University of Alaska COVID-19 update for March 20

by UA Outreach  |   

Please see below for news and information about the university’s COVID-19 response.

From the president

On Monday, we will restart our spring semester, albeit at a distance from each other. Thank you to our students for your incredible flexibility as we have navigated this unprecedented situation. Thank you to our faculty, staff and leadership team for the hours upon hours of hard work to tackle innumerable challenges and details as we work toward a virtual spring semester. I want to acknowledge how difficult and stressful the last few weeks have been for our universities and communities. During such times, it’s important to show patience and kindness to each other. Together, we can, we will get through this.

Get text updates about UA’s COVID-19 response

University employees and students, and members of the public, can now get text alerts about the university’s response to COVID-19. Text UACOVID19 to 226787 to sign up.

Internet connectivity support

The university’s information technology and finance teams have been working to help ensure that employees and students have good internet access for working, teaching and learning from home or a remote location.

In order to help ease the financial burden associated with upgrading current internet service or establishing new service, the university has several new opportunities:

  • We have coordinated with ACS, who has agreed to offer free internet service to employees and students and waive any installation fees.
  • We have set up a system to provide employees a taxable allowance to offset the incremental cost of internet connectivity for business use. The allowance must be for business needs and is not intended to reimburse employees for existing internet capacity or for personal use. Use this form to apply for the allowance, here is the authorizing procedure.
  • We have coordinated with MTA, who is waiving all installation fees, and offering free upgrades to the highest possible bandwidth and no data caps for the rest of the school year for all university students and employees.
  • GCI has several current offers available: Free upgrades to the next level for current customers through May 31, a free month to try GCI and several other offers that can be accessed at the GCI website.

In addition to the financial support, the IT team also is working to set up wireless hotspots in labs or other designated locations at our campuses and sites. The university will continue to work on additional connectivity supports. Information on all of these connectivity options can be found in the FAQ section of the UA COVID-19 website.

Virtual campus website

For tips, tools and other resources for learning, teaching and working remotely, OIT has created the virtual campus website. In addition, faculty working to implement alternative delivery methods can reach out to campus resources:

Should you stay home and self-observe?

Employees, students and visitors who aren’t sure whether they should stay home and self-observe should check the university’s community restrictions policy.

Short-term Banner outage

OIT will be upgrading the UAOnline/Banner system Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22. The upgrade means the system will be offline and users will not be able to access it from approximately 7 a.m. on Saturday through approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday. The update is critical to producing financial aid award packages for students, and for admitting new students for the fall semester. The Banner outage is not expected to affect access to Blackboard.

UA system staff to work remotely

UA President Jim Johnsen is requiring University of Alaska system office personnel at all locations to work remotely in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Johnsen noted that limiting access to facilities helps keep them safe for those few whose functions must still be performed in the office.

Be smart. Be kind. Don’t panic.

As new cases of COVID-19 are identified throughout Alaska, there have been lots of rumors and people wondering about whether they might have been exposed. According to Alaska public health officials, when someone tests positive to COVID-19, they conduct a comprehensive investigation that includes identifying who the person had contact with. Those contacts are evaluated to ascertain whether they are high-risk, medium-risk, low-risk or no identifiable risk.

  • High risk means people like household members, caregivers or intimate partners.
  • Medium risk could include people who are within six feet of the patient for 10 minutes or more.
  • Low risk means people who are in the same indoor space for more than 10 minutes, such as the same room, but are not in close contact with the patient.
  • No identifiable risk includes a wide range of people who may have had some interaction with someone, but not close contact and not for any extended amount of time. For example, passing someone with COVID-19 in a grocery store would likely be “no identifiable risk.”

Public health contacts individuals who fall into the high, medium and low risk categories. That means if you don’t hear from public health, you likely fall into the “no identifiable risk” category.

Please remember, people who become ill with COVID-19 are our friends, neighbors and colleagues. While you are being smart about hand-washing, social distancing and self-quarantine, don’t forget to show kindness and respect. Rely on factual sources of information like the CDC and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and remind others around you to do the same.

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