Nov. 3, 2020

I am a member of the Interior Alaska Unified Command policy group. This group also includes the mayors and leaders from the medical community and military bases. Each day I receive a status update that includes, among other things, the number tests given, positives, number of hospitalizations, and local intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy.

The data is more granular than on the state website, which is a help as we assess our conditions in Interior Alaska. The policy group meets every other week on Wednesday morning to discuss issues relevant to the Fairbanks North Star Borough. And while cases continue to increase in the community, hospitalization rates are currently low in the Interior. This is one of the key metrics we use when determining our status.

Another key metric is UAF’s isolation capacity for COVID-19-positive students in residence on the Troth Yeddha’ campus. Like most days, there is currently no one in isolation in either of the residence halls reserved for that purpose. A third metric we monitor is our control of community spread at all of our campuses. For almost three weeks, the total number of cases reported among faculty, staff, students and contractors has been two or fewer per day, inclusive of all UAF locations. This number includes all reported cases among employees, contractors and students, whether they access a university property or not.

With the holidays approaching, many questions have come to the Operational Support Team (OST) about the release of the revised State of Alaska Mandate 10 and what it means to UA’s current campus access guidance. The current campus restriction policy is a UA policy and one that the system office is in the process of updating.

Until it changes, UAF is following the Sept. 25 campus entry restrictions guidance. This guidance requires any individuals who, in the last two weeks, have traveled outside the state of Alaska; or have been identified as a “close contact”; or are returning from having been a passenger on a cruise ship; or have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or are COVID-19-symptomatic or are a “person under investigation” to stay home and self-observe for 14 days or until they have two negative COVID-19 test results. This applies to all students, employees, contractors and visitors. We expect modifications to come out in the next few days that will bring the UA guidance more in line with the new state Mandate 10. When the new UA guidance comes out we will get it posted in the Cornerstone.

With the rise in cases locally, it continues to be important in the coming weeks and months to practice 6 feet of physical distancing, frequent hand washing, disinfecting surface tops, and wearing a mask unless outside or alone in a private office with the door shut. Continuing to take these precautions will help keep UAF safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Along those same lines, an email announcement from UA went out yesterday with details on the extension of COVID-19 emergency sick leave (ESL) until June 30, 2021. All full-time employees have access to 80 hours of ESL, and part-time employees have access to a prorated portion based on their part-time status. The 80 ESL hours cover the following situations when an employee is unable to work:
  • they are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19,
  • they have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19,
  • they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis,
  • they are caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19,
  • they are caring for their child whose school or place of care is closed (or childcare provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19-related reasons, or
  • they have a substantially similar condition as specified by federal authorities.
The ESL leave “bucket” is a one-time allowance. Employees who have already used some or all of their ESL will not receive additional leave but will have access to it through June 2021. I encourage all UAF employees to read the UA announcement if you haven’t done so already.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

— by Dan White, chancellor
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