Chancellor May and LeShelle get a grade of “g” for this week’s Thursday Thoughts, recorded at the campus’s newest residential community, The Green at West Village, where they answer a question about their own first apartments. The Mays also discuss their favorite ice cream flavors and discuss having Ice Cream Day at the Chancellor’s Residence next August.
To the UC Davis Community:
You’ve no doubt heard about the delta variant, the highly contagious strain of COVID-19 that has been dominating recent news headlines. The new surge in cases is alarming, as is the terrible truth that younger people are occasionally being hospitalized due to the delta variant. I understand that some of you may be feeling uncertain or anxious about returning to work or in-person instruction. Many of our staff, faculty and students are also parents and have the added concern of sending children who are too young to be vaccinated back to school.
We are monitoring the changing nature of the pandemic and we remain confident about carrying out our mission of in-person activities for fall quarter. We are confident because of the University of California’s systemwide vaccine mandate and compliance policy that makes our return possible.
The pandemic continues to be a crisis because of those who are unvaccinated by choice. Physicians in our medical center’s Emergency Department report that most of the symptomatic COVID-19 patients they are seeing are unvaccinated. This week, UC Davis Health shared what doctors are hearing from patients: They wish they could go back in time and get vaccinated.
Among the vaccinated, breakthrough cases are rare, and, in such cases, the symptoms are typically mild. According to our experts at UC Davis Health, the risk of death or being hospitalized is almost completely removed for those who are fully vaccinated.
As a community, we’ve managed the pandemic very well, and that’s because each of you has taken this seriously and followed safety and health guidelines. You embraced Healthy Davis Together, our joint initiative between the university and the city of Davis. By getting regular asymptomatic testing and following other safe practices, you helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 and contributed to the program’s success. Let’s continue to each do our part to protect our campus and broader community.
You may have heard that the state of California issued new requirements this week. All K-12 teachers must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing. In addition, a new statewide order requires hospital visitors to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. In late July, both Yolo and Sacramento counties reintroduced masking requirements in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases. UC Davis complies with county and state health and safety guidance for COVID-19.
Planning for a safe return
We’re fortunate to have Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan leading the planning efforts for our safe return to campus. As an epidemiologist, her expertise has been invaluable to our decision-making process. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read Provost Croughan’s latest fall update, which came out yesterday. It includes important information about vaccine policy and compliance, medical and ADA accommodations, face covering requirements, travel updates, information for international students, and more.
In regard to testing, the provost announced yesterday that, starting September 20, fully vaccinated people must undergo asymptomatic testing once every 14 days. People with an approved exception from the vaccine mandate must undergo testing every four days.
For questions and concerns
If you still have questions, we’ll do our best to answer them. Starting Monday, August 16, students who have questions about COVID-19-related policies, public health guidance or general concerns regarding their transition to campus can call the Aggie Info and Help Line at 530-752-4636 (INFO). Students will also be able to submit questions via an online form. A service of the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, this new information line will be staffed by Aggie Public Health Ambassadors to provide support for noncrisis questions and referrals to campus resources.
Other resources: UC Davis Health has posted “8 Things You Should Know” about the delta variant. If you have questions about the UC vaccine policy, please watch this webinar from Aug. 4. Also, for staff who are feeling anxious about these situations, I encourage you to register for the August 30 webinar, Returning to Campus: Navigating the New Normal.
As if the pandemic weren’t enough, we’re also monitoring wildfires in our region. Some of you may recall that in 2018, classes and certain campus operations were suspended due to unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke. Since then, we’ve developed procedures to help determine when we need to modify operational status, according to the Air Quality Index (AQI). Learn more about how we plan for wildfires and potential impacts and don’t forget to subscribe to the WarnMe alert system to receive important emergency alerts and updates.
Speaking of wildfires, I’m incredibly proud of how UC Davis continues to serve our region and far beyond. Our UC Davis Fire Department sent a team to assist with both the Tamarack and Dixie fires. Take a look at this dramatic video, taken from inside their truck. Many thanks to Capt. Steve Dunn, acting Capt. Ben Rizzo and firefighters Chad Cunningham, Meggie Elledge and Jon Poganski for their heroic efforts to save lives and property.
UC Davis is leading a new California Veterinary Emergency Response team that will help domesticated animals and livestock throughout the state that are injured by wildfires. This new team is based on UC Davis’ successful and tested model. Our Veterinary Emergency Response Team and hospital teams triage, treat and rescue animals in the field. During the 2018 Camp Fire alone, the teams helped more than 1,500 animals.
Jobs for students
With the start of fall quarter only weeks away, this is the perfect time to apply for jobs with Unitrans, Dining Services, the CoHo, Information and Educational Technology or any number of other units across campus. There are many jobs to fill. Students can apply now via Handshake. Make sure to update your profile. You’ll also want to register for the next Aggie Job Fair to be held Thursday, August 19, where you can learn about the wide variety of positions offering competitive wages and flexible schedules. The Internship and Career Center, which runs the job fairs, reminds departments to post jobs to Handshake using their employer accounts.
After more than 16 months of being closed due to the pandemic, our UC Davis Welcome Center reopened its doors on Monday. The Welcome Center also resumed our popular student-led campus tours this week. Tours are available Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. You can register for an in-person tour or watch the virtual campus tour. Walk-in advising is now available at the Welcome Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Remember that visitors must complete the Daily Symptom Survey before entering campus facilities and must wear face coverings indoors.
This is very welcome news, indeed. I look forward to welcoming our new and returning students, faculty and staff back to campus next month.
I always like to end on a high note, so let me wrap up with a story about one of our own UC Davis Health doctors. If you watched any of the Tokyo Olympics, you probably heard something about gymnast Simone Biles. Marcia “Marcy” Faustin from the UC Davis Health Sports Medicine Clinic was right there with her, as co-leader of medical care for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Read more and watch a video about her incredible story.
Let me repeat: I have great confidence in our UC Davis community. Since the pandemic began, we’ve demonstrated that we’re resilient, creative and ready to meet any challenge. We may not like these ups and downs and the uncertainties created by the pandemic, but we will get through it. Together, in person.
You can expect my next update on Sept. 17. Go Ags!
Gary S. May