Checking In With Chancellor May: Signs of Hope

Chancellor Gary S. May’s Friday coronavirus update includes his “Thursday Thoughts” Instagram post, above. This week he and LeShelle are answering questions from the community.

To the UC Davis Community:

Shelter-in-place orders have been extended to May 22 in Sacramento County and May 31 in Yolo County, and, while some of you may be having a difficult time seeing any hint of a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud, I see signs of hope all around.

With revised public health orders, our health system is working to fully restore services within the next week for both the medical center and health care clinics around the region. (As a side note, the Emergency Department reports that it has been seeing more cases of delayed care — and hospital officials are urging people not to wait, that if they are worried about COVID-19 at the hospital, they needn’t be. Watch this video to see the many steps being taken to reassure people they are safe in seeking care at UC Davis Health.)

Our veterinary hospital will start a similar, phased resumption of regular services this coming Monday (May 4). Some veterinary clinical services will initially be more available than others, and priority will still be given to more urgent cases as well as to existing clients.

Our research enterprise has guidelines in place to ramp back up. And we have our two Scenario Planning Groups at work, one dealing with instruction, the other with operations.

Assisting our counties

In addition, the campus is participating in making recommendations as Yolo County develops its plan for reopening. Three UC Davis officials — Eric Kvigne, associate vice chancellor for Safety Services; Mabel Salon, chief government and community relations officer; and Matt Dulcich, local government relations manager — serve on a stakeholders’ team, along with city and county and other representatives, to assist in implementing the county’s Roadmap to Recovery.

Further, in letters we sent to the leadership of both Yolo and Sacramento counties, we offered our campus’s technical and academic expertise as both counties develop plans and strategies for reopening regional business and other activities.  

In more good news, we are bringing blood drives back to campus. We have arranged for four collection days on the Davis campus, Thursday-Friday, May 21-22 and 28-29, for UC Davis affiliates and the community at large. Appointments are being taken now.

And let’s not forget our grounds crew, back at work — with face coverings on — restoring our landscape to its usual pristine condition. Thank you, grounds crew.

Testing a vaccine and plasma

More reason for hope: Today (May 1), UC Davis and Verndari Inc. began preclinical testing of a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s happening in our Mouse Biology Program, where researchers amended an existing protocol for influenza to allow for testing of the COVID-19 vaccine in an established rodent model. It will quickly provide the data we need before we can move into larger species, such as nonhuman primates, and human clinical trials.

Not only that, but the project involves a new delivery system, a VaxiPatch, in which an array of microneedles delivers the vaccine into your arm. The technology eliminates the need for refrigeration, facilitates high-volume, automated manufacturing of vaccines and can potentially be self-administered — all very important if we want to get this out to the public as fast as possible.

Human Health Sciences Vice Chancellor David Lubarsky rightly noted, “This is exactly the type of combined business and academic effort our university excels at delivering. ... By working together with us at UC Davis, we can potentially help to address this global pandemic sooner rather than later.”

In other COVID-19 research news:

Davis-Sacramento connections

The connections between our Davis and Sacramento campuses are only growing stronger, in research and other ways.

A surgeon, Andrew Li, and a biomedical engineer, Tingrui Pan, for example, have come up with a prototype for a simple, inexpensive ventilator that uses microfluidics instead of mechanical parts.

I am also happy to report that 40 of our Davis campus custodians volunteered to temporarily transfer to the Sacramento campus. They’re working in public areas as well as patient areas: emergency, exam and trauma. Thank you for stepping up.

And speaking of connections, our new Causeway Connection bus service starts Monday, on a reduced schedule during the pandemic, but still a cause for celebration as we launch a new fleet of all-electric buses, serving not only UC Davis affiliates but the public, carrying people between UC Davis Health and the Davis campus.

Technology for good and evil

Our faculty, staff and students continue to make excellent use of technology during spring quarter — big shout-out to all of our IT professionals who are assisting to keep people connected up and down the state, across the country and around the world.

Good news: We hesitated to call off our Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference, and, now we are happy to report it will proceed virtually, Thursday-Friday, May 7-8, with more than 500 participants. I know I will be watching (and I’ll have to register like everyone else, by noon Wednesday, May 6).

Bad news: Zoombombing is real. In an April 10 letter posted here, Minming Wu Morri, campus privacy officer, and Cheryl Washington, chief information security officer, answered the question, What can you do? “Ensure that you are using the latest version of Zoom and that you are enabling the newest Zoom privacy and security features, described here and in our Zoom Privacy and Security FAQs. These features are user-controlled and must be turned on.

Note: Unit IT leads are receiving updates from the campus privacy and information security offices on the latest issues and recommended fixes. Again, consult the Zoom Privacy and Security FAQs, which are being updated weekly with the latest developments on privacy and security.

Relief funds, summer programs

We are happy to report today that emergency relief payments related to the pandemic will be going out soon to undergraduates and graduate and professional school students with financial need. We are grateful to provide this support to a large portion of our student population, using CARES Act funds from the federal government and supplemental funds from campus.

And while the Department of Education prohibited the distribution of CARES Act money to DACA students, please know UC Davis and all UC campuses will use their own funding to assist DACA students in need. Please see my letter from earlier this week in (continued) support of our DACA students.

As summer nears, we have new guidance for instructors of Summer Session courses and directors of other campus-based summer programs. We announced April 10 that instruction in both Summer Sessions will be remote, though, if health directives change, some in-person laboratory courses may be possible in Summer Session II. In addition, uncertainty about how and when Yolo County Public Health guidance may change leads us to suggest that other campus-based summer programs should plan to be remote if possible.

We now have a process set up whereby instructors and program directors can seek approval for in-person instruction or program delivery, for instances in which program goals cannot be met without it, and when the instructor believes the program can be conducted in-person in accordance with then-current public health guidance. Please contact Risk Management Services to start the process, which will need final approval by the appropriate vice chancellor, or the provost and executive vice chancellor.

Walk the talk

As we enter our seventh week of shelter-in-place, please don’t forget about getting some exercise. And be sure to participate in the 11th annual UC Walks, a virtual event this year, from Sunday to Sunday, May 3-10. Everything counts, not just walking! Do Zumba in your living room or any other workout you like to do — whatever gets you moving! Learn more and register here, then report back after you put in at least 30 minutes of exercise. In return, you’ll get a T-shirt (while supplies last), and have a chance to win prizes (including a FitBit).

So, that’s one thing you can do during shelter-in-place. Here’s another idea:  “Attend” the California Raptor Center’s annual spring open house, to be held virtually, tomorrow (May 2).

Or, how about if I read to you and your children? Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby invited me to participate in “Storytime Sacramento,” and, if you go to the website, you can find the video recording of me reading Ice Is Nice! from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, a book about the North and South poles, and climate change. You’ll find my story in Chapter 2.

Whatever you do with your family, please remember, hope is all around.


Gary S. May

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