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University of Wyoming

UW Cowboys To Allow 7,000 Max People in Tonight’s Game; All Must Wear Masks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

The University of Wyoming is hosting its first home football game in nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic nearly threatened to shut the season down.

But only a fraction of fans that can be seated in War Memorial Stadium will be allowed to attend as the university implements measures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The stadium has a capacity of more than 28,000, however, only 7,000 people will be allowed to attend Friday’s game and all will be required to wear masks or face coverings in order to enter the stadium.

The number of fans allowed in the stadium on game day could increase or decrease slightly, officials said, depending on the coronavirus case count in Wyoming and Albany County.

“We want to thank the Wyoming Department of Health for all their efforts in working with us to allow fans at our football games this fall,” said Tom Burman, University of Wyoming Athletics Director.  “Mike Ceballos, Dr. Alexia Harrist and Stephanie Pyle at the Wyoming Department of Health have been great for us to work with in the lead up to this.  We all want a safe environment at our games, while still allowing for as many fans as is deemed safe.”

Tailgating is also not allowed on UW property, according to information from UW Athletics.

Entry lines will be spaced out to allow for proper social distancing and tickets will only be available on a single-game basis this season. Cowboy fans will also only be able to present tickets for entry using a phone app to limit contact between people when entering and exiting the stadium.

It was just a month ago that the Mountain West Conference OK’d a shortened 2020 football season, with only eight games on the schedule this year.

The league’s championship game is slated for Dec. 19.

UW had its first game of the season on Oct. 24 in Las Vegas, where the Cowboys lost by just three points in overtime.

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University Of Wyoming Proposes $42 Million In Budget Cuts

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming’s administration has unveiled a plan to make multiple cuts to programs and teaching positions to accommodate a $42.3 million budget reduction.

This overall plan for the university will be presented to UW trustees. However, units of the university are also preparing for further analysis this fall to guide additional, strategic spending cuts.

The budget reduction plan touches both academic and nonacademic units of the university. At least 78 positions, most of them currently unfilled, would be eliminated.

On the academic side, UW primarily would offset its 2021 budget cuts with money saved by eliminating unfilled positions, the university said.

Additionally, the colleges and schools would reduce their support budgets, including travel and professional development, and operations budgets, as well as eliminate unfilled positions. The cuts would eliminate 50 currently budgeted positions.

On the nonacademic side, the university would eliminate another 28 budgeted positions. Housing, dining, catering and conference services would be reorganized for greater efficiency and productivity.

“Any cut of this magnitude is difficult, but we believe we have a specific plan to achieve this reduction by finding new efficiencies and eliminating some programs that don’t align with our strategic priorities,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We aim to minimize the impact to our students; optimize the research we conduct to boost our state’s economy; and strengthen the service we perform for the citizens of Wyoming.”

“This positions the university to develop plans that will, over the long term, enable us to become a best-in-class 21st century land-grant university true to its Wyoming roots,” he added.

The Department of Athletics would reduce salaries and cut team travel costs. The Office of the Provost would cut about 35 graduate teaching assistant positions and reduce spending on enrollment management and global engagement.

In concert with the budget reduction proposal, 20 low-enrollment academic programs have been identified for review for potential reorganization, consolidation, reduction or discontinuance — with the potential to save $2.5 million annually. They include:

  • In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the master’s and Ph.D. programs in agronomy would be eliminated and the community development concentration in agricultural economics would be refocused to more closely align with the strategic plan.
  • In the College of Arts and Sciences, the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and minor in American studies, the master’s program in psychology, the bachelor’s program in journalism, the master’s degree in teaching chemistry, the master’s program in history teaching and the master’s program in creative writing would all be eliminated.
  • In the College of Business, minors in accounting, decision science, finance, human resource management and marketing would be eliminated, and the MBA with a concentration on energy would be suspended. Additionally, the business administration online bachelor’s program would be replaced with a human resources management online program.
  • In the College of Education, the bachelor’s program in secondary French, German and Spanish education would be eliminated.
  • In the College of Engineering and Applied Science, consolidation of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science would be considered.
  • In the College of Health Sciences, several curricula would be overhauled.
  • In the College of Law, the military justice/Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps track and the Summer Trial Institute would be eliminated.

