COVID-19 Digest: J&J pause will not impact vaccine clinics this week

· 13 min read

COVID-19 Digest: J&J pause will not impact vaccine clinics this week

Mary Neill vaccinates Aubrey Busteed at a College of Nursing vaccination clinic on Jan. 29. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has opened Phase 1B vaccinations up to education units — which includes university employees.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Mary Neill vaccinates Aubrey Busteed at a College of Nursing vaccination clinic on Jan. 29. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has opened Phase 1B vaccinations up to education units — which includes university employees.

Welcome to the Nebraska Today COVID-19 Digest (spring semester edition). This is a feature designed to deliver the university’s most current virus news and help you navigate campus during the global pandemic.

These briefs will be updated regularly and appear in the Nebraska Today newsletter.

The most recent update, which posted at noon April 13, outlines information about the local pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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J&J pause will not impact Lincoln vaccine clinics this week

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department announced April 13 that, based on recommendations from federal health officials, it has immediately paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. County health officials said the pause would not impact any of its vaccination clinics this week. All clinics scheduled will use Pfizer of Moderna vaccines.

The pause was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. Both agencies are reviewing data related to six reported cases, including one in Nebraska, of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Just more than 11,500 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in Lancaster County clinics. County officials have not received any reports of adverse effects associated with the vaccine at this time.

Read the entire announcement here.

Students, faculty and staff can register for a vaccine through the county health department here.


Vaccine registry for students opens

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has launched a COVID-19 vaccine registry portal for students. The portal, announced in an April 8 email from Chancellor Ronnie Green, closes at 5 p.m. April 11.

Students who register should select "students-higher education" and then "University of Nebraska" when prompted via the portal. They should also list their local address and a current email address in the registry. Health officials will use the email address listed to schedule an appointment.

Read Green's entire message here or access the portal directly.


CDC issues new travel guidance

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a travel guidance update for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The update eliminates some testing and quarantine recommendations, but CDC officials are still not recommending travel — regardless of vaccine status — at this time due to rising numbers of infections.

To be considered fully vaccinated, it must be at least two weeks after receiving either a single-dose vaccine (like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine) or the second of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).

Under the new guidance, people who are fully vaccinated with a Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States. Travelers who are fully vaccinated should:

- Wear a mask over nose and mouth;

- Avoid crowds and observe physical distancing (at least six feet) from anyone not traveling together, and;

- Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).

After traveling, the fully vaccinated should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if symptoms develop; and follow all state and local recommendations.

The guidance includes domestic travel recommendations for unvaccinated people. A summary of the guidance is below. Complete details are available through the CDC.

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control | Courtesy


Saliva testing available April 2-4

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln will offer students, faculty and staff access to saliva-based COVID-19 testing during the weekend of April 2-4.

Testing will be available 2 to 4 p.m. at the collection site on the east side of Memorial Stadium. Appointments can be made through the Safer Community app or the COVID-19 Testing Portal.

The on demand, TestNebraska site (which conducts testing via nasal swab and is located on 17th Street, between Vine and R streets), will be closed April 4.

Details on both testing options are available here.

While vaccine access continues to expand, the university community should continue to follow safety protocols related to the global pandemic. These include limiting exposure and potential spread through mask use, regular hand washing, physical distancing and following university testing protocols. Learn more about prevention and well-being.


CDC issues tips for all travelers

In response to increased travel nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued tips to help protect travelers and limit spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The recommendations, available here, include a reminder from health officials that travel be delayed if possible — even if already vaccinated.

If travel is unavoidable, steps individuals can take to protect themselves and others include:

• If eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19;

• Before travel, get tested with a viral test one to three days before a trip;

• Wear a mask over nose and mouth when in public;

• Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone not traveling together;

• Get tested three to five days after the trip and — even if the test is negative — self-quarantine at home for a full seven days after traveling. If not tested, travelers should self-quarantine for 10 days after returning; and

• Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements for travel.


Variant testing to begin on virus-positive saliva samples

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s saliva-based testing program will begin assessments for COVID-19 variants.

Requested by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the virus sequencing will be completed through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory. It will include saliva samples that test positive for the virus through the university’s testing program.

