Sept. 22, 2020

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

For today’s COVID-19 communication, I want to send a big thank-you to the Staff Council for their efforts in surveying staff and sharing the results with UAF leadership. Staff Council has conducted two COVID-19 preparedness surveys since July, and both have provided valuable feedback and helped influence leadership discussions as well as COVID-19 communications and safety measures. The survey is still open, and I encourage you to take it, even if you already submitted a response in July or August. Survey results will be grouped by date submitted, so there won’t be duplicate responses.

Along these same lines of campus communication, I want to revisit UAF protocols and procedures for COVID-19. As we continue to learn and adapt, it is important not to forget about the basics of what we are all doing to keep each other and our campus community safe.

First, all UAF classrooms, shared spaces, and common areas have been outfitted with hand sanitizer, sanitizing spray, and/or disinfectant wipes. I encourage everyone to clean surfaces in their office or in the classroom before use, and wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. If you observe a space that is missing these elements, please report it to Facilities Services at 474-7000 or fill out an order form.

It is also important to refresh your memory about UA’s campus entry restrictions guidance that was updated on Aug. 25. This guidance was established by the UA system office and applies to all UA universities.

Special restrictions outlined in the guidance applies to persons who:
  • Have been in ANY location outside Alaska, foreign or domestic, within the past two weeks; or
  • Have been identified by public health in “close contact” with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, or with someone who is COVID-19 symptomatic and is a “person under investigation;” or
  • Are returning from having been a passenger on a cruise ship; or
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • Are COVID-19 symptomatic and are a “person under investigation.”
The restrictions apply to employees, students, contractors and visitors. If the conditions apply to you, the important thing is that you not go to campus, and instead, notify your supervisor and follow the instructions in the “required actions” portion of the guidance.

As I walk around UAF Troth Yeddha’ campus each day, I observe nearly universal compliance with the face coverings policy. In fact, it is fun to see all the different face masks, each reflecting personality. I did, however, receive concerns from more than one person this week that individuals, including faculty, were not all wearing their face masks in hallways and face-to-face meetings, and that such employees were in their offices with the doors open and no masks. I observed the latter case myself in one case. Violations of policy will be directed to supervisors or Human Resources for employees, or the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities for students.

UAF’s COVID-19 face coverings policy is in place to keep everyone safe, which is why it is policy. As a refresher, face coverings are required at all locations owned or operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Face coverings must be worn by all individuals except those who are:
  • Medically exempted or under the age of 2
  • Working or spending time alone in a personal office with a closed door
    • If your office door is propped open, a mask is required
  • Working or spending time outdoors (e.g., walking, exercising) where a 6-foot distance is continuously maintained between individuals
  • Operating a single occupancy vehicle
  • Teleworking (i.e., not reporting on site to a university work location)
  • Inside a private, on-campus residential unit
  • Eating or drinking, provided that a 6-foot physical distance between people is continuously maintained
  • In special communal work environments such as the fire station, where additional protective measures are in effect
  • Specifically exempted medical or training exercises are being conducted
  • Are doing activities in recreation or athletics facilities that are specifically exempted
Guidance around COVID-19 continues to evolve, and UAF is using the Centers for Disease Control to help inform our guidance and policies to ensure the safety of our UAF community.

I have received a couple questions about notification of close contacts if a UAF faculty, staff or student is COVID-19 positive. All laboratories are required to report test results to the state. Public health officials then begin the contact tracing process, which includes notifying close contacts who might have been exposed to COVID-19 and gathering information from others with more limited contact. UAF may also do some limited contact tracing. In both cases, the name of the person who has COVID-19 will not be shared.

Some concerns have come up recently regarding students who may have told their classmates that they were COVID-19-positive but did not report it via the Student COVID-19 Reporting form. Regardless of where someone takes a COVID-19 test, all positive results are reported daily to the state Department of Health and Social Services. If someone is determined to be a “close contact” of a COVID-19-positive individual, a DHSS or UAF contact tracer will contact them and provide guidance on what they should do.

As a final note, we are expecting some new information from the CDC on aerosol transmission of the coronavirus. We are watching this new guidance, but with adherence to the revised face coverings policy, campus access policy, and our 6-foot separation in classrooms, we expect that if and when CDC issues guidance, we will not need significant changes in campus practices and procedures. The UAF Operations Support Team is keeping a close eye on the conversation around aerosols.

If you have other questions about UAF’s response to COVID-19, please visit the UAF COVID-19 website. If you don’t find the information you need there, you can visit the UAF “contact us” page to contact departments that may be able to answer your questions directly. You can also submit your COVID-19 question here.

Thank you for keeping our campus community safe and for choosing UAF!

— Dan White, chancellor
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