UC ANR COVID-19 Update: Carefully resuming in-person activities
Carefully resuming in-person activities
UC ANR issued Stage 2 Safety Standards on May 20. Since then, many California counties have begun to modify stay-at-home orders to allow for additional lower risk activities to resume under advanced Stage 2 of the California resilience roadmap. UC ANR's Stage 2 protocols are still in place, but like all organizations, we are working through the challenges of resuming some community programs while continuing to protect public health. Our Risk & Safety Services group has established a process to review plans with local ANR Directors. We're learning together and sharing best practices.
We're also monitoring COVID-19 trends in counties across the state. See our website for links to statewide and local information about COVID-19 cases and trends. As counties are opening up to more activity, some counties have experienced a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections over the past few weeks. When considering resuming ANR activities, we encourage ANR academics and staff to consider their local situation, in addition to the design and implementation of the programming.
With this background, we wanted to share a few examples of how ANR academics and staff have stepped up to devise creative solutions to implement programming, while maintaining safety.
Livestock shows and auctions – while most county or district fairs have been cancelled statewide, several fairs sought ways to complete youth livestock shows or auctions. These activities were considered critical because they contribute to the food supply and 4-H and FFA families have invested time and money in the raising of these animals and need an outlet to legally sell market-ready livestock. We have worked with county 4-H staff to review the plans for the shows and auctions, ensured approval by the local health officers, and looked for compliance with state orders. In most cases, 4-H was able to participate because these activities were designed to keep the groups as small as feasible and ensure distancing, good hygiene, and other protective measures.
Master Gardener activity – The statewide Master Gardener program has developed COVID-19 safety requirements for resuming activities in demonstration gardens, farmers markets and help desks, allowing these volunteers to gradually return to these activities, as appropriate.
Farmers markets – The Master Food Preserver program has also put out COVID-19 safety requirements for their volunteers' work at farmers markets.
UC Elkus Ranch has organized small, private farm tours of the ranch to give families a fun and educational opportunity to get outdoors and learn about environmental science, California history, animal care and agricultural programs. By keeping to small family groups and maintaining social distancing during the tours, Elkus Ranch staff have devised a way to transition their usual school tours into a unique outdoor family activity.
Hopland REC is hosting a group from the California Conservation Corps for onsite and virtual training. Because this group has been isolating already, its members represent a single cohort group, which reduces the risk of any one member introducing infection. HREC was able to plan the CCC's visit to minimize contact with any UC ANR staff and implement procedures for cleaning and disinfecting the facility before and after the group's program.
These are challenging times, but with proper planning, modification of normal practices, and a focus on safety, UC ANR is finding ways to resume some activities or embark on new methods of programming with our clientele.
Dohee Kim, advocacy liaison and media relations director at UCCE in Los Angeles, shared our COVID-19 community resources website with local legislators and supervisors. Staffers for recipients responded with comments including: "Thanks very much for passing this along, Dohee!” (Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's office); "Thanks so much, Dohee. The meal-finder map alone is incredibly useful. I will definitely be sharing that link. Food insecurity and housing insecurity are the top two concerns right now among households in our district that have experienced full or partial loss of income" (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' office); and "Thank you for thinking of us. I will share this information with the district office to distribute properly" (Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon's office).
The Statewide IPM Program has continued to partner with the UC Master Gardener program, providing training on integrated pest management and pesticide safety. Since the shelter-in-place order, Karey Windbiel-Rojas, associate director for Urban & Community IPM, and Elaine Lander, Urban & Community IPM educator, have trained more than 130 UC Master Gardener volunteers from four counties during live, online Zoom calls. They have successfully used the breakout room feature to conduct engaging “hands-on” pesticide label reading activities, ensuring UC Master Gardeners understand how to safely use pesticides and communicate pesticide safety to their clients.