Saliva samples that test negative through on-campus testing will continue to be disposed of after three days, following established biological safety protocols. A similar process will be followed by the state lab after completing testing for COVID-19 variants.

Individuals whose samples are positive for a variant will be notified by their local county health department. In most cases, it will be reported by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

If variants are found in the campus samples, they will be reported to the public.

All viruses — including the one that causes COVID-19 — evolve over time. As the virus replicates, the copies sometimes change, causing a mutation. A virus with one or multiple mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original. Some mutations affect the way a virus interacts with its host.

Groups of mutations have resulted in new versions of the COVID-19 virus. These variants have become dominant in regions of the world and are now circulating in the United States.

Health officials are working to track and study variants to determine severity, infection rates and if current vaccines remain effective against the changing virus.

Whole virus genome sequencing is required to identify variants in a sample. Early identification of variants also will allow health officials to conduct thorough case investigations and contact tracing, increasing the chance to limit spread in the community. Tracking of variants also can provide information that better allows healthcare facilities to prepare for any patient increases.

All individual results from the university’s COVID-19 testing program will continue to be private. Those results are reported securely to students, instructors and staff through the Safer Community app and the university’s online testing portal.

On-campus test results are used by the university’s Public Health Advocacy Team to guide contact tracing and to mitigate spread. The results are also reported — as required by law — to the Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Learn more about the university’s COVID-19 testing program and ongoing response to the global pandemic.

Video: How does the university's saliva-testing program work?


Summer event guidelines released

The university has released updated guidelines that — with the continuation of low numbers of COVID-19 cases on campus and in the local community — will allow for in-person attendance at summer events.

All events will follow COVID-19 guidelines as established by the university, and recommended by local, state and national health officials. Complete details on the guidelines are available here.


Random mitigation testing begins

The university's random mitigation COVID-19 testing program launched Feb. 18.

Students, instructors and staff randomly selected to participate in the required testing should have received an email and/or text message informing them about the need to get tested via the university's saliva-based testing program. The notification should also be available in the Safer Community app (under "Next Step" on the app's main screen) or the online COVID-19 Testing Portal.

Through the program, each week a set number of Huskers are randomly selected to complete a saliva-based COVID-19 test on campus. Notices are sent on Thursdays and those selected have until the following Wednesday to complete testing. If not completed, an alert will be sent. Each Thursday will serve as an extra day to get tested for those individuals who forget or are unable to schedule by Wednesday.

Complete details on the randomized mitigation testing program are available here. An overview of spring testing and the university's ongoing response to the pandemic are available on the COVID-19 website.


Testing hours, availability adjust with randomized testing

With the shift to a randomized testing strategy, the university has adjusted hours and availability of its saliva-based COVID-19 testing program. This change includes no availability on Fridays and Saturdays.

Testing availability may be expanded or adjusted based on demand or need (including any spread of the virus) moving forward. Complete details on saliva-based testing availability are available in the Safer Community app, the COVID-19 Testing Portal, and the COVID-19 website.

Individuals who are symptomatic or who suspect exposure should get tested at the university's TestNebraska site (located on 17th Street, between R and Vine streets) or the University Health Center. Testing at the University Health Center is limited and available by appointment only for symptomatic individuals. Learn more about the university's on demand, nasal-based testing.


Printable building access passes available online

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s online COVID-19 Testing Portal now offers an option to print a daily building access pass.

The portal is intended for students, instructors and staff who do not have smartphones and are unable to access the Safer Community app. Both the portal and app allow Huskers to complete COVID-19 reentry testing protocols, make appointments for saliva-based testing, view test results and access a building pass.

The passes — both printed and available through the app — show compliance with the university’s saliva-based COVID-19 testing program. They are shown to the university’s Wellness Attendants, who monitor building access.

The printable pass available through the portal is date stamped, requiring a new one daily.

Building access passes can also be printed at kiosks in the 17th and R parking garage on City Campus and the East Campus Service Building.

Learn more about the university’s multi-layered approach to limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the Lincoln community.


When happens after that third reentry test is complete?

On Feb. 3, Chancellor Ronnie Green announced that the university's reentry testing for COVID-19 will expand to include a third round to provide requested transmission data to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. So, once you take the test and receive a negative result, here's what you can expect.

