Campus COVID-19 Update

July 23, 2020

Dear UNL faculty, staff and students -

First, thank you. I have been impressed, humbled and proud of how our UNL community has responded to the incredible challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The last six months have brought an unprecedented level of change as we moved all learning to a remote basis in the spring and as we’ve undertaken the comprehensive, detailed and interconnected planning necessary to safely returning to a level of in-person instruction in the fall. It has been, and continues to be, a herculean task — and our UNL community has delivered.

In a few weeks, we will welcome our students back to campus. I am confident — given the careful and thoughtful planning that has been done at all levels across campus — we can do so in a way that helps ensure the safety of our campus community, our visitors, and our greater community. This video, featuring our students, speaks to our UNL campus experience and the measures being taken.

It is critically important that we work together to create an environment of access, opportunity, innovation, and life-long experiential learning for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus. Our focus on maintaining human connection and a sense of community is what sets Nebraska apart, particularly within the Big Ten. Students come to UNL for the connections they make with their instructors and with one another.

We also recognize that a number of our students do not have the ability to access remote learning in safe and productive environments. By returning to campus we offer the most equitable opportunity for every UNL student to engage in learning and make progress toward their academic goals.

While we will plan for the ability to be flexible and adapt to the changing and evolving situation, we are putting in strong protocols to help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the in-person experience for everyone in our campus community. These protocols are based on science and guidance from the CDC and the local health department. As part of this effort, each faculty, staff and student will receive two cloth face masks for use.

  • For faculty and staff, these will be distributed to deans and vice chancellors in early August, and in a couple of weeks you can reach out to your unit leader or department chair for distribution within your group. Instructors may also request a face shield from their department chair.
  • For students, distribution stations will be open on August 10. Pick up details will be forthcoming in a future communication.

To mitigate the risk of virus transfer within our buildings, our facilities team is increasing by nearly 50 percent the amount of fresh air being drawn into HVAC systems. They are also upgrading filters to more efficiently capture and reduce large and small particles in the air.

We know that much of our success lies in our common dedication to safety measures. All students will be asked to sign our Cornhusker Commitment. We encourage all faculty and staff to voluntarily sign this as well and demonstrate your commitment to the safety of our campus community.

As we move into August and continue to plan for the fall semester, I wanted to update you on the greater opening of our campus and ongoing workplace guidance. We all know that COVID-19 infections can increase rapidly in a local area. Should it become necessary to further restrict access to campus, we will notify our UNL community and provide details of how we are doing so.

Workplace Guidance
In August, and until further notice, we will continue to encourage employees to work remotely when possible. As students return to campus and we begin the fall semester, we recognize that many more employees will need to return to an on-campus work environment either on a daily or somewhat regular basis. Where this is necessary, unit leaders are expected to follow the guidelines below. Any employee who is at risk for COVID-19, caring for someone at risk for COVID-19 or feels unsafe returning to campus can request an alternative work arrangement.

  • All safety protocols must be adhered to on campus and in university worksites.
  • Through the encouragement of working remotely, flexible scheduling, and other flexible measures, we expect unit leaders to continue to keep the density of individuals in a workplace to the minimum necessary.
  • University employees with minor children who are required to engage in remote learning due to the COVID-19 policies of the school district in which they are enrolled may request to work remotely in accordance with the university’s alternative worksite policy. Unit leaders should approve those requests to the fullest extent that operational needs will permit.
  • Unit leaders must continue to abide by local health guidance. Updates can be found on the Lincoln/Lancaster County Department of Health website. UNL employees or sites in other counties should consult their local health department web sites.

Campus Facilities
UNL students will move into university housing August 13-16. More information is available on this website.

Starting August 10, campus buildings will be open and accessible as they normally would be during the academic year. All campus safety measures, such as wearing face coverings and social distancing, must be followed. Mail delivery will return to campus sites on August 10. There are some exceptions to normal hours, procedures and services for the following facilities:

  • Campus Recreation – Hours and services may vary. Visit their website for details at https://crec.unl.edu/covid.
  • University Libraries – the Adele Hall Learning Commons is currently open to UNL cardholders from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Collections paging services is currently available with pickup in the Learning Commons. On August 2, the Dunkin’ Donuts in the Learning Commons will open. Love Library will resume fall semester hours by August 17 and additional details can be found at https://libraries.unl.edu/
  • Law Library – The Marvin & Virginia Schmid Law Library will reopen to the UNL community on August 17. Additional details will be available on this website. Assistance remains available at lawref@unl.edu.
  • The University of Nebraska State Museum, Lied Center for Performing Arts, Sheldon Museum of Art, and International Quilt Museum will begin reopening in August, additional details on hours and programming are available on their websites.

Faculty/Staff Travel
Starting August 1, university-sponsored international travel will continue to be prohibited until further notice. Domestic travel outside Nebraska is highly discouraged. However, for exceptional cases where university-sponsored domestic travel is absolutely necessary, two levels of authorization approval will be required prior to travel.

Testing/Contact Tracing
All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to self-monitor for and report symptoms of COVID-19 by using the 1-Check COVID-19 screening app developed by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 1-Check COVID-19 enables individuals to privately answer a series of questions and assess their risk of having COVID-19. Then the app issues a “low risk,” “urgent risk” or “emergent risk” assessment and guides users toward possible next steps specific to their needs.

For symptomatic individuals or those who desire testing, we will be providing testing through a partnership with TestNebraska and the University Health Center. Additional testing will also be available when a high-risk population has been identified and testing will help to mitigate risks to the broader campus community. Through our partnership, a designated site for testing will be established on our UNL campus. Additional information, including hours available, will be provided prior to the start of classes.

Process when students, faculty, or staff test positive
In coordination with Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, processes are being developed for contact tracing, isolation, and eventual return to work. The health department has approved a process for isolation and quarantine for students who live on campus. Off campus students, faculty, and staff will isolate at their residence under health department monitoring.

Contact tracers will identify people who have been in close contact with a person testing positive and direct a 14-day quarantine period. As long as face masks are worn and the six-foot physical distancing is maintained, being in the same classroom as someone who tests positive does not constitute close contact. While instructors will not automatically be notified if a student tests positive, students will be encouraged to contact instructors regarding any assignments or classwork they might miss while in isolation. Employees who test positive are also encouraged to contact supervisors so that work assignments can be adjusted.

More detailed information on our safety measures and other policies can be found on our COVID-19 website.

As we take the steps needed to safely return this fall, thank you for what you do to make a Nebraska education unlike any other. That is never more important than it is now.

Ronnie D. Green, Ph.D.
Chancellor