UAMS to Conduct COVID-19 Contact Tracing
The Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Medical Sciences (UAMS) and UAMS Northwest Regional Campus have been authorized to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing for public and private colleges and universities in Arkansas.
The project is in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Department of Health.
“Our goal is to protect the students and employees on each of these campuses,” said Jay Gandy, Ph.D., associate provost and project lead for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus. “This group effort will allow us to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic among the higher education institutions in Arkansas.”
Contact tracing is how public health officials track the spread of an infectious disease. If a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, they isolate themselves so they don’t spread the illness. Public health officials contact these people to help them recall who they’ve been in contact with while they are infectious. Then those people are contacted and asked to quarantine themselves to stop further spread.
The effort is supported by $5 million in federal coronavirus aid that was allocated by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The project will involve establishing two contact tracing centers, one in central Arkansas and one in northwest Arkansas. The work will be done by 75 contact tracers, two center directors, and an assistant center director.
“As colleges begin going back to school, we want to change the norms and behaviors of these students,” said Ben Amick, Ph.D., associate dean for research and project lead for the College of Public Health. “That will be the only way to ensure that students are following social distancing practices, wearing masks, and taking other COVID-19 precautions.”
“Contact tracing this populations presents unique challenges that require creative solutions,” said Maria Markham, Ph.D., director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. “The partnership between the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Arkansas Department of Health, UAMS, and these public and private institutions will leverage our individual expertise and collective effort. I am grateful for a collaboration focused on shortening the process of identifying and notifying contacts associated with our students and employees.”
A MESSAGE FROM CHANCELLOR PHILLIP WILSON (AUGUST 19, 2020)
Students, parents, and community stakeholders,
Our summer planning for the beginning of the fall semester is coming to fruition. Students are in housing, and it’s just a few days until the semester starts. One of our contingencies for which we planned was the possibility of a Covid positive student in housing. We anticipated that it was only a matter of time before COVID directly impacted our campus community. We do now have confirmed positive cases within our student population. We are working with local medical facilities and health officials to fully control the situation. Protocols were and are in place and affected students and staff were immediately quarantined and isolated.
Among UARM’s strengths is our small size and the amount of time we have had to prepare for this situation. It was unavoidable. It was expected. And, it is being managed. It is the world in which we now live. Our institution is no different than the many other institutions that have already been in the arena and fighting the virus.
I cannot stress enough the diligence that our team is showing with respect to the complete care of our students, faculty, staff, and community. I personally have interacted with every student that has been impacted. I am proud to say that each of them is safe and of sound health. We are in constant contact with each of them to care for any need that they require.
I will be as transparent as I legally can be throughout this semester. I urge you to stay focused on the facts and conquer misinformation and panic with FACTS. Be confident in knowing EVERY effort has and IS being made to continually accommodate the educational goals and the health / well-being of our students, our employees of UARM, and all of our community stakeholders.
I ask of you to help out by doing your part in the fight to wear your mask and to socially distance yourself. Our success this semester lies in every effort being made to mitigate the spread while educating our students.
August 24 Announced as First Day of Class
[August 3, 2020 | MENA, Ark.] UA Rich Mountain has announced that in-person classes will now start August 24 with the exception of licensed practical nursing classes, which will start the week originally set, August 17. “This change to the start of classes allows us the ability to better manage the criterion and requirements set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health, and it will enable us to maintain the same calendar as our local area public schools,” explained Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson.
Wilson also announced that the college will provide a “flex” arrangement for in-person classes. For the most part, classes that meet twice a week will rotate being in-person with the instructor one day and remote instruction through interactive technology in a different classroom the second day. This allows for the recommended physical/social distancing. “The safety and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff are my top priorities. These changes allow us to keep adequate social distancing in the classrooms and adhere to the newest guidelines issued by the Department of Health,” added Wilson. Instructors will contact students to arrange the flex schedule.
An added benefit explained by Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Chad Fielding is that it will extend fall registration by another week which will allow many students who have been undecided about college because of the pandemic to determine if UARM is the best fit for them this fall. “Our enrollment numbers are consistent with this same time last year, so we are not seeing a decline. Our financial aid office has been incredibly busy processing applications. We want students to understand, if they have changed their minds from attending a larger college or a 4-year university opting to stay closer to home, it’s not too late to make those changes. They can stay on course for their educational path by starting with us here at Rich Mountain.”
The campus is now open. Face coverings are required. Admissions and financial aid staff are located in the Maddox building on the main campus or you can arrange an appointment by calling 479.394.7622. Representatives are also available at both the Mena and Waldron campuses. More information available at UARichMountain.edu.
MESSAGE FROM CHANCELLOR PHILLIP WILSON - APRIL 11
Another week that I am more than grateful to report that, to date, we still do not have anyone within the UARM community positive for COVID-19. However, our thoughts are with those who do. Each of our service counties have been impacted with the exception of Montgomery County, who remains 1 of Arkansas counties with no confirmed positive cases.
