October 1, 2022

Distill It with Dr. Jeffrey McClurken UMW Chief of Staff and Clerk of the Board of Visitors (YouTube)

McClurken to Join Regional Panel Discussion

UMW's Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW’s Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW Chief of Staff Jeffrey McClurken will join an eight-member panel for a discussion titled “Distill It: Getting to the Bottom of the Barrel and the Issues Facing Our Region’s Businesses,” hosted by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce. The event, meant to uncover issues facing the region’s largest and most successful organizations, will take place at A. Smith Bowman Distillery on Sept. 14, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets – including a drink, appetizers, music and more – cost $30 for Chamber members and $45 for future member. Registration is required.

COVID Updates

To all Faculty and Staff:

We made it through the first week of classes! It has been great to see students back on campus, classes starting up again, and all that comes with the start of the fall semester. Of course, it hasn’t been without its bumps and so we want to make sure everyone has the most up-to-date information. [Please read through to the end. There is lots of important information here.]

  • FDA Approval – Last week the Food and Drug Administration has provided full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, removing its EUA status. For those small numbers of students and employees who are not vaccinated, please do get vaccinated now. We know that the emergency approval was a concern for some, but the FDA has provided that full approval now, so contact your local pharmacy, drugstore, health care provider or https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a Pfizer vaccine today!
  • Masking reminders – In general, UMW community members have successfully returned to masking indoors. We have heard a few concerns expressed, however, especially as people enter buildings or get up from eating or drinking, or enter into spaces with other people. Our Students Care Ambassadors will be coming back this fall to help remind people about the masking policy indoors, but remember that everyone has a role to play in reminding people about masking.
    • Because people have asked and as clarification, appropriate face coverings do not include bandanas. Face shields are also insufficient by themselves. Gaiters can be used but only if they have at least two layers. More on types of masks can be found at the CDC’s site.
  • If you have concerns about COVID enforcement or actions, remember that the Report a COVID Concern is still an option. Please include as much information as possible so that we can address those concerns.
  • Exposure warnings for vaccinated people – new this fall, we are reaching out to vaccinated people who have a known close contact exposure to a COVID positive case with an email about the recent CDC guidance for exposed but vaccinated “to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.”  If you get one of these emails, do not panic. It does not mean you have COVID or are even likely to get COVID. It does not mean that you need to quarantine, nor that you need to tell all of your close contacts. Rather, out of an abundance of caution we are letting you know that you should take a few more precautions and get tested if you have any COVID symptoms, and if not, you should still get tested 3-5 days from receipt of the email. Please note, because of privacy regulations we cannot tell you where or how you were exposed.
    • As has been the case, unvaccinated people who are close contacts will need to quarantine for two weeks, per CDC/VDH recommendations. They will be contacted separately.
    • Positive cases will still isolate for 10 days from positive test or start of symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
    • Please do not ask students to reveal their vaccination status. The HR, Public Health team, and the local health district can do so as part of implementing the vaccination, testing, and contact tracing system, but they are exceptions.
  • We want to point out again that because we are not social distancing, the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated close contact exposures will be much higher for each case than was true last year.
  • Vaccination rates – The good news is that Faculty and Staff are nearly at 91% vaccinated and it looks like students will end up right at about 95% vaccinated. Thank you to all of you for helping to protect the UMW community.

Jeff and Dave, on behalf of the Public Health Advisory Working Group

Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plan

After a quiet summer, our campuses are ready to welcome new and returning students, and we are excited about the semester ahead. In recent weeks, we experienced the freedom and joy gained from highly effective vaccines. At the same time, our enthusiasm has been tempered by the news of a fourth surge of COVID-19 and the emergence of more transmissible and dangerous variants.

The good news is that with 18 months of experience we now have the knowledge and tools to minimize the risk while returning to many of the things that define the UMW experience. And our greatest tool is the high vaccination rates among our students and employees. This is the single most important thing we could all do together to return to the in-person activities that are characteristic of the UMW experience.

