In a joint effort, University Operations and University Housing are preparing up to 45 rooms in Harper Hall to be available under a state government contract to provide self-quarantine space for first responders, health care workers and others.
To allow for proper social distancing, no more than five rooms on each of nine residential floors of the hall will be assigned to people who need out-of-home quarantine housing because they or someone they live with has been exposed to COVID-19.
The University of Nebraska system signed a contract with the State of Nebraska in early April to supply beds for quarantine purposes at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska at Kearney and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis.
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the launch of the program during his COVID-19 briefing April 17 at the State Capitol. He said the first people seeking quarantine space would arrive at UNO facilities soon. It is not known when Harper Hall rooms might be brought into use.
According to Jim Jackson, associate vice chancellor of University Operations, Harper Hall will be used to house people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but need to self-quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. Harper Hall is a traditional college residence hall, with communal restrooms on each floor.
Each room in use for quarantine will be assigned to a different set of fixtures in the restroom, so that those in quarantine will not share toilets, sinks or showers.
If isolation space is needed for people who have developed symptoms, they will be placed in suite-style housing on East Campus. Suite-style housing has bathroom facilities in each suite. In addition, if more self-quarantine space is needed for asymptomatic people, a second traditional residence hall on City Campus may be opened under operations similar to those planned for Harper Hall.
The Nebraska National Guard will be responsible for operation, security and maintenance of the facility while it is used for quarantine purposes. The university has hired an outside firm, Advance Services, Inc., to provide custodial services, with personnel being trained to follow CDC and other public health care protocols for COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting.
University Dining Service will deliver three meals a day to the building, with offerings to include hot meals, vegetarian and special needs options. The meals will be distributed to individual rooms by the National Guard.
Jackson said the decision to hire an outside custodial firm was based upon an abundance of caution to separate the university community from the outside community. Housing staff continues to serve approximately 750 students who have been moved to suite-style housing on another part of the City Campus. The separation will reduce opportunities for coronavirus to be transmitted to university students or staff.