As the spring semester approaches, Chancellor Ronnie Green detailed on Monday how updated COVID-19 protocols for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will work for the spring.
Utilizing UNL’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center on east campus, on-campus COVID-19 testing will shift from a nasal swab focused method to mandatory and faster saliva-based testing. Students, faculty and staff who will be on campus in the spring will be required to undergo two rounds of re-entry testing at the start of the semester, based on guidance from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
The testing utilized in the fall semester will continue to be made available for those who experience symptoms or those who think they may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The testing pods currently at UNL’s east stadium loop will be relocated to outside Cather Dining Hall on Jan. 19, according to Green’s announcement.
The initial round of saliva-based tests begins the week of Jan. 19-24. Members of the UNL community are encouraged to schedule their tests as early as possible to ensure access to campus buildings before the semester begins on Jan. 25.
Tests can be scheduled and results will be made available through a new “Safer Community” app for IOS, Android and the web. Details on how to use the app will be released later this week.
The app will provide users with an “Access Granted” status if their test is negative, allowing community members to prove their testing status to wellness attendants or other university staff members posted around campus buildings. Users will be notified when their next test result is due — around 10 days after the initial test, according to the announcement.
Students living in Lancaster County who do not plan to be on campus at any point during the semester can request an exemption from testing — a change from the original announcement in December. Other exemptions can be requested for individuals who can provide proof of a positive test result, who would be exempt for 90 days from the result, and those who provide proof of a medical reason from a healthcare provider.
Community members must also agree to an updated Cornhusker Commitment, which can be accessed via MyRed, in order to schedule a re-entry test.
After the two initial rounds of testing, Green said the university will consult with LLCHD on what additional testing may be required. Further testing plans will be flexible throughout the semester.
In December, Green indicated that all students, faculty and staff on campus would be required to be tested at the start of the spring semester and “every two weeks thereafter,” but this changed with the recent announcement.
Public affairs director Leslie Reed said the university is taking an evidence-based approach to match testing requirements with the level of risk. Conditions have changed since university officials originally started planning the spring semester testing program, she said, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Nebraska and Lancaster County have declined since early December and vaccine distribution is underway.
“This evidence-based strategy will give us a true picture of what’s actually happening on campus and allow us to dial up or dial back as needed going forward,” Reed said.
Green said UNL officials are in conversation with LLCHD on potential vaccine distribution plans, which will depend on vaccine availability and the state’s plan for allocation. More vaccine information will be provided once available.
“We are fortunate that the situation in Nebraska and Lincoln has improved in the past several weeks, although there has been an uptick in Lincoln in recent days,” Green said. “We want our UNL community to contribute to an improving situation, and these enhanced measures are meant to not just keep our campus safe but to also do our part to help keep Lincoln safe.”