New case numbers in California remain more than 10-fold higher than they were at this time last year. I hope the numbers continue to decline, and we don't see an upward trend such as Oregon is observing at the moment.
We have done quite a bit to help others through this time, and that work continues. The News and Outreach in Spanish team uses radio and television to reach underserved Spanish-speaking communities. And, I learned the following from Project Board and Federal reporting data.
- Sixteen small-scale strawberry farmers from Southeast Asian communities implemented use of UC ANR-provided personal protective equipment and displayed the signs, also provided by UC ANR, at their farm stands. Farmers reported that “posting the signs helped a lot, it kept customers from touching produce and they wore masks" and “customers were able to read the signs ahead, and understand what needed to be done and was expected at the fruit stand. While the customers were waiting in a single-file line, they were all six feet apart."
- UCCE in Santa Clara County distributed over 80 COVID-kits to farmers from socially disadvantaged communities to ensure worker safety. Observations during farm visits showed that farm workers were wearing masks when working. Interviews revealed that they were washing their hands more often.
I know there are many more examples out there. Keep up the good work, everyone! We are so close to our new normal if we can just continue safe practices!
More fires are popping up around the state; it is far too soon for this! This year's Federal report shares that Andrew Gray, an AES researcher at UC Riverside, studies the aftermath of fire and storm events to understand debris flows. The findings will help the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works personnel modify their approach to assessing debris flow risk after fires to better mitigate danger during post-fire storms. UC Davis AES scientist, Rahel Sollman, completed an intensive study of the plants, invertebrates, mammals, birds, bats, pollinators, and flowering plants within the burn perimeter of the 2014 King Fire. The goal was to map and understand the food web networks and assess species vulnerabilities. These baseline data provide critical information for forest managers to evaluate recovery and species declines.
This is Program Council week. The Program Council meetings conflicted with Asian Pacific Heritage Month activities, but I hope many others were able to participate. There are many meetings this week. Perhaps next week with bring a lighter schedule, no new fires, and fewer new COVID cases.
March madness is here. I have 79 merit and promotion packages to review, 54 annual discussions to have with direct reports, my own annual review materials to prepare, 3 conferences to attend, and my household taxes to prepare. I have made some progress on all fronts but have decided I would welcome a little boredom. Ten minutes each weekday would suffice; 30 minutes on weekends.
While one of the conferences is this week, I have participated at a minimal level. Instead, I have had a number of annual discussions this week, mostly with County Directors. I do enjoy the conversations. After not having visited any of our locations in the last 15 months, I am feeling disconnected, particularly with our new hires. The conversations, while not a substitute for a site visit, provide some level of connection with what's going on in the county offices.
During the conversations with County Directors and others, it is apparent that many of us are acutely aware of the approaching anniversary of our personal lock downs. Due to other commitments, I don't plan to participate in the interviews that Ricardo and his team are conducting this week, but I have given the questions some thought.
- Last March, when California announced it would shut down all non-essential businesses, how was your immediate day-to-day affected?
Beginning the week before the shut down and extending the first month following, I spent at least 2 hours per day, 7 days per week, with various groups to develop practices and procedures for conducting our work. A year later, I am down to 2 meetings per week (just reduced from 3 meetings per week) plus a third meeting every other week. Zoom replaced TSA checkpoints and both my commute and wardrobe were simplified. Priorities, both personal and professional, changed. All of this, despite not recognizing at the time that ‘normal' would not yet have resumed even a full year later. The 1918 pandemic warned us so. One key benefit of the lock down was initiation of a daily group text with my siblings, just to check in, that continues today.
- For parents with kids: What have been the biggest challenges of parenting during the pandemic? How have you and your kids coped?
Many throughout UC ANR are challenged by having kids schooling from home. Everyone has their own challenge, even those without children. For some that live alone, it's the isolation. Others are caring for grandchildren or parents. Many have suffered sudden, tragic loss. And while COVID may not have caused the loss, it is responsible for robbing one of a normal grieving process. Some have all of the above. Challenges are presented at work or at home, or both at home and at work. Each one of us has something.
- Looking back now, what has been the biggest surprise about how this past year has unfolded? What have you learned about yourself and your community?
I can't predict human behavior. The last year has brought out the best in some; that is evident from our programs. No doubt, the prolonged lock down makes it difficult to remain vigilant, even for the most introverted. While few, if any, have accomplished what they had planned, we have accomplished differently, yet no less importantly. True success isn't measured by speed of advancement, but by quality of impact.
