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Questions on re-opening not addressed at the UGA Webinar

12 Aug, 2020

UGA recently held a webinar to address questions the campus community had about plans to reopen. The moderator selected a handful of these questions to present to the panelists. UCWGA put out a call, asking people to forward a copy of the questions they submitted for the webinar. Below is a list of the questions people sent us that were not addressed in the webinar. For a list of questions that were addressed, see the bottom of this document.

A complete transcript of the webinar is available here.

Unanswered questions:

  1. How many students and employees have already passed away from COVID-19? 

  2. Why is there a f2f mandate for courses taught by instructors who cannot be in the classroom?

  3. Why did UGA wait until now to ask for community members’ input?

  4. How do you plan to respond to the thousands of people who want remote instruction, making up 90% of respondents to the Public Health College’s recent survey?

  5. How have UGA’s reopening plans changed in the face of recent spikes across the country in COVID cases?

  6. Who will UGA blame when a campus community member dies of COVID? 

  7. Are telework or online arrangements being made at the level of individual departments? Who is responsible for deciding who can work off-campus? 

  8. Given that the BoR made payment of the summer health center fee non-mandatory in an effort to decrease students’ financial burden during COVID, why are students still required to pay this fee to use the University Health Center? Does this not defeat the intent behind the BoR’s decision, especially during a time when students are even more likely to use UHC services? In fact, does this not discriminate against students requiring medical care or testing while relieving students who are more fortunate healthwise? 

  9. Will UGA deem it safe to hold a vigil for the next UGA community member who dies of COVID-19?

  10. Are you starting a hiring initiative to replace the faculty members over 50 who will die?

  11. Why is there a required in-person component to be led by TAs when faculty are deemed high-risk and TAs are not given hazard pay for this?

  12.  I was on campus Monday, and there were people on campus outside not wearing masks. There are places on campus where walkways and sidewalks are narrow and make social distancing impossible. How is UGA going to enforce the wearing of masks in these areas?

  13. I have heard from reliable, but not official UGA channels, that an employee has died of COVID. If the university posts timely warnings about potential threats to physical safety such as violent attacks, should the university community not also be informed about COVID deaths and where on campus people may have been impacted?

  14. The invitation to this conversation includes a lot of information on how much UGA is spending to facilitate the opening with f2f courses in August 20. How would that amount compare to the university opening with online courses only?

  15. It is clearly too late to incorporate suggestions from the community in time to implement them by the 8/20 start date. So what do you hope to accomplish with the present forum?

  16. The director of DPH, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, appeared with Gov. Kemp on April 1 to announce further lockdowns, based, according to Kemp, on having learned only within the prior 24 hours that asymptomatic transmission of the virus was possible. Despite the fact that this had been widely known well before that, Dr. Toomey did not contradict the governor. Having seen this, how can we trust that DPH guidance on further lockdowns will be free of political interference?

  17. I know that the art school and the business school have been working to ensure safety in the buildings they occupy. What steps have been taken to coordinate the flow of students, faculty and staff, and other safety measures, in buildings that house multiple academic units?

  18. Why did it take so long to mandate masks? Given that it was so difficult to make that happen, how can we trust you to make the right decisions about our health?

  19. How many cases does UGA have at this time?

  20. What is the state of hospitals?

  21. Are the hospitals at Athens equipped to handle a surge in cases?

  22. How do I plan to social distance in dorms?

  23. How do you prevent spread from common restrooms?

  24. We know that the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout China was due in large part to carriers living in Wuhan dispersing to their hometowns in the countryside for the Chinese New Year celebration. It is easy to imagine a similar scenario if infections spread through campus, then are carried back home by students over Thanksgiving. What do epidemiologists have to say about the likelihood of this scenario?

  25. For what fraction of covid cases in Georgia can DPH currently do contact tracing? Please give a reference.

  26. Why did the university wait until two weeks before to gather input from frontline workers?

  27. What evidence is there to show that online teaching is less effective than in-person during a pandemic in which there will be multiple issues with students missing class due to being sick, class room arrangements, and possibly pivoting?

