This week starts the second half of the fall semester. We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished together. At the start of the semester, there was worry that COVID-19 would overwhelm the campus, and we’d be forced to go remote classes only. However, because we all worked collectively towards the goal of mitigating the virus, we’ve managed to avoid that result.
In particular, I want to express appreciation to all the front-line workers on campus including our health care workers/volunteers, food service and retail workers, custodians, residence hall employees, and the workers in Facilities Management. They have all done a great job making sure that the campus continues to operate, even under these unfortunate circumstances. For all your work and effort, thank you.
As we enter the second half of the semester, I would like to answer some questions that have been circulating around campus:
1. North Dakota COVID-19 Metrics. North Dakota is getting negative national attention for its COVID-19 levels and for its lack of a robust response. However, local efforts are beginning to take shape. On Monday, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney issued a mask mandate for Fargo, making it the first city in North Dakota to do so. I am pleased to say that I, along with the Faculty, Student and Staff Senates, wholeheartedly endorse this mandate. Here at NDSU, we started the semester with a mask mandate, which has helped to keep our numbers reasonably low. Across the city, county and state, everybody, including policy makers, needs to step up and take the actions that are going to protect our citizens and keep our businesses running. Thank you to all who have diligently done what we’ve asked.
2. Post-Thanksgiving: Right now, we plan to keep the same schedule and modes of delivery after Thanksgiving. However, we must be cognizant of the high concentration of COVID-19 in our state and community. In the 5 weeks until Thanksgiving, we need to re-commit ourselves to abiding by all the guidelines (social distance, masks, hand washing, testing, etc.) Since the beginning of the semester, we’ve been able to offer in-person, live education. Let’s do everything we can to help ensure that we can finish the semester the same way we started.
3. Spring Semester: All indications are that COVID-19 is not going away soon. In fact, we need to be prepared for a difficult late fall and winter, but there is considerable hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be distributed next year. Until then, we need to plan for the reality of a tough winter.
To that end, we will be continuing with the HyFlex model for the spring semester. Of course, professors and students who are comfortable attending classes in person will be free to do so, but HyFlex delivery will be available for most classes. Although not perfect, HyFlex has proven to be an effective tool for both educational delivery and prevention of viral transmission. Provost Fitzgerald has been extremely attentive to feedback about HyFlex and assessing its usefulness. She, along with the IT Department, will continue to implement improvements to make it easier to use and more effective. In addition, the Registrar is currently finalizing the spring semester class schedule, and it will include details about course delivery to help students make informed choices.
4. Testing Information. Last week’s tests had a combined 1496 participants with a positivity rate of 6.8%. Again this week, both the number of people tested and the positivity rate increased over the prior week. While the positivity rate continues to be below Cass County rate of 10% for that time period, we need to work to get this rate down.
Some of you might have noticed the news story about the fact that the uptick in cases was straining the ability of contact tracers to perform their work. However, I’m pleased to note that the Governor and the Department of Health issued a joint statement indicating that contact tracing efforts will continue for higher education, including NDSU. Please see here. We do understand that there will be changes to the contact tracing process on campus, and we are working through those issues.
5. Weekly Testing. We’re continuing with the twice weekly testing at the Shelly Ellig Indoor Track Facility (located directly southwest of the SHAC). There will be a test today (October 22) and Sunday (October 25) from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days.
Student government is running another drawing for Visa gift cards for students who get tested this week. First place is $250 and there are five additional $100 winners.
We would like every employee to get tested at least every other week. However, if you are working in an area with significant exposure to others, it would be better to get tested every week. As always, being tested at these events should be considered work time, and I’m asking supervisors to be flexible to allow for employee testing.
Some final points about testing:
• Testing is free.
• You can preregister here. However, if you have already registered for a prior testing event, you do not have to re-register.
• It is not limited to people living on campus. All students, including off-campus students, are encouraged to participate.
• You do not have to have symptoms in order to get this testing. In fact, this testing is only for individuals who are asymptomatic. If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact Student Health Service or your local health care facility to determine next steps.
Dean L. Bresciani, President
NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY