Welcome to the Nebraska Today COVID-19 Digest — a feature intended to help you navigate campus during the global pandemic.
These briefs will be updated regularly with campus news related to COVID-19. Along with appearing in the campus newsletter, this digest will also (until further notice) be a featured story on the Nebraska Today website. For complete details on the university's pandemic response, review its COVID-19 website.
The most recent update, which posted at 4 p.m. Dec. 7, highlights updates for study spaces on campus during the fall and spring three-week sessions.
Study spaces updated for three-week sessions
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 fall and spring three-week sessions. Students can drop into areas listed here on a first-come-first-served basis.
Lincoln, Lancaster County issue new directed health measures
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has issued a new directed health measure that will impact the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The new measures, issued Nov. 24 and effective Nov. 25 through at least Dec. 18, do not affect any scheduled final exams. The University Libraries has received an exemption to continue operations until 5 p.m. Nov. 25 — when they were previously scheduled to close for the fall semester.
A complete list of the new measures — which impact gathering restrictions, restaurant/bar service, youth sports, religious events and gyms — is available here. The regulations are expected to impact some campus facilities, including the University Libraries, Campus Recreation Centers and Nebraska Unions. Please check facility websites for specific changes before coming to campus.
At this time, campus offices will remain open as planned Nov. 25 and after the Thanksgiving break (Nov. 26-29). The university community will continue to observe all COVID-19 protocols, including the reduction in employees on campus (as followed during the fall semester), social distancing, use of facial coverings and hand washing/sanitizer use. The university’s student population will be greatly reduced as the fall semester ends Nov. 25 and courses offered in the three-week fall session are all online.
For more details on the university’s COVID-19 response, click here.
CDC releases guidelines for Thanksgiving
As cases of the novel coronavirus spike throughout much of the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released recommendations regarding travel and gathering ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Because travel can increase the likelihood of contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus, the CDC advises staying home or remaining in place for the holiday if possible. Before traveling, the CDC suggests asking and answering a few questions, including:
- Will anyone you might visit be at high risk of becoming very sick with COVID-19, especially because of age or existing medical conditions?
- Are cases high, or rising fast, in the area you’re thinking about visiting?
- Will transportation make physical distancing difficult or impossible?
If you do decide to travel for Thanksgiving, the CDC recommends bringing your own food, drinks and dinnerware; wearing a mask whenever possible; and avoiding the kitchen or other areas where food will be prepared or handled.
Those hosting a Thanksgiving meal should consider having the meal outside or opening windows indoors, limiting the number of guests, and establishing expectations for those guests before they decide to attend.
For more information, visit the CDC webpage on safely celebrating Thanksgiving. Josephine Lau, associate professor of architectural engineering at Nebraska, also recently shared some advice and tips on remaining safe during the holiday.
COVID testing continues during Thanksgiving week
Testing for COVID-19 will be available by appointment on campus for the university community during Thanksgiving week (Nov. 22-28).
The only day testing will not be offered on campus is Nov. 26, which is Thanksgiving Day.
The East Stadium Loop testing site will be open Nov. 22-25 and Nov. 28-29. The 17th and R Street parking garage site (run by TestNebraska) will have availability Nov. 23-25. Testing at both locations is free to students, faculty and staff.
The University Health Center will also offer testing for those who meet criteria Nov. 23-25 and Nov. 27.
Learn more about the three on-campus testing options and how to register for an appointment here.
The university also continues to offer expanded access to COVID-19 testing as students prepare for the end of the fall semester. Learn more here.
Chancellor calls for diligence as city/county risk elevates to red
On Nov. 6, the Lincoln-Lancaster County COVID-19 Risk Dial moved into the red zone, signaling an escalated threat level of virus transfer risk within the broader community.
The elevation does not trigger a citywide shutdown or changes to the current status of operations at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
In a Nov. 6 message to campus, Chancellor Ronnie Green said the university has experienced a relatively stable number of positive cases and positivity rates for COVID-19.
“While we must remain extraordinarily vigilant, given the current stability of the situation on our campus, we do not see the need to discontinue in-person education or to have students leave campus housing,” Green said. “It is especially critical that we practice safety measures not just on our campus, but particularly as we go off campus.
“We must all do our part to help keep our broader Lincoln community safe.”