This summer, the COVID Implementation Team shifted to a Public Health Advisory Working Group, embedding the work of the group within the offices of Student Health, HR, and Public Safety, as well as our COVID Care team, with leadership from COVID Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator Dave Fleming. Throughout the summer, he has been leading the Public Health Advisory Working Group in preparing for the fall in conversations about vaccinations, testing, masking, and tracing. Jeff McClurken, as UMW’s COVID Director, has been working with the other Public Higher Education COVID Directors and statewide officials at the VDH and the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce and Trade to clarify expectations, options, and directions for the fall.

Today, we write to share some additional important updates about the fall semester and how we will approach together our return to campus. In doing so, we are informed by ongoing guidance from VDH and the CDC, partnerships with the local Rappahannock Area Health District and Mary Washington Healthcare. Further direction has come from Governor Northam’s announcement on August 5, recent CDC Guidance for IHEs and vaccinated people, along with careful attention to local COVID conditions in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania area.

While the full details of our plan are contained in the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for 2021-2022 Academic Year, here are the key highlights (please note: The Cabinet and the Public Health Advisory Working Group will regularly re-evaluate these guidelines depending on university and local conditions and numbers):

  1. Masks. Besides vaccines, the wearing of a well-fitting mask is highly effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, including its variants. Consequently, to start the semester, masks will be required indoors in public spaces, which include all classrooms, laboratories, meeting spaces, foyers and hallways, and auditoriums. Masks are not required in one’s own residence hall room, private offices, other spaces where you are alone, and when eating and drinking. We are also developing a process for limited exemptions to this indoor requirement for certain academic, co-curricular, and physical activities. We strongly recommend wearing a mask when outdoors in large groups.
  2. Mandatory vaccinations. Governor Northam’s directive requires vaccines for all state employees and contractors. While the majority of our employees and contractors have taken this step voluntarily, it is now a requirement. Exemptions to this requirement are limited and all employees who do not provide proof of vaccination are required to complete a COVID-19 test each week as a condition of employment. UMW’s testing of unvaccinated employees begins the week of August 23.
  3. Testing when symptomatic. One of the important changes to the CDC’s guidance in recent weeks is that everyone who has COVID symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should stay away from others and get tested. Students can contact the Student Health Center, while employees should consult their health care provider or get tested at a local pharmacy. In addition, vaccinated people who are exposed but are asymptomatic should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure.

We should also be taking sensible precautions for the next few weeks at least as we pay attention to current conditions. For example, utilizing Zoom and other technologies in the routine conduct of business is encouraged and will continue to be supported, especially when it avoids bringing large numbers of people together in-person when there is no direct discernable benefit. An approach that places a premium on in-person experiences (e.g. classes, office hours, and many other activities where being in the same space is uniquely valuable) can be balanced with virtual convenings where possible.

Similarly, for now, even with vaccines and masks, at a time when our region is one where there is substantial or high transmission of the virus, we should be sensible about large (over 150 people) indoor gatherings. This means holding large gatherings outdoors where possible. It also means promoting extra distancing by utilizing larger indoor spaces or taking advantage of streaming options for large gatherings that would typically involve congregation in auditoriums at or near capacity.

The steps outlined above offer us the best chance of resuming a high-quality in-person experience while mitigating the risks in a university community. Currently nearly 90% of our campus community has been fully vaccinated, but we are situated within a region for which the CDC reports substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 and relatively low vaccination rates. As conditions change, we anticipate regular re-evaluation of these modifications and adjusting accordingly throughout the semester and year.

Attached is UMW’s return to campus plan that includes these pieces (and it is linked to UMW’s COVID pages). Updates to the plan will be added to UMW’s COVID pages.

