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Coronavirus COVID-19

Student Advisory: Collection of Belongings from Halls of Residence

May 19, 2020

During the period April 3 to 15, 2020, The UWI Mona allowed Jamaican students residing in Halls of Residence to collect their belongings. With teaching for the semester set to close on May 29th, students are again being permitted to retrieve their belongings from the Halls of Residence.

Collection of belongings from the George Alleyne, Irvine and Leslie Robinson Halls will be facilitated from Wednesday, May 27 through Saturday, May 30, 2020 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily.

For all other Halls of Residence, the collection period is Thursday, May 28 to Sunday May 31, 2020 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily.

Need for Compliance with COVID-19 protocols
Although we would like to make this process of coming on campus to collect personal items as convenient and hassle-free as possible for students, The UWI Mona has a duty to ensure the well-being of all and will continue to observe national protocols to protect public health - such as social distancing, the wearing of masks and avoiding gatherings. As such, additional protocols will be implemented in the Halls of Residence to facilitate this process.

Student Services and Development Managers (SSDM) have been tasked to schedule the visits and provide students with the relevant guidelines/protocols for their return to campus. We therefore seek the cooperation of all students in adhering to the instituted protocols.

Students should first make contact with their SSDM to schedule their visit to the campus, and will only be permitted on the Hall during the agreed upon time. Students who refuse to comply with instituted protocols, will be asked to leave campus. We look forward to the cooperation of all students.

Together in the Caribbean...UWICares

May 19, 2020

Together in the Caribbean...UWICares

MGI and COVID-19 Response

May 18, 2020

 

(From left) MGI Director, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, Brigadier Radgh Mason from the Jamaica Defence Force, President of the PSOJ Keith Duncan, Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay, and Chairman of the Council for Voluntary Social Services Saffrey Brown pictured at the launch of the PSOJ COVID-19 Response Fund.

Data is critical to the management of the COVID-19 global pandemic for every country. In Jamaica, the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI) at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus has been supporting efforts of the Government using data as the country navigates the allocation of resources to slow and stop the spread of the corona virus.

Applying its vast Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database MGI advise various entities on their particular risks and how to plan their activities and initiatives accordingly.

MGI, Data and Vulnerable Communities

MGI mapped all diabetics and hypertensives from the National Health Fund (NHF) database, as well as all Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) beneficiaries, registrants with the Jamaica Council for Disabled Persons (JCDP) and the National Insurance Scheme's (NIS) pensioner database. These were used in conjunction with other existing data to look at the distribution of vulnerable people across Jamaica, both individually and collectively.

Presentations of the results of the models were shared with both the Cabinet and a special COVID-19 sub-committee of Parliament, as well as a special vulnerable communities sub-committee of the Ministry of Health and Wellness's COVID-19 Task Force.

MGI's Director, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, noted that the location information the models presented allowed for the development of targeted social programs and public education, tailor-made for each community, recognizing the inherent differences present across communities in Jamaica. "a one-size-fits-all solution won't work when it comes to realities of social distancing in poor and densely populated communities with certain concentrations of the elderly, disabled, diabetics and hypertensives".

MGI Models economic effect of COVID for PSOJ's COVID Relief Fund

The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), in developing its COVID-19 Relief Fund, is seeking to raise $250M to assist the most vulnerable communities in Jamaica by providing food and care packages, tapped MGI to refine this model to account for the dynamic changes that would be affecting communities.

"We were able to build scenarios that accounted for the effects of closures of hotels on employment in tourism communities, and to see the domino effects on unemployment, poverty and crime, "Dr Lyew-Ayee Jr shared.

"We also created a comprehensive composite model to incorporate over 20 different variables at once, with over 20,000 different combinations of results across Jamaica. Once completed, MGI isolated the top 25 communities by these composite vulnerability scores, and the PSOJ's other partners, such as the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), could determine the operational logistics of supplying packages to those communities. It is decidedly data-driven and non-subjective," he said.