  28. Will workers receive hazard pay?

  29. Will students be required to take a COVID test two weeks prior to the start of classes?

  30. As a public institution, why is UGA jeopardizing the health of students and workers?

  31. Will UGA publish/email weekly reports about the total number of positive cases of UGA workers and students?

  32. Will UGA publish/email weekly reports about the total number of deaths of UGA workers and students?

  33. If we have a major outbreak, will you send students home again? Won't that risk infecting their families?

  34. Will there be a way for staff to get free and fast testing on campus? It's taking a week to get testing in Athens. If staff cannot work from home, they will use up many sick days just trying to see if they're positive, let alone quarantining.

  35. I've been instructed by my department head, in case a student in one of my groups tests positive, has symptoms, or has been exposed, to only quarantine that one group of students, ignoring the fact that the instructor could contaminate the other groups. Clearly the lack of guidance from the administration puts our department head in the position of making calls she is not equipped to make, putting UGA's population at risk. We need clear guidance on this point.

  36. Since CCSD announced schools would be online two weeks ago, I and other faculty with young children have been waiting from my head or the administration an answer as to how we are supposed to teach in class with young kids at home. We need an answer there too.

  37. The incoming 39,000 students will increase the Athens-Clarke County (ACC) population by 30%; they will interact daily with ACC citizens without oversight in apartment complexes, commercial gyms, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, etc.  The inevitable increase in cases on campus will be mirrored – and possibly exceeded - in the non-student population. What is UGA’s plan to share real-time data and decisions with ACC government and services?   Who is doing covid contact-tracing for non-student residents of ACC?   Note that GA Senate Bill 359 (2020) allows that UGA and USG cannot be held liable for excess mortality and morbidity although it is well known that ICU’s in both local hospitals have been regularly saturated for months. That’s all the more reason to share and compare UGA and ACC data. 

  38. In the first announcement of UGA’s plan for return to full face-to-face teaching there was a caveat that it might go back to virtual instruction during the term “if necessary” but how that would be decided and executed has not been explained.   What precisely are the criteria for deciding whether face-to-face instruction is or is not safe? What increase in the daily case/death rates will set off alarm bells? What models are used to determine when and how to act to forestall disaster?  Who makes these assessments and decisions?  These models must already be up and running.  Show us the models, the assumptions on which they are based, the data they will employ and the best- and worst-case scenarios they predict.  This is no more than we expect of our own students. 

  39. Does the name Ana Cabrera mean anything to you?

  40. Could you please clarify the contact tracing responsibilities that are divided between the University and GA DPH?

  41. Will the University consider changing its COVID-19 testing plan to include students to submit a negative test prior to returning to campus?

  42. Could the President please speak on the COVID-19 resolution that the Faculty Senate passed?

  43. Some staff medically vulnerable staff members are being required to work on campus when their jobs can be done effectively from home. Why?

  44. If a faculty member is due for a new computer and their current computer has a hardware issue why are there no funds for purchasing this essential equipment?  

  45. Why isn’t the University paying for essential PPE for all classrooms?  

  46. Why are there still no funds available in Franklin college for purchasing PPE?

  47. What happens if a student in one of my classes dies from Covid?

  48. What is the plan for shutting down UGA if we have an outbreak in Athens?  What are the metrics that will set in motion the shutting down?

  49. I understand that the University had teleworking protocols in place before COVID-19, but given the scope of the pandemic, will UGA be revisiting and revising these protocols? Will Unit/Department heads be given any authority to set teleworking schedules for their departments?

  50. Do people answering the phones all have the same information? Do they have a protocol to follow when we call in to get an appt.

  51. How will they be keeping track of the infections that they cause by bringing students to campus? 

  52. My new roommate has a direct family member that works in healthcare. As a result, I have to get tested. If other students exposed to people forced to come back to campus, will they be helping financially with any long-term issues and medical bills? Will they be helping with funeral arrangements?