Dave Fleming & Jeff McClurken

 

Update on campus COVID conditions and vaccinations

Hello all,

We know that many of you have been following developments lately with news of variants and vaccinations as we look to the arrival of students back on campus shortly. Throughout the summer, Dave has been leading the Public Health Advisory Working Group in conversations about vaccinations, testing, masking, tracing, and preparing for the fall. Jeff has been working with the other Public Higher Education COVID Directors and statewide officials at the VDH, Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce and Trade to clarify expectations, options, and directions for the fall. This message is part of an effort to update faculty and staff as we get closer to the start of the semester.

First, we want to acknowledge the fluidity of the current situation and note that we are working with state and local officials to make sure we have the most up-to-date information. That fluidity will mean that some of our fall plans will continue to be in flux, even once the semester starts. We will endeavor to provide regular updates along the way.

Second, we wanted to share the progress we’ve made so far with our vaccination rates for students and employees.

  • We have heard from nearly 91% of our students so far, and we know now that nearly 85% of all students are confirmed vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated. We are working to learn the status of the remaining 9% and we will be asking some of you to help with that process.
  • We have heard from over 94% of our employees so far, and we know now that 87% of all our employees are confirmed vaccinated or will be fully vaccinated soon. If you are part of the less than 6% who have not submitted the survey letting us know your vaccine status, please fill out the Employee Vaccination Survey. If you are still looking to get vaccinated, check out Vaccines.gov, your health care provider, or take advantage of Giant’s visit on August 18 where they will be offering free Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccines to students and employees.

Third, a reminder that given local COVID conditions and the CDC’s recommendations, we are strongly recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors when social distancing isn’t possible. This is in addition to our ongoing requirement that unvaccinated people mask indoors. We are keeping a close eye on those conditions, and we are in conversations with the state and with other schools about potential modifications to those recommendations.

We hope to provide a full plan next week as we keep working on finalizing the vaccination status of our employees and students, continuing our partnership with the local health department and Mary Washington Healthcare, and watching closely the national and local situation.

There will be more of these updates as we move closer to the fall semester.

Best,

Jeff McClurken, Chief of Staff and COVID Director

Dave Fleming, Asst. Dean of Residence Life and COVID Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator

McClurken Comments on J&J Vaccine Pause on WJLA

UMW's Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW’s Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Jeff McClurken, one of the University’s COVID co-coordinators, was interviewed on WJLA ABC-7 news about how the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine pause will impact efforts to get college students vaccinated before they return home for the summer.

“One of the things J&J offered as a one-dose vaccine is the ability at the end of the school year to go ahead and get students vaccinated, and then they could go home and not have to worry about a second dose,” said Jeffrey McClurken, who is co-coordinator of the COVID response at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “So, this certainly raises some logistical complications for us to try to figure out.” Read more.

COVID Vaccination Interest — Sign up now!

A message from the COVID Co-Coordinators. 

All UMW Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for your patience. We have great news. Our local health district (RAHD) is getting ready to move into phase 1c and so has just asked us for a list of all UMW employees who are willing to get the COVID Vaccine, something we strongly encourage. Please fill out the linked form even if you have already registered at vaccinate.virginia.gov, but not if you have already received one or two doses of the COVID vaccine. Note that this access to the vaccine is because of your employment at UMW and so RAHD will offer a vaccine even if you live in another health district.

Please fill the brief form out ASAP so that we can go ahead and share this information with the Rappahannock Area Health District.

Jeff and Tim

 

Message #4 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the fourth in a series of weekly messages from the COVID-19 Task Force. And while every week since the pandemic began has been difficult in its own way – from first learning about an abrupt pivot to remote instruction and telework and hearing challenging budget news, to our collective sadness about not being able to properly celebrate the accomplishments of our students – the Task Force pauses to acknowledge this especially painful week of violence and injustice in our community and across the nation. Yet, because higher education is both a force for social justice and a powerful antidote to individual and systemic racism and the anti-democratic impulse, we bring renewed determination to our efforts to return to campus this fall.