Speaking of Montgomery County, I’m pleased to announce that our IT staff in partnership with local businesses have installed parking lot WiFi access on our Mount Ida campus. Just drive up in the parking spots nearest the front door if possible.
Here is the connection information:
Network Name: students
Please remember there is also parking lot WiFi access also available in the south parking lot on the Mena campus, adjacent to the Ouachita Center.
Network name: RichMtnWifi
In both locations, we ask that you respect social distancing guidelines and remain in your cars.
In other big news, the UA System Board of Trustees met this week and voted that both summer sessions will be taught strictly online. They also voted that all summer camps scheduled for any of its campuses will be cancelled. For Rich Mountain, this means that for 2020, there will be no Kids/Teen College.
Our faculty chamber also approved a new grading scheme for the Spring 2020 semester. We understand the hardship that this pandemic catapulted students into and thus, created the following options for students:
Next week, I will send you the proper procedure to handle any grade change. I strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and faculty member before you consider any grade change!! Notice the double “!!” at the end of that sentence.
One of the greatest frustrations for so many with this pandemic is not knowing when “normal” returns or what does a post-pandemic “normal” look like. I want to know those answers as much as you do. For now, this “normal” means our campus is closed and none of our routine functions are looking quite like they normally would. We know you have questions so we’ve created a FAQs page for this time with answers and links that are very helpful: https://www.uarichmountain.edu/coronavirus-faq.
A big shout out to all of our returning students who are planning for a brighter future and have already registered for classes for #Fall2020! Thank you to our dedicated admissions and financial aid staff who continue to go above and beyond to serve our students even though our campus is closed.
Finally… WE MISS OUR STUDENTS! And, look forward to the day when we can see you in the halls, in the classrooms, in the hammocks, on the quads, and in the bleachers cheering on a new class of Bucks Athletics! But until then, #FinishStrongRM!
MESSAGE FROM CHANCELLOR PHILLIP WILSON - MARCH 28
I know that Spring Break probably didn’t look quite like you had imagined. However, I am grateful to report that we are still unaware of anyone within the Rich Mountain community being positive with COVID-19. We have continued to closely monitor the situation and remain in communication with state leaders and public health officials. We do feel that we need to continue to keep our campus closed to students and members of the community through April 17. In addition, pre-registration for returning students scheduled to begin March 30 will be postponed until April 6.
Only essential staff will be on campus next week, March 30-April 3. VC’s and directors will be in communication with non-essential staff for telecommuting work tasks. I encourage you to contact your immediate supervisor with any questions or needs.
My message for students is simple – FINISH STRONG – and I know you will. Stay current with assignments, keep in constant communication with your instructors, and do not hesitate to ask for help! They are fully committed to helping you during this transition to online courses and fully support you through this unprecedented time in our history. It’s the Rich Mountain way. Tutor.com is also a great resource and there will be additional time added to your accounts.
Internet access is critical for all students who now find themselves in online courses. To ensure your continued success, we have partnered with local businesses to provide parking lot WiFi access. Network Name: RichMtnWifi; Password: RichMountain
I encourage you to all stay connected online at UARichMountain.edu where we will continue to post updates pertinent to students, community, faculty, and staff. Important links, emails, phone numbers, etc. are all available there.
Finish strong, Bucks! #FinishStrongRM
Coronavirus Update MARCH 20
On March 19, Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a directive for the State of Arkansas “that state employees will conduct business through telecommuting and on-site work. On-site work will be limited to personnel that’s necessary for the proper functioning of government.”
As of March 20, our campus will be closed to all faculty and non-essential staff until further notice. Teams are working through all facilities to disinfect. Today, we know that there are confirmed cases in Polk County and that is why it is imperative that we do all that we can to slow the community spread of this incredibly contagious virus. Faculty and staff not on campus will be telecommuting and available via emails and phone. Instruction and business processes will continue to operate remotely and online.
Chancellor Phillip Wilson extends his gratitude to everyone for their patience and understanding during this unprecedented time in our history. “I have been extraordinarily proud of the sacrifices of our students, faculty, staff in remaining calm and collaborating as we continue to navigate these unchartered waters that remains to be fluid in every way. While we may have many unanswered questions today, what I do know is that the spirit within our Rich Mountain community remains strong and united as we continue to make sacrifices for personal and public health.”
Coronavirus Update MARCH 18
UA Rich Mountain Chancellor Phillip Wilson announced today that all campuses will move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. “In the interest of the continuity of course delivery and for the protection of our community, we have made the decision to remain online until the conclusion of the semester.”
