Sept. 15, 2020

As the COVID-19 environment changes, so do we. Early this week I brought up with UAF leaders a needed change to our face covering policy based on revised CDC guidance. Some concerns were expressed about the pace of change, and the challenge that changing a policy poses. Unfortunately the pace of change is dictated by the pandemic, the CDC’s understanding of the COVID-19 disease, community dynamics, and state and local restrictions. But who better to respond to change than UAF? We are in the business of learning and discovery!

Before getting into the change to the UAF face coverings policy, let me take a moment to thank all those who are moving mountains to keep UAF faculty, staff and students safe while providing access to education. Thank you! The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Fairbanks North Star Borough has not been reflected in UAF faculty, staff and students. It may at some point, but if it does, we will adapt. As we look at the numbers, the work you are doing is making a big difference. To that end, while the state alert level is high (>10 cases per 100,000 over 14 days), we remain vigilant but maintain our current approach. Multiple factors indicate that UAF’s approach to the pandemic is being managed effectively. Thank you to each of you for that.

To keep up to date, check out the UAF COVID-19 dashboard that reports COVID-19 data for the Fairbanks campus and UAF rural sites. Data points now include new positive cases (updated Monday through Friday), seven-day average daily cases, 14-day average daily cases, cumulative cases (since March 2020), and the percent of isolation space used by campus residents (Fairbanks campus only). The dashboard will soon include the total number of student tests that have been administered on the Fairbanks campus.

With the Center for Disease Control updating guidance regularly, UAF has updated the recent COVID-19 Face Coverings Policy to be consistent with the new CDC guidance. The main change is that face shields alone only meet the face coverings policy in specific cases. That is, when delivering lectures (when 6 feet of separation is continuously maintained) or as approved on a case by case basis by the Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management. As we learn more about COVID-19, the CDC releases the most up-to-date information and that helps inform UAF policy.

Per CDC guidance on “How to Select, Wear and Clean Your Mask” and “Consideration for Wearing Masks,” they are currently advising the following:

  • Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Masks should be worn by people two years and older
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
  • Face shields are not recommended, but if used in conjunction with a face mask, are effective. Face shields should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin or be a hooded face shield.
In other news, some questions have recently come up about returning to campus after being out of state. As a reminder, UAF follows State of Alaska Health Mandate 10, and requires all employees, students and visitors who have traveled outside Alaska to observe the 14-day quarantine mandate or to have two negative COVID-19 tests prior to returning to campus for work, school or any other activities. Additional information can also be found on the UA Campus Entry Restriction guidance document.

Returning to campus (or class) after being out of state will be especially tricky after Thanksgiving. The quarantine period could extend to finals. I would encourage all students who have in-person classes to stay in their campus community during Thanksgiving so that you don’t end up in an end-of-semester quarantine. The residence halls will be open over Thanksgiving to allow residential students to remain on campus.

Thank you to everyone for keeping our campus safe, and thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor

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