For the Task Force, the pace has quickened as the full-scope of fall planning comes into view. Our first attempt has undergone revision as we receive additional guidance from the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and consult with colleagues across the Commonwealth. Late last week, VDH released directions regarding testing and contact tracing. Contrary to the claim from some universities across the country that they will have large scale testing of all members of their community on reentry while using random sampling throughout the semester, VDH is urging institutions to focus scarce testing resources on symptomatic individuals and contacts of those who test positive. On Tuesday, Governor Northam introduced the Virginia Blueprint’s Phase II Guidance, which has many instructions for organizations and their operations and we are working to incorporate these best practices in our situation, even if the distinctive nature of a residential university like ours must be more restrictive than these phases. And, looking ahead to next week, we expect to receive additional guidance from the Governor’s Office and the state-wide education task force. Considering all of these inputs, we will then need to adapt UMW’s plan.

Also, you should know that we are planning for multiple scenarios, and striving to build a plan that is flexible and capable of adapting as circumstances change. As an example, we are modeling out different “COVID capacities” for our classrooms and learning spaces. We have seen estimates from other schools set the bar at 100 square feet/person while others have settled on 36 square feet/person. Our entire room inventory is being recalibrated and mapped to maximize opportunity for participation while minimizing the risk of transmission. We look to share those new capacities in the next week or two so that faculty and staff can continue the important work of reimagining the spaces in which we teach, learn, and work.

One thing is clear: The campus and the campus experience will be very different this fall. From an employee perspective:

  • We will wear masks
  • We will self-monitor our symptoms
  • Many of us will continue to telework and offices will develop rotations for employees to help ensure social distancing
  • Many of our reception and information desks/windows will be protected by plexiglass or similar barriers
  • Zoom will continue to be our meeting room for gatherings large and small

For our students, things will also be different:

  • On-campus dining will be grab-and-go, rather than gathering around a table
  • Common spaces in our residence halls will be limited and some halls will be empty, set-aside as quarantine and isolation spaces
  • Classrooms will be at lower capacities to account for social distancing
  • Some students will participate remotely
  • Events will be smaller and some of our traditions like Honor Convocation will be virtualized
  • Many meetings and office hours will be conducted virtually
  • And masks will be worn

And therein lies our challenge. What we know about what matters most in college – connections with others and deep learning experiences – are in many ways in direct conflict with the plans we are putting in place to return to campus. How then can we maximize opportunities, connections, and experiences while prioritizing the health and safety of all members of our community? How then even as we put up plexiglass and develop protocols for separation can we are introduce new ways of gathering and interacting?

Harnessing our collective creativity and energy to adapt to what we know matters is the task ahead. It is the work of the next weeks, months, and indeed, the next year. So, as always, if you have thoughts, concerns, or questions, you may reach out to us or other members of the Task Force. (For previous messages, go to EagleEye.) At the same time, we also really want to hear your ideas for how we might meet the challenge before us.

 

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force

Message #3 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the third in a series of weekly communications with the campus community from the COVID-19 Task Force. There have been several developments over the past week that are important to share.

First, the Task Force has completed an initial draft of the University’s “return to campus plan” and we anticipate refining it over the next few days. The plan outlines “gating conditions” or prerequisites for a return to campus, as well as detailed recommendations for repopulating the campus, monitoring and containment. It also includes a comprehensive technology plan as well as budget estimates for many of the costs necessary to support health and safety as part of instruction on a residential campus.

We are, however, in a bit of a holding pattern at this point, as we await the guidance of the state-wide education task force which is also completing its work. We anticipate receiving appropriate guidance from the Governor’s Office on or about June 9. We have also learned that our plan, which will need to align with the Commonwealth’s expectations, will then need to be reviewed by both the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). While it is our hope that this process will be expedited, it may, unfortunately, constrain our ability to finalize and share the plan more widely.