MGI involved many other stakeholders and show them any community of interest and probe its different vulnerability characteristics. The most interesting part of all this was how well the models lined up with the actual COVID-19 case realities.

Speaking at the Launch, Saffrey Brown, Chair of the Council for Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) and Project Manager for the PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund. "In developing an integrated national response to the COVID-19 crisis in Jamaica, we needed to ensure that we were able to provide aid to the most at-risk communities. MGI was able to work with our team, to develop and implement a model for risk profiling communities during the time of COVID. This has ensured that our response is targeted and focused."

Giving his concluding remarks at the Launch, President of the PSOJ, Keith Duncan noted that, "The research and data driven analysis provided by Mona GeoInformatics Institute was critical to the integrity and efficacy of the reach of the PSOJ COVID19 Jamaica Response Fund. The models developed by MGI ensure that we are impacting those Jamaicans who are most vulnerable due to COVID19. Their involvement also underscores the benefit of taking an inclusive and multisectoral approach to tackle complex national issues. The PSOJ is pleased to have worked with MGI on this integrated national response to COVID19 and commend the work they have done."

 

UWI Roosters give COVID-affected Community something to Crow about

May 15, 2020

 

THE smiles and expressions of gratitude coming from residents of Gordon Town and surrounding communities in rural St Andrew were reward enough for the young men of the Fraternity of Roosters from Block C, Taylor Hall at The University of the West Indies (UWI).

The "Roosters" might be oddly named but they were the stars of the day on Saturday as they fanned out to present more than 40 care packages meant for Grove Primary School students whose low-income parents were affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We were able to hand out packages containing rice, flour, sugar, cornmeal, tin food, biscuits, toiletries, soap, et cetera, and distributed them to several families of students and ancillary staff of the school," said Miguel Binns, project manager for the newly formed Roosters NEST.

The acronym NEST means Nurture, Empower, Support and Transform, and is the vehicle through which The UWI men plan to stage a series of projects benefiting Grove Primary in Gordon Town.

"The feeling that we have done something that matters at a time of great need and challenge has left us with a sense of purpose — that's our reward. We are hoping that as corporate sponsorship increases we'll be able to provide more for this school, which is a beacon in Gordon Town and its satellite communities," Binns added.

That same sense of purpose inspired the Roosters' outreach to Salvation Army's School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children in Kingston. Over the past decade the fraternity has visited the school on numerous occasions, donating appliances, toiletries, food items, and responding to other urgent requests.

Binns said this initiative had built a good relationship between the fraternity and the students and staff of the Salvation Army school, which has been pivotal in rescuing large numbers of blind Jamaicans who have gone on to live very satisfying and productive lives.

The next big project by Roosters NEST is the establishment of a math resource centre at the Grove Primary School, a response to the acute need for improved math performance in schools across Jamaica.

"We are obviously going to need corporate Jamaica to rally behind us to achieve this ambitious goal, but we are confident we'll get the backing we need because it is our businesses that stand to benefit the most from having better performance in math from our students who are future employees," Binns argued.

The 67-year-old Fraternity of Roosters is an organisation of young men who are affiliated with Block C Roosters of Taylor Hall, UWI Mona. One of its core philosophies is that of philanthropy. The block executive is led by Ackeem Clarke and the higher council by Sandre Malcolm.

— Desmond Allen

 

Published by The Jamaica Observer, on May 15, 2020.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/uwi-roosters-give-covid-affected-com...

 

The UWI among Institutions Collaborating with WHO in COVID-19 Global Mega-Trial - SOLIDARITY

May 05, 2020

As the quest for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) is coordinating the participation of several Caribbean countries in the World Health Organization's (WHO) global mega-trial called SOLIDARITY.

The announcement was made by Senior Lecturer of the Department of Surgery Radiology, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, The UWI Mona, Dr. Kelvin Ehikhmetalor, at a Teleconference hosted by the Faculty of Medical Sciences on April 19, 2020.