Seidel was directed by the Board of Trustees to propose a budget reduction plan for the board’s consideration at its Nov. 11-13 meeting to comply with the budget cuts imposed by Gov. Mark Gordon in response to a dramatic downturn in state revenue.

“It will take time and deep faculty discussion and administrative discussions to effectively pivot the university through shared governance processes toward a new vision,” Seidel said. “The university is committed collectively to making decisions to prioritize specific programs for growth; others for elimination or consolidation and creating new programs that may be needed to realize our common goals. This will be carried out in conjunction with known university processes for program revision and strategic planning.”

In addition to the plan for cuts for the current biennium, UW leaders are moving forward with a deeper analysis of the university’s academic programs to free up resources to advance its “four pillars,” priorities of becoming more digital, more entrepreneurial, more interdisciplinary and more inclusive.

Seidel and other UW leaders are working with the state’s community colleges, other state and federal agencies, private entities and others to develop programs and partnerships to propel the state’s economy through technological innovation and workforce development. Some of these will require a reallocation of university resources, in addition to new external sources of funding.

“Over time, if we invest selectively, and we develop programs and partnerships across the state with these qualities in mind, we can transform the university, even during a time of budget cuts,” Seidel said. “We intend to be very strategic, cut where things do not contribute to the above themes, or where they are stale or not growing, and selectively invest where they do. Ultimately, we’re working to help be part of the solution to lay the foundation for the new economy of the state.”

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UW President Sheltering In Place After Possible COVID Exposure

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
Edward Seidel
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming president Ed Seidel announced Monday morning that he will shelter in place for two weeks after a possible coronavirus exposure.

Seidel attended a small gathering recently and one of the participants later tested positive for the virus. He is electing to shelter in place to decrease the likelihood of transmitting the virus, in case he was infected.

Seidel has taken a coronavirus test and received a negative result, but plans to take another test this week.

“I have worked to follow the guidelines and requirements for face protection and physical distancing while becoming acquainted with the UW community and our state during my first months as president,” Seidel said. “I take seriously my own responsibility to model the conscientious behavior that I have asked our students, faculty and staff to follow.

While my contact with the individual who unfortunately tested positive did not meet the standard for me to be officially quarantined by the Department of Health, I’m going to work from home during the 14 days following the known exposure because I feel strongly that it is my responsibility to lead through example. As COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly around the nation and in Wyoming, it is important that we take every precaution to limit the spread of the virus.”

Seidel, like all other UW employees on campus who aren’t able to maintain physical distancing, has been tested weekly for the coronavirus, with no positive results.

Seidel became UW’s 28th president July 1.

Under his leadership, the university has deployed one of the most rigorous testing, tracing and quarantine/isolation programs in the country to provide the safest possible on-campus experience for UW students and employees during the fall semester.

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University Of Wyoming To Offer Mix Of In-Person/Online Classes For Spring Semester

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has announced its spring semester will continue to see a mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes in the face of what is expected to be continued coronavirus activity in the new calendar year.

The university of Friday released its plans for the spring semester, which look much like the plans for the fall esemester.

In addition to the mix of class offerings, plans also call for a continuation of measures to limit the spread of the virus, such as requiring face protection and physical distancing and limiting the number of gatherings and the amount of people at them held at the university.

“Our team has put significant effort into planning for the coming spring semester, just as we did before the fall. As the pandemic is rapidly evolving, much could change between now and January but, at this point, it appears that the spring semester will look very much like the current fall semester,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “I wish we could be more definitive in telling our students what to expect. But we feel it’s important to lay out a general plan for the spring now, recognizing that we must be prepared to adjust quickly to new developments, as has been the case this fall.”

Classes will begin Jan. 25, a week later than originally planned. To minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, spring break has been eliminated next semester.

“We recognize that, from a mental well-being standpoint, a three-day weekend isn’t the same as a weeklong spring break,” Interim Provost Anne Alexander says. “However, it appears likely that the pandemic situation in the spring will be similar to the present. Like many other universities across the country, we believe this schedule change is a prudent move to help preserve our on-campus experience.”

Close to 40% of UW courses are slated to be delivered online. Around 60% of classes will have some type of in-person component.

UW is now requiring all students who spend time on campus to be tested for the coronavirus twice a week. Employees on campus who aren’t able to maintain physical distance are being tested once per week.

