co-isolationhousingupdate

Selleck Quadrangle at City Campus on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 24 to include additional information from Charlie Francis regarding access to isolation housing in Selleck and use of Selleck Dining.

Since March, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has used the Piper wing of Neihardt Hall as the primary location for COVID-19 isolation housing. However, around the start of the spring semester, isolation housing was briefly moved to an unused building of the Selleck Quadrangle. 

Fourteen positive students were isolated in Selleck 8000, also known as Selleck Building K, from Jan. 20-Feb. 5, according to Charlie Francis, senior director of Housing and Dining Services. 

Francis said Piper has and continues to be the primary location for isolation housing due to its size and configuration. However, based on the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s projected positivity rate, housing was prepared to isolate significantly more students at the start of this semester than in the fall. 

Selleck 8000 and Love Memorial Hall are alternative isolation spaces that could be used in addition to Piper. The university also has used an off-campus hotel that the university has not disclosed the name, location or occupancy of due to privacy concerns, according to Leslie Reed, UNL’s public affairs director. 

Francis said he felt the best approach to the start of the spring semester was to use Selleck 8000 first. He said modeling showed the facility would only need to be used for a few weeks before reverting back to Piper. 

“The sooner we could put [it] to use the sooner we could stop using it,” Francis said in an email. 

The university was close to the end of its second round of re-entry testing on Feb. 5, the last day Selleck was used for isolation housing. During the first two rounds of saliva-based re-entry testing, the university recorded positivity rates of 0.95% and 0.46%, respectively. When these rates turned out to be much lower than expected, Francis said the decision was made by Housing to close Selleck and return to Piper as the only on-campus isolation location. 

Selleck 8000 had no students living in it before isolation was moved there, and the walkways and entrances could be set up to prevent other students from getting in and reasonably prevent students in isolation from getting to other parts of Selleck.

Students living in other areas of Selleck did not have access to Selleck 8000, according to Francis. Students assigned to Selleck 8000 were given access via their NCard, but only to that building of Selleck. This is the same system used in the Piper wing of Neihardt to limit access, and Francis said it has been effective in both locations.

Selleck 8000 can be accessed at three points: the basement, ground floor and links to Selleck 7000 on the second and third floors. Francis said access points at the basement and links were locked from both directions, so approved individuals could only get in with their NCards at ground level entrances. 

Francis said representatives from the health department also walked through Selleck 8000 and thoroughly reviewed the university’s plans.

“They felt like we had taken sufficient measures to mitigate risk to students in other parts of Selleck and were not exposing them,” he said. 

When the university started housing students in Piper, an announcement was made to the university community. No such communication was made about housing students in Selleck, though residents in Selleck and Kaufmann were notified that Selleck Dining Hall closed during this time to provide meals for students in isolation. 

“Because of the limited duration of use and no risk to students in adjacent buildings, we did not feel additional communication about using Selleck 8000 was necessary,” Francis said. 

With much lower positivity rates than expected, Selleck Dining reopened to the public on Feb. 8. 

Francis said administrators from Student Affairs, the Public Health Advocacy Team, the Spring Open Committee and the COVID-19 Task Force were aware of the use of Selleck for isolation housing. 

Reed said administration has been responding to changing circumstances related to COVID-19 throughout the last year, and sometimes not all changes are communicated to the campus community. 

“We don't make announcements about everything, partly because these kinds of situations emerge, and then ... if we announced everything and then we change them, then we get accused of hiding the ball or something like that,” Reed said. “So we discussed it, and then decided it wasn't something that we were going to announce.”

covid@dailynebraskan.com