The SOLIDARITY initiative is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the World Health Organization and partners on Friday, March 20, 2020 at a press briefing hosted at their Headquarters in Geneva.

According to the WHO Resource Centre, the Solidarity Trial will compare four treatment options against standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19. By enrolling patients in multiple countries, to include Jamaica, the Solidarity Trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve survival. Other drugs can be added based on emerging evidence.

It is proposed that the study be done throughout the countries in which The UWI has campuses with strong clinical presence - namely in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Bahamas. Already, there is a committee across the four countries that is chaired by Professor Marvin Reid of the Mona Campus.

Speaking at the teleconference on the subtopic of "therapeutics and pharmaceutical treatments", Dr. Ehikhmetalor said "the SOLIDARITY Trial is ongoing, and the University of the West Indies is positioning to be a part of this trial. We will be supplying data and so we will be using some of these drugs in our patients within that context and will be sending the results to the World Health Organization for analysis."

Dr. Ehikhmetalor said, "COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the virus, causes severe acute respiratory syndrome and presents an unprecedented challenge to identify drugs for its prevention and treatment of the condition; treatments are desperately needed."

Dr. Ehikhmetalor noted that most of the evidence we (in Jamaica) have at this time is based on clinical experience and from trials from the countries which have been through this very difficult time. He added that currently, more than 300 active clinical trials are underway, many of them propose treatment plans or experimental treatment.

He noted that in most cases, "people were working in the dark...as it is a road that has never been travelled before, as it is a novel virus." People, he said, are trying all kinds of things. Over a period of time the disease's pathogenesis is becoming a little clearer, and people are beginning to understand what to use and more importantly when to use it so that we can actually affect the outcome in patients.

While Dr. Ehikhmetalor acknowledged that there are no specific treatments for COVID-19, he believes there is light at the end of the tunnel as there are many small-scale trials underway. "There are lots of things in the armour, many undergoing large scale clinical trials, many things are showing promise."

The challenge, he said, is "about what to use and when to use it and I'm quite confident that the mega trial now being put on by the WHO, it is a pragmatic trial designed to randomize confirmed cases into either standard care, or to one of four active treatments."

The World Health Organization Clinical Management Guidelines documents as of March says there is no current evidence to recommend any specific anti-COVID-19 treatment with the disease, so the WHO recommends supportive therapy.

Characterizing the global pandemic as a war, Dr. Ehikhmetalor said 'It is by wisdom and by counsel that you wage a war, and this is war. We are confident there is light at the end of the tunnel.'

We are in this together
Dr Tomlin Paul, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies, Mona, who chaired the teleconference, emphasized that "as a University that is leading in terms of science and research, it is important for us to meet to share with our community, the public, the region and the world at large, on where we are with respect to this pandemic."

Recognizing the importance of hosting the teleconference, Dr. Paul noted that "we have a responsibility in our role to bring hope, to bring knowledge and to assist in any way possible so we can all cope during this time. Even as we distance ourselves physically, he said, it is important that we "reach out and touch someone's heart to make the world a better place."

In closing the 3-hour event, Dr. Paul stated, "we have come together as a region, as academics, and we have come together in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and by extension the public health system to make an impact on COVID-19. The fact that we will be contributing to this global mega-trial (SOLIDARITY) says that "we are in this together."

UWI’s Leadership gives Percentage of Salaries to Student Fund

May 05, 2020

The senior executive leadership of The University of the West Indies (The UWI)—the Vice-Chancellor, Campus Principals, Pro Vice-Chancellors, University Bursar and University Registrar—have all committed to allocating a percentage of their salaries for the next three months towards a student hardship fund. The aim of the fund is to promote equity of access for all students as well as provide much needed additional counselling services during this time.