Within one day of receiving your third (negative) test result, the Safer Community app and online COVID-19 Testing Portal should show that you have completed all reentry testing and no future tests need to be scheduled (at that time). Individual status cards (available through the app and online portal) will also show that building access is granted for all who complete the three rounds of testing. Students, instructors and staff should be continue to be ready to show their status cards to Wellness Attendants stationed at building entrances.

Additional details about the further testing needs — including the possible launch of random mitigation testing — will be announced the week of Feb. 15.

If your app or online portal continues to show the need for another test after the third round, it is because at least two of your tests were completed less than five days apart. To count toward the reentry protocols, the span between each test must be greater than or equal to five days. To stay in compliance and complete the testing protocol in this situation, you must take the fourth test — but be certain that it completed between five and nine days after your last test.

Read Chancellor Ronnie Green's entire message on the the need for a third round of reentry testing and a look ahead here.

State of Nebraska opens vaccine portal

The state has launched an online portal through which Nebraskans can register for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Anyone who has registered with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department — particularly all who are age 65 and older — do not need to complete registration with the state. However, individuals who are 18 to 64 and have a high-risk medical condition are asked to register via the state portal to ensure prioritization for Phase 1B vaccinations.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department opened its online registration tool for COVID-19 vaccinations on Jan. 19. At this time, the site is primarily for individuals who are 65 or older or have underlying, high-risk health issues. Learn more here.

At this time, no on-campus vaccination sites are scheduled. Details on availability will be announced to the campus community.


Early birds may need to get third COVID-19 reentry test

Huskers among the first to be tested twice through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s saliva-based COVID-19 reentry testing program may need to get a third test to stay in compliance.

The university began the second round of saliva-based testing on Jan. 28. Some students, instructors and staff who completed two reentry tests early are reporting that the Safer Community app is recommending the scheduling of a third test. The app is showing a need for third test as its “Access Granted” status is based on a 10-day interval.

The university is working with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to determine next steps in the spring semester COVID-19 testing program. Details will be announced the week of Feb. 1.

Huskers who have been tested twice and show (via the app) a need for a third test prior to Feb. 5 should schedule an additional test at least one day prior to the date listed. This will allow those users to avoid interruption in building access status.

Learn more about the university’s multi-layered approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the Lincoln community.


Get an exemption if you've had COVID-19

Students, instructors and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days must request an exemption and should not participate in the university’s saliva-based testing program. Huskers with an exemption receive an “Access Granted” status in the Safer Community app for the duration of the 90-day span.

Getting tested for COVID-19 in the weeks after recovery from the virus may result in a positive test result. Per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, individuals in the 90-day window are not contagious after a 10-day isolation period and assuming symptoms have resolved. However, they may continue to carry remnants of the virus for the remaining time in the 90-day window. These remnants may result in a positive test result.

Individuals who have recovered and are in the 90-day window after having the virus should only seek testing if they are symptomatic or suspect exposure. Those tests should be nasal-based and not completed through the university's saliva testing program.

Details about the exemption process and how to apply are available via the Testing Exemptions webpage and Spring Open FAQ.


Negative, on-campus test needed to access university facilities

Only those negative COVID-19 tests completed through the on-campus, saliva-based testing protocol can be used to gain access to university facilities.

The university's saliva-based PCR test is as reliable as nasal-based testing. Further, the Safer Community app and printable building access pass (offered for those without smartphones) can only be linked to results from on-campus saliva tests. Results from a health care provider or any other outside testing program cannot be substituted for a test from the university's saliva-based testing protocol.

Learn more about the university's saliva-based testing program here.


Vaccine registration begins for Lincoln, Lancaster County

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has launched an online portal for individuals to register for vaccine distribution. All members of the campus community who are 65+ or who have underlying, high-risk health issues are being asked to register with the county. Additional details on the vaccination plan will be announced.

Learn more here.


Study spaces updated for spring semester

Study spaces on campus for students to attend Zoom classes, access remote course materials, and collaborate on small group projects while staying safe and physically distant have been updated for the spring semester. Students can drop into areas listed here on a first-come-first-served basis.

In addition, the University Libraries has study spaces listed here and the university has a WiFi outdoor map for students who want to study outside.

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