Safety measures include wearing facial coverings, maintaining social distancing, washing hands and practicing good hygiene.
Green also noted that the university is in its 12th week of the fall semester and thanked the campus community for following protocols and helping assure a successful on-campus experience.
As the university shifts toward the end of the semester on Nov. 25, Green strongly encouraged students to get tested before they return home.
“During the weeks of Nov. 16 and Nov. 23, we will be suspending our random mitigation testing to utilize that additional testing capacity for anyone wishing to get tested,” Green said. “This opportunity is open to faculty and staff as well.”
“Thank you for your incredible efforts this fall, your continued diligence as the semester progressed has led to the stability of our campus environment,” Green said. “We’ve got a few weeks left — please stay strong, be safe and continue to be Cornhusker committed.”
If you forget a mask...
Disposable masks are available for students, faculty, staff and visitors who forget to bring one to campus. Due to COVID-19 concerns, mask use is required when on campus. The university's facial covering policy is available here for review. Individuals who forget a mask can find a disposable option at the following locations:
City Campus — A self-service wall dispenser in the hall by the west doors of the Nebraska Union
East Campus — At the member services desk by the east doors of Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
Innovation Campus — At Food Innovation Center, 1901 N. 21st St., Room 232
Peter Kiewit Institute — At the reception desk in Room 107.
Both the university and City of Lincoln have issued policies that require facial coverings be worn when indoors or when outside and social distancing (six-feet of distance between individuals) cannot be observed. Learn more about the university policy here and stay in touch with city updates (which include a COVID-19 risk dial).
Under new guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have broadened federal guidelines for close contact exposure to COVID-19. The new guidance defines close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Previous language defined close contact as someone who spends at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed case. Individuals who are considered close contacts should quarantine and get tested for the virus.
State updates directed health measures
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the State of Nebraska has revised its directed health measures. Announced Oct. 16, the health measures go into effect on Oct. 21 and continue through Nov. 30. A complete summary of the changes is available here.
The update includes:
- All indoor gatherings will be limited to 50% of rated facility capacity (not to exceed 10,000). This includes tracks, stadiums, auditoriums, large event conference rooms, meeting halls, theaters, libraries and pools.
- Group shall be no larger than eight individuals.
International travel suspension for students extended
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has extended the suspension of university-sponsored international travel for students through the spring semester. This includes all Education Abroad programs.
A decision on international travel for faculty and staff for spring 2021 is pending.
Temporary suspensions of Greek houses lifted
Temporary suspensions have ended for all six Greek organizations alleged to have violated campus face covering and physical distancing requirements related to COVID-19 on Sept. 7.
After investigations into the violations, Alpha Omicron Pi was found not responsible and their temporary suspension ended immediately. The other five organizations’ conduct was found to be inconsistent with university policies related to health and safety and appropriate sanctions were assessed.
During the temporary suspension, the Greek chapters could not participate in, attend or organize any functions, activities or events, or participate in university-wide events as an organization.
Social distancing, self-monitoring necessary for out-of-state visitors
Per new federal and state guidelines, anyone traveling to campus from locations outside of Nebraska must practice strict social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms. Learn more on this change as outlined by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
New quarantine issued on campus
A small cluster (seven positive cases) of COVID-19 has been identified at Phi Kappa Theta. The fraternity self-quarantined before the quarantine was issued by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
Positive case reporting a necessity
The reporting of positive tests is a key part of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s work to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the greater community.
Faculty, staff and students are urged to first notify the university’s Public Health Advisory Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or via text message to 402-266-6865 as quickly as possible after a positive test. Identities of all who test positive are kept confidential. The sooner information is received, the quicker action can be taken to minimize an outbreak of COVID-19 that could impact campus activities.
Additional elements of the university’s positive test reporting protocol are below.
- Any employee (faculty, staff or student worker) who tests positive should promptly notify their direct supervisor.
- When contacted, supervisors should promptly notify the Public Health Advisory Team at email@example.com or via text message to 402-266-6865.
- Students should promptly notify instructors to determine how to address any missed course activities or requirements.
- Instructors, student support staff and all others whom a student might report a positive test to should promptly notify the Public Health Advisory Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or via text message to 402-266-6865. If possible, notifications should include the student’s full name and NU identification number.