I went into lock down assuming the collective ‘we' would unite around beating the death toll projections, committed to a quick economic recovery, and accepting of safety protocols. At a time when disparities were pronounced by the pandemic, I would have thought we would come together to eradicate social inequality. Racism is at the forefront of thought while stockpiling toilet paper remains off my radar. I think I have cooked dinner more consecutive nights over the last year than I had over the previous decade. I have made no improvements in my ability to do so. Nor have I made any improvements in my ability to cut hair.
I, as so many others, have a different sense of what's important and a new sense of strength. We adjust, and then adjust again. I choose to believe that on the other side, we will be stronger people, better people for this.
The view of the snow pack from my garage window has improved somewhat over the weekend, in part due to snow fall and in part due to less fog. It is great to see snowfall at the lower elevations and rain across many areas of the state. I have become a big fan of rain, but not to the extent that I welcome sandhill cranes take up residence in my back acreage again this year. Let's all hope for a slow, soaking rain. The wind is a whole different story. Mark Bell was able to sneak away to the snow this past weekend. The photo he so eagerly shared with me is beautiful. I suspect he might be preparing for the next photo competition, vying for Dustin's title.
Neither cooler, nor warmer, temperatures seem to slow this coronavirus. I came across a cool tool for estimating separation distances for estimating aerosol movement and infection risk. Perhaps the tool will require modification as the prominent variant changes. Also released this week, by CDC, are tools to support vaccine education. The toolkit serves as a starting place to tailor materials to specific audience needs and concerns.
The UC ANR team in Imperial County (UCCE plus the Desert REC) was recently recognized for their contributions to the region. In particular, the new hires were welcomed and introduced to the local community. Congratulations to Oli, Jairo, and their teams!
While the wind has made some Zoom calls a challenge, the meetings continue. NIFA held a day of listening sessions to gather stakeholder input on priorities in animal agriculture. APLU hosted a webinar to talk about broadband's role in rural economic development. Other Zoom discussions have focused on potential partnerships and new funding in the Governor's proposed budget. Yet to occur this week is a meeting of the Vice President's Council where we will cover topics such as funding strategies, supporting volunteers, expanding DEI efforts, and navigating policies. Friday winds down with action steps to move the REC Strategic Framework forward.
I see we have a new feature in Interfolio that notifies me when academics have submitted their annual evaluation materials or dossiers for supervisor review. Nice work to all who have been able to submit in advance of the February 1 deadline! I hope those individuals get to enjoy this weekend. I know everyone else is working hard to put on the finishing touches. Good luck on your submissions. I hope the power stays on for you!
The San Joaquin Valley sits below 6 percent ICU capacity. As a resident of the Valley with my mother in my household, this is worrisome. I have cancelled all of my travel plans for the winter break. I found it much more difficult to cancel my December plans than it was to cancel my plans back in the summer. I am tired of staying home and not getting the break from caregiving that I count on twice a year. I started to plan a pity party, then recognized how easy I have it. Imagine how our healthcare workers are feeling after all these months. I understand the temptation to take a risk, even with precautions in place, or even just continue as I have for the past six months. However, now is not the time to let upon safety measures or let down our guard. As difficult as it may be, we need to be even more careful for the next month or so. I so appreciate Linda and her team putting together a motivational reminder that we all need to stay the course. It does help knowing that we are all in this together.
I have turned my frustration into something productive, aiming to help others even if only in a small way. Thanks to a partnership between 4-H and UC Medical Center, Julie, a former 4-Her who is now a healthcare worker at the UC Davis Medical Center, provided me with all the Steri-Wrap I need to make that difference. Initially, I learned of this face covering material from a sibling, then found information about it from the University of Florida. Other institutions, including UC Irvine, have investigated use of the material for face coverings as well. I am a huge fan of the recycling aspect of this endeavor, not to mention the protective efficiency.
I have exchanged commute time for sewing time these past few months. Thanks to Kathryn sharing a new design with me, my throughput has increased dramatically. If you weren't aware, not only is Kathryn exceptional at her job, but she is incredibly talented and creative! To date, I have serged over 800 face masks in an effort to protect people during this current pandemic surge. And, because of the extensive supply of Steri-Wrap provided by Julie, I expanded beyond face coverings to send a special ‘thank you' items to Julie and her colleagues. I hope these health care heroes make good use of the items.
Perhaps a few special face masks will bring a smile to some who are struggling to remain vigilant and stay the course over these next weeks.