Checking In With Chancellor May: Teamwork

Photo of Chancellor Gary May looking at the camera and smiling with his right had on his face

To the UC Davis Community: 

This week we observed the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and it has me thinking even more about the good work we do at UC Davis to protect the health of our land, air, water and animals, and of the 7.5 billion people who inhabit our planet.

We have been No. 1 in the nation in the GreenMetric World University Rankings for three years running, and our health system recently received an Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth. We are equally proud of our John Muir Institute of the Environment, the SeaDoc Society, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center and so much more. Our research has slowed in this field, necessarily, but we are more than making up for it in COVID-19 research. We had no shortage of proposals for campus funding, and gave out our second and final set of awards this week.

Our Office of Research asked for proposals across all disciplines, and that’s what we have in projects like “Novel Bisaminoquinoline Derived Self-Delivered Nanodrug Against SARS-CoV-2,” by Yuanpei Li, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine; and “‘Immunity Passport’: New Forms of Biological Citizenship Post-COVID-19,” by Cristiana Giordano, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.

This week, our Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, in collaboration with the Center for Health and Technology and the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, called for proposals related to COVID-19’s impact on health services, access, outcomes and costs.

Yesterday, Distinguished Professor Walter Leal brought together a panel of UC Davis experts and others for a public awareness symposium that drew a capacity audience of 500 on Zoom, with participants from around the world — not counting hundreds more who could not get in. The symposium had 647 real-time viewers on YouTube — and the recording now has more 1,600 views. Thank you, Professor Leal and panelists. (Look for a report in Tuesday’s Dateline UC Davis.)

Essential care

In Sacramento, UC Davis Health continues to do brilliant work in testing and research, and, of course, treatment. Here’s a wonderful story about the festive farewell our health care team gave to a patient as she left the hospital. Beyond COVID-19, our health care team is continuing to provide essential patient care, including cancer surgeries, organ transplants and supporting the region’s trauma care needs — truly extraordinary in light of all that is happening. We thank our health care heroes. (The Washington Post spent a whole day here last week, and you can see a video report here, if you’re a subscriber.)

Departments and students have been helping where they can, donating personal protective equipment and making face shields, for example, delivering hundreds of them this week and last to our medical center.

The Academic and Staff Assistance Program, or ASAP, which provides high quality, confidential counseling for faculty and staff at UC Davis and UC Davis Health, is offering its services virtually, and holding presentations and discussions on a number of topics, as well as drop-in support groups. For more information, call Davis ASAP, 530-752-2727, or UC Davis Health ASAP, 916-734-2727.

We have a truly outstanding team on both of our campuses and beyond, a point recognized earlier this week in a “Twitter Roadblock” — when our coaches joined their counterparts around the country in tweeting their support for their academic and health colleagues “as they take the fight to COVID-19 in our labs and hospitals.” They used the hashtag #ProudToBeOnTheirTeam — and if you look it up, you’ll see the tweets from this amazing show of support.

Face coverings

This morning, Yolo County issued an order requiring people to wear face coverings outside the home, including at work. Our groundskeepers, first-responders and health care workers have already been wearing masks and face coverings at work. If you are required to be on campus to work, please bring your own face covering to wear. Most of you will already have them for your essential trips out of the house.

For employees who do not have suitable face coverings available for their on-campus assignments, we will have details soon about how to request them. As you might expect, orders for face coverings, including nonmedical masks, are in high demand. We have a limited supply on hand and have placed additional orders for expected delivery in June.

The county order is effective immediately but not enforceable until 8 a.m. Monday, April 27. Please remember: Although wearing a face covering is one tool for reducing the spread of the virus, doing so is not a substitute for sheltering in place, physical distancing of at least 6 feet, and frequent hand-washing.

Planning scenarios

I told you last week about two Scenario Planning Groups that we’ve established to prepare the campus for a resumption of activities, subject, of course, to evolving conditions and medical guidance as well as county, state and federal directives. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter leads one of these groups, focusing on instruction for the fall quarter; while Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff of Finance, Operations and Administration leads the other, focusing on operations.

These groups will coordinate with the Office of Research, which has posted guidelines for ramping up research — but please note, and this is important: We are not there yet. This is preparation. We remain in Phase 1, sheltering in place in adherence to government directives, with only critical research allowed. Phase 2 allows time-sensitive research activities (with only a third of research personnel allowed on-site at any time). Phase 3 provides for a gradual restart, with two-thirds of research personnel allowed on-site at any time. In Phase 4, we would return to full research operations. (The guidelines can also be used in reverse, to ramp down research.)

The guidance includes principles that must be followed. They include the following: Protect the mental and physical health and safety of the research work force, clinical patients and human research subjects; no researcher should feel they are being compelled to work on campus or in the field during periods of shelter-at-home directives; safe practices within laboratories must be rigorously maintained, with adequate access to PPE and other safety related supplies; and the number of people in a workspace must be limited, to allow for proper social distancing.

Federal aid

You may have heard that the federal government’s $2 trillion CARES Act provided direct funding to lessen the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and institutions of higher education. UC Davis expects to receive almost $34 million. Half, almost $17 million, will be used to provide direct financial support to students for increased needs related to the coronavirus. Financial Aid professionals at UC Davis and across UC are developing plans to distribute these funds to students, with the vast majority of funds expected to be awarded this quarter.

The remaining $17 million will be used to address the operational impact of COVID-19 on the campus. This level of funding, while helpful, will meet only a small portion of the campus need: Last month alone, we experienced unanticipated expenditures and losses of $80 million.

Campus leaders are developing guiding principles for allocation of our CARES Act funds. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to issue additional guidance and rules about the acceptable use and timeline for these funds, which will impact campus decisions.

We did some fundraising of our own last weekend during our fourth annual Give Day. We were a bit wary of going forward with this event during the pandemic, but ultimately decided our needs are too great — especially our emergency funds, new and old, that are providing COVID-19 relief to our students and front-line workers. Not only did people respond, but they did so in a record way — contributing more than $2.5 million to funds and programs all across the university, including $200,000 for those emergency funds I mentioned.

Earth Day and beyond

Before this pandemic, our Office of Sustainability had organized more than a month of activities to celebrate the 50th Earth Day. I want to thank everyone who pivoted quickly to move as many of those events online as possible. The calendar on ourEarth Day website includes a World Climate Simulation next week (a program that can complement student learning in classes addressing climate change) and avirtual tour of our California Raptor Center on May 2.

Another Earth Day project is 50/50/50, in which we are all invited to submit essays, poems, artworks, posters, short films and music reflecting our thoughts about Earth Day when it began 50 years ago (those of us who are old enough to remember); our feelings today, on the 50th anniversary; and our vision for 50 years hence. Submit by email to sustainability@ucdavis.edu, and the team will assemble everything in a gallery on the Earth Day website.

I am heartened at a time like this to know we are in this together, taking care of one another and our planet (including the peregrine falcons who are the stars of a webcam show from their nest atop the UC Davis Medical Center — be sure to check it out!).

Sincerely,
Gary S. May

Chancellor

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