University supervisors or other employees who learn of a positive COVID-19 case should not notify anyone other than the Public Health Advisory Team. This includes not sharing details with others that may share a workplace, classroom or living environment with the individual who tested positive. Those notifications will be completed by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and the Public Health Advisory Team.
The Public Health Advisory Team will keep confidential the identities and health information of all those who test positive. Information will only be shared with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, which coordinates contact tracing and identifying close contacts who may have been exposed.
Notifications convey only as much information as necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the university community. In most cases, the individual who tested positive need not be identified.
Employees concerned about how disclosure of a positive test may affect employment can consult the administrative and sick leave policies designed to help offer support.
Reporting a positive test should not impact the course standing of a student as instructors have been asked to offer flexible alternatives when necessary. The Office of Student Advocacy and Support can help students if necessary. A comprehensive resource of supports for students is available here.
Dashboard reporting updated
The university's recently expanded COVID-19 dashboard has been updated to reflect a change in reporting methodology used by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
The update, which started Sept. 28, is reporting positive case data as the sum of individual positive tests, removing duplicate positive tests for individuals. The update removes multiple positive tests that a single individual might receive. The new methodology is retroactive to Aug. 12, when the university started offering on-campus testing.
The dashboard includes tests completed at the university’s TestNebraska facility and University Health Center, as well as those completed elsewhere. All data is provided by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. The dashboard is designed to be updated daily. Cases will be reported in Nebraska Today on a weekly basis. Learn more about the COVID-19 testing dashboard.
On-campus testing to expand
The university has expanded access to free COVID-19 testing on campus and is launching a randomized diagnostic testing program.
The university’s TestNebraska site — located on the ground floor of the 17th and R Streets parking garage — has increased the number of tests it can conduct and expand hours to include a Sunday afternoon option. Update testing hours for the TestNebraska site are 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
The expanded hours allow for more individuals to get tested, including students who are required to get regular testing for curricular and employment experiences — including those who serve as student teachers and workers in Lancaster County.
The TestNebraska site is open to students, faculty and staff. Testing appointments can be made through the university’s COVID-19 website.
The University Health Center is also providing tests for the campus community Monday through Saturday. Health center testing is based on a telehealth consultation and requires insurance coverage. To request a telehealth appointment, call 402-472-5000.
Starting the week of Sept. 28, the university will start randomized mitigation testing of students, faculty and staff. Campus community members selected will be asked via email to be tested. The email will include instructions on how to get tested.
The expanded testing and randomized testing program were announced in a Sept. 18 email from Chancellor Ronnie Green. The message also included details on the university’s overall testing strategy, enhanced testing for individuals in quarantine, and information about campus isolation and quarantine policies.
Screening, tracing and communication resources available
The university has created COVID-19 guides for instructors, employees and supervisors. The documents include guidance for COVID-19 screening, conversations regarding the pandemic and answers to questions supervisors might be asked (or asking). Employees can access the documents here.
Free Wi-Fi hotspots available for off-campus students
To assure educational access for students who may not have internet in their homes, the university is making mobile Wi-Fi hotspots available via checkout.
The MiFi devices, available through Information Technology Services, are available on a first-come, first-served basis through the end of the year to all students who live off campus. Extensions will be considered. There is no charge for the device, network connection or data used.
The university is also offering students additional space on campus for studying, attend classes via Zoom, access remote course materials, and collaborate on small group projects. Learn more here.
Housing updates guest policy
To better address the need for physical distancing, University Housing has updated its guest policy for students living in campus residence halls.
Under the new policy, which went into effect Sept. 15, each student resident is allowed two guests in their assigned hall at any time. For in suite apartments that include more than three assigned roommates, students may host two guests per resident or a total of 10 people at any one time. However, no individual assigned resident can have more than two guests with them at any time.
Testing, reporting and contact tracing
Protocols for testing, reporting and contact tracing are now in place for the fall semester. Any member of the campus community who tests positive for COVID-19 should immediately contact the university's Public Health Advocacy Team at email@example.com. The team has recently been organized to serve as a resource for faculty, staff and students with a confirmed case of COVID-19. The university has partnered with TestNebraska to offer free testing on campus (in the 17th and R Streets parking garage) and is working with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department on contact tracing. Learn more about the university's testing, reporting and contact tracing protocols.
