Dean Lairmore's COVID-19 update – Nov 9, 2020

COVID testing vials

I know that this has been a stressful year in so many ways, yet we are seeing bright spots. We are past a contentious election that has been hard on many people. I thank everyone who participated in our democratic process and voted, and wish my congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.  

I continue to be proud of how you all have been meeting the challenges presented by the pandemic. In a short time, we have made tremendous adjustments in our education, our hospital operations and other areas while also adapting to new stresses in our personal lives. The City of Davis continues to compare well in its total number of coronavirus cases, but the overall rise in cases in the nation is putting pressure everywhere and we must continue to be vigilant and methodical in our prevention efforts.

To that end, there are adjustments being made on multiple levels that affect us:

·         Due to increasing cases in Yolo County, the county may be moved back into a higher-risk category. UC Davis did not make any adjustments based on the county being moved into a less-high-risk category previously, so we do not expect this to affect our operations. However, as the cases in the county move in the wrong direction, we are reminded how important it is to strictly adhere to all COVID-19 screening and prevention procedures.

·         To identify asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, UC Davis is establishing a rapid, comprehensive saliva screening and testing program on campus. This weekly testing is being rolled out in stages to students and employees in priority areas such as those performing required in person teaching in clinical or laboratory settings or providing essential services. Veterinary Medicine has about 1,300 community members in these categories included in the first stage who will receive communications about the program. Please be patient with this new process as logistics and sign up processes are finalized.

·         California Assembly Bill 685 goes into effect on January 1. Among other actions, it requires employers to provide prompt written notice and instructions to their workers who may have been exposed to the virus at the workplace. As part of the campus community, Veterinary Medicine is awaiting guidance on the implementation of AB 685 and will communicate and implement these changes when we are notified by Safety Services.

Until then, the university’s current protocols will remain in effect for notifications. Be aware that as part of our current process those who test positive may receive up to three telephone calls from different individuals involved in the tracing process (campus contact tracer employees, Yolo County Public Health, campus medical staff), who will then make additional notifications as warranted. Following UC Davis protocols, we are not making broad community notifications of individual infections.

·         The hospital is considering implementing a new mask procedure for those entering the facilities. In addition to receiving the sticker that certifies that the person entering has passed the symptom check, those entering the building would also receive a new disposable mask. This is in line with recent recommendations from the CDC for healthcare workers and has received support from campus Safety Services. It also allows employees to return to work following exposure without a requirement for quarantine. The proposed procedure will be discussed at this Thursday’s hospital chiefs’ meeting.

·         Given the financial stresses to the university because of the pandemic, UC Davis is moving forward with curtailment plans for many staff in December. However, given the essential nature of our clinical and other work, many of our staff are exempted. If you are unsure whether you are exempted or not, please check with your supervisor. As noted in the article linked above, there is still a discussion of a UC-wide curtailment plan in 2021 that could affect most or all employees.

Thank you for your contributions to the university’s management of the pandemic; our actions are important to the maintenance of community safety. We have learned much since the pandemic began and are acting to implement the best practices as they are identified. I’m grateful for your participation in these practices and your patience as we continue to adapt to this situation.

I sincerely hope that this holiday season is a time of healing. As a community, we must continue listening to each other and working together in kindness. Thank you for everything that you are doing as a member of this extraordinary community.

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