While Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, acknowledged COVID-19’s continuing impact on UNMC, he took time in his latest campus forum to express his pride at the UNMC community’s response to the pandemic and to the widespread adoption of the COVID-19 vaccines.
During the Nov. 18 forum, Dr. Gold cited the high rate of faculty, student and staff vaccination against COVID and compliance with UNMC’s vaccine policy.
The university’s high level of compliance gives the workforce of our institution, our students, staff, faculty, patients and guests the highest possible safety advantage, Dr. Gold said.
At a time when people are making plans to be safe for the holidays, Dr. Gold held out the med center for its safety, saying people on campus will hopefully "be surrounded by people that are fully vaxxed and take care of each other and take care of our community."
Even so, Dr. Gold and Jane Meza, PhD, UNMC’s interim executive director for health security, noted several ways that COVID-19 continues to affect the campus, its operations and its people.
For one, UNMC leadership again held yet another campus forum via Zoom, which Dr. Gold noted with regret. A recording of the forum is available at this link.
Dr. Meza, who joined Dr. Gold for the virtual forum, said UNMC’s surveillance testing for COVID-19 has shown a positivity rate of 2% over the past several weeks.
The surveillance testing program offers any UNMC faculty, staff or students free saliva testing if they are asymptomatic. If everyone is following that protocol, that means one out of every 50 people getting tested is still coming up positive for COVID-19 - without showing symptoms.
As one example of the COVID impact, Dr. Gold told forum attendees that he will not host his annual chancellor’s holiday party in person this year. He said that was a strategic decision given the trajectory of the community infection rates.
Dr. Gold said UNMC is carefully considering when to start loosening its policy on allowing gatherings of more than five people to have food. But given the COVID-19 trends in the community, the level of hospitalizations and UNMC’s own random screening results, the university has deferred any changes for now, the chancellor said.
Dr. Gold said he didn’t want everybody to think UNMC will be stuck in these policies forever "because we're certainly not. But we're also trying to take every aspect of safety that we possibly can to move forward." He characterized it as an abundance of caution.
But Dr. Gold cited one reopening — UNMC’s ice rink will again open to the community Saturday, Nov. 27. He said the university will be careful about COVID safety, although the chancellor noted the rink is outdoors and UNMC can limit participation if necessary.
On other topics:
Dr. Gold introduced Susan Kraft Mann on the Zoom as UNMC’s interim vice chancellor for business, finance and business development. The chancellor said a national search is underway to fill the position permanently, but the university’s business, finance and business development activities are in capable hands with Kraft Mann, who has served UNMC for more than 20 years.
Results from a campus climate survey completed by the Office of the President of the University of Nebraska System are being compiled by Gallup and will be released next year. Dr. Gold said UNMC will use the survey to find the university’s challenges and direct resources to those areas.
Dr. Gold addressed the stress of the times — from "all things COVID" to the holidays to final exams approaching. He urged people: If you see a co-worker, a friend or a family member under stress, ask them how they’re doing. Dr. Gold himself said he has programmed the suicide hotline number into his cell phone contacts in case he quickly needs it for someone who needs help.
"Please take care of yourself," he said. "Please take care of each other. Have a wonderful, safe holiday."