Good morning everyone. Official University updates are available on the SU COVID-19 website and there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the campus community.
Fortunately that hasn't changed, but many other things have over the past 24 hours; we are waking up to different world every morning. Supporting each other in the context of our values and through good communication is the key to doing our best through these unbelievable circumstances. There is a lot to talk about so here we go.
Disability Services Accommodations for Completing Courses Online: I sent out their information in an email yesterday afternoon at 5:40 pm.
Grading through the end of the quarter: The first recommendation is to use Canvas to provide a means of turning in final assignments and administering final exams. The second recommendation is to provide a grade based on what has been turned in up to this point if possible. We are hoping to keep incompletes to a minimum but expect there will be more incompletes than usual. We asked about changing the rule of an incomplete automatically switching to an F. I think that happened but haven't heard back. Keep in mind it is possible there will not be in-person opportunities to wrap up incomplete assignments for quite some time. I am looking in to the possibility of extending the deadline for final grades, but possible changes in the Spring Quarter schedule may also give time for more focus on completing grading next week, then moving to Spring quarter planning.
Plans for the Spring Quarter: The approach being developed for the spring quarter is a distance-learning approach more than an online course approach. It continues to increasingly look like we will not start the quarter with in-person classes and I still expect a university-wide announcement about the spring quarter by the end of this week. CDLI is developing 10-week templates similar to the templates they put out for this week and finals. They are designed for faculty who are relatively less familiar with online tools, but I encourage everyone to incorporate what they know and support others as they can. I know this is still a big change. The university is seriously considering (and I support) a slight delay to the start of the quarter specifically to allow more time to prepare. The point is to support students by providing a quality education in a way that best for their learning and public health. We will need everyone's help in making this the best it can be in the time available. These changes are to get through the current circumstances. We may learn things that help us and students be more adaptable in the increasingly unpredictable world we're handing off to them along the way. However, the point is to get through this and get them back to the learning environment they chose when we can.
Questions about tech support. The HelpDesk remains available, but we are also identifying lead people inside the college to help keep on top of emergent tech issues as we use more technology for classes and meetings. Kevin Krycka (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be the college's lead contact for software questions and technical problems, and Sally Hogan (email@example.com) will be the lead contact for equipment issues. If you don't have a camera for Zoom or your computer "only works for email now," let Sally know. If you're having trouble with Canvas or Zoom not doing what you want, Kevin would be a good contact AND CONNECT WITH THE CDLI TRAINING.
Questions about how much Zoom can handle. The short answer is that no software is perfect but Zoom is very "stable" and can easily handle our demands. Up to 1000 people can join a single Zoom meeting and up to 49 videos can appear on the screen at once (see the tip below). As of 2015, Zoom was hosting 5 billion meeting minutes monthly. I have had 10 hours of Zoom meetings over the past two days. The problems I have seen so far have been around video equipment malfunctions (it works on computers, phones, or a combination of both) and having to listen to background noise until people learn to use the mute function. Check out the CDLI training above for much more information on Zoom and Canvas.
My favorite Zoom tip so far if you're interested: I really dislike the feature where it focuses on only one person and jumps to the person who is speaking (or who randomly makes a noise). That seems to be the default setting, but if you see a tic tac toe symbol in the top right corner of the screen, click it and then you can see everyone on the call at the same time (up to 49 people). This is MUCH better for getting a sense of the group and feels MUCH more like an in-person meeting.
That's a lot of tech talk, but this is ultimately about supporting and staying connected with our students.
Big Regional Changes: After the rule about gatherings of over 250 people in mentioned in yesterday's (March 11) update, King County came out with guidelines for public gatherings (defined in the policy) smaller than 250 people. King County has now aggregated their Public Health Guidelines in one place under their more general COVID-19 guidelines.
If you go to the pdf version of the document, it describes social distancing as limiting person-to-person contact of closer than 6 feet to 10 minutes or less. If you need to meet with someone in person for longer than that, make sure you keep that distance or further between everyone who has gotten together. It is the policy of the college to follow the King County social distancing guidelines, that is how we can best protect and show solidarity with our most vulnerable community members.
