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Why We Are Different From Other College Towns

By Gloria Partida and Gary S. May on September 21, 2020 in University

Quick Summary

  • We are monitoring what has gone well or not well in other places, and strengthening our own plans
  • Later in the fall: Testing will be available to the entire community at no charge
  • We will support local businesses by buying gift certificates and services — and offering them as incentives to students

This commentary Davis Mayor Gloria Partida and Chancellor Gary S. May first appeared Sunday (Sept. 20) in the Davis Enterprise.


Davis feels different this fall, and that’s by design. The normal activities we look forward to this time of year — the anticipation of Moove-In, the surge of visitors to the farmers market, the packed tables at local restaurants and that heightened energy you feel throughout our city — have been muted. Schools, businesses and local organizations that are vital community anchors have been working hard to meet public health guidelines. We’re all doing our part to be more cautious and intentional about what we do, who we see, and where we go. But we must do more.

W"Healthy Davis Together" logoe have been monitoring how other college towns have responded to the beginning of fall quarter. By studying what went well and what didn’t, we’re strengthening our own plans. The city of Davis and UC Davis have joined together in a unified effort beyond campus boundaries, Healthy Davis Together. Our goals: prevent the spread of COVID-19, safely reintegrate Aggies back into our community, and continue a coordinated and gradual return to regular activities.

What’s different about our approach? Healthy Davis Together is a communitywide public health endeavor that brings together epidemiology and health promotion in both the city and on campus. Together, we are supporting our community in understanding the safe health behaviors that lower the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 to family, friends, and the whole community.

We’ll accomplish this in steps. First, we’ll make testing simple and widely available, and we’ll deliver results quickly. We’ll test students, staff and faculty who come to campus. Later this fall, we plan for every Davis community member to have access to this same testing, at no charge.

Combined photos of Gary S. May and Gloria Partida.
“Our goals: prevent the spread of COVID-19, safely reintegrate Aggies back into our community, and continue a coordinated and gradual return to regular activities,” Chancellor Gary S. May and Davis Mayor Gloria Partida write. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Quick, efficient contact tracing

Next, we’ll use the most efficient tools available to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We anticipate working in partnership with Yolo County Public Health to conduct quick, efficient contact tracing so that we can stop the spread when someone tests positive. Those who need it will have access to resources and support including safe, secure quarantine and isolation resources (including food) — all at no charge, due to philanthropic and other funding that has been secured. We will offer a daily symptom survey for all UC Davis students, staff and employees and anyone who lives or works in Davis who opts in to report symptoms.

Even with this new and comprehensive partnership, there are factors we simply cannot control. Here are our aspirations:

  • The reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for a while, so we’re thinking long term. We will adhere to public health guidelines from Yolo County Public Health. We will have open, consistent lines of communication with residents, so you know what is happening in Davis and what that means for city, university and economic planning.
  • In the coming months, testing will be widely available through Healthy Davis Together. That will mean an increase in positive results initially. While it does not necessarily mean infections are on the rise, we are prepared with more support services. Increased testing enables our community to better monitor the rate of infection (the percentage of all tests that are positive) so we can make decisions that protect our community and our local economy.
  • The best minds in our community are working on our response to COVID -19. Thoughtful, science-based planning approaches will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of our community. The UC Davis medical and nursing schools, as well as all university departments have been involved in UC Davis Campus Ready planning from the very beginning of the pandemic. This planning work has expanded to include close collaboration with city leaders and departments collaborating on Healthy Davis Together to develop prevention efforts that will roll out over the coming months.
  • We need participation and support from the entire community — people who live around and in Davis, business and health care leaders, local schools, preschool and day care sites, congregate living facilities, civic and faith-based organizations, and every UC Davis student, faculty member and staff member — working together. We must continue to support one another, especially essential workers and others at higher risk.
  • Local businesses need our help, too. For those taking the right steps to keep employees and patrons safe, Healthy Davis Together will support them by buying gift certificates and other services such as providing food to those in quarantine and offering incentives to students and other groups to promote safe behaviors.
  • There will be an effective COVID-19 vaccine in the future. We are planning for that, too.

We’re in this together. We are optimistic that the combined efforts of the city of Davis, UC Davis, and each one of us will make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in this college town. If we all do our part to follow state and county public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we thrive together.

That’s Healthy Davis Together. It’s who we are.

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About the author(s)

Gloria Partida and Gary S. May Gloria Partida is the mayor of Davis and Gary S. May is the chancellor of UC Davis.

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