While the exact testing regimen has not been finalized for the spring, the university remains committed to testing, tracing and quarantine/isolation to limit the spread of the virus.

“We all hope that a vaccine will become available soon and that the pandemic will subside, but we must prepare to at least start the spring semester under circumstances that are similar to the present,” Seidel said. “We hope that providing this general outline now will help our students and prospective students make decisions, recognizing that the situation remains very fluid and that things could change before Jan. 25.”

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UW College Of Agriculture Students Learn Hands-On Livestock Slaughter Skills

in Agriculture/News/University of Wyoming
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Ditching laptops and donning rubber boots and coveralls, University of Wyoming students prep within five minutes for class.

This isn’t the standard dress for COVID-19 precautions but for class on the UW Meat Laboratory kill floor.

Two people in hard hats, masks, hairnets, gloves harvesting an animal

Instructor McKensie Harris, right, helps Grace Corrette of Brighton, Colo..

This is just one of the many courses McKensie Harris, assistant lecturer and internship program coordinator for the Department of Animal Science, teaches in fall.

“The livestock slaughter practicum class is just that,” said Harris, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “A place where students can develop skills in the animal harvest industry.”

During Phase 1 and 2 of UW’s approach to reopening this semester, the class was taught online with an academic focus providing students virtual lectures on principles of animal handling, food safety and meat science.

During Phase 3, when all students were allowed back on campus, the class went right to work in the UW Meat Lab.

“McKensie did a great job during those first four weeks to prepare us to hit the ground at full speed,” said Ben Herdt, a student in the class from Laramie and manager in the academic advising office with the Advising, Career and Exploratory Studies Center.

“When I went in that very first day of in-person instruction, I suited up and was on the meat lab kill floor within five minutes going to work, and that’s a tribute to the preparation we were doing in the weeks before.”

For three weeks the class will use hands-on learning to harvest a pig, then focus for three weeks of beef harvest and round out the class with two weeks of lamb harvest.

“The class has been one of my favorite courses I think because it’s so hands-on,” said Brittany Vogl, a sophomore in the class from Elizabeth, Colo. “The first day McKensie said, ‘We are going to be here, we are going to help you every step of the way, but we aren’t doing it for you.’”

Students work with the animal from the beginning – when it comes into the facility as a live animal and to the end – preparing and putting the carcass in the freezer.

For Herdt, as a UW staff member, he has the opportunity to take classes. A coworker who has kids in 4-H and raises animals recommended this course to him.

“I really enjoy cooking,” said Herdt. “I enjoy cooking meat, and I enjoy the idea that we need to become more connected to the food we eat. So that’s what really drew me toward the class.”

He also mentioned taking a variety of different classes helps him get better at his job. He generally works with first-year students who are either academically at-risk or undeclared and need guidance on courses to take.

“It helps me be better at my job if I take an undergraduate class because it keeps me connected to what they are experiencing,” said Herdt.

He explained his job requires him to be a great generalist, of knowing what is generally offered around campus because students often don’t know what’s out there until they talk to someone who has tried it before.

Two people in hard hat, gloves, mask, coveralls harvesting an animal

Graduate assistant Clara Ritchie, right, of Arvada helps Ben Herdt in the livestock slaughter class.

“It’s nice to find these little corners of campus where really great things are happening,” said Herdt. “I’m super impressed with what McKensie is doing and Kyle (Phillips, UW Meat Lab manager), who runs the meat lab, and Warrie (Means, associate dean and associate professor in meat science). Their whole corner of campus is very impressive.”

The class was required for Vogl’s major in animal science with a concentration in production, meat and food technology, but she wanted to step out of her comfort zone.

“I was intimidated but after seeing the process a few times, I feel way better,” said Vogl. “If someone were to approach me in the grocery store and say, ‘How could you eat meat? It’s unethical,’ this course will give me a stronger platform to combat that and have experience to back up my thoughts.”

Vogl shared that the class was a lot of hard work but with proper technique anyone can harvest an animal.

“Ag can be a very male-dominated industry but for a woman to take interest in it is a really big deal, because a lot of the practices we learned requires a lot of strength and you would normally associate that with a man,” said Vogl. “However, what McKensie has taught us is it’s all about technique. It doesn’t matter what you look like, who you are, what your gender is, it’s all about technique and how you do it.”

