Enhanced COVID Safety Measures for Spring 2021

Chancellor Green with mask on, sitting at desk.

December 9, 2020

Dear UNL Students, Faculty and Staff –

The recent Thanksgiving holiday gave us many reasons to be thankful. We successfully finished a fall semester with students on campus and in-person education, and our UNL community largely responded admirably to the restrictions and extra measures needed to keep our campus safe.

Yet, we can always improve. As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified in Nebraska and globally, and as the colder weather forces us more indoors, we have thought about how to make our campus even safer next Spring when our students return. We will be instituting several new measures in January as we adapt to these growing challenges, including required, less invasive and faster testing for those in our campus community and an enhanced Cornhusker Commitment. Throughout the pandemic, we have had a close working partnership with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. These additional steps are based on their recommendations, with the support of our Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) executive team.

New Saliva-Based Campus Testing

With the incredible support of UNL’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center, we will be able to provide saliva-based diagnostic testing on campus in the spring, with an expected 24-hour turn-around for positive or negative results.

Standing up this capability is a major undertaking, and we need immediate help staffing it. We are looking for members of our campus community who would be able to temporarily redeploy to help staff the testing sites, diagnostic center and conduct contract tracing. These temporary re-assignments range from one-month to more than four months, depending on the role and availability of the individual. If you are interested and have capacity to redeploy on a temporary basis next spring, please visit this website to learn more about the available roles and to apply.

Mandatory Testing / New Campus COVID App

With this new capability for simpler, rapid diagnostic testing – we will be instituting free, mandatory testing in the Spring semester for our campus community.

All UNL students residing in Lancaster County during the Spring semester — regardless of if you are taking courses in person or online, living on campus or off — are required to get tested before classes start on January 25, 2021, and every two weeks thereafter. Any students residing outside of Lancaster County who physically come to campus in the Spring semester will also be required to be tested before classes begin and every two weeks. All students moving into university housing are required to schedule a test as soon as they return to campus or prior to classes commencing on January 25, 2021, and must maintain quarantine in their room until a negative test result is received. Students will be receiving full information on these testing requirements and how to sign up for their initial tests in early January.

Faculty and staff who are regularly on campus will also be required to be tested every two weeks. Faculty and staff who are primarily working remotely and come to campus infrequently will be required to be tested within the two weeks prior to visiting campus, preferably 2-3 days in advance. We are working to determine the capability to provide enhanced testing to any UNL faculty and staff outside of Lancaster County; for now, those employees should follow the recommended testing guidance of the local health departments. If coming to Lincoln, those employees should be tested in advance.

We are also working with our Big Ten colleagues at the University of Illinois-UC for a unique campus app that will incorporate the results of the saliva tests to provide members of the campus community with a color-coded status based on negative or positive test results. A “go” status will be required to enter any UNL buildings on City, East or Nebraska Innovation Campuses. Alternatives for demonstrating a negative test and gaining access to campus buildings will be made available for any students, faculty or staff who do not own a smartphone. Information about the new app and how to download will be provided in early January.

Students, faculty and staff are exempt from testing if they can show documentation of a positive COVID-19 test in the prior 90 days, or a documentation from a health care provider that substantiates a medical reason for an exemption. Those wishing to seek an exemption will be able to do so through a portal that will soon be available on our COVID-19 website.

In addition to the mandatory saliva-based testing, we will continue to have symptomatic and on-demand testing available for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19, who have been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or who feel the need to be tested prior to their next scheduled saliva test. In the Spring, even if you recently had a negative saliva test, we ask anyone demonstrating symptoms to be tested at the TestNebraska site.

Enhanced Spring 2021 Cornhusker Commitment

As we expand our testing, we are also enhancing the Spring 2021 Cornhusker Commitment. For the Spring semester, all students will be required to sign an affirmative agreement in MyRed agreeing to adhere to these expanded health and safety measures. Each student will need to commit to being tested as needed and to practicing the necessary safety measures of wearing masks indoors or when social distancing is not possible outdoors, avoiding large crowds and social gatherings, hand washing, and other proper hygiene. Students will acknowledge that a failure to adhere to these safety precautions could jeopardize their ability to be on campus.

More information on the new safety measures being taken for our Spring 2021 semester is available on our UNL COVID-19 website. We remain committed to safely providing in-person educational experiences and to continuing our critical research and creative activity, as well as our vital outreach across Nebraska. These additional measures will help make our Spring semester even more safe and successful.

Ronnie D. Green, Ph.D.