Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, chancellor of UNMC, and Ted Cieslak, MD, interim executive director for health security, set a tone of cautious optimism, seven days into the med center's return to campus, at Monday's virtual all-campus forum. Dr. Gold thanked the campus for all of the hard work as the fall semester gets underway.
But, cautioned Dr. Gold, during an infectious diseases pandemic, "What happens off campus is just as important as what happens on campus."
Drs. Gold and Cieslak stressed the continued importance of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI) such as masks and social distancing -- and not just while at work. At UNMC, these NPI measures are called the 7 Fundamentals of Campus COVID Control.
That includes the use of the 1-Check UNMC app. The app is a self-screening tool, but also provides campus leadership with a real-time sense of conditions on campus.
"We're interested in checking that key data for trends," in aggregate, Dr. Cieslak said. "We're not interested in individuals."
All personal information is fully HIPAA protected and encrypted, Dr. Cieslak added.
Dr. Gold again thanked the UNMC community for all the hard work that went into, and continues to go into, bringing students, faculty and staff back to campus. He acknowledged that many, if not most of us, are feeling a good deal of stress and anxiety thanks to a host of factors happening in 2020.
He specifically addressed the impacts of the health aspects of the pandemic, the economic downturns, the racial injustice related events, and many others.
Please, take advantage of UNMC's wellness resources, the chancellor said.
"If you think you need somebody to talk to, please reach out," he said. "We're all responsible for not just ourselves, but to each other, and we need to exemplify that on a daily basis."
Good news on the budget, which remains stable: "If anything, things are more favorable," than a few months ago, Dr. Gold said. Research awards are up dramatically, he said, and enrollment is growing as well.
The campus is looking forward to ribbon cuttings for the McGoogan Library renovation (next week), and the Davis Global Center. And the NExT project took another step with the signing of LB 1107.
"We are very grateful to the Nebraska Unicameral and the governor for their leadership," Dr. Gold said.
A question from the community asked about timelines for a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Cieslak suggested checking the New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker: "I think it will brighten your day when you look at it," he said, as several vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials. UNMC has signed preliminary agreements with several large companies with hopes of pursuing clinical trials for COVID-19.
Another question asked about flu shots on campus. Watch UNMC Today for flu shot updates and schedules, likely to begin shortly after the Labor Day holiday. Campus leaders say it will be important to have widespread vaccination well before a safe and effective COVID vaccine is available.
Dr. Gold closed by repeating the "North Star" goal of health and safety of our campus family in the learning, research and clinical environments. He stressed the importance of community viral transmission rates, health care resource capacity and compliance with campus-based practices. He also repeated the commitment to continued transparency as the semester proceeds.