The executive leadership of the regional university has recognised that the rapid transition to emergency online teaching in response to the regional spread of COVID-19 has exposed the enormity of challenges facing financially and socially marginalised students. With a student body of close to 50,000, at least 10,000 of them are believed to be functioning in a social circumstance that makes it excessively difficult to participate equally and equitably in this moment of digital intensification.

The principals across The UWI’s five campuses stepped up in developing remedial projects to confront this reality and to restore the level playing field provided by the physical classroom culture. The UWI alumni have been called upon to participate in fundraising and philanthropists have also responded by donating hundreds of tablets.

The offer of a salary-source contribution from the executive leadership to enhance student wellbeing “is another part of the UWI CARES project, designed to empower any excluded element of the student body,” says Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. He explained, “This is a justice gesture to further illustrate our commitment. We are here to serve and support them in their quest to succeed.”

The UWI Mona to distribute more than 500 Devices to expand Internet Access for Distance Learning

April 29, 2020

Professor Dale Webber, Principal of The UWI Mona elbow bumps final year student, Rodanne Corney who is one of the beneficiaries set to receive a device donated though a cross-sector partnership to support students in need, access online learning platforms.

A cross-sector partnership to support students at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona Campus with distance learning will provide over 500 devices to students in need. 

The University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) recently donated 500 new tablets whilst the World Bank through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), donated 15 laptops. 

Staff of The UWI Mona are also on-board to lend support to students as the Mona Administrative and Technical Staff Association (MONATS) contributed 13 tablets.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the UWI Mona, Prof. Dale Webber, expressed his gratitude for the support stating, “We are so thankful to everyone that is stepping up to help us to close the digital divide. The support from various donors to assist our students with challenges to access online learning is very timely. The UWI Mona moved to remote and online teaching on April 14, and we are not certain how long we will have to engage in this mode so this support from our donors ensures that students who do not have devices at home can participate in distance learning.”

Prof Webber further noted that the University received a little over 500 devices, however, an initial needs assessment indicated that an additional 500 devices are required.

Speaking to measures that will be taken to ensure that those who are most in need will benefit, Principal Webber said these decisions will be data driven. “We will look at usage history to determine how those who have applied for a device have accessed our online systems in the past, for example whether they accessed the platforms off-campus, via a mobile device or through our libraries.” This, he said, is just one of the ways the University will assess since there are a limited number of devices and we want to be sure that they fall in the hands of those who need it most.”

(L-R) Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona; Francine Warren-Kidd, Program Manager at UWIDEF; Rodanne Corney, Final Year Student; Christina Williams, President of the Guild of Students and Vice President of MONATS, Wayne Waite are pictured holding tablets which will be handed over to be distributed to students in need. More than 500 devices were donated as part of a cross-sector partnership with The University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF), the World Bank through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the Mona Administrative and Technical Staff Association (MONATS).

Students will be able to access devices on a loan through The UWI Mona Library - which will continue to benefit UWI students with financial challenges to access online resources and complete assignments post-Covid-19. The University’s Library will be working with the Jamaica Library Service through Parish Libraries to distribute the devices. 

Affordable Internet Access for Students

The Guild of Students was lauded by Principal Webber for their advocacy for students facing access challenges to ICT resources including internet access which ultimately resulted in a special arrangement with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and Digicel - an Educational Plan which will benefit not only UWI students, but all students locally, from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The Educational plan currently provides UWI students with unlimited access to five (5) of The UWI’s online teaching and learning platforms at a cost of $625 (for fourteen days). 

The zero-rated platforms that are accessible are: 

The UWI Mona Website: https://www.mona.uwi.edu/  

OurVLE (LMS): https://ourvle.mona.uwi.edu  

Student Email (MyMona): https://mymona.uwi.edu  

Library (Exlibris): https://uwin-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/  

EngVLE (Faculty of Engineering.): https://engvle.com  

More Assistance for UWI Students

The UWI Alumni Association (UWIAA) Jamaica Chapter, through the COVID-19 Response Initiative is seeking to garner the support of Alumni and Friends of The UWI to donate either funds to provide students in need with data plans/internet access or electronic devices. To date the UWIAA has raised funds to provide a one-month subscription on the Digicel network for 55 students to access the online learning platform. The UWIAA New York Chapter is also garnering similar support for students for devices and funding for internet access. 