  53. Do they foresee offering Athenians any financial help for exposing them to the virus?

  54. Just like the students, they are exposing an entire community. Our hospitals do not have the capacity to handle a spike. Students going to restaurants and bars are going to fuel contact instances and infections that would not exist if they stayed home. Is UGA going to be doing anything to make up for the exposing Athens residents?

Questions that were addressed in webinar:

  1. President Morehead, what scares you about this fall? 

  2. Why aren’t you testing the entire student body?

    1. Hu’s Response: we have developed a multi-prong approach, including surveillance (dawgcheck app), testing clinic set up on Legion Field to test asymptomatic staff and faculty required face masks, and cleaning; UHC will have expanded capacity to test symptomatic tests.

  3. Please explain the dawgcheck app: how it works, how will UGA account for all students and staff who have been exposed in the classroom, will all have to isolate, how will it keep track of all students?

    1. Russo: app has surveillance and reporting functions; we want to be able to inform as many people locally, on campus, as we can about actions as they are occurring, and being reported, and individuals to receive as much guidance as they can as they provide information and we want to collect information for case identification and contact tracing.  We’ve partnered with DPH to do.  Daily symptom checker helps people decide if they want to come to work today and provide guidance on what to do if they have symptoms; in the case of the students, dawgcheck can alert student care and outreach if they have symptoms or a significant exposure; same applies to employees and faculty so supervisors can be informed and figure out how to cover that person’s work.  The app will provide information about staff and student population.  We will provide information about tests to DPH so they can reach out to them for contact tracing; this will “ultimately be the work of public health, that’s the way it works…” 

    2. Our definition of a significant or close contact applies in the classroom - as long as distancing practices are maintained, theoretically, there could be no one in the classroom who could be identified as a close contact and we would hope to enforce that preventive measure more than anything and minimize the number of ad hoc interventions that would occur.

    3. We appreciate this product (app?) because it has stricter compliances for information sharing

  4. How will the university reconcile HIPAA with students and workers rights to know that there is a positive case in their class, residence hall, or work place?

    1. Nuss: dawgcheck is HIPAA compliant; medical privacy will be protected but employees will be informed if there is a positive case in their class or workspace

  5. If a student tests positive, will they be isolated in a special residence hall? Will there be quarantine facilities for students off campus?

    1. Wilson: once students receive a positive test, we hope they will return to their permanent residence asap; if that is not possible, housing will work with them to provide an isolation space in the residence halls.  For students living off campus, student care and outreach will work with them regarding their academic and housing needs.  But regardless if student is off or on campus, student care and outreach will work with students who tested positive; students should begin having conversations now with house mates to plan on what to do if they test positive.  

  6. What are the isolation protocols once someone has tested positive, how will they now when it is safe to return?

    1. Nuss: Originally isolation was for 14 days, that’s recently been adjusted to 10 days, fever free for 24 hours, and improvement of symptoms.

  7. There are some studies looking at the role of aerosols in covid-19 transmissions; ventilation in closed spaces is as important as masks; has any consideration been given to filtration devices in closed spaces?

    1. Nolan: FMD is working diligently to make sure our HVAC systems are retro-fitted and able to provide good air; since 2012, the university’s design standards have required UV systems (???) and in routine maintenance, these are checked by FMD; our aim is to keep contamination down in our buildings - HVAC plays a role, but so does mask wearing, de-densifying spaces (have you ever heard that word? Basically how it’s on individuals to keep spaces safe.

  8. Does the university have number of positive cases and deaths that will trigger a shutdown or pivot to remote instruction? Is UGA coordinating with local hospitals about pivoting to remote instruction? Who makes these decisions? UGA, USG?

    1. Morehead: Hypotheticals are always difficult to answer; USG will ultimately make the decision if we remain open or close.  We are part of a university system.  We share a governing board with Georgia Tech, Georgia State and many USG institutions in the state of GA.  And that governing board will have the authority to make that kind of decision.  I can assure you that the university will be working very closely with USG, DPH, our local hospitals and public health experts, to assess community conditions and all of those things will be a part of a discussion. I see this as qualitative decision that would be made in assessing, in total, what the situation looks like, but ultimately that’s not going to be a decision I made or the university makes in isolation, but in consultation with the USG.