No in-class transmission reported
Pat Lopez, director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, announced that, as of Sept. 2, contact tracing has not confirmed in-classroom transmission of the the 2019 coronavirus at any school or college campus in Lancaster County. The information was presented during a Sept. 2 press conference held by Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and attended by Chancellor Ronnie Green.
At this time, all cases among students, faculty and staff have reportedly been traced to exposures that occurred outside the classroom or off campus.
"Public health has been our No. 1 priority in returning to school this year," Green said. "We are pleased with the strategies that have been put in place and, as Director Lopez said, we have had no transmission in class to this point. And we are very, very pleased about that."
To protect students and instructors, the university is following a number of safety protocols, including observing physical distancing by mapping out seating in classrooms, requiring the wearing of facial coverings on campus, and upgrading HVAC systems to better filter air within buildings.
What's the difference between 'quarantine' and 'isolation'?
Isolation is the separation of individuals who have a contagious disease from those who are not ill. Quarantine separates and restricts movement of individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease. For COVID-19, the quarantine period is 14 days. Learn more about the campus response to the virus, as well as details on quarantine and isolation protocols, here.
Isolation guide available
University leaders have updated the isolation guide for students who have been infected or are believed to be carrying the COVID-19 virus. The guide outlines the importance of isolation, necessary procedures and how to return to campus when complete.
Any member of the university community who has been self-isolating with COVID-19, or are presumed to have the virus, can end isolation under the following conditions (unless otherwise instructed by a health care professional):
- Individual has had no fever for at least 24 hours without the use of a medicine that reduces fevers;
- All other symptoms have shown improvement for at least 3 consecutive days; and
- It has been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared.
Learn more about isolation procedures here.
Individuals may also be placed on quarantine, which is a process used to keep those who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. It is intended to help stop the spread of disease that can occur before someone knows they are sick or if they are infected without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine must stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health and follow all directions from local health officials. Learn more about the difference between quarantine and isolation in the video below and on the CDC website.
How will the university respond moving forward?
While the university is planning for in-person, on-campus instruction for the fall semester, it is also developing contingency plans if adjustments are needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Details on how those decisions will be made and the factors that play into they are listed on the university’s COVID-19 website.
To help avoid changes to in-person, on-campus instruction, university leadership is stressing that the entire campus community adhere to all COVID-19 health and safety guidance practices. These include regular hand washing (for at least 20 seconds each time); using hand sanitizer between hand washings; wearing facial coverings when indoors at all times (except when seated while eating/drinking) and whenever possible while outdoors; and observing six-feet physical distancing at all times.
“College is meant to be a socially engaging and learning experience — not a socially distanced one,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said in his Aug. 19 welcome back message. “But, if we act like this is any other year, the experience of being on campus likely will close down.
“To succeed, we must be smart and we must be united in our response. We will only be successful if all of us — whether on-campus or off-campus — practice necessary safety measures.”
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department last issued quarantine notices on campus on Sept. 2. Those included the third floor of Eastside Suites, and Greek houses, Chi Omega and FarmHouse.
Those living in each house/floor have been placed in quarantine per health guidance. The use of quarantine is a key component of university plans to limit the spread of the virus.
The university is working with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to provide regular updates on the university's COVID-19 website. Learn more about the university's testing, reporting and contact tracing protocols.
Screening, tracing and communication resources
The university has created COVID-19 guides for instructors, employees and supervisors. The documents include guidance for COVID-19 screening, conversations regarding the pandemic and answers to questions supervisors might be asked (or asking). Employees can access the documents here.
App offers evaluation
All members of the campus community are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms by using the 1-Check COVID-19 screening app. Available for iOS and Android devices, the app was developed by engineering students for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It allows users to privately answer questions and assess risk of having COVID-19.
Quarantine exception allowed
Per the most recent Centers for Disease Control guidelines, there is one exception if an individual is asked to quarantine following COVID-19 exposure (close contact for 15 minutes or longer to a person who tests positive). Individuals who have been diagnosed with and are fully-recovered from the virus receive a three month window (the amount of time studies thus far show that the immune system holds antibodies in reserve to battle the virus) during which an individual can avoid quarantine if re-exposed. However, if any symptoms develop again, promptly isolate and contact a medical provider. Documentation of diagnosis and recovery must be provided to avoid the standard 14-day quarantine period. Learn more about the importance of quarantine to protect campus.