That said, we are able to share some of the decisions around which we have consensus. For example, consistent with CDC guidance, face coverings will be a critical piece of our return to campus. We will also modify the academic calendar to hold classes on Labor Day, cancel Fall Break, and move to remote instruction after Thanksgiving. The best information we have tells us that minimizing, as much as possible, the back and forth of travel for breaks can make a difference in reducing transmission; a notion explained by Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education this week. These adjustments will be reflected in the official calendar and posted in the Office of the Provost in the coming days.

Second, the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) has issued guidance on workplace safety which is being adapted by the Office of Human Resources for application to UMW. Executive HR Director Beth Williams will be sharing this guidance along with directions for every office to begin to develop its individual return to work plan. While there are many elements of our plan that will be standardized and uniform across campus (e.g. signage, face covering expectations, and social distancing requirements), there are others that will be unique to individual units. The expectation is that supervisors would start developing those plans soon and submit them for feedback from the Task Force. More information about timelines and a template for what to include will be communicated through our HR office.

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or other members of the Task Force.

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force

 

Message #2 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the second in a series of weekly communications with the campus community from the COVID-19 Task Force. Over the course of the last week there has been significant movement on a number of fronts in planning a return to campus this fall.

First, President Paino established guiding principles to inform planning efforts and the important decisions that will need to be made by the Task Force.  These tenets shall also inform the individual planning of campus units working towards a COVID-19 response:

  1. Protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.
  2. Preserve the ability to fulfill our mission – teaching and learning that serves the public good.
  3. Maintain those University operations that support student success and our ability to fulfill our mission.
  4. Preserve the University’s financial capacity as well as its long-term financial health to fulfill our mission now and into the future.
  5. Honor our community values (ASPIRE – Accountability, Scholarship, Personal and Individual Integrity, Inclusive Excellence, Respect and Civility, Engagement).

Second, the Task Force has begun utilizing the information and research developed in the topical areas of the seven subgroups, which we described in last week’s communication (Public Health, Academics, Student Life, Residential Life, Dining, Work Life, and Technology) in order to build several plans. It has become readily apparent that many concerns and issues facing campus are intertwined among the groups. Addressing these broad scale issues requires greater conversation and cross pollination among the teams. In response, President Paino charged the Task Force subgroup chairs with meeting and coordinating the subgroup efforts.

The subgroups and the chairs are framing their work around four plans:  1) reopening campus, 2) monitoring and responding to health conditions of the campus community, 3) containment to prevent the spread of disease if/when detected, and 4) return to remote operations if that becomes necessary.  Chairs of the subgroups are drafting recommendations that fit within each of these plans. Included in these recommendations are projecting cost estimates (e.g. testing, PPE, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, technology, etc.), which must be factored into the many costs associated with a return to campus.

Already the Task Force has identified dozens of logistical issues that must be considered and operationalized such as….

  • Should the academic calendar be altered, accelerated, or abbreviated?
  • What is the best method to calculate occupancy limits for classrooms under social distancing guideline?
  • How can classroom assignments be configured so that every classroom may be cleaned according to CDC recommendations?
  • What is an appropriate density of occupation for the residence halls?
  • What policies will be in place regarding students, faculty, staff and visitors regarding masks/facial coverings?

Even as we are planning, the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group is developing guidelines for safely reopening that allow for coordination and compatibility among the state’s educational bodies. Ultimately, these recommendations, which are expected to be released on June 5, will complement the work of our internal groups.

Finally, one decision that has been made is that we will restrict all room and facility reservations for the fall semester. This is important to do both because 1) it is not clear what events and programs the University will be able to hold in the fall, and 2) to the maximum degree possible, event and meeting facilities need to be available to be repurposed into instructional and classroom spaces to allow for adequate social distancing.

Next week, managers will receive additional guidance from the Work Life subgroup regarding ways to develop further working protocols and safety guidelines. These recommendations will be based upon the direction of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management.

In many of our initial communications, we may have more questions than answers; yet we will strive to keep you informed in a timely and transparent way. We also invite you to share your thoughts, concerns, and questions with the members of the subgroup, names of whom were shared in the first Task Force email on May 14.

 

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force