  9. It seems we have invested a considerable amount of resources in preventive measures? What about investing in our online learning systems? What plans are in place to help students make a smoother transition if we pivot online again?

    1. Shrivastav: The internet held up really well. (What the fuck?) A big one that comes to mind is related to assessment and exams - we realize we need to have a proctoring solution in place; earlier this summer we integrated one into elc, available to all faculty to use in any class.  In anticipation of fall, we know that there will be a lot of hybrid and hy-flex learning, a big step was integrating our video recording with elc, this is a much easier and smoother process.  We have invested in various training and support programs, such as the preparing to pivot course.  Faculty have also participated in online learning seminar, we have created a teaching continuity fund that allows faculty to request funds for special needs.  So yes, a lot of thought and investment into creating a better and more robust infrastructure for the kind of needs we anticipate.  If we need to go online again, we will be better prepared.  We had over 500 faculty teach undergrad classes online this summer, these were people who had not taught online prior to this summer adn this summer experience will help them teach online in the fall.

  10. What is the rationale for not allowing faculty to determine when a course is better supported to go online?

    1. Shrivastav: We have the same overall models for instruction as virtually every major university, which is a mix of hybrid, hy-flex, online, and face to face.  The process is certainly different.  We identified five or six key principles in developing our opening places, among which were focus on student success, student support, ensuring that students at critical junctures were given all the support they need to make sure they were able to graduate on time. In keeping with this principles, the idea was to allow deans, department heads, associate deans, etc. was to think more broadly about student success.  It’s not just a classroom in isolation, it’s about a student walking into UGA, learning inside and outside the classroom, and graduating successfully.  We work closely student affairs, the health center, virtually every level on campus, and this high level perspective of student success was critical and this was the logic behind the phased approach. (this didn’t answer the question)

  11. What should I do if a student refuses to wear a mask? How can you expect student compliance on mask wearing and social distancing when students engage in risky behavior?

    1. Wilson: it’s hard to answer hypotheticals.  My mantra: “we need to plan for these circumstances ahead of time and faculty need to think about what they will do if this situation occurs.” Faculty need to discuss this with department head.  Faculty should send an email to “ask student affairs @” and that concern will be directed to a group, the covid student educational response team - COSERT - that is being chaired by dean of students and was really set up as a triage group.  This group will handle issues that pop up in the classroom with students, before sending it to student conduct.  In terms of compliance, unfortunately there are many members who under appreciate the value of good health and safety practices, and not just the students.  Risky behavior is universal, and recent survey shows that students plan to be compliant, over 89%.  We implore everyone to avoid risky behaviors.

  12. When will we hear from professors about our courses? How will we know which are in person and which are online?

    1. Shrivastav: there is a lot happening behind the scenes.  Classes will largely be on campus with social distancing which requires us to limit the number of people who can sit in a classroom at a given time; there will be a smaller number of classes that will be completely online.  Classes that are being moved to online are being coded in athena and students will be notified via email.  We have some classes that will be reassigned to a different room, typically a larger room to allow more students to attend at a given time, that information is also being uploaded into athena every day as things change, as things move, that is being updated frequently.  I know faculty are in the final stages of preparing courses and syllabi, several are working with different offices to find a way to structure the classes that fits the room and circumstances and the learning objectives, so the best thing to do is to watch your elc page.  We are still a few weeks away from classes, a lot of the syllabi will be ready in a couple more weeks.  For all faculty - this is a great way to share with you that students are wanting more information sooner.  If your syllabi is ready, you can go and publish them tomorrow on elc, you can notify the students via elc and share with them new information about how you think the classes will turn out.  For the most part - students, please have a bit more patience and keep an eye on your email.