University leaders continue to encourage employees and supervisors to develop remote working plans whenever possible. The goal is to reduce the total number of people on campus at any one time, thus reducing the opportunity for the virus to spread amongst individuals. More than 350 alternative work arrangement requests have been filed and approved for university employees. Learn more about alternative work arrangements here
Free wellness supplies available to employees
University employees can obtain free COVID-19 wellness supplies for campus needs through the UNL Marketplace website. Supplies include disposable masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant and nitrile gloves. A university login is required to place an order. Once it is filled, the order can be picked up weekdays at the Facilities Maintenance Shops, 942 N. 22nd St.
Mental health and well-being
The university continues to offer a variety of support programs for students and employees. Students can seek assistance through Counseling and Psychological Services, Big Red Resilience and Well-being and academic success coaches. Programs for employees are being offered through the Employee Assistance Program.
What is an "incubation period"?
An incubation period is the time between when a person is infected by a virus and when he or she notices symptoms of the disease. Current estimates for the incubation period for COVID-19 range from two to 14 days. That range may change as doctors and researchers learn more about the virus.
Send us your questions
Do you have a question about the university’s COVID-19 response? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free COVID-19 tests offered
The university is offering a free, on-campus COVID-19 testing option for students, faculty and staff through a partnership with the University Health Center and TestNebraska. The walk-up testing site, which opened Aug. 12, is in the 17th and R Streets parking garage at 300 N. 17th St. It is open 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Appointments are required. Learn more here.
Travel policy updated
The university's travel policy has been updated to allow for in-state travel with a single-level of supervisor authorization. Blanket authorizations continue to require two-levels of authorization and are only allowed for in-state travel. All university-sponsored international travel continues to be prohibited until further notice. Domestic travel outside Nebraska is highly discouraged. For exceptional cases where university-sponsored domestic travel is absolutely necessary, two levels of authorization are required prior to departure. Learn more about the dual-approval process.
Large event approvals needed; safety protocols required
Due to COVID-19, all on-campus events projected to include 50 (or more) participants are required to go through an approval process and must follow all public health protocols. Approval of these events must be granted by the vice chancellor associated with the organizing campus group or unit. An event risk assessment must also be filed with the vice chancellor for business and finance prior to the date of the event. The point-of-contact for each event must be onsite for the duration and is responsible for ensuring compliance with all directed health measures. Learn more about this updated policy.
The entire campus community is being encouraged to prepare for the fall semester by completing COVID-19 training videos. The presentations — which are available to students, instructors, researchers and staff — offer an overview of campus policies and procedures, safety protocols and teaching approaches. Learn more here.
— University of Nebraska-Lincoln (@UNLincoln) July 26, 2020
The campus community, alumni and other Husker supporters are being asked to review and — if you desire — sign the Cornhusker Commitment. While not binding, it is a community promise to follow safety measures that protect individuals and yourself from the virus. Learn more here.
Drape required with face shields
Based on a recent update from the Centers for Disease Control, clear face shields are no longer an acceptable alternative to cloth face coverings unless they include a bottom or drape that fully-encloses the face and neck. Acceptable examples include the Humanity Shield and the University of Wisconsin model. All facial coverings must extend from the bridge of the nose to below the chin. Reusable cloth facial coverings and disposable paper masks are acceptable. Regardless of the type used, masks should not be designed with an exhalation valve. The university's facial covering policy is available online.
Chancellor issues welcome message, urges caution
Chancellor Ronnie Green’s annual welcome back message to campus includes a hearty greeting for students, a thank you to faculty and staff, and a reminder about the need for all to follow health-related protocols. Click the video below to learn more.
All students traveling to campus from overseas must self-quarantine for 14 days per current Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. The university is offering a variety of supports for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more details, including the need to self-quarantine, send email to email@example.com.
What if I feel sick or was exposed?
If you are not feeling well, contact your health provider or the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department coronavirus hotline at 402-441-8006. Be cautious and stay home if you have symptoms — especially coughing, fever, shortness of breath, chills, re