“There will be a few students who despite our best efforts will not be able to participate in remote learning based on their geographic location and network availability in those areas. These students may opt to apply for a leave of absence if they are unable to gain access to the remote learning network,” said Professor Webber. 

Students who are currently experiencing challenges with access to ICT resources, should make contact with their respective faculties or their guild faculty representative. 

Enhanced Security Protocol at The UWI Mona Campus

April 18, 2020

In keeping with the Covid -19 protocol established by the Government of Jamaica, The UWI Mona Campus has suspended most face to face activities on campus including teaching, meetings and gatherings with more than ten persons, thus reducing daily traffic on the campus. The daily campus traffic/population has also been significantly reduced as a number of staff are working remotely and most students residing in the Halls have returned home. This reduced traffic increases the risk of theft and other criminal acts on the campus.

In light of this, the security teams operating on campus have implemented an enhanced security protocol aimed at protecting the remaining students and essential staff on campus as well as the assets of the University. These new security measures have taken effect since April 14, 2020 and will remain in place until further notice.

These measures include:

1. The main entrance to the campus (Queen’s gate) will be used for entry of UWI Staff with UWI IDs only

2. All vehicles will exit the Campus via the Post Office gate

3. On weekdays - All gates will be closed at 7:00 P.M. each night and reopen at 7:00 A.M. each weekday morning

4. On weekends - Only the Post Office Gate will be open to vehicular traffic; and will close at 7:00 P.M. each night and open at 7:00 A.M each morning

5. The Garden Boulevard gate has been temporarily closed until further notice

6. All vehicles entering and leaving the Campus will be subjected to search

7. All vehicles entering and leaving the Campus after 7:00 P.M. will be logged

The information logged will include:

i. License plate number of vehicle

ii. Make, model, colour of vehicle

iii. Name of driver, driver’s license or other form of valid Id

iv. Reason for accessing the campus

8. Security personnel have been instructed to prevent gathering of persons under gazebos, or any other areas on campus in keeping with the social distancing directive by the GOJ.

We would also like to remind all students and staff that wearing your UWI ID visibly while on campus, is a requirement.

We seek your full cooperation as we work to keep the University safe and secure during this period.

Clinical and Ethics experts join The UWI COVID-19 Task Force

April 16, 2020

Four new members have joined The UWI COVID-19 Task Force, bringing expertise to address the clinical aspects of the virus. They are Professor Terence Seemungal, Pulmonologist and Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The UWI St Augustine Campus; Dr Carl A. R. Bruce, Medical Chief of Staff and Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University Hospital of the West Indies and Dr Anna K. Perkins, Senior Programme Officer, Quality Assurance Unit at The UWI whose expertise is in ethics. Newly elected Guild President at The UWI Five Islands Campus, Mr. Caleb Gardiner, has also been added to the diverse response team to represent the youth and student voice.

Altogether, they comprise a regional team of 19 persons, mobilised since February by The UWI to leverage the University's knowledge and expertise to assist the Caribbean in its readiness and response to the virus outbreak. The Task Force is committed to providing clear and accurate information, sharing its research with stakeholders across the region. The members’ expertise span areas such as virology, epidemiology, laboratory diagnostics, critical care, respiratory medicine, pulmonology, health leadership, emergency medicine, veterinary medicine, mental health, public health, clinical psychology and counselling, tourism, trade, international relations, public education, youth advocacy, ethics, and communication, among other areas. 