The announcement follows a week of unprecedented measures to contain the community spread of the coronavirus. “Making this decision now will allow all of our students, whether local, out of state, or out of country, to return home to practice social distancing and minimize the risk associated with this terribly contagious COVID-19,” Wilson added.
Faculty and staff will remain at work. “Our commitment to our students during this transition is unwavering,” said Wilson. Students are encouraged to call with any questions or issues. A complete employee directory is available at our Online Employee Directory “The library, which will remain open to currently enrolled degree seeking students beginning March 30, will offer limited access. Call 479.394.7622 ext. 1371 for those details. In addition, our student support service is available to provide tutoring… know that we are here for you every step of the way.”
Coronavirus Update from UARM Chancellor Phillip Wilson:
Again, let me once again thank everyone for their patience as myself and our Crisis Response Team has continued to closely monitor the very fluid coronavirus pandemic. Earlier today Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made an announcement to close all K12 schools beginning Tuesday through March 30. While no member of the UARM community has been diagnosed with COVID-19, we do value our relationship with our K12 schools and recognize that we share many of the same students; therefore, we will follow the same mandatory closings for our students as issued by Governor Hutchinson beginning Monday, March 16 through March 27. We will assess current information available prior to classes resuming on March 30.
Until further notice is given, classes are moved to online assignments. All students must access their UARM issued email for the latest updates from your instructors beginning March 16. In an abundance of caution, our campus will be closed and doors locked to visitors and outside entities beginning Monday, March 16 through Spring Break, March 30.
All UARM employees will be working on Monday, March 16; faculty should report in by 9 a.m. We will then continue to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis.
Feel confident that our custodial staff will continue to thoroughly clean/disinfect facilities as per CDC guidelines to provide the safest environment possible.
UARM leadership will remain in communication with state leaders, public health officials, our partner school - UAMS, the state’s leader in infectious control, to assess what has been an incredibly fluid and unprecedented public health threat to ensure that we take every precaution to best protect our employees and students. We strongly encourage you to stay connected through their email, social media outlets or our designated webpage CORONAVIRUS UPDATE for the latest developments affecting our campuses.
We are all swimming in unchartered waters and I sincerely appreciate everyone’s flexibility and understanding as we work to make difficult decisions in the best interest of our employees and students. We will get through this together.
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak rapidly evolves in the U.S. and worldwide, the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain (UARM) will continue to provide the latest updates and guidance for the campus community in one place online: uarichmountain.edu/coronavirus.
Recent updates include new guidance regarding domestic and personal travel as well as new information on several topics in the FAQs section of the site including:
Health and Safety Issues
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the following recommendations to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
I'm expecting visitors from out of town or overseas to attend a campus event. Should I be concerned?
If your guests are visiting from a country with a CDC Coronavirus level of 2 or higher, your guest may be required to self-isolate for 14 days, per the Arkansas Department of Health. It would be advisable to discourage such visits.
What is the campus doing to disinfect public areas like classrooms and restrooms?
The disinfecting of common/public areas and surfaces is part of the UARM’s regular routine throughout campus, including: housing, buses/vehicles, facilities management and much more.
Specifically, classrooms and bathrooms are disinfected nightly, while our facilities management staff disinfects high traffic touchpoints daily - including door handles and push plates, student desktop surfaces and classroom teaching surfaces.
Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces followed by disinfection with an EPA-registered disinfectant is a best practice measure for prevention of viral respiratory illnesses.
Is the college preparing contingency plans?
UARM’s leadership is coordinating activities designed to support our community's health and well-being. We are strategically developing contingency plans to limit the impact to college operations should the need arise.
While these plans may not be required, these efforts are being made to assess the college’s readiness to conduct online classes and other efforts related to minimize the impact to student learning while ensuring students and employees, who may become ill, can be properly supported as they recover and limit the spread of the virus on campus.
Is it safe to travel in the U.S.?
Please exercise caution and check for the latest information available for your specific destination as the Coronavirus situation in the U.S. is changing rapidly.
While the CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices (this currently includes domestic travel in the U.S.) because the risk of transmission is considered low, some areas are reporting increasing levels local transmission.
What should I consider when planning personal travel?
Consider method of transportation for all travel. Air travel, for example, tends to be crowded with people in close proximity in the plane and the airport. Traveling in a personal vehicle to a destination, would limit exposure to crowds.
We strongly discourage personal international travel, especially to countries with a CDC risk level for Coronavirus of 2 or higher. Please consider the health risk and logistical challenges that may be encountered including that the Arkansas Department of Health may require self-isolation for 14 days after traveling to or through an affected area. Customs agents are reporting international travelers arriving from affected countries to state departments of health for this purpose.
Please exercise caution and check for the latest information available for your specific destination as the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is changing rapidly. While the CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices (this currently includes domestic travel in the U.S.) because the risk of transmission is considered low, some areas are reporting increasing levels of local transmission.