Both Herdt and Vogl believe they are gaining a greater understanding of the livestock slaughter process and would recommend the course to others who are interested in this area of study and like hands-on learning.

“The community the meat lab provides to those students is great,” said Herdt. “Those are the kinds of communities we need. That over there supports those students so much, and their persistence and retention is going to be so much better.”

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Seven COVID Cases in UW Sorority House Prompt Shutdown

in News/University of Wyoming
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Seven cases of COVID-19 have been detected in a sorority house at the University of Wyoming, prompting the university to take action to limit the spread of the virus in that group of students, employees and the broader community.

Because of the cases among members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, all of the students in the house are being told to shelter in place.

That is in addition to isolation of the infected individuals and quarantine of those with whom they’ve had close contact.

Students in the house who have not been in close contact with infected individuals are allowed to go to in-person class and leave for work or religious activities.

The action, done in collaboration with Kappa Kappa Gamma leadership, was taken in accordance with UW’s COVID-19 indicators and tactics for Phase 3 of the university’s fall return plan.

These allow for UW to respond quickly to outbreaks of the virus in certain programs and facilities at the university with targeted interventions to limit the spread of the virus.

As of this morning (Thursday), the total number of active COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees stands at 148 — 103 students living off campus, 43 students living on campus and two employees living off campus. Some 72 people are in quarantine due to exposure to someone infected by the virus — 23 students on campus and 49 people off campus.

More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions also may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.

UW’s COVID Testing Procedure To Double

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is stepping up its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus by increasing testing on campus.

In an announcement sent to students and faculty on Thursday, the university said that beginning Monday, UW students who spend “any” time on campus will be required to be tested for the virus twice a week, up from the current mandate of once per week.

All UW employees on campus who are unable to maintain physical distance will be tested once a week, rather than the random sampling of employees now being done.

The news comes after multiple dormitory floors were put into lockdown after outbreaks were discovered among students.

The total number of tests administered weekly is expected to rise from about 6,000 to 15,000, making UW’s testing program one of the most robust among universities in the nation.

“Our commitment to testing, tracing and isolation/quarantine has made it possible for us to have on-campus experiences and avoid the huge spikes in COVID-19 infections being seen at many universities around the country,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a statement. “Still, there have been increases among the UW community and in Albany County, and the enhanced testing will allow us to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible, as well as increase the chances of us completing the fall semester as planned.”

The testing regimen beginning Monday will combine saliva-based testing through Vault Health with an additional saliva-based testing program using UW’s Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL), called the Laboratory Developed Test (LDT).

Those who test positive with the LDT will receive emails directing them to confirm the results with saliva-based tests, as well as to shelter in place until they receive negative test results.

“Compliance by our students, faculty and staff is essential for the testing program to be effective,” Seidel said. “The vast majority of our students and employees have responded to our calls for testing compliance, and that will have to continue to be the case as we enter this next stage. We ask everyone to watch their UW email accounts closely and follow the directions they receive in their individualized testing communications.”

Students and employees who don’t comply with the testing requirement will face actions starting with denial of entry to campus and, if a student or employee enters campus while not in compliance, more stringent measures will be enacted.

As of Wednesday, there were 108 active cases of COVID-19 among UW students and employees: 75 students living-off campus and 33 students living on-campus. No active cases were reported involving UW employees.

Some 84 people are in 14-day quarantine due to exposure to infected individuals: 29 on-campus and 55 off-campus.

The total number of coronavirus cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 559.

UW’s administration will continue to monitor data daily in accordance with the university’s updated COVID-19 indicators and tactics for the fall return plan. These allow the UW to respond quickly to outbreaks of the virus in certain programs and facilities at the university with targeted interventions to limit the spread of the virus.

During Phase 4 of the fall semester, scheduled Nov. 23 through Dec. 11, all courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave the residence halls, except for those granted exceptions. Campus buildings will shift to restricted access, and the surveillance testing program will continue for those remaining on campus.

Under the phased return plan approved by the UW Board of Trustees during the summer, the university also has adjusted the schedule for the spring semester as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The semester will start Jan. 25, a week later than had been planned, and there will be no spring break — to help minimize the risk of viral transmission that would be caused by students leaving campus and then returning.

However, there will be no classes on Presidents Day, Feb. 15.