A trusted, reliable, single source of information, the Task Force website, www.uwi.edu/covid19 provides a helpful repository of shared resources from a range of partner agencies and regular updates, all relevant to the Caribbean’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic amid a wave of misinformation and speculation. In addition, Task Force experts are available to provide commentary or media interviews. Members of the media are invited to make requests via email to universitymktgcomms@sta.uwi.edu.

The complete list of members of the UWI COVID-19 Task Force and their specialisations are as follows:

Professor Clive Landis, Chairman, Cardiovascular Research 

Dr Harold Watson, Emergency Medicine

Dr Carl A. R. Bruce, Neurosurgery and Health Leadership

Professor Terence Seemungal, Pulmonology

Dr Joshua Anzinger, Virology

Professor Christine Carrington, Molecular Genetics and Virology

Professor Christopher Oura, Veterinary Virology 

Professor Julie Meeks, Health Research

Professor Wendel Abel, Mental Health/Public Health 

Professor Donna-Maria Maynard, Clinical Counselling & Psychology

Dr Katija Khan, Clinical Psychology

Mrs Ceceile Minott, Counselling/Child Development/Social Development

Dr Anna K. Perkins, Ethics

Dr Don Marshall, International Relations & Economics

Dr Michelle McLeod, Hotel & Tourism Management

Mr Caleb Gardiner, Youth Advocacy

Dr Veronica Simon, Continuing Education & Public Outreach

Ms Janet Caroo, Broadcast & Public Outreach 

Dr Rhonda Jaipaul-O'Garro, Marketing & Communications

Full bios of Task Force members are available at http://www.uwi.edu/covid19/taskforce.php

CLASSES TO RESUME IN ONLINE MODE AT THE UWI MONA APRIL 14

April 14, 2020

The University of the West Indies, (The UWI) Mona will resume classes in an online/remote mode on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. This is following a one (1) month suspension of classes with a view to having the seven (7) academic Faculties prepare to facilitate the delivery of all courses through an online platform and to allow students to prepare to engage teaching and learning using the online/remote delivery mode. All forms of assessment (quizzes, course work, final exams etc.) will also be facilitated online. Students will be advised by course lecturers/tutors how assessment will be done, as soon as possible after teaching has commenced.

Professor Dale Webber, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona, said "in keeping with the University's COVID-19 Task Force Plan, and after consultations with the Vice-Chancellor and the Government, on March 12th, UWI-Mona moved into another phase of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan (the Orange Zone) and announced the suspension of classes effective March 13th, 2020. for one (1) month."

Courses in a state of readiness for online delivery
Given the projections by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) in relation to the spread of the disease in Jamaica, The UWI has agreed that resumption of teaching will only be conducted in an online/remote mode. "The UWI Mona is satisfied that all our courses are in a state of readiness for online delivery," Prof Webber stated. "Whilst we have put in measures to ensure smooth transitioning to this new mode of teaching and learning, we encourage students to utilise the support services provided by Mona Information Services (MITS) should they experience any challenges" Prof Webber further stated.

Students and Social Distancing
Prof Webber added that in keeping with the GOJ's guidelines on social distancing, Jamaican students were asked to move home from the halls of residence. Regional and international students, he added, though welcomed to remain, were encouraged to return home where possible.

Staff and Social Distancing
During this time also the University significantly scaled down its operations, providing critical services to its stakeholders with a reduced staff complement. Staff who could, were asked to work from home, and our clients/ stakeholders were discouraged from coming on Campus to access services. "In this regard, the Office of the Campus Registrar sent out a comprehensive communique advising all our stakeholders how our various services could be accessed remotely," Prof Webber added.

UWI Mona's Commitment to Students
Speaking to a prolonged period of the national response to the global pandemic, Principal Webber said "I want to assure our stakeholders, especially students, that as long as this period persists, we at The UWI Mona intend to carry through with our planned programme of online teaching and learning with a view to minimizing disruption to their education and their future plans, that is our commitment."

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