  13. Faculty keep asking UGA to close but staff are worried about layoffs

    1. Morehead: this pandemic is not going away; as we continue to prioritize the health and safety of the campus community, we also have to reaffirm the reason that we exist - learning, research, and public service.  As we navigate those issues, we have to keep in mind that we are not immune to the economic challenges that are facing the entire country and our state.  We’ve been very very fortunate so far.  We did a lot of long range planning so that we were fully prepared for a crisis of this nature and because we are fully prepared, when it happened in March, we were able to take action that allowed us to preserve jobs, and allowed us, at that time, to go online and make a number of refunds in housing and student fees that were mandated by the BoR and shut down a number of auxiliary enterprises that supported staff without people losing jobs.  We were able to do that in large part because we have carefully built up reserves for something of this nature, if it ever happened.  Obviously we weren’t predicting a pandemic, but good managers prepare for a crisis that could occur in the future.  We have used those reserves to preserve those jobs in dining, housing, and many other auxiliaries across campus, including the health center.  But those options are now over, we have played that hand, and looking forward, we have a number of positions on this campus that are directly tied to students being on campus and using services that are provided on campus.  That situation is complicated by the fact that beginning on July 1 that the university was hit with a 10 percent state budget reduction and we managed that budget reduction by focusing on preserving things that matter to student learning and preserving jobs.  But I don’t have a crystal ball to predict if there will be further budget cuts or undermine our budgetary situation in that regard.  My priorities as president have been very clear: we want to continue to serve our students as effectively as possible but at the same time we want to preserve the health and safety of our campus community and we want to preserve as many jobs as possible, and we will continue to do our best to fulfill our objectives in the coming weeks and months ahead.

  14. Question about hy-brid

    1. Hu: Hy-brid is one of several modes of instruction during the fall.  Hybrid and hy-flex instruction offers online and face to face instruction that student will rotate between.

  15. How will FMD sanitize every class in between every class

    1. Nolan: There isn’t time to disinfect every class in between classes, but they will be disinfected thoroughly every day.  You can use the disinfectant wipes in tubes in our buildings, they can be used to disinfect hard surfaces and objects like desks, doorknobs, desktops or chairs.  

  16. If classes go online, will tuition be refunded or reduced? A difference in cost if we have hybrid classes or go completely online?

    1. Shrivastav: Tuition is determined by BoR and any refunds or changes in structures will be determined by BoR.  That’s a question we can’t answer.

  17. Our president, provost, and VP for instruction, leading by example: coming to campus, teaching, conducting research, in person this fall.  (this is a question?)

    1. Morehead: I’ve been coming into the office since this spring.  I’ve been careful to wear my mask and practice social distancing when I am in the offices and around others.  Unlike most university presidents, I have had a history of teaching.  I have taught a seminar every year that I have served as either provost or president and I intend to voluntarily teach a FYO again this fall, and as a 63 year old that is type 1 diabetic, I am going to be very careful to follow all of the practices that are necessary in order for me to be teaching that seminar in a careful and responsible manner.  But I think presidents need to lead by example and during my tenure I hope I have developed a record that I hope people have seen me do that in a variety of different contexts.

    2. Hu: Many of you know I am in my second year as provost and faculty member at UGA.  Since I moved here, I have continued my research and mentored students that I left behind at U. Michigan.  Starting phase 1 and 2, I have been coming to office and when the semester starts, I plan to help with capstone projects; and join the team that will teach the students with capstone projects.

    3. Shrivastav: I am in my office, I have been working in my office for several weeks, we continue to do social distancing, I wear my mask.  I am not scheduled to teach in the fall but I do have a new research project, luckily we were funded by the NIH last month so I am looking forward to that.  I am looking forward to students getting back, we work extensively with students, faculty and staff and I hope that despite the social distancing and the stress that will go with the pandemic we can begin to get some sense of normalcy and I look forward to being part of the solution.

    4. Wilson: I teach a graduate course in the spring - this institution has a 96% retention rate of first year and that means something amazing is going on here.  A large majority of our students are not going to come spend 24/7 worrying about covid issues.  I’m excited students are coming back to this amazing experience.  I think we will see our students expecting the same opportunities they have always looked for here.



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