Seattle Public Schools are now closed for at least two weeks and probably more. Other school districts nearby are also closing, go directly to your school district's web page as the King County page is at least a day behind on school information right now. These closures will create significant additional challenges for many faculty, staff and students.
Seattle Times links to all COVID stories should be accessible to everyone, outside the pay wall. A staff member with connections to the Seattle Times followed up on the problem some people had yesterday with a link I sent out. That was a glitch, all stories that they write are being made available to everyone as a public service. The link Mike Myint gave today should work for everyone. Yay local newspapers!
On the lighter side, the earworm you're hearing if you are my age and talk about Zoom this much: Ahh, public television in the 1970s:Zoom Episode one - intro
Exercise, rest, take care of yourself and your loved ones. Enough said.
I'll wrap up with Dr. Mike Myint's update for this morning
What a difference a day makes? Or not...
So much has changed and so much remains the same. Containment has not been realistic and mitigation our strategy for over a week. We now have more easily accessible testing in most systems. Note that smaller practices still have a harder time with testing but larger health systems have testing mostly up now though not at all sites due to PPE limitations.
Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency banning groups over 250 in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties in WA. In King County, the true regional Epicenter and population center, any public gathering even less than 250 needs to have "mitigating strategies" for infection control and hygiene. Jeff Duchin, a real leader in our region for public health and infection prevention stated that we are going to see a large increase of cases in healthcare in the next few weeks.
Internationally the WHO declared a pandemic. This was really just an academic/semantic exercise. It really doesn't change a thing as any of my friends, many of which are now fairly good amateur epidemiologists, could have told you. This is spreading worldwide and thought some countries have blunted the spread (China, S. Korea, Taiwan etc), it is not currently controlled in many other places.
OK, reality check. This was inevitable from an epidemiology standpoint given some of the initial limitations of our response. Limited testing, our public health resources are limited, and healthcare organizations have limitations on basics supplies to keep our teams safe and able to care for patients and our communities. Some of this is better and healthcare systems have adapted.
The things that haven't changed are the things that all of us can actively do to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.
1. Don't panic, this is similar to influenza pandemics (like H1N1 in 2009) and we will get past this epidemic. Assuring basic supplies to minimize going out in public should not mean hoarding. Especially for masks or healthcare supplies. Having a box or two of masks would best help if you or a family member is sick and needs to go to a healthcare facility to protect others. Regular mask use is felt by most experts including myself not to help you. If you feel the need, buy reusable cloth masks as these are not as useful for healthcare workers.
2. Follow public health guidance - for the reasons above, this is not new information. We have been saying this since our fist cases. Limit unnecessary public contact. Consider any travel plans. I would not take a cruise anywhere in the world presently (CDC guidance) given the epidemiology of this disease and its worldwide presence.
3. Care for self and family. Hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (cough in elbow), don't touch your face in public. Eat healthy, exercise in a manner respecting social distancing. Talk about this with your family or other trusted sources as anxiety seems the most common symptoms that I am seeing. Post questions and I will try to get to them.
4. Access healthcare when you need to. Luckily virtual care is a reality. If you have mild illness stay home and treat as you would a cold/flu. If you are worried and have shortness of breath or other moderate or severe symptoms, call first. Use emergency systems like 911 as you would have before C19, based on symptoms or clinician instructions.
Note that despite flaws, and there are many (talking to you CDC - this is a droplet disease like influenza and the CDC needs to give clear guidance), most healthcare professionals, public health specialists are working in challenging situations to keep you, your families and our communities safe. Not one person I work with isn't bringing their A+ game. And I work with pretty much every health system in the state...
5. Take control and do the things you can. In so many ways, things are still the same and the simple/not easy recommendations that I have been talking about seem eerily familiar from my first blogs. Help educate your neighbors and support your communities. Are vulnerable people doing OK? Can we help deliver food? Toilet paper? Let's make this our communities finest moment.
Check Kate's emails.