“We recognize that, from a mental well-being standpoint, a three-day weekend isn’t the same as a weeklong spring break,” Interim Provost Anne Alexander says. “However, it appears likely that the pandemic situation in the spring will be similar to the present. Like many other universities across the country, we believe this schedule change is a prudent move to help preserve our on-campus experience.”

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Wyomingites Still Divided Over Whether COVID Is Real Threat

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents surveyed by the University of Wyoming remain divided over whether the coronavirus is a real threat or has been blown out of proportion.

The survey conducted by the university’s Survey and Analysis Center showed that of the 505 people taking part in the center’s Oct. 6 survey, 47.3% believe coronavirus is a real threat, an increase of 2 percentage points from September.

Meanwhile, 45.5% felt the threat from the virus has been blown out of proportion, a decline of 2% from September.

The survey, with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, is the ninth focusing on coronavirus-related issues conducted by the center since March.

Early on in the pandemic, in March, 63.8% of those questioned felt coronavirus was a real threat and only 24.2% felt it had been blown out of proportion.

On other topics, the survey showed that while a majority of those questioned support the way Gov. Mark Gordon is handling the coronavirus, a growing number disapprove.

Of those questioned, 59.5% either strongly or somewhat approve of Gordon’s actions while 34.8% somewhat or strongly disapprove, an increase of 5.5% from September. During the same period, those who strongly or somewhat approve of Gordon’s actions declined by 7.3%.

Gordon’s approval ratings are still higher than the number strongly or somewhat approving of the actions of President Donald Trump (54.5%) or Congress (18.5%).

However, the highest level of support was expressed for the job of local officials and health officers, which won approval from 63.9% of those questioned.

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Survey: Wyoming Residents Feeling More Anxious About COVID

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyomingites are reporting that they feel more anxious about the coronavirus pandemic and its spread, according to a recent survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center.

Over one-third of Wyomingites surveyed said they are very or fairly anxious about the spread of the coronavirus in the state, an increase of 7 percentage points from September, but still 4 points less than the Aug. 10 survey.

Another 20% said they are somewhat anxious about the spread in Wyoming, while just over 40% of surveyed Wyoming residents said they are not at all anxious about the spread in the state.

The survey was conducted Oct. 6, around the time Wyoming was in the early stages of the current COVID-19 surge.

“Despite an increase in anxiety surrounding COVID-19 in Wyoming, we see self-reported facemask use remain steady at just over 60% of the state population,” Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist in charge of the project at WYSAC, said. “This compares to roughly 85% of the national population that say they have worn a mask or covering all or most of the time when in stores or other businesses.”

Just over one-third of the surveyed respondents believed the worst is yet to come in the United States, but 39% say the worst is yet to come in Wyoming, an increase of 10 percentage points since September.

Only 17% of the surveyed respondents think the worst is behind us, a decrease of 9 points.

A majority of the respondents, 53%, of Wyoming residents say they have confidence in the Wyoming health care system to handle the response to the virus, while 29% say they do not have confidence.

This survey is the ninth of multiple surveys WYSAC is conducting to measure public opinion on a number of topics related to the coronavirus.

A total of 505 Wyoming residents participated in the survey representing all Wyoming counties, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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UW Dorm Floor On Lockdown Due To COVID Outbreak

in Coronavirus/News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Another dormitory floor at the University of Wyoming has experienced an outbreak of the coronavirus, prompting the university to limit the movements of students on that floor.

In an announcement issued Monday, the university said four cases of the coroanvirus were detected on the fourth floor of Crane Hall, so students living on the floor are being told to shelter in place, the same orders given to students on the third floor of McIntyre Hall last week.

Students on the floors who have not been in close contact with infected individuals are allowed to go to in-person class and leave the dorms for work or religious activities.

As of Monday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stands at 126: 88 students living off-campus, 37 students living on-campus and one employee living off-campus.

Some 100 people are in quarantine due to exposure to someone infected by the virus: 29 students on-campus and 71 people off-campus.

According to Wyoming’s coronavirus dashboard, which tracks information regarding the disease in each of the state’s 23 counties, Albany County has seen 778 cases of the virus, with 250 currently active and lab-confirmed, and most of the people who have tested positive for it are between the ages of 19 and 29.

Only two people are currently hospitalized at Laramie’s Ivinson Memorial Hospital for treatment of the virus.

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