of Georgia (USG) to procure an additional 10,000 saliva test kits and 2,000 Crispr tests.
  • We are further exploring the acquisition of another 5,000 test kits through the USG.

NOTIFICATION AND CONTACT TRACING: $250,000

  • The University is pilot testing the notification tool recommended by the Medical Oversight Task Force, DawgCheck, with weekday reminders set to begin by August 10. The tool consists of a Qualtrics form, to be available on the UGA app and at https://dawgcheck.uga.edu/, that will prompt all faculty, staff, and students to perform a quick symptom check. While the symptom check is strongly encouraged, anyone with a positive test will be required to report the test in DawgCheck. Notification of a positive test by a student will alert the Student Care and Outreach team, whose members will reach out to help coordinate medical assistance, meal delivery, housing while in isolation, notification to professors, and other assistance. An automatic notification also will be sent to Facilities Management to signal the need for disinfection of specific areas. Finally—and very importantly—those reporting will be asked to recall their contacts, and this information will be shared safely and securely with the Georgia Department of Public Health to help facilitate contact tracing. (DawgCheck has been vetted for security by the UGA Office of Information Security and by third-party cybersecurity assessors. The Qualtrics platform being used by DawgCheck is designed to be compliant with HIPAA security rule requirements and is FedRAMP-authorized for secure use by federal agencies.)

CLEANING AND SANITATION: $1.8 million

  • The University has purchased approximately 4,300 gallons of hand sanitizer. Additional hand sanitizer and PPEs are being provided free of charge by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).
  • More than 4,000 sanitation stations (containing over 2.5 million wipes) are being installed to provide occupants with surface disinfectant wipes. You will find these wipe stations near each classroom across campus.
  • The University has stocked cleaning supplies, including disinfectant misters, that are EPA-listed and meet CDC guidelines for effectiveness.
  • Our Building Services Workers have intensified their focus on high touchpoint and common area cleaning. Classrooms, common spaces and restrooms will be thoroughly disinfected daily. Teams have been specially trained to disinfect contaminated areas according to CDC and ISSA-Worldwide Cleaning Association Standards.

PERSONAL PROTECTION: $1.05 million

  • More than 150,000 face coverings have been purchased—two for every faculty, staff, and student. The final batch was mailed last week, but we have purchased additional face coverings to provide to those who did not receive theirs in the mail or who need to replace faulty ones.
  • We also have provided each individual member of our campus community with a digital thermometer—60,000 were ordered—which we expect to be used each day prior to reporting to work, class or other campus activities.
  • Additional disposable masks and face shields for faculty, staff, students, and campus visitors have been acquired in the event someone comes to campus without a face covering.
  • Dining Services has purchased over 35,000 reusable containers to be used in the residential dining areas for meal plan service.
  • More than 7,400 members of our faculty and staff have completed a required training module through the Professional Education Portal to learn more about UGA’s health and safety precautions and their personal responsibility to help protect the campus community. Those who have not yet completed the training should do so by August 10.
  • A mandatory training program for students will be in place by August 10 via eLC and will contain modules on how the disease spreads, personal accountability, how to use DawgCheck, classroom expectations, etc. The material is presented in a peer-driven manner, with members of the Student Health Advisory Council, Student Government Association, and Orientation Leaders calling upon their counterparts to be “Georgia Strong.DawgStrong.”
  • A comprehensive public awareness campaign is underway through social channels and other means to educate the campus community about various measures. Some examples:
  • Mask Up Video: https://twitter.com/universityofga/status/1287390969126481920
  • Preparing for Fall from COE and Dean Spangler: https://twitter.com/ugaMFECOE/status/1281272665114914826

ENGINEERED SOLUTIONS: $230,000

  • In conjunction with the Office of the Vice President for Instruction and the Office of Space Management, teams have measured and marked all centrally scheduled classrooms to provide appropriate physical distancing (at least 6 feet between seating).
  • Plexiglass barriers (“sneeze guards”) are being installed, where appropriate, at lecterns for centrally scheduled classrooms.
  • More than 2,000 plexiglass barriers have been manufactured by FMD skilled trades workers and are being installed, as recommended by the requesting department’s risk assessment team.
  • Students also will see plexiglass barriers in the dining halls and on campus buses.
  • Technical assistance has been provided to all campus departments that manage departmentally assigned classrooms.
  • HVAC operating schedules in buildings (including classrooms) have been adjusted to run longer hours, even when spaces are not occupied, to increase the amount of airflow going through space.
  • The amount of fresh/outdoor air flow in classrooms and lecture halls has been increased, to the extent possible.
  • Customary Fall Semester readiness checks of HVAC systems have been completed, and FMD crews are continuing to perform scheduled and routine preventive maintenance on all air handlers.

The examples above are just the high points. Much more work is being done behind the scenes and in individual departments and units to prepare for the fall. We encourage you to check the University’s COVID-19 website regularly for new information. It is important that all members of the community are aware of the many safety precautions being taken by the University, are knowledgeable of the resources available to them, and understand their individual responsibility to abide by the guidelines issued by the GDPH, CDC, USG, and UGA to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

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