Update: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 5, 2020

As the spread of the novel coronavirus continues globally and within the United States, I wanted to share an update with our UNL community on the steps that we are taking.

There are currently no known cases of the novel coronavirus in the state of Nebraska, outside those being treated at the containment units at UNMC. Through our consultation with medical officials, and consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are pragmatic steps we can take in an effort to help keep our community protected in this rapidly evolving situation. Many other institutions of higher education are taking similar steps, as are a number of private sector organizations.

Travel

We will be suspending any upcoming university-sponsored travel for our students outside the continental U.S. and Hawaii for the remainder of the spring semester. Students already overseas on education abroad programs will be permitted to remain on those programs as long as the CDC level for the country they are in remains below level 3.

We are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and evaluating whether to extend this cancellation of student university-sponsored travel through the summer. We expect to make that determination in the coming weeks and will share it with our campus at that time.

While we are not placing formal restrictions on university-related travel by faculty or staff at this time, we ask that you carefully consider whether your travel (domestic or international) is essential or might be canceled or postponed to a later date. We recognize that travel cancellations may still result in cost to the university and support any decision by our faculty and staff to cancel planned travel. Our travel partner, Fox World Travel, traveloffice@nebraska.edu, can help with cancellations and assist in recouping expenses.

Additionally, with spring break approaching later this month, we encourage our students, faculty and staff to be thoughtful about personal international travel. There are several circumstances to consider when deciding whether to travel. First, you may become ill. Second, as COVID-19 continues to spread globally and countries evaluate whether to restrict travel to and from certain regions, limitations and bans can be put into effect with little to no warning. Finally, if you do become ill while traveling, even if your personal symptoms are minor, you run the risk of not being able to return or returning and infecting more vulnerable populations.

As a reminder, due to State Department and CDC travel advisories, University of Nebraska system policy currently restricts student, faculty and staff travel to mainland China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. Any UNL-sponsored study abroad programs scheduled to these locations have been canceled for spring and summer.

International Visitors

As a university with global impact, we frequently engage with academic and other representatives from other countries. If you are hosting international visitors, please notify the International Student and Scholar Office at isso@unl.edu. Visitors from several countries will need to check in with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

Planning/Information

The university leadership has established a COVID-19 Task Force that is consulting with public health officials, the NU system, University of Nebraska Medical Center and others. This group is tasked with evaluating additional steps that may need to be taken and planning for several possibilities. Specifically, there are subgroups of the task force dedicated to campus operations, academic planning, student life, international travel, and campus communications. If students, faculty or staff have questions for the Task Force, please email them to covid19@unl.edu.

We have established a UNL website specifically geared to providing information to campus at covid19.unl.edu. This will be continually updated with new information.

Personal Protection

I want to reiterate that there are currently no known cases of the novel coronavirus in the state of Nebraska, outside those being treated at the containment units at UNMC. If this were to change, we will immediately communicate with our UNL community.

Our medical experts remind us that the best methods to prevent contracting the novel coronavirus are the same for other viruses — handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer, and staying home if you feel ill. The CDC website provides excellent resources for understanding COVID-19, signs and symptoms, and how to keep yourself and loved ones healthy.

Students who believe they may be experiencing symptoms related to the novel coronavirus should contact the University Health Center at 402.472.5000. It is very important to call ahead. This protects you from potential exposure to more serious health issues, and allows our university health officials to provide support for the greatest number of our students.

Faculty and staff who believe they may be experiencing symptoms should contact your personal health care provider.

Going Forward

On behalf of our leadership team, I want to stress that we are committed to the safety of our campus community and our greater community, and to taking any necessary steps in a thoughtful and timely manner. As this situation continues to unfold, we ask our students, faculty and staff to demonstrate support and compassion as this potentially impacts us all and could happen to anyone.

It is also our goal to be open and transparent. We will provide any necessary information to our campus as quickly